Date of Award


Degree Type


University or Center

Clark Atlanta University(CAU)


School of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name



African-American Studies


This paper asserts the existence of the African American middle class novel as a genre in the African American literary tradition that has heretofore been neglected by literary critics. The premise of this argument is that conventional African American literary studies privilege novels concerned with the African American folk to the exclusion of portrayals of African Americans of middle and upper socio-economic class and cultural groups.

A study of the Modem Language Association's catalogue of African American criticism and a review of novels widely accepted as representative of African American literary tradition were used to indicate how class status is often neglected as a subject. A study of the literary standards of the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts Movement revealed the development of prescriptive literary conventions. Four exemplary twentieth century middle class novels were critiqued: Walls of Jericho by Rudolph Fisher, Plum Bun by Jessie Redmon Fauset, Meridian by Alice Walker, and Sarah Phillips by Andrea Lee. The novels were found to contribute to discourse on the intersection of race and class for African Americans by challenging stereotypes, advocating moral standards across class lines, and criticizing systems of oppression.