Portraits of elderly Afroamerican men and women abound in American literature and vary from stories which present a mythic primordial character who symbolizes emotional stability, experiential wisdom and a community's cultural and historical heritage, to works in slice-of-life realistic style which dramatize the social and psychological conditions of aged blacks. Included in this second category are works which show the confrontation between old and new social standards. Coupled with this range of portraits is a variety of attitudes toward elderly blacks.
James Payne's thoughtful and carefully documented essay stresses the importance of evaluating ethnic American, specifically Afroamerican, fiction within its historical context. The historical information he provides in his essay concerning the Afroamerican response to the Spanish-American War and to America's paranoia of a supposed “Yellow Peril” does indeed shed light on how Griggs and Corrothers each imaginatively re-invested a specific social reality with an Afroamerican revolutionary furor—a rage which ironically had the best interest of the country at heart.
In contemporary American Indian songs and stories the Iroquois, Shawnee, and Lakota all voice a rueful hindsight over the hereditary “Great Mistake,” or the friendship and kindness which their naive, trusting ancestors extended to the pilgrims on the Mayflower.