16 Powerful Black Writers Every American Should Read

16 Powerful Black Writers Every American Should Read

You should take a look at these authors if you haven't already.
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America is the land of diversity: a melting pot of different races, cultures, nationalities, and religions. Each of these groups has helped in the shaping of this country, African Americans have no doubt been an influential variable in this nation's progression. Literature is, in any country and for any purpose, an opportune medium to bring about change. From Frederick Douglass to Zora Neale Hurston, literature has seen a plethora of influential black authors. So in honor of Black History Month, here are a few inspirational quotes from famous Black Authors.

1. Alice Walker

Celie's life-changing story in "The Color Purple" continues to resonate with the world. After reading this novel I was determined to read more. One of my favorites from her is "The Third Life of Grange Copeland." This novel reveals the grimacing story of three generations of Copeland's and how they attempt to escape the bondage of being a black person in America.

“I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ask. And that in wondering bout the big things and asking bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident. But you never know nothing more about the big things than you start out with. The more I wonder, the more I love.”

-from "The Color Purple"

2. Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston, for me, is another author that captured the essence of an independent black female woman in her book "Their Eyes Were Watching God." She even takes us beyond into the culture of Haiti and Jamaica with her stories in "Tell My Horse."

“Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.”

3. Langston Hughes

In my mind, he will always be the king of the Harlem Renaissance. His poetry and prose were powerful. Hughes sheds light on the black community of Harlem and uses his words to express the black struggle in a way America had never seen before.

“...The only way to get a thing done is to start to do it, then keep on doing it, and finally you'll finish it....”

-from "The Big Sea"

4. Nikki Giovanni

She is one of my favorite poets to date. Nikki Giovanni not only taught me about her life as a black woman but also taught me about myself as a black woman in America.

"Black Love is Black Wealth"

“Deal with yourself as a individual, worthy of respect and make everyone else deal with you the same way.”

5. Margot Lee Shetterly

Bringing some of the most intelligent black women to the limelight Shetterly writes "Hidden Figures" to give them the credit they deserve. These women helped change America with their knowledge and they are now, thanks to Shetterly, able to get the credit and acknowledgment they deserve.

“Women, on the other hand, had to wield their intellects like a scythe, hacking away against the stubborn underbrush of low expectations.”
-from "Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race"




6. James Baldwin

"Go Tell It On The Mountain" is a forceful and empowering novel by James Baldwin. During the Harlem Renaissance, he captures the mind of a young black teenager trying to discover his identity in Harlem.

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”

7. Maya Angelou

"And Still I Rise" is one of her most famous poems. With such grace and poise, Maya Angelou's writing continues to live in the hearts and minds of all. She was a powerful black woman whose writing touched millions, including me.

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently.”

8. Chinua Achebe

Sharing African culture to the rest of the world, Chinua Achebe, used his astonishing writing skills to inform us on Nigeria's culture in one of my favorite books "Things Fall Apart."

“Nobody can teach me who I am. You can describe parts of me, but who I am - and what I need - is something I have to find out myself.”

9. Malcolm X

If you have not read his autobiography, I would highly recommend it. His autobiography goes into the intricate details of his life and the hardships he encountered throughout his life. This activists story is truly one to learn more about.

“You're not to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.”

-from "By Any Means Necessary"

10. Martin Luther King Jr.

His way with words went far beyond his speeches and sermons. My favorite writings "Letter from Birmingham Jail" not only showed his intellectual prowess, but also expressed his ability to fight for justice in all ways possible.

“In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be...
This is the inter-related structure of reality.”

-from "Letter From the Birmingham Jail"

11. W.E.B. DuBois

One of the founders of the NAACP, he continued to fight for injustice through his active role in the commencement of the Civil Rights Movement and through his writing. His way with words allowed blacks to recognize their injustice and fight for equality.

“Believe in life! Always human beings will progress to greater, broader, and fuller life.”

12. August Wilson

Having read "Fences" three times, (I'm sure I will read it many more times) it still impacts me strongly with each read. Wilson creates a family dynamic that shows the struggles of blacks not only physically, but mentally. Each character has their own oppression and throughout the play, Wilson develops them in unique ways.

“Have a belief in yourself that is bigger than anyone's disbelief.”

13. Assata Shakur

The godmother to Tupac Shakur, Assata is a force to be reckoned with. Her voice, her endurance, and her strength throughout her autobiography is something you must read about.

“No one is going to give you the education you need to overthrow them. Nobody is going to teach you your true history, teach you your true heroes, if they know that that knowledge will help set you free.”

14. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Her Ted Talk on a Single Story was truly astounding. Adichie graciously lets us into her life and her Nigerian culture, as she writes about what it means to be a woman in American and preserving her culture.

“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

15. Frederick Douglass

Even slavery couldn't enslave Frederick Douglass. He knew freedom was the only thing that could truly satisfy, but even while enslaved, he braved situations no other enslaved person would dare face, like learning to read and write.

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”


16. Toni Morrison

From "Beloved" to "The Bluest Eye" Morrison never fails to give us unforgettable characters with an impactful story.

"You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”

-from "Song of Solomon"

Cover Image Credit: Media Connect

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To The Friends I Won't Talk To After High School

I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.
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Hey,

So, for the last four years I’ve seen you almost everyday. I’ve learned about your annoying little brother, your dogs and your crazy weekend stories. I’ve seen you rock the awful freshman year fashion, date, attend homecoming, study for AP tests, and get accepted into college.

Thank you for asking me about my day, filling me in on your boy drama and giving me the World History homework. Thank you for complimenting my outfits, laughing at me presenting in class and listening to me complain about my parents. Thank you for sending me your Quizlets and being excited for my accomplishments- every single one of them. I appreciate it all because I know that soon I won’t really see you again. And that makes me sad. I’ll no longer see your face every Monday morning, wave hello to you in the hallways or eat lunch with you ever again. We won't live in the same city and sooner or later you might even forget my name.

We didn’t hang out after school but none the less you impacted me in a huge way. You supported my passions, stood up for me and made me laugh. You gave me advice on life the way you saw it and you didn’t have to but you did. I think maybe in just the smallest way, you influenced me. You made me believe that there’s lots of good people in this world that are nice just because they can be. You were real with me and that's all I can really ask for. We were never in the same friend group or got together on the weekends but you were still a good friend to me. You saw me grow up before your eyes and watched me walk into class late with Starbucks every day. I think people like you don’t get enough credit because I might not talk to you after high school but you are still so important to me. So thanks.

With that said, I truly hope that our paths cross one day in the future. You can tell me about how your brothers doing or how you regret the college you picked. Or maybe one day I’ll see you in the grocery store with a ring on your finger and I’ll be so happy you finally got what you deserved so many guys ago.

And if we ever do cross paths, I sincerely hope you became everything you wanted to be. I hope you traveled to Italy, got your dream job and found the love of your life. I hope you have beautiful children and a fluffy dog named Charlie. I hope you found success in love before wealth and I hope you depended on yourself for happiness before anything else. I hope you visited your mom in college and I hope you hugged your little sister every chance you got. She’s in high school now and you always tell her how that was the time of your life. I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.

And hey, maybe I’ll see you at the reunion and maybe just maybe you’ll remember my face. If so, I’d like to catch up, coffee?

Sincerely,

Me

Cover Image Credit: High school Musical

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Pride? Pride.

Who are we? Why are we proud?

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This past week, I was called a faggot by someone close to me and by note, of all ways. The shock rolled through my body like thunder across barren plains and I was stuck paralyzed in place, frozen, unlike the melting ice caps. My chest suddenly felt tight, my hearing became dim, and my mind went blank except for one all-encompassing and constant word. Finally, after having thawed, my rage bubbled forward like divine retribution and I stood poised and ready to curse the name of the offending person. My tongue lashed the air into a frenzy, and I was angry until I let myself break and weep twice. Later, I began to question not sexualities or words used to express (or disparage) them, but my own embodiment of them.

For members of the queer community, there are several unspoken and vital rules that come into play in many situations, mainly for you to not be assaulted or worse (and it's all too often worse). Make sure your movements are measured and fit within the realm of possible heterosexuality. Keep your music low and let no one hear who you listen to. Avoid every shred of anything stereotypically gay or feminine like the plague. Tell the truth without details when you can and tell half-truths with real details if you must. And above all, learn how to clear your search history. At twenty, I remember my days of teaching my puberty-stricken body the lessons I thought no one else was learning. Over time I learned the more subtle and more important lessons of what exactly gay culture is. Now a man with a head and social media accounts full of gay indicators, I find myself wondering both what it all means and more importantly, does it even matter?

To the question of whether it matters, the answer is naturally yes and no (and no, that's not my answer because I'm a Gemini). The month of June has the pleasure of being the time of year when the LGBT+ community embraces the hateful rhetoric and indulges in one of the deadly sins. Pride. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, the figures at the head of the gay liberation movement, fought for something larger than themselves and as with the rest of the LGBT+ community, Pride is more than a parade of muscular white men dancing in their underwear. It's a time of reflection, of mourning, of celebration, of course, and most importantly, of hope. Pride is a time to look back at how far we've come and realize that there is still a far way to go.

This year marks fifty years since the Stonewall Riots and the gay liberation movement launched onto the world stage, thus making the learning and embracing of gay culture that much more important. The waves of queer people that come after the AIDS crisis has been given the task of rebuilding and redefining. The AIDS crisis was more than just that. It was Death itself stalking through the community with the help of Regan doing nothing. It was going out with friends and your circle shrinking faster than you can try or even care to replenish. Where do you go after the apocalypse? The LGBT+ community was a world shut off from access by a touch of death and now on the other side, we must weave in as much life as we can.

But we can't freeze and dwell of this forever. It matters because that's where we came from, but it doesn't matter because that's not where we are anymore. We're in a time of rebirth and spring. The LGBT+ community can forge a new identity where the AIDS crisis is not the defining feature, rather a defining feature to be immortalized, mourned, and moved on from.

And to the question of what does it all mean? Well, it means that I'm gay and that I've learned the central lesson that all queer people should learn in middle school. It's called Pride for a reason. We have to shoulder the weight of it all and still hold our head high and we should. Pride is the LGBT+ community turning lemons into lemon squares and limoncello. The lemon squares are funeral cakes meant to mourn and be a familiar reminder of what passed, but the limoncello is the extravagant and intoxicating celebration of what is to come. This year I choose to combine the two and get drunk off funeral cakes. Something tells me that those who came before would've wanted me to celebrate.

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