Richard Wright’s The Long Dream (1958), James Baldwin’s Blues for Mister Charlie (1964), Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987), and John Edgar Wideman’s Philadelphia Fire (1990) attempt to expose the mental and physical scars of trauma through an excavation of memorable, historical events that resonate with issues of loss. The focus of this study is on the intersection of the mourning of these losses and the use of writing to represent them for the purposes of recovery and healing for the African American community. As close textual analyses of these texts show, by writing about loss and exploring the ramifications of loss within their narratives, these writers expose a critical dimension of African American literature that confronts the overwhelming presence of death, performing a literary archaeology of the physical and symbolic losses that these events represent. By placing narrative forms, oral and written, which are politically and aesthetically able to recover, commemorate, and “funeralize” actual and symbolic loss, these authors suggest a connection between rituals of mourning, functions of writing, and the modes of witnessing and testifying. In the introduction, I build a theory of textual mourning by considering theories of mourning, memory, trauma, and African American literature studies. In chapter one, I explore the language of loss that powers Beloved and Philadelphia Fire by examining how collective and individual trauma complicates the functions of mourning cultural trauma. In chapter two, I examine two literary considerations of the Emmett Till murder, Blues for Mister Charlie and The Long Dream to understand again how the language of loss influences Wright and Baldwin’s narrative strategies in their attempts to confront the sexualized cultural trauma of lynching. Textual mourning continues the functions of mourning by making writing a way to funeralize the dead, present ways of remembrance, and transform loss into politicized literary forms. In the conclusion, I briefly explore the new avenues of inquiry that textual mourning allows in our understanding of how writing, loss, mourning, and melancholia intersect to develop a new language for discussing trauma.