Slavery and Black Thunder

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BLACK THUNDER SUMMARY The Work Black Thunder, Arna Bontemps’ defining novel, is a fictionalized account of the early nineteenth century Gabriel Insurrection, in Virginia. The novel, which chronicles the Gabriel Prosser-led rebellion against the slave owners of Henrico County, was generally lauded by critics as one of the most significant black American works of fiction. Richard Wright praised the work for dealing forthrightly with the historical and revolutionary traditions of African Americans. Gabriel, a slave convinced that anything “equal to a grey squirrel wants to be free,” urges other slaves to revolt against their owners. The rebellion is hastened when a tyrannical slave owner whips another slave, Bundy, to death. Although the…show more content…
From the Dark Tower: Afro-American Writers, 1900-1960. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1974. Chapter on Bontemps deals insightfully with Black Thunder and several of his other novels, making thoughtful comparisons among them. Illuminates the psychological validity of Bontemps’ characterizations. Gloster, Hugh M. Negro Voices in American Fiction. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1948. Still illuminating assessment of Black Thunder. Acknowledges the novel’s shortcomings, but takes no exception to A. B. Spingarn’s contention that Black Thunder is the best historical novel written (up to the mid-1940’s) by an African American. Jones, Kirkland C. Renaissance Man from Louisiana: A Biography of Arna Wendell Bontemps. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1992. The first full-length biography of Arna Bontemps. An excellent source not only for information about the man himself but also for information about the background of his works, including Black Thunder. Includes a bibliographic essay that serves as a handy guide to primary and secondary material about Bontemps. Sundquist, Eric J. The Hammers of Creation: Folk Culture in Modern African-American Fiction. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992. Originally presented as a series of lectures, the three chapters in this book are more informally and more accessibly written than much modern literary criticism. The chapter on Black Thunder specifically focuses on Bontemps’ use of folk culture and
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