African American literature envisions and effects change. By necessity, African American writing has been recruited to fight the brutal social conditions that have been imposed on blacks for the greater part of American history. At the same time, African American literature is a distinct and distinguished artistic tradition that has sometimes merged with, sometimes been held separate from, but always has challenged and transformed American literature. We will consider this juxtaposition of aesthetic and social transformation as we discuss works by authors including Kwame Anthony Appiah, Amiri Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks, W.E.B. Du Bois, Jessie Fauset, Zora Neale Hurston, Spike Lee, Toni Morrison, Barack Obama, D.J. Spooky, Ishmael Reed, Ida B. Wells, and Richard Wright.