Top positive review
The Middle Passage as literature
on January 21, 2002
Reading this text as a part of the African-American literary tradition rather than as an independent work may have given me a different perspective, but I found this to be an intensely felt and intricately structured look, not only at historic slave trafficking, but also at the current and more recent African-American experience. This text is not entirely historically accurate, but that appears to me to be a literary device rather than a failing on Johnson's part. And some of the things that other reviewers found objectionable have an interesting and complex history throughout the African-American literary tradition. An example of this is the inclusion of references to philosophers and classical Greek and Roman culture. Establishing credibilty as a writer, not in the way that white authors do, but in the sense of establishing that one is intelligent and even human enough to write, is something that black authors like Phyllis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, and countless others went to great pains to do. Wheatley, for example, was interrogated at length by white scholars to establish that she could have authored her works and earn an authenticating letter. It is interesting to me that so many people feel that Johnson failed because he challenged some dearly held literary conventions (not rules). Since when has creative been a liability in fiction writing?