As a Black female who is also a graduate student in English, I have always felt outside the mainstream of Anglo-Saxon male consciousness which pervades the course materials I have been required to investigate. My long and deep involvement with Afro-American literature has been individually fulfilling, but I have never had a course in it nor gained the impression that white scholars view it as anything approaching valid art. Women's literature also strikes a responsive chord, but with both sets of non-mainstream writers there have been problems for me. I am not a Black male, but a female; I am not a white woman, but a Black one.
When I read that the poet-novelist Alice Walker was teaching a course in Black women writers at the University of Massachusetts in the fall of 1972, I was exhilarated. I had been trying to select a Black woman writer for a paper in a women's literature seminar, and I thought that sitting in on an entire course would give me just the inspiration I needed. The course was an inspiration indeed . Alice Walker's teaching is as poetic as her writing. In this course, she began with slave narratives and the early Black poets, Lucy Terry and Phillis Wheatley, and then launched into Margaret Walker's brilliant Civil War novel Jubilee.