Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Speaking in Tongues and Dancing DiasporaBlack Women Writing and Performing$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Mae G. Henderson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780195116595

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195116595.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 13 April 2021

Sherley Anne Williams (1944–1999)

Sherley Anne Williams (1944–1999)

(p.229) 15 Sherley Anne Williams (1944–1999)
Speaking in Tongues and Dancing Diaspora

Mae G. Henderson

Oxford University Press

This chapter constitutes a personal and critical retrospective on the life and work of Sherley Anne Williams, acknowledging claims the poet, novelist, critic, and playwright as Henderson’s “critical muse”—one whose artistic production became the inspiration for much of the author’s critical work. Like her own muse, Bessie Smith, Williams, author of The Peacock Poems and Someone Sweet Angel Child, was a musician who sang the blues as tribute and testimony to the black oral tradition. For Henderson, Williams’s fiction and poetry become sacramental expressions of a secular blues ethic and aesthetic. In addition to her landmark novel, Dessa Rose, arguably representing the inaugural moment of the modern “neo-slave narrative,” Williams published a notable collection of critical essays entitled Give Birth to Brightness. Williams wrote about ordinary women (“Tell Martha Not to Moan”) who become extraordinary in their ability to live through and transcend difficult and painful experience.

Keywords:   Mae G. Henderson, Sherley Anne Williams, oral tradition, Dessa Rose, “neo-slave narrative”, The Peacock Poems, Someone Sweet Angel Child, Give Birth to Brightness, “Tell Martha Not to Moan”

Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .