Violence and Belonging

The 14th Amendment and American Literature

Developed by Eden Osucha with librarian consultants Karen Eger and Marcela Peres.

  • Between the World And Me by Ta–Nehisi Coates
  • A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar
  • Marrow of Tradition by Charles Chestnutt
  • Once in a Promised Land by Laila Halaby
  • The Round House by Louise Erdrich

In examining the legacies of the Fourteenth Amendment for the nation’s literary history, this reading and discussion series looks at books that address issues of diversity, identity, and inequality in exploring how, for many Americans, the promise of citizenship falls short of their reality.

By any account, we are still living out the reverberations of the transformative moment that gave rise to the Fourteenth Amendment. Its 150th anniversary coincides with a presidential election year in which the nature and meaning of race and the significance of the nation’s history of slavery are of urgent popular concern. An important part of these narratives is violence in the form of legal and unofficial discrimination, sexual and physical abuse, murder and mass killings, colonialism, and military occupations. Read together, these diverse works of literature serve to remind us that the more expansive version of American citizenship brought about by the Fourteenth Amendment was formed in the wake of searing violence and historical traumas—the long arc of slavery in the U.S. and the bloody Civil War that brought about its end and also the massacre of Native Americans and their forced removal from tribal homelands.

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