8 African-American Writers Everyone Needs To Read

8 African-American Writers Everyone Needs To Read

Celebrating this national holiday reminds us that African-American history is history, as it is for all ethnicities; these 15 writers were just some of the many that had the courage to speak out in a nation that was once divided with prejudice and injustice.

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February is Black History Month, and I think it is so important and crucial for us as Americans to utilize this time to reflect on the influences that have helped shape our lives, as well as our nation. Celebrating this national holiday reminds us that African-American history is history, as it is for all ethnicities. Instead of overlooking the subject, I suggest taking time to look back on all that has been accomplished in order for racial equality to be achieved in America. Here are 15 African-American writers that used their writing to speak out against inequality and prejudice.

1. Frederick Douglass

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Famed 19th-century author and orator Frederick Douglass was a celebrated human rights leader in the anti-slavery movement and the first African-American citizen to hold a high U.S. government rank. Abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass was born into slavery around 1818 in Talbot County, Maryland. He became one of the most famous intellectuals of his time, advising presidents and lecturing to thousands on a range of causes, including women's rights. Among Douglass' writings are several autobiographies eloquently describing his experiences in slavery and his life after the Civil War, including the well-known work Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.

2. Langston Hughes

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Hughes is especially known for his insightful, colorful portrayals of black life from the twenties through the sixties. He wrote novels, short stories, and plays, as well as poetry, and is also known for his engagement with the world of jazz and the influence it had on his writing. His life and work were enormously important in shaping the artistic contributions of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. Unlike other notable black poets of the period, Hughes refused to differentiate between his personal experience and the common experience of black America. He wanted to tell the stories of his people in ways that reflected their actual culture, including both their suffering and their love of music, laughter, and language itself. Critic Donald B. Gibson noted that "[d]uring the twenties when most American poets were turning inward, writing obscure and esoteric poetry to an ever decreasing audience of readers, Hughes was turning outward, using language and themes, attitudes and ideas familiar to anyone who had the ability simply to read . . . Until the time of his death, he spread his message humorously—though always seriously—to audiences throughout the country, having read his poetry to more people (possibly) than any other American poet."

3. Maya Angelou

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Maya Angelou was an American author and poet who has been called "America's most visible black female autobiographer" by scholar Joanne M. Braxton. She is best known for her series of six autobiographical volumes, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. Angelou was a member of the Harlem Writers Guild in the late 1950s, was active in the Civil Rights movement, and served as Northern Coordinator of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. With the publication of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou was publicized as a new kind of memoirist, one of the first African American women who was able to publicly and openly discuss her personal life and struggles. She is highly respected as a spokesperson for Black people and women. Angelou's work is often characterized as autobiographical fiction. She has, however, made a thoughtful attempt to challenge the common structure of the autobiography by critiquing, changing, and expanding the genre. Her books, centered around identity, family, and racism, are often used as texts in schools and universities internationally.

4. Toni Morrison

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Toni Morrison was an American writer noted for her examination of black experience (particularly black female experience) within the black community. She received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. She is the author of eleven novels, from The Bluest Eye (1970) to God Help the Child (2015). In addition to the Nobel Prize, she has received the National Book Critics Circle Award, as well as the Pulitzer Prize. The central theme of Morrison's novels is the black American experience; in an unjust society, her characters struggle to find themselves and their cultural identity. Her use of fantasy, her unique poetic style, and her skillful interweaving of both gave her stories great strength and value.

5. Alice Walker

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Alice Walker is an American novelist, short story writer, poet, and activist. She wrote the novel The Color Purple, for which she won the National Book Award for hardcover fiction and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Published in 1982, The Color Purple depicts the growing up and self-realization of an African American woman between 1909 and 1947 in a town in Georgia. The book was adapted into a film by Steven Spielberg in 1985. A musical version produced by Oprah Winfrey and Quincy Jones premiered in 2004.

6. Richard Wright

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Richard Nathaniel Wright was an American author of novels, short stories, poems, and non-fiction. Much of his literature concerns racial themes, especially related to the plight of African Americans during the late 19th to mid-20th centuries, who suffered discrimination and violence in the South and the North. His book, Black Boy, told the heart-wrenching story of his childhood and youth in the South, detailing the extreme poverty in which he lived, his experience of racism and white violence, and his growing awareness of literature. His writing served as the voice for an entire generation of black Americans.

7. Zora Neale Hurston

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Zora Neale Hurston was an influential author of African-American literature and anthropologist, who portrayed racial struggles in the early 20th century American South. In 1937, she published Their Eyes Were Watching God, the story of a black woman looking for love and happiness in the South. The book was criticized at the time, especially by black male writers, who condemned Hurston for not taking a political stand and demonstrating the harmful effects of racism. Instead, the novel, now considered her masterwork, celebrated the rich tradition of the rural black South.

8. Booker T. Washington

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Booker Taliaferro Washington was an American educator, author, orator, and advisor to presidents of the United States. Between 1890 and 1915, Washington was the dominant leader in the African-American community. According to Brittanica.com, "Washington believed that the best interests of black people in the post-Reconstruction era could be realized through education in the crafts and industrial skills and the cultivation of the virtues of patience, enterprise, and thrift. He urged his fellow blacks, most of whom were impoverished and illiterate farm laborers, to temporarily abandon their efforts to win full civil rights and political power and instead to cultivate their industrial and farming skills so as to attain economic security. Blacks would thus accept segregation and discrimination, but their eventual acquisition of wealth and culture would gradually win for them the respect and acceptance of the white community. This would break down the divisions between the two races and lead to equal citizenship for blacks in the end."

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13 Of The Best, Most Famous Poems Ever Written

Masterpieces by some of our favorites like as Shakespeare, John Donne, and Homer.
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Some of us read poetry for an eager and fast escape from this world. On the other hand, some of us read poetry solely to share it with the ones we love. There are miracles on paper that can easily be forgotten about if we let them be. The following poems are written by some of our favorites such as Shakespeare, John Donne, Homer, and more. It is clear why these have become some of the most famous and unforgettable poems ever written. So grab a pen, and interpret these poems in your own, unique way.

1. “Go and Catch a Falling Star” - John Donne

Go and catch a falling star,

Get with child a mandrake root,

Tell me where all past years are,

Or who cleft the devil's foot,

Teach me to hear mermaids singing,

Or to keep off envy's stinging,

And find

What wind

Serves to advance an honest mind.

If thou be'st born to strange sights,

Things invisible to see,

Ride ten thousand days and nights,

Till age snow white hairs on thee,

Thou, when thou return'st, wilt tell me,

All strange wonders that befell thee,

And swear,

No where

Lives a woman true, and fair.

If thou find'st one, let me know,

Such a pilgrimage were sweet;

Yet do not, I would not go,

Though at next door we might meet;

Though she were true, when you met her,

And last, till you write your letter,

Yet she

Will be

False, ere I come, to two, or three.

2. “Drinking Alone in the Moonlight” - Li Po

Beneath the blossoms with a pot of wine,

No friends at hand, so I poured alone;

I raised my cup to invite the moon,

Turned to my shadow, and we became three.

Now the moon had never learned about drinking,

And my shadow had merely followed my form,

But I quickly made friends with the moon and my shadow;

To find pleasure in life, make the most of the spring.

Whenever I sang, the moon swayed with me;

Whenever I danced, my shadow went wild.

Drinking, we shared our enjoyment together;

Drunk, then each went off on his own.

But forever agreed on dispassionate revels,

We promised to meet in the far Milky Way.

3. “Sonnet 18” - William Shakespeare

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer's lease hath all too short a date:

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimm'd;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;

Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st;

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

4. “The World Is Too Much with Us” - William Wordsworth

The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;

The winds that will be howling at all hours,

And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;

For this, for everything, we are out of tune;

It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be

A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;

So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,

Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;

Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;

Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

5. “She Walks in Beauty” - Lord Byron

She walks in beauty, like the night

Of cloudless climes and starry skies;

And all that’s best of dark and bright

Meet in her aspect and her eyes;

Thus mellowed to that tender light

Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,

Had half impaired the nameless grace

Which waves in every raven tress,

Or softly lightens o’er her face;

Where thoughts serenely sweet express,

How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,

So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,

The smiles that win, the tints that glow,

But tell of days in goodness spent,

A mind at peace with all below,

A heart whose love is innocent!

6. “How Do I Love Thee?”- Elizabeth Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,












I shall but love thee better after death.

7. “ Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” -Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound’s the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

8. The Jabberwocky” - Lewis Carroll

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun

The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand;

Long time the manxome foe he sought—

So rested he by the Tumtum tree

And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,

The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,

Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,

And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through

The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!

He left it dead, and with its head

He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?

Come to my arms, my beamish boy!

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”

He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:

All mimsy were the borogoves,

And the mome raths outgrabe.

9. “Tears Fall in My Heart” - Paul Verlaine

Tears fall in my heart

Rain falls on the town;

what is this numb hurt

that enters my heart?

Ah,the soft sound of rain

on roofs, on the ground!

To a dulled heart they came,

ah, the song of the rain!

Tears without reason

in the disheartened heart.

What? no trace of treason?

This grief's without reason.

It's far the worst pain

to never know why

without love or disdain

my heart has such pain!

10. “We Wear the Mask” - Paul Lawrence Dunbar

We wear the mask that grins and lies,

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—

This debt we pay to human guile;

With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,

And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,

In counting all our tears and sighs?

Nay, let them only see us, while

We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries

To thee from tortured souls arise.

We sing, but oh the clay is vile

Beneath our feet, and long the mile;

But let the world dream otherwise,

We wear the mask!

11. “The Panther” - Rainer Maria Rilke

His vision, from the constantly passing bars,

has grown so weary that it cannot hold

anything else. It seems to him there are

a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world.

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,

the movement of his powerful soft strides

is like a ritual dance around a center

in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils

lifts, quietly--. An image enters in,

rushes down through the tensed, arrested muscles,

plunges into the heart and is gone.

12. “Sea Fever” - John Masefield

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;

And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,

And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide

Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,

And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,

To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

13. "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Goodnight" -Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

















Save these poems for your next coffee shop date or solitude moment. You might be surprised at how much you can find yourself in a poem.

Cover Image Credit: Thought Catalog

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13 Books To Add To Your Summer Reading Bucket List

Add to your summer fun with these amazing books!

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Looking for something to do during these up coming long summer days? Say no more. The following is a list of 13 books, some new, some old, and all deserve to be on your summer reading list for 2019!

'Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of The Universe'

"Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe" is a YA coming of age novel about the intense friendship between Aristotle and Dante. A significant portion of the book takes place over summer, making this the perfect time to dive into the story of their friendship and to experience all of the themes of racism, LGBTQ, and more that author Benjamin Alire Saenz delicately weaves into the story of these two young boys.

'Crazy Rich Asians'

Loved the movie and can't get enough? No worries. The hit film was based on a novel written by Kevin Kwan. Compare the adaption to its original print source, and maybe read the other books in the series as well.

'Hunchback of Notre Dame'

This is a book everyone must read and given the recent tragic fire at Notre Dame, there never could be a better time. Read the story as Victor Hugo wrote it this summer, if you've seen the Disney movie, it is most certainly a different story that will be tantalizing your mind this summer.

'The Testaments'

Following in the footsteps of Harper Lee, Margaret Atwood brings us the sequel to her classic "A Handmaid's Tale" this summer. The story is said to be set 15 years after the end of the first novel and will show us where Gilead is now. The book is available for preorder and would be an excellent summer read!

'Watership Down'

Written by Richard Adams, this tale of rabbit's seeking out a new home is anything but Disney friendly, and deals with incredibly deep and philosophical issues within its pages. If you haven't visited the story before, now is the best time to do so as the story only grows more relevant with each passing year.

'Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus'

Published anonymously when she was 20, the tale of Frankenstein addresses undying fears of humans. Being rejected by your 'parents' and your village, life and death, the limitations of science and whether or not we should limit it. All written by a 20-year-old Mary Shelly in the 1800s and often considered the first science fiction novel, this is a must read this summer.

'Les Miserable'

Another classic tome (so big that it is often called The Brick by its devout fans) this book covers the story of ex-convict Jean Val Jean and the famous June Rebellion, different from the French Revolution. The story is one of humanity, morality, and love and is most certainly a great read to tackle this summer.

'A Song Of Ice And Fire'

When summer rolls around this year, winter will be over, and HBO's 'Game Of Thrones' will have graced our TV screens for the last time. Fill the hole it will have left in your heart by reading George R.R Martin's novels, and then wait with bated breath for the next installation with all of the fan's who have been reading since 1996.

'Dune"

If you haven't read Frank Hebert's classic science fiction epic, now is a perfect time. The book will be made into two separate movies, considering its length. 'Dune' is the science fiction equivalent of 'Lord Of The Rings' a massive epic that has spanned generations and is soon to be attempted on the screen once again. Pretend the film with Sting didn't happen and perhaps visit the miniseries once you've finished the book.

'Star Wars: A New Hope' 

Believe it or not, the first 'Star Wars' media ever produced was actually a novel published about six months before the film's theater release. The novel contains information and details that were either cut or changed from the film's official release, but also often foreshadows the prequels which would come almost 30 years later.

'Chaos Walking: The Knife Of Never Letting Go' 

Another dystopian YA novel that is being made into a film, Chaos Walking is anything but generic. Visit a dystopian world with a male protagonist that dives into a science fiction world where toxic masculinity is all too much part of the norm of the world.

'The Great Gatsby' 

Nothing screams summer like F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby.' It is a rather short novel about Jay Gatsby's dysfunctional romance, narrated by witness Nick. The story is not only a classic but features all sorts of beach and summer themes, making it a perfect summer read for this year.

'The Things They Carried' 

Written by veteran Tim O'Brien, 'The Things They Carried' is full of semi-autobiographical vignettes about the Vietnam war. While they are separate, they are also connected by the mutual strife the soldiers face. The story that gives the book its title is often taught in classes because of its impeccable technique and it still holds up to this day. Sometimes funny, sometimes horrifying, sometimes heart-wrenching, 'The Things They Carried' is the perfect book to bolster your reading list this summer.

Admittedly, the list may be a bit biased as it is compromised of 13 of some of my favorite books ever put to print. Many of these are becoming films in the near future with star studded casts (guess where Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland are on this list!), or have already graced the screen, be it small and in your living room, or the big screen in your movie theater. Let them all grace your mind this summer!

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