Departmental Papers (Religious Studies)

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version


Publication Source

Black American Literature Forum





Start Page


Last Page





This problem of how to represent the black self on the white page, how to overcome the inherent ethnocentrism of the Western literary tradition, is one with which both the critic and the novelist of Afro-American literature must struggle to come to terms. As Gates points out, it is a tradition which dates all the way back to Plato's metaphor of the soul -of a white horse which is described as a "follower of true glory" and another, "of a dark color," which in turn attempts to lead the soul "to do terrible and unlawful deeds." For those who are able to control the dark horse and allow the white one to lead the way, Plato promises a vision of the soul which goes on to "live in light always," whereas those charioteers who cannot control the black horse are condemned "to go down again to darkness," to a life below the earth.

Copyright/Permission Statement

Copyright © 1990 Indiana State University. This article first appeared in Black American Literature Forum 24:4 1990, 747-460. Reprinted with permission by Johns Hopkins University Press.


Philosophical object, African American culture, White people, Novels, Graphic logos, Literary criticism, Slaves, Mothers, Black communities, Textual criticism


Date Posted: 18 September 2017

This document has been peer reviewed.