Notes
I
Discourses of Black Identity: The Elements of Authenticity
I
Houston A. Baker Jr., The
Journey Back
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
I980),
xii.
2
Houston A. Baker Jr.,
Blues, Ideology, and Afro-American Literature: A Vernacu-
lar Theory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
1984), 3.
3 Baker,
Blues,
9.
4
Baker,
Blues,
II.
S
The difference between "uniqueness:' that which distinguishes, and "authen-
ticity," that which privileges distinct features, lies herein: authenticity derives
from uniqueness, but it also fixes that uniqueness to a limited range of possibili-
ties. I contend that there are many "unique" forms of Mrican American expres-
sion, but the critical fixation on "authentic" forms has generally kept them out
of the field of intellectual inquiry. The authors I explore in depth in this study
question the political, social, and literary value of authenticity by asserting, at
strategic moments, unique expressions of blackness both counter to, and in line
with, the discourse of authenticity.
6
Henry Louis Gates Jr., "Canon Formation, Literary History, and the Afro-
American Tradition: From the Seen to the Told:' in
Afro-American Literary
Studies in the
1990's,
ed. Houston A. Baker Jr. and Patricia Redmond (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press,
1989),27.
7
Henry Louis Gates Jr.,
Figures in Black
(New York: Oxford,
I987), 235-36.
8 Even my suggestion of "African American culture" here is problematic. It repre-
sents a slippage between the terms "race," as an essentialized, even biological
concept, and "culture:' as a social construction. Yet when we talk about ''African
American" or "black" culture, do we begin to conflate these two ideas? As my
discussion of George Schuyler takes pains to point out, we must begin to ques-
tion the boundaries we often too easily draw between cultures. I'm afraid that
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