16 Powerful Black Writers Every American Should Read
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Politics and Activism

16 Powerful Black Writers Every American Should Read

You should take a look at these authors if you haven't already.

16 Powerful Black Writers Every American Should Read
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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"

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