In 1969, Little, Brown and Company published The Best Short Stories by Black Writers, edited by Langston Hughes - the classic compendium of African-American short fiction from 1897 to 1967. Now, a quarter of a century later, Gloria Naylor has compiled an encore volume, Children of the Night, bringing this extraordinary series up to date. Gathering together the most gifted black writers of our time - from 1967 to the present - Naylor has assembled a rich and varied collection of stories. The portrait that emerges of the African-American experience in the post-Civil Rights era is stirring, compelling, sometimes disturbing, and certainly provocative. Naylor has arranged the stories thematically so the reader focuses on a particular subject - slavery, for example, or the family. In the hands of different writers, these themes provide a wealth and variety of human experience. The stories are more than testimonies of the long battle for survival. From a young woman's struggles with her barren faith in Alice Walker's lyrical "The Diary of an African Nun" to an innocent man's involvement in a horrifying act of violence in Ann Petry's "The Witness, " they are, as Naylor states in her introduction, "examples of affirmation: of memory, of history, of family, of being." They are stories for all of us "at the beginning: of mankind as a species; of America as a nation; of the African-American as a full citizen."