By Elizabeth Cali
The neo-slave narrative is a literary genre that focuses on novelistic representations and explorations of slavery which emerged in the latter half of the 20th century and were written by Black authors who had not personally experienced enslavement. These narratives are distinct in that they take the experience of enslavement and slavery’s history from the perspectives of enslaved people as their central narrative subject.
Early definitions of the genre by such scholars as Bernard Bell and Ashraf Rushdy held that neo-slave narratives were specifically works that adopted at least some of the key conventions of antebellum slave narratives, such as the use of primary sources, first person perspectives, chronological narratives, and so forth. However, those definitions have expanded as scholars recognized that major African American authors wrote landmark and powerful representations of slavery that did not necessarily adopt the literary conventions of antebellum slave narratives.