Gerald Lyn Early (b. 1952) is professor of English and head of the African American Studies Program at Washington University in St. Louis. Raised by a single mother (his father died when Early was an infant), he grew up in a poor section of Philadelphia before attending the University of Pennsylvania. He studies and writes about black culture in America, with books including Tuxedo Junction: Essays on American Culture (1989), Daughters: On Family and Fatherhood (1994), and Rhapsodies in Black: Music and Words From the Harlem Renaissance (2002), the last of which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Album Notes.
Author: Gerald Early
For many years, American blacks have been trying to make sense of their identity as African and American, and much effort has been spent to establish connections to their forgotten African roots, partly in negative reaction to the “imposed” American holidays and Christian rituals, partly in positive search for a lost ancestral culture. In this essay, Gerald Lyn Early (b. 1952), professor of English and head of the African American Studies Program at Washington University in St. Louis, discusses one prominent expression of this search for a more authentic African American culture and religion, the holiday of Kwanzaa.