Existentialist Thought in African American Literature Before 1940 is the first collection of its kind to break new ground in arguing that long before its classification by Jean-Paul Sartre, African American literature embodied existentialist thought.
To make its case, this daring book dissects eight notable texts: Frederick Douglass's Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845) and My Bondage and My Freedom (1855), Sojourner Truth's Ain't I A Woman (1861), Harriet Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of A Slave Girl (1861), Sutton E.
Griggs's Imperium in Imperio (1899), James Weldon Johnson's Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912), and Nella Larsen's Quicksand (1928) and Passing (1929).
It explores and addresses a wide range of complex philosophical concepts such as: authenticity, potentiality-for-authentic living, bad faith, and existentialism from the Christian point of view.
The use of interdisciplinary studies such as gender studies, queer studies, Christian ethics, mixed-race studies, and existentialism, allows the authors within this book to lend unique perspectives in examining selected African American literary works.