What is African-American Literature?

African-American literature is the body of literature produced in the United States by writers of African descent. It begins with the works of such late 18thcentury writers as Phillis Wheatley. Before the high point of slave narratives, African-American literature was dominated by autobiographical spiritual narratives. African-American literature reached early high points with slave narratives of the nineteenth century. The Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s was a time of flowering of literature and the arts. Writers of African-American literature have been recognized by the highest awards, including the Nobel Prize to Toni Morrison. Among the themes and issues explored in this literature are the role of African Americans within the larger American society, AfricanAmerican culture, racism, slavery, and equality. African-American writing has tended to incorporate oral forms, such as spirituals, sermons, gospel music, blues, or rap. As African Americans' place in American society has changed over the centuries, so, has the focus of African-American literature. Before the American Civil War, the literature primarily consisted of memoirs by people who had escaped from slavery; the genre of slave narratives included accounts of life under slavery and the path of justice and redemption to freedom. There was an early distinction between the literature of freed slaves and the literature of free blacks who had been born in the North. Free blacks had to express their oppression in a different narrative form. Free blacks in the North often spoke out against slavery and racial injustices using the spiritual narrative. The spiritual addressed many of the same themes of slave narratives, but has been largely ignored in current scholarly conversation. At the turn of the 20th century, non-fiction works by authors such as W. E. B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington debated whether to confront or appease racist attitudes in the United States. During the American Civil Rights movement, authors such as Richard Wright and Gwendolyn Brooks wrote about issues of racial segregation and black nationalism. Today, African-American literature has become accepted as an integral part of American literature, with books such as Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley, The Color Purple (1982) by Alice Walker, which won the Pulitzer Prize; and Beloved by Toni Morrison achieving both best-selling and award-winning status. In broad terms, African-American literature can be defined as writings by people of African descent living in the United States. It is highly varied. African-American literature has generally focused on the role of African Americans within the larger American society and what it means to be an

Mississippi.American. and Florence Parry Attaway. William Attaway Early life Attaway was born on November 19. and a seaman. After graduating from high school. an early theme of African-American literature was. all African-American study "speaks to the deeper meaning of the AfricanAmerican presence in this nation. migration."African-American literature explores the issues of freedom and equality long denied to Blacks in the United States. Raboteau has said. like other American writings. a sense of home. . democracy. religion. and more. along with further themes such as African-American culture. he moved with his family moved to Chicago. During these years he worked as a salesman. to escape the segregated South. Once he learned that Hughes was a black poet. racism. Illinois. Attaway enrolled at the University of Illinois. African-American literature represented a way for free blacks to negotiate their new identity in an individualized republic. upon his father’s death Attaway dropped out and became a traveling worker for two years. When Attaway was six. There. They often tried to exercise their political and social autonomy in the face of resistance from the white public. Attaway. a labor organizer. 1911. feminism. African-American literature presents the African-American experience from an African-American point of view. in Greenville. slavery. a school teacher. a physician and founder of the National Negro Insurance Association. he was a tennis college champion. Attaway decided to start applying himself to his school work. Even though he was doing well at college. equality. Attaway showed little interest in school until he was assigned a poem written by Langston Hughes. segregation. the inclusiveness of all. Education In Chicago. As Princeton University professor Albert J. In the early Republic. and began to collect material for his later works.A. (1935) from the University of Illinois and having published "The Tale of the Blackamoor" in Challenge. Thus. he traveled around the US before settling into New York City. what it meant to be a citizen in post-Revolutionary America. the son of William S. This presence has always been a test case of the nation's claims to freedom. After getting his B. as part of the Great Migration. He even enjoyed writing so much that he wrote for his sister Ruth’s amateur dramatic groups.

After his first project was over Attaway returned to the University of Illinois and received his degree. They had a 20 yearslong courtship before going public and official with their union as racial tension was present until the 1960s. His first short story. He wrote for programs such as Wide Wide World and Colgate Hour. His main works include Calypso Song Book and Hear America Singing. Literary career In 1935. and books about music. even recalls records of Martin Luther King. They lived in Barbados for eleven years with their two children Bill and Noelle. In 1939. Attaway began to write songs. TV.Family and personal life Attaway was married in 1962 to a woman named Frances Settele. Attaway began working on his first project as he helped to write the Federal Writers' Project guide to Illinois. Jr calling William Attaway " a fellow freedom fighter" and both marched side by side during the civil rights movement. was published. William Attaway's daughter. California. where his drama Carnival was produced. he worked many odd jobs and even tried acting with his sister Ruth. was published in 1936. 1986 of heart failure. In the 1950s. Attaway’s first novel. In between works. He was the first African American to write scripts for film and TV. While he was working on this project he became good friends with Richard Wright. He then began working on his second and last novel. Let Me Breathe Thunder. Frances and William moved their family to the Caribbean to escape racial turmoil and death threats. Frances Attaway was a white woman originally from New York. writing screenplays. and she ultimately helped to fuel Attaway’s career. Noelle and William. Blood on the Forge. Frances and William had two children. Attaway and Irving Burgie co-wrote the famous song "DayO" (Banana Boat Song) for calypso singer Harry Belafonte. Attaway began to write for radio. Death During his last years Attaway lived in Los Angeles. Despite the MLK civil rights movement. After Blood on the Forge. screenplays. "Tale of the Blackamoor". . another soon-to-be-famous novelist. Noelle. He then moved to New York. He died in June 17. Ruth later became a successful Broadway actress. and films.

Attaway describes one of the songs—Always "Greensleeves"—as following. whose Native Son was published in 1940. It had come down from Elizabethan England to present-day America without being rewritten." However. right next to the title which is provided by Attaway and an illustration by William Charmatz. Hear America Singing. and the ballade. but all the people. from serious students of folk music to sophisticated night-club and theater audiences and followers of the Hit Parade. practically untouched. for bouncy ditties that are mostly nonsense. Folk music is just exactly what it claims to be—the music of the people. Attaway describes "Calypso. but it also has a brief narration. Weick in Harlem Renaissance Lives points out that in 1967. in its original form. Popular music Calypso Song Book In Calypso Song Book." Each song not only has sheet music in Calypso Song Book. is always in the process of change. Attaway further expresses although its subject matter was romantic love. it remained a favorite of both Pilgrims and Puritans. . Attaway's work never gained the mainstream fame enjoyed by some other African-American authors.Despite having published works approved by critics. This was the one folk song that survived all the centuries. as rule. It was simply too beautiful to change. the Western Indian music. Attaway admits "the humorous twist is a necessary part of any true Calypso song. But every rule has its exceptions. Attaway published for children a compilation of representative popular music in America. not of individuals." Attaway further explains that "Calypso can be divided into two categories: the bracket form. In Chapter Four . Hear America Singing George P. The evolution of democracy slowly expanded the meaning of the world until it came to stand for all proud and common people. is enjoying a great revival among all sorts of music lovers. except two songs. including historical commentary. who had never learned to read or write. Belafonte continues the term "folk" was originally applied only to the peasants and farmers of the Old World. The folk song. The frontiersmen also learned this song. as nearly as they could. for example Richard Wright. the most common form for serious topics. Harry Belafonte in Hear America Singing introduction writes folk singing is no longer a spectator sport—it is an essential part of growing up.We Were Always Growing.

helped him to enter the theater world and he also performed in several productions. . Style and themes Racial and ecological crisis William Attaway often kept the main themes of his writing about racial and ecological crisis. Attaway effectively dramatizes the loss of the folk culture which accompanied the Great Migration of Black people from the rural South to the industrial North. Blood on the Forge uses the lives of three brothers to describe the battle that the African-American community went through in order to achieve acceptance and equality. From These Valleys: Selected Fiction About Western Pennsylvania. especially in his novel Blood on the Forge. including a 1939 traveling production of George S. Illinois in 1916. around the time of World War I.Script writing According to Harlem Renaissance Lives. which Attaway experienced firsthand when his family moved to Chicago. was one of his most important scripts that was airing in 1966. in this case the steel mills of Pennsylvania. Death of the blues By focusing on the experiences of the Moss brothers in Blood on the Forge. Works Literature Carnival (1935) Let Me Breathe Thunder (1939) Blood on the Forge (1941) Calypso Song Book (1957) Hear America Singing (nonfiction) (1967) From These Hills. Though an involved system of symbolic characterization and imagery. His vivid portrayal of The Great Migration gives the reader an honest insight into the struggles of the African-American community as they moved out of the Southern United States fighting for a better life that they weren't necessarily guaranteed. Attaway depicts the hardship of the black community during The Great Migration. In Blood on the Forge. (PP 23) One Hundred Years of Laughter. Ruth. Attaway’s sister. a television special on black humor. Kaufman’s You Can't Take it With You. Attaway weaves an intricate examination of what might be called the death of the blues—at least the blues as representative of the folk culture.

New York and Michigan received the majority of the migrating African Americans. As a result. and the desire to escape the harsh racial climate of the south. Attaway's own family was part of this population shift from South to North when he was a child. neighborhoods in Northern cities saw drastic changes in population and an increase in issues concerning housing. From 1910 to 1930.Legacy Attaway's literary legacy rests primarily with his novel Blood on the Forge. Many cultural movements were spawned due to the large influx in black populations in the North. Blood on the Forge BY William Attaway Introduction Blood on the Forge is a migration novel by the African-American writer William Attaway set in the steel valley of Pittsburgh. including the Harlem Renaissance and the spread of jazz music. Their story illustrates the tragedy and hardships many Black Americans faced during the Great Migration. a time when vast numbers of Black Americans moved northward. and the myth of the American Dream. Ohio. Factors motivating blacks to migrate north included the plentiful job opportunities in Northern industry. author William Attaway traveled with his family from the segregated south of Mississippi to the northern city of Chicago. which has been called the finest depiction of the Great Migration era in American literature. The northern states of Illinois. Pennsylvania during the 1919. Illinois. Background During his childhood in the 1910s. the reprinting of Blood on the Forge in 1993 has brought renewed critical and popular attention to his writing. . Indiana. the complications of the individual in a depersonalized world. Blood on the Forge touches on themes such as the destruction of nature. approximately six million African Americans moved from the rural southern United States to the industrialized north. in doing so his family became part of what would be known as the Great Migration. Attaway retains an important place among AfricanAmerican writers of the early 20th century. His novel follows the Moss brothers as they escape the inequality of sharecropping in the South only to encounter inequality in the mills of the North. the emptiness and hunger that the working characters experience.

Now without a mule. Chinatown. agrees to give the brothers another mule. where they get work in the steel mill and live together in a bunkhouse with the other workers of the mill. When Anna rushes into the ring to prevent the death of one of the dogs. sharecropping half-brothers Big Mat. Big Mat responds by punching the man. the brothers are unable to work their land. On their time off Chinatown and Melody go to a Mexican madam named Sugar Mama where they meet Sugar Mama’s niece Anna. Chinatown and Melody are visited by a white man on horseback who gives them a tendollar bill. Moss. After this tragedy. she is hit by the dog’s owner. Part Two Part Two. chronicles the inhumane conditions of the train in which the Moss brothers are shipped north to Pennsylvania. There is a catastrophic accident at the mill that kills 14 men and blinds Chinatown. the labor union becomes very active and gains . Melody brings a letter from Big Mat's wife Hattie to the shack only to find Anna there alone. whom Melody becomes infatuated with. Anna rushes up to Big Mat and kisses him before running away again. The landowner. and Melody Moss are in dire straits. and are likely to starve. Big Mat decides that he and his brothers will head North that very evening. promising much more if the brothers leave that night on a train that would take them North. which leads to a riot. Johnston’s riding boss to collect the mule he had been promised. After the fight breaks up. Chinatown and Melody convince Big Mat to come with them to a dog fight. Johnston. the two wrestle over the letter. Big Mat takes Anna away from Sugar Mamma and sets up house with her in a small shack. to work. the shortest of the novel. The struggle culminates in Melody and Anna having sex. Big Mat's anger again overcomes him and he attacks and possibly kills the riding boss. Mr. and makes a racist comment about the departed Mrs. When he tells Anna about the letter she tries to snatch it from him. the riding boss refuses to give him the mule. Big Mat killed the animal in a fit of rage. When Big Mat returns that evening and Melody and Chinatown tell him what the stranger said. Earlier that day. When Big Mat goes to Mr.Plot summary Part One The novel opens in Kentucky. Part Three The Moss brothers arrive at a mill town near Pittsburgh. After their mule dragged their mother to her death. in the year 1919.

Blood on the Forge would be considered an Early Migration Novel. When Big Mat overhears them. Mat is told that he is a boss in the town. "If . where they plan to rebuild their lives. along with the Sheriff and his deputies. In the midst of the action. the Harlem Renaissance. after a lifetime of oppression. Genre Proletarian literature Blood on the Forge is an example of proletarian literature. which is post Depression. Once at the brothel. and in her review of Rodgers' "Canaan Bound: The African-American Great Migration Novel. The Moss brothers are realistically depicted as "emerging black proletariat. he once again is overpowered by his rage and beats Anna with his brass-studded belt. The book ends with Melody and Chinatown leaving the mill town as they take a train to Pittsburgh. Once deputized." Farrah Jasmine Griffin states. a genre whose works usually represented the years surrounding the Great Depression. Melody decides to cheer Chinatown up after his accident by taking him to visit some prostitutes. only what came of it. this new feeling of authority goes to Big Mat’s head like fresh whiskey. The experience of the characters in the novel mirror the class struggles during the Great Migration. and finally the Communal Migrant Novel. Big Mat is killed by the blows. specifically the hardships of African American workers during this period. Lawrence R. as it traces the journey of African American brothers from Southern farm life to the industrial North. The atmosphere of the town becomes increasingly hostile as the foreign mill workers come to resent the African American workers. as it takes place during the early 20th century and because of its industrial subject matter. who are the only group that refuse to join the union. the Fugitive Migration Novel. Rodgers explains that Harlem Renaissance works do not discuss the actual migration. Big Mat is repeatedly hit on the back of the head with a pickaxe handle by a young Slavic union member. the Early Migration Novel. who is impressed with Big Mat's strength. raid the union headquarters. Later that night Big Mat. Melody returns home and tries to convince Anna to run away with him. to be a deputy and help combat the growing union. Big Mat is recruited by the sheriff. Rogders states that there are four kinds of Migration Narratives." Migration narrative Attaway's novel is also a Migration Narrative.many new members. Melody finds out that Anna has been working there.

Melody tries to keep the brother's heritage alive with his guitar. all migrants are strangers. with ancestors being linked to the South and strangers to the North. the immigrants the Moss brothers work with in the mills would be considered strangers. the generation that followed —fueled by the depression economy. Style Form of The migration narrative In her book. using his anger to break his fellow workers' strike. such as music and food. In Attaway’s novel. Big Mat is the last one to leave behind his tradition. this event is the . 1) An event that propels action north. Not all migration narratives have all four. in the North Big Mat joins the oppressor as he becomes a deputy. not the periphery. Ancestors are also linked with folklore and tradition. Edward E. Migration narratives typically include references to ancestors and strangers. Melody changes the way he plays the guitar from slicking the chords. forcing him to adapt to the industrial world as a blind man. Each brother experiences his own shift from the folk to the industrial that is characteristic of The Great Migration. as he did at home. One important aspect of the Migration Narrative is its emphasis on the differences between the traditional (or folk) and the modern. and they need not occur in this order. and a strong sense of displacement —put migration at the center. Griffin cites Lawrence Rodgers as the first to identify migration with the emergence of a new genre: The Great Migration Novel. This type of work that Blood on the Forge is associated with has a specific narrative form. In relation to the dominant white society. the Moss brothers leave their home and traditions. to picking them. In Blood on the Forge. In Blood on the Forge. Chicago writers such as Attaway were responding to the failures of Harlem Renaissance writers to express the first wave of African American migration. Within the context of the African American community. Griffin describes four moments that occur in migration narratives. personal deprivation. foreigners driven by persecution to wander in search of a new home. Waldron describes him as becoming "as destructive as the exploding furnace". of its artistic imagination". the stranger is that figure who possesses no connections to the community. In particular. and start over in a place where they have no connections. Chinatown loses his eyes in an accidental explosion in the mills. such as the riding boss. As they migrate to the industrial North. While at home he lashed out in anger against his oppressors.the Harlem Renaissance writers failed to make the most of the migration novel form. the mill workers all fall under this category. Farah Jasmine Griffin explains that the Migration Narrative is a dominant form in African American culture. The Moss brothers work with foreign immigrants as well as other Southern migrants like themselves. Who Set You Flowin’?: The African American Migration Narrative.

We see both limitations and possibilities of the North in this novel. Johnston's farm in Kentucky. . Mat continues to use his physical strength as a weapon against others until his death during the raid of the Union Headquarters. The bulk of the novel is the brothers trying to adapt to their new lifestyle. Edward E.opportunity for new jobs and a better life. Chinatown focuses on his own needs before those of the family. the meet immigrants and are confronted with the diversity and entirely different atmosphere of the urban landscape 3) Illustration of attempt to negotiate. " John Claborn asserts that while Melody and Chinatown become destroyed in the North. Big Mat "thrives" in his new home. religion. Waldron claims that Big Mat represents "the last side of the complete folk culture. Eventually his resolve breaks and Big Mat enters into a relationship with the prostitute Anna. Of the three brothers Big Mat's most notable attributes are his physical size/strength. As they do this. and Big Mat loses his life trying to gain respect. " Chinatown Moss Chinatown is a younger half sibling to Big Mat. Vaughan's article "From Pastorialism to Industrialism Antipathy in William Attaway's Blood on the Forge" Attaway uses Big Mat's character to represents "the plodding strength and endurance of all Southern Negroes under their particular color-caste system". "identifies more with the machines than with his fellow white workers. and his constant need to be a provider for his family. Chinatown loses his eyes in a fatal explosion in the mills. there is a sense of possibility for a better situation than the previous one. his rage. 4) Vision of possibilities or limitations of the North. In Part One of Attaway's novel he is employed as a sharecropper on Mr. The first confrontation the Moss brothers have is when they get off the train and arrive in the city for their new job. as he. After the brothers migrate to Pennsylvania Big Mat focuses his energies on doing well at his new job. 2) Presentation of the initial confrontation within the urban landscape. At the end as Melody and Chinatown leave for a new opportunity in a new city. Limitations of the North can be seen in several instances throughout the story. instead enjoying a lazy and carefree lifestyle on the Kentucky farm. According to Phillip H. and scrupulously saves his money so that he might bring his wife Hattie North. and an equally important tie to the soil. for they allow him to flourish in a way denied him by Jim Crow. Chinatown resists sharecropping work. Characters Major characters Big Mat Big Mat is the eldest of the three Moss brothers.

and hiring prostitutes. which is expressed through his guitar playing. but when Big Mat defends Anna after an . Vaughan argues that Chinatown's "lazy. Melody develops feelings for Anna. At first. despite her relationship with Big Mat. his gold tooth provides relief for this concern. and he ceases to play. and tries to convince her to run away with him. becomes fascinated with drinking. barrenness. " Stacy I. When the Moss Brothers travel North. Melody is forced to work in the steel mills alongside his brothers. Morgan claims that the tooth represents Chinatown's "fragile sense of self-esteem. Melody Moss Melody. this harsh new way of life alienates Melody from his guitar. Anna tries to sleep with Melody.. Chinatown. happy-go-lucky attitude reflects in part a psychological response to the subjugated position of the Negroes" following the abolition of slavery. Edward E.using his money on frivolous items such as a gold tooth. to be noticed as special. According to Vaughan. and "looking at the tooth shining back at him from his mirror image gives Chinatown a real sense of being somebody. and an existence characterized by iages of hunger. Sugar Mama Sugar Mama is a prostitute from "Mex Town. Melody's blues singing "recreates and sustains the pastoral myth. succumbing to the temptations offered by city life in Pennsylvania." Anna Anna is fourteen or fifteen years old and Sugar Mama's niece. Hattie is left behind pregnant. Phillip H. Once the brothers migrate to Pennsylvania. thinking she would bring more business. gambling. Minor characters Hattie Hattie is Big Mat's wife. Waldron claims that Chinatown's main concern in life is to make himself unique. Big Mat receives a letter from Hattie saying that she fell and lost the baby." and that he "fixes on the gold tooth as a way of struggling to affirm his individuality and humanity in the face of a socioeconomic system that would otherwise reduce him to a faceless sharecropper. Midway through the novel.. like Chinatown. is a younger half-sibling to Big Mat. Sugar Mama sent for Anna from New Mexico. and drudgery". After leaving the farm. Chinatown is left blind after an accident at the steel mill and is forced out of work and into the care of Big Mat and Melody. Melody's most prominent characteristic is his love for music.

and offers Melody and Chinatown work doing odd jobs around his farm. prompting the brothers' departure to the north. John Claborn claims that Smothers is. Riding Boss Big Mat identifies the Kentucky riding boss as the son of a poor white sharecropper. Mr. O'Casey O'Casey is the diminutive pit boss in charge of the brothers' group at the mill. Johnston had stopped giving the family food credit after Big Mat killed the mule Mr. Bo points Chinatown and Melody in the right direction of the bunkhouse. of a heightened sense of what the ground feels as it is mined. where she endures his beatings. eager to exert his power. Anna moves into a shack with Big Mat. Big Mat loses his temper and attacks the riding boss. In an article published in MFS Modern Fiction Studies. wearing these around their necks for luck. Johnson's land in Kentucky. the riding boss. Smothers Smothers is a crippled laborer. However. " Claborn notes that Smother's legs have been mutilated in a violent steel mill incident.owner at the dog fight hits her. so he tells Big Mat that he will give the Moss' a mule so that they can continue to work their land. and made into steel. " After Smothers dies in a mill accident. Johnston. "Smothers's shrill prophecies are the product of wisdom gained through suffering. his co-workers memorialize him by turning the steel scraps from the accident into watch fobs. Johnston had lent them. insults and whips Big Mat. smelted. "a prophetic spokesman for the earth's pain. Bo Bo is the "boss of stove gang" who catches Chinatown and Melody staring at the woman with the "rotted" breast. Mr. Johnston wants to prevent the brothers from leaving to work in the North. and claims the Moss family's share of the crop for the next two years to pay for the loss of the animal. Mr. Mike Mike is an Italian open-hearth worker who helps the brothers learn the ropes around the mill. claiming that. she become infatuated with Big Mat. . Johnston The Moss brothers sharecrop on Mr. When Big Mat goes to get the mule he was promised by Mr.

' that line the river banks. essentially serve the same function as the mules of the mills. as Edward Margolies suggests in his introduction to the 1969 edition of the novel: possibly he [Attaway] saw his worst fears realized in the rapid spread industrial wastelands and the consequent plight of urban Negroes. in both the North and the South nature is dying. Big Mat's barren wife Hattie. Slavic laborer who works with the brothers in the pit and works at the lunch car with his granddaughter. Rosie Rosie is Zanski's granddaughter who waitresses at the lunch car. the family’s extreme hunger. Later in the novel it is revealed that she also works as a prostitute. but to call attention to the mule's prominence within African American history and folklore. Attaway shows the defilement of natural landscape. In the South. He's eventually fired from the mills. The Moss brothers idealize nature. Morgan also claims that Attaway "indirectly evokes America's unfulfilled promises of enfranchisement ('forty acres and a mule') as well as the . Morgan argues that Attaway calls attention to the mechanical mules not only to contrast with the animals of sharecropping. though in the South are a part of nature and the pastoral nostalgia felt by the Moss brothers." as well as the "'mountains of red ore. in different contexts. and the "small engines that hauled steel along the river front" in the Northern mills." Attaway’s use of "mules" in both the South and North. Stacy I. yellow limestone. looking back on their homeland of Kentucky with a certain pastoral fondness. Likewise. Attaway highlights the overworked land.Zanski Zanski is an old. Themes Nature There is something very timely in Attaway’s implicit warning against the industry of the North. and black coke. From one point of view Attaway's feelings about the sanctity of nature now seem almost quaint in an age of cybernetics. In the North. both types of mules perform a mechanized." The mules. evident "in the pollution of the 'dirty-as-a-catfish-hole river with a beautiful name: the Monongahela. highlights the Moss brothers "unfamiliarity of the artifacts of industrial technology" as well as the similarities between the two places. Rosie. repetitive task. the urban landscape of the North is also painted as dismal and dying. and the drudgery of plowing all day with no reward. Although the nature of the South is idealized." "Mule" refers both to the animal in the south.

Stacy I. Metaphorically. They experience this emotional." Claborn argues that "Attaway goes out of his way to invest [Smothers] with a strange dignity and characterize him as a Tiresian speaker of truth. gamble all day. and they are so hungry that they chose to smoke or chew tobacco in an attempt to suppress their appetites. Though the workers seem to see Smothers' prophecies as merely "half-mad. Waldron claims that Attaway depicts an intricate examination of the "death of the blues. In Kentucky. the Moss brothers are also "hungry" for other possessions. and eat and drink their favorite things. The changes in Melody and Chinatown reflect the overall changes that southern blacks experienced in the Great Migration. this fantasy day takes place back home in the country." North vs South In an article published by Negro American Literature Forum. This hunger is expressed by the brothers through their "wishing game. where the brothers imagine that they are dressed in fine clothes." where Melody and Chinatown fantasize about their ideal day. Morgan argues that they desire things that remain "ever out of reach. " Smothers sees that destruction of nature "can lead to can lead to industrial accidents. which he hopes will distract his family members from their empty stomachs. those that would not satisfy their physical hunger but rather that part of themselves that desired for a comfortable.long-standing identification of African American men with the mule as a creature that stubbornly endures despite being much abused as a beast of burden. " Hunger Attaway depicts how African American sharecroppers were forcibly deprived of many of life's necessities. Edward E. understood as the land avenging itself against humans. with the Moss brothers' move from the South to the North. leisurely life. the Moss brothers had to use newspapers attached to the wall in order to provide a bit of insulation. shrill rants. as they have to ." Attaway exposes the danger of destroying nature through the voice of the mill worker Smothers. existential hunger in both locations. When the game is played in the South this idyllic day takes place in the city. One way that they deal with this hunger is through music. Once they migrate to the Northern city." which shows that "the existential dimension of Attaway's hunger metaphor arises precisely out of this perpetually deferred set of desires. who repeatedly warns his fellow workers of the destructive power of the machines. and the novel opens with Melody playing the "hungry blues" on his guitar." or the death of folk culture.

a part of machine: “Chinatown is blinded in an accident which eats up the lives of fourteen men. Claborn feels that "Smothers is ritually sacrificed for the sake of more direct commentary on steel production as a globally interdependent process. did necessarily commence under cover of night. Big Mat is killed during the strike which he has become as unwitting tool the bosses wield against the white workers. By wearing scraps of the steel that killed Smothers. " With this act. " In addition. Attaway may signify a "shift in the workers' consciousness. insofar as they signify the workers' communal bonding. is the loss of continuity in the lives of men who are almost human sacrifices to the industrial Moloch created by an unseen hand grasping for profits. it was especially difficult for the migrants to retain any former cultural identity in their new homes. community. " Morgan asserts that with the absence of these links to their former selves. according to Klotman." Stacy I.leave their folk ways behind in order to survive their new. for many African Americans. One of the tragic outcomes in the novel. Mechanization Edward E. Melody’s hand is smashed so that he is no longer able to play the guitar. John Claborn argues that the workers "give the steel a ritual value that escapes the logic of exchange value. Klotman looks at the ways in which the three brothers bodies became tools. may be Attway's way of highlighting an issue that confronted many who moved during the Great Migration: the "absence of material links to the family. Morgan states that the physical injuries experienced in the mills are extreme examples of the larger process going on: the "transforming [of] workers' sense of time and of their own bodies. which w[as] frequently demanded by the circumstances of the migration journey northward —a journey that. during which their inability to see each other fills each brother with a terrifying sense of isolation.” suggesting that “The three brother are systematically unmanned by the dehumanizing process of forging steel”. Waldron claims that Blood on the Forge is a story of "man's changing nature in the face of ever-increasing mechanization. and lifeways of former homes. Morgan also alludes to the ways in which the brothers' mind-set has shifted upon migrating to the North. these scraps open up a space for resistance." Phyllis R. " As . emphasizing instant gratification " Morgan also notes that the Moss brothers' fear in the train scene. "industrialllyoriented environment." as "the narration itself seems to gain a heightened awareness of the connection between steel and the ground. Their vastly increased income in the North allows them new opportunities and multiple ways to spend their new capital." Stacy I.

Anna attempts to move up in class by wearing shiny heels and an elaborate gown. as Anna dreams of becoming "like the Americanos. he has become an agent of oppression. It was shipped across endless tracks to all the world. according to Stacy I.Attaway wrote. But no man was close to steel. and thereby "misapprehends the complexity of American class identity by reducing it to material cultural signs. " Myth of the American Dream and the working class Attaway's novel depicts how industrial technology dehumanizes working class laborers. they have not been as critically acclaimed as other novels written during the 1940s." he "relishes the terror he inspires. Morgan writes. "once the strike begins and the furnaces start to cool down because there are not enough workers to keep them burning. given power by the white law enforcement." which Morgan claims illustrates how that "the icon intended as a symbol of maturity and class status" becomes a symbol of "Anna's childishness. Once he is deputized. Big Mat singlehandedly tries to keep the machines functioning. Morgan. in siding with the mill owners and in becoming a machine." However. but instead went on to successfully write and produce songs. the space "for which such ostentatious apparel is designed." Critical reception Attaway's novels were not a major attraction to critics at their time of publication." Eventually." forbidden by Big Mat to go out in public. 1939) and Native Son (Wright. her dress becomes filthy from being dragged in the mud." and claims that this "impossible effort" shows that "Big Mat has himself become a machine. " Claborn notes that. [15] Attaway did not continue on writing novels after Blood on the Forge. 1941) which have both maintained an exceptional reputation for radical novels written during the Great Depression. music and screenplays. Although Attaway's novels were received well. alienates workers from the products of their labors. " "Only as he dies […] does Big Mat glimpse the reality that. . and Anna must wear it "pinned like a diaper between her legs." In addition. and also highlights how capitalism moved towards mechanized standardization and away from individualized artistry and craftsmanship. including Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck. The character Anna in particular illustrates another aspect of the American myth. and charged to "suppress the white workers. "The nearness of a farmer to his farm was easily understood. Morgan notes that Anna is "tragically pathetic." Claborn claims that Big Mat embodies the link between mechanic and racial violence.