Development of the Black Psyche in the Writings of John Oliver Killens, 1916-1987

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John Oliver Killens, who was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, thought of himself as a black writer, not a writer who happened to be black. This study takes what Killens described as the ‘Black Psyche’ and traces its genesis through his major novels, nonfiction, essays, and short stories. Following the text is an interview with Killens, who elucidated many concerns relative to his concept of the black psyche, and covers aspects of his work as teacher, screenwriter, and other experiences.


“Lehman’s interview with Killens and careful analysis of Killens’ work revitalizes Killens’ words and mission. Reading Lehman’s description of Killens’ work provides a behind-the-scenes look at the historical progression that transformed American blacks into black Americans….Lehman argues that Killens wanted to further the cause of black liberation rather than to develop a literary art form although he succeeded at both….Lehman puts Killens’ work in historical perspective for readers in the twenty-first century. With thorough documentation, Lehman provides a framework for understanding our times by showing us where we as a society have been.” – Dr. Mary Spelman, University of Central Oklahoma

“Lehman’s new book acts as a literary, social and historical guide into the world of John Oliver Killens who was more than just a writer recording aspects of American history. Killens is considered by some critics as merely a writer of color, but for Lehman and for us all, Killens is an American writer of importance whose contribution to world literature needs to be appreciated. Killens’ works function as a mirror reflecting the complexities of the American psyche, both black and white, both positive and negative, both political and historical.” – Dr. Wayne Stein, University of Central Oklahoma

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
Preface; Introduction
1. The Problem of Black Identity: A Background
2. The Development of a Black Psyche
3. John Oliver Killens
4. Major Works
5. Minor Fictional Works
6. Conclusion
Appendix: Interview with John Oliver Killens
Bibliography; Index

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