As February marks the celebration of Black History Month, we prepared the list of five African-American authors to honor this month and always.
We read, support, and admire African-American authors and writers not just during February but all year long. However, Black History Month is yet another reason to celebrate them.
Below are five exceptional authors and writers that we want to introduce to some of our readers and remind of to others. These are the people who not only left a mark in the literary world but changed the course of American literature.
Maya Angelou (1928-2014) was an acclaimed writer, poet, and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographical books, three books of essays, and several poetry books. Angelou’s path was never easy. In her lifetime she had multiple different jobs, from a fry cook to a nightclub performer. We might have never gotten to indulge in Maya Angelou’s writing hasn’t it been thanks to her friend and famous novelist James Baldwin. He advised her to write her debut autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. It became the most famous literary work of Angelou, in which a reader gets a chance to learn about her childhood and upbringing.
In January 1993 Maya Angelou recited her poem On the Pulse of Morning at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration. Her most famous poetry collection of 1971 Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Die was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. In 1996 Angelou won a Grammy Award in the nomination Best Spoken Word Album for the audio version of her poem. In 2021 Angelou became the first African-American woman to appear on the U.S. quarter.
Toni Morrison (1931-2019) was an author of 11 novels, children’s books, and essay collections. Her novel Song of Solomon received the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1977. Another great success was her Beloved, which brought Ms. Morrison the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. In all her works she explored the experiences of African-Americans in the US and the consequences of racism. Even before her writing career, Morrison was influential in bringing African-American literature into the mainstream as the first female African-American senior editor in the fiction department at Random House in New York City. She received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993, becoming the first African-American writer to have received it.
James Baldwin (1924-1987) was a writer and playwright, who became a voice of the American civil rights movement. His acclaimed works include Go Tell It on the Mountain, Giovanni’s Room, Notes of a Native Son, and The Fire Next Time. Baldwin moved to Paris at the age of 24, where he wrote Go Tell It on the Mountain. This book was published in 1953, later it was included in the 100 best English-language novels released from 1923 to 2005 by Time Magazine. Baldwin’s writing focused on his experience of being an openly gay Black man in the US and the struggles of African-Americans.
Audre Lorde (1934-1992) was a poet, novelist, and essayist. Her feminist perspective was enriching her essays, memoirs, and educating her readers on not only issues of gender, but also race and sexuality. When her first volume of poetry, First Cities, was published it changed her life drastically and she quit her job as a head librarian. Her next poetry volumes continued expanding her legacy and becoming more political. To this day Lorde’s collection of essays in Your Silence Will Not Protect You, which includes one of her most powerful essays The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master’s House, is changing young people’s lives by giving them the vocabulary to talk about human rights issues, race, equality, and gender even years later. That is the real indicator of her greatness and success.
Angela Y. Davis
Angela Yvonne Davis (1944) is an American political activist, author, scholar, academic, civil rights activist, and just a living legend. In her lifetime Angela Davis has done so much, that trying to fit it into this article would be impossible. When talking about highlights of her writing career one has to mention Women, Race and Class. It is a Marxist feminist analysis, containing historical events, such as slavery in the US, the slavery abolitionist movement, the feminist movement, and how all these movements were intertwined at the time, in their fight for equality. Davis’ association with communism was something that was constantly getting her into trouble, and something that she had to defend herself from. It got to the point where she was fired from her teaching job at the University of California. Fortunately, Davis didn’t back down and quietly accept her fate but went to fight them in court to get her job back. Needless to say, Davis won this battle, like so many others in her life.
Davis was included on Time‘s list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2020. That same year she was also listed as a 1971 Woman of the Year in Time‘s 100 Women of the Year edition.
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