From Henry Louis Gates to Zora Neale Hurston to Langston Hughes, there have been scores of African American authors that have been designated by those within the African American community and by those outside of that community as the voices of the African American people. It has been written by author Langston Hughes, and recognized, as a very real phenomenon that African American authors are looked to as the "voice" of their race in the 1926 article "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain." Hughes said he knew of a negro poet that didn't want to be recognized as such, that this poet wanted to be seen as a poet, not a Negro poet. The poet did not want to be seen as a voice for the African American people, restricted to address the plight and struggles of the African American, and seen as someone that has betrayed their culture because of his refusal to act as an advocate for social justice. I believe it is this that Gates references. An author is hardly ever free of race.
From the beginning of social institutions and abuses of power, in any and all countries, not just the United States, a degree of power has been attributed to those that have the ability and position to write and articulate their thoughts. This power is undeniable. The power to distribute thoughts can influence masses, can create epistemes and terministic screens on their own. This power has been recognized not only by those that have power, but by those that have it. That is why the negro poet is forced by his own people to become a voice for the Negro. That poet is seen to have a position of power, an ability to tell the stories of the Negro, even if those stories are unfamiliar to him and are not his own. Because of his identification, he is restricted and must be the face, must be the voice, of those that do not hold that same power, that same position, and may never be able to hold such a responsibility. If race is to be recognized in this manner (and we are fully aware of how race is recognized in all other manners, or at least should be) then it is only right that "race" deserved the position of a meaningful category in the study of literature and shaping of critical theory.