Gates identifies the formation of a canon as a political act, despite its connotations as a natural compilation, untainted by particular social and political agendas. Despite reservations surrounding the canon’s patriarchal, hierarchical and politically suspect underpinnings, Gates embarks on the publication of his own anthology of African-American literature. Gates recognizes the formation of a canon as a political act that gives voice to marginalized groups that have been silenced, historically. Gates notes, “…how effective and how durable our interventions in contemporary cultural politics will be depends on our ability to mobilize the institutions that buttress and reproduce that culture” (pg. 34).
"A well-marked anthology functions in the academy to create a tradition, as well as to define and preserve it” (pg. 31)
“..my pursuit of this project has required me to negotiate a position between, on the one hand Willam Bennett, who claims that black people can have no canon, no masterpieces, and on the other hand thos eon the critical left who wonder why we want to establish the existence of a canon, in the first place” (pg. 33)
“…our attempts to derive theories about our literary tradition have been decried as racist, separtist, nationalist or essentialist…long after white American literature has been anthologized and canonized” (pg. 38)
"African-American tradition must not be defined by the pseudo-science of racial biology or a mystically shared essence called blackness but by repetition and revision of shared themes…" (pg. 39)