POPULAR BLACK AUTHORS EVERYONE SHOULD READ! DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE?
Updated: Jul 13
POPULAR BLACK AUTHORS EVERYONE SHOULD READ! DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE?
In a couple of recent articles we have highlighted Maya Angelou and Alex Haley as single author posts. We hope you have enjoyed reading about these outstanding contributions they have made to the literary world.
In this article we have decided to highlight several black authors because there are so many to mention and also because of the impact they had on American literature. We will repeat a mention of Maya Angelou and Alex Haley as well as many others.
In an article from Black Culture Connection entitled 10 Black Authors Everyone Should Read and from their website https://www.pbs.org/black-culture/explore/ we read the following:
Maya was often referred to as a spokesperson for African-Americans and women through her many works, her gift of words connected all people who were “committed to raising the moral standards of living in the United States.” “I want to write so that the reader can say, ‘You know, that’s the truth. I wasn’t there, and I wasn’t a six-foot black girl, but that’s the truth.”
Maya was influenced by Black authors like Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Du Bois and Paul Lawrence Dunbar, her love of language developed at a young age.
A prolific poet, her words often depict Black beauty, the strength of women and the human spirit, and the demand for social justice. Maya was one of several African American women at the time who explored the Black autobiographical tradition. Her most famous work: "I know why the Caged Bird sings".
Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Toni is considered the voice of African
American women. Growing up in an integrated neighborhood, Toni was not fully aware of racial divisions until her teenage years. Dedicated to her studies, she went on to earn her master’s degree before moving to Howard University to teach. It was in the 1960s when Toni became an editor at Random House publishing that she began to write.
While she had published The Bluest Eye in 1970 and Sula in 1970, The Song of Solomon was the book that set her on the course of literary success. It became the first work by an African American author since Native Son by Richard Wright to be a featured selection in the Book-of-the-Month Club. The publication of Beloved in 1987 is considered to be her greatest masterpiece and won several awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
James spent most of his life living abroad to escape racial prejudice in the United States, he
is considered the quintessential American writer. Best known for his reflections on his experience as an openly gay Black man in white America, his novels, essays and poetry make him a social critic who shared the pain and struggle of Black Americans.
James was born in Harlem in 1924 and caught the attention of fellow Richard Wright who helped him secure a grant to support himself as a writer. At age 24 he left the United States to live in Paris and went on to write GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN, published in 1953 it speaks with passion and depth about the Black struggle in America. The book has become an American classic.
James Baldwin provided inspiration for other generations of Black writers as he wrote about the gay experience in Black America.
Amiri was born in 1934 and became one of the most widely published African American
writers. As a poet, writer and political activist, he used his writing as a weapon against racism. He is known for his social criticism and incendiary style. Amiri was a prominent voice in American literature as he was often confrontational and desired to awaken audiences to the political needs of Black Americans.
With a writing career that spanned fifty years, Amiri is respected as one of the leading revolutionary cultural and political leaders especially in his hometown of Newark, N.J. and throughout the U.S.A. He spent most of his life fighting for the rights of African Americans.
Octavia broke new ground as a science fiction author. She was born in California in 1947,
she was an avid reader in spite of having dyslexia, was a storyteller by 4, and began writing at the age of 10. She was drawn to science fiction because of its boundless possibilities for imagination.
Octavia took the science fiction world by storm. Her evocative novels featuring race, sex, power and humanity were highly praised and attracted audience beyond their for an end to racism. genre. Her books would be translated into several languages and would sell more than a million copies. Over her career, she won many literary awards. Her best known was "KINDRED", published in 1979.
W.E.B. Du Bois
W.E.B. Du Bois was an activist, Pan-Africanist, sociologist, educator, historian and prolific
writer. He was one of the most influential African American thought leaders of the 20th century. He grew up in Massachusetts as part of the Black elite, and as he attended Fisk University in Tennessee the issues of racial prejudice came to his attention. He studied Black America and wrote some of the earliest scientific studies on Black communities, calling for an end to racism.
Du Bois also wrote several books focusing on the inequities suffered by Black people. His best known work was "THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK".
Ralph was named after the famous
journalist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. He was known for pursuing universal truths through his writing, He was a literary critic, writer, scholar and also taught at a variety of colleges and spent two years overseas as a Fellow of the American Academy.
His first novel, Invisible Man, established his place as an important literary figure in America. Published in 1952, the first lines struck a chord with hundred of thousands of readers, “ I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allen Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me..” The book is considered to be one of the most important works of fiction in the 20th century.
Alex Haley’s best known works were The Autobiography of Malcolm X and the novel Roots. His writing on the struggle of African Americans inspired nationwide interest in genealogy and popularized Black history.
Alex was determined to trace his ancestor’s journey from Africa to America as slaves, and to tell the story of their rise to freedom. After a decade of research and travel to West Africa, the epic novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family was published in 1976. The story also became a television miniseries shattering records when 130 million viewers tuned in.
Langston was a primary contributor of the Harlem Renaissance. He also was one of the first
to use jazz rhythms in his works, becoming an early innovator of the literary art form jazz poetry. Langston addressed people using language, themes, attitudes and ideas that they could relate to.
Langston was a prolific writer, known for his colorful portrayals of Black life from the 1920s – 1960s. He wrote plays, short stories, poetry, several books, and contributed the lyrics to a Broadway musical. His work: "NOT WITHOUT LAUGHTER", was published in 1930.
Zora Neale Hurston
In 1925 as the Harlem Renaissance gained momentum, Zora headed to New York City. By the time of its height in the 1930s,
Zora was a preeminent Black female writer in the United States.
Of her more than 50 published novels, short stories, plays and essays, she wrote her most famous work Their Eyes Were Watching God in 1937. Zora had a unique style of focusing on the culture and traditions of African Americans through the poetry of their speech.
Richard was born in Mississippi in 1908. He is best known for his novels Native Son and
Black Boy, that mirrored his own struggle with poverty and coming of age journey. His works focused on the struggle of Blacks in America for equality and economic advancement.
His dreams of becoming a writer took off when he gained employment through the Federal Writers Project. He received critical attention for a collection of short stories called Uncle Tom’s Children.
His novel Black Boy was a personal account of growing up in the South and an eventual move to Chicago where he became a writer and joined the Communist Party, and moved to Paris. He spent the rest of his life in Paris and continued to write novels.
As previously mentioned, the information for this article came from the Black Culture Connection, https://www,pbs,org/black-culture/explore/10-black-authors-to-read/
This article was a very interesting read. I knew of some of them, their works and their lives but I did not know all of them with the contributions to our literary works of the U.S.A.
Do you have a favorite Black author? Mine are Alex Haley, Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison! I especially like the works of Alex Haley and the encouragement of family history and genealogy that it started.
We hope you have enjoyed reading about these authors.
As always we are ENCOURAGING LITERACY, LEARNING AND PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT!
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Thank you for reading,