This unique title profiles several hundred African American fiction and nonfiction writers from Colonial times to the present. The table of contents lists the authors alphabetically and then divides them into 17 categories (novels, short stories, slave narratives, etc.) and nine themes (Folktales, the Harlem Renaissance, Trickster Tales, etc.); authors whose work spans several categories are listed separately under each.
The profiles themselves, presented alphabetically and ranging from a paragraph for less well known writers like Ai Ogawa to three pages for writers like Ralph Ellison or Terry McMillan, are both biographical and critical, although the amount of criticism varies. Included in each entry are the writer's birth and death dates, the categories into which he or she fits, and any pseudonyms. Black-and-white illustrations, references, genre lists, a comprehensive index, and chronologies of the writer's life dates and of African American literary firsts complete this impressive title.