FC: My Historic African-American Writers Book
1: Maya Angelou (Marguerite Ann Johnson) Born April 4, 1928 | Dr. Maya Angelou is one of the most renowned and influential voices of our time. Hailed as a global renaissance woman, Dr. Angelou is a celebrated poet, memoirist, novelist, educator, dramatist, producer, actress, historian, filmmaker, and civil rights activist. | Works include: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Phenomenal Women Still I Rise Letter To My Daughter
2: Frederick Douglass February 1818 - February 20, 1895 Easton, Maryland | Frederick Douglass was a prominent American abolitionist, author and orator. Born a slave, Douglass escaped at age 20 and went on to become a world-renowned anti-slavery activist. His three autobiographies are considered important works of the slave narrative tradition as well as classics of American autobiography. Douglass' work as a reformer ranged from his abolitionist activities in the early 1840s to his attacks on Jim Crow and lynching in the 1890s. For 16 years he edited an influential black newspaper and achieved international fame as an inspiring and persuasive speaker and writer. In thousands of speeches and editorials, he levied a powerful indictment against slavery and racism, provided an indomitable voice of hope for his people, embraced antislavery politics and preached his own brand of American ideals.
3: Langston Hughes (James Mercer Langston Hughes) February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967 Joplin, Missouri | Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form jazz poetry. He is best known for his work during the 1920s Harlem Renaissance. With famous poems such as “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” and Crotty fave, “Let America Be America Again,” Hughes proudly depicted the lives of poor blacks through the invention of what was called “jazz poetry.”
4: Richard Nathaniel Wright September 4, 1908 – November 28, 1960 Roxie, Mississippi | Richard Nathaniel Wright was an African-American author of sometimes controversial novels, short stories, poems, and non-fiction, including Crotty fave Native Son. In 1945, Wright penned the best-seller Black Boy, a seminal portrayal of one black man’s search for self-actualization in a racist society. It paved the way for other successful black writers.
5: Toni Morrison Born February 18, 1931 Lorain, Ohio | Toni Morrison is an American novelist, editor and professor who has won a Nobel Prize and a Pulitzer Prize. In her work, she examines the lives of black characters who struggle with identity amidst racism and hostility. She is celebrated for novels with epic themes and richly detailed characters, such as in The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon and Beloved. Though, for better or worse, Ms. Morrison is best known for her memorable, though misunderstood, quote, “Bill Clinton is our first black president.”
6: Zora Neale Hurston January 7, 1891 - January 28, 1960 Notasulga, Alabama | Zora Neale Hurston was a writer, anthropologist, folklorist. She spent much of her life collecting folklore of the South (1927–31, 1938–9) and of other places such as Haiti (1937–8), Bermuda (1937–8), and Honduras (1946–8), publishing her findings in works including Mules and Men (1935). She was associated with the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, and would later influence such writers as Ralph Ellison and Toni Morrison. She is best known for Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), a novel celebrating the lives of African-Americans.
7: Alice Walker Born February 9, 1944 Eatonton, Georgia | Alice Walker was a novelist, poet and feminist. She is one of the most admired African-American writers working today. She studied at Spelman College, Atlanta, and Sarah Lawrence College, New York, then worked as a social worker, teacher and lecturer. She took a brief sabbatical from her writing in the 1960s to live in Mississippi and work in the civil rights movement, returning to New York to write for Ms. magazine. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her 1982 novel "The Color Purple."
8: W.E.B. Du Bois was one of the most important African American activists during the first half of the 20th century. He co-founded the NAACP and supported Pan Africanism. He was a Scholar and activist who wrote extensively and was the best known spokesperson for African American rights during the first half of the 20th century. He studied at Harvard University and in 1895 became the first African American to earn a doctorate from Harvard. | W.E.B. DuBois (William Edward Burghardt Du Bois) February 23, 1868 - August 27, 1963 Great Barrington, Massachusetts
9: Ralph Ellison March 1, 1914 - April 16, 1994 Oklahoma City, Oklahoma | Ralph Ellison was a protégé of Richard Wright, whom he met in 1937, and wrote reviews, essays, and short stories. Ellison spent seven years writing Invisible Man (1952, National Book Award), and although it was his only novel it gained him a place as a respected American writer and remains one of the central texts of the African-American experience. His other major work, Shadow and Act (1964), is a collection of his essays and interviews, and the short story, Flying Home, was published posthumously in 1996.
10: August Wilson Born April 17, 1945 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania | August Wilson grew up in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After leaving school at 15, he joined the black aesthetic movement of the 1960s and was cofounder of the Black Horizons Theater. Two titles in his ten-play "Pittsburgh Cycle" won Pulitzer Prizes: Fences (1987) and The Piano Lesson (1990). Wilson's plays explore black American life throughout the 20th century.
11: James Baldwin August 2, 1924 - December 1, 1987 Harlem, New York | James Baldwin was a novelist and playwright during the mid-20th century. While not a marching activist, Baldwin emerged as one of the leading voices in the civil rights movement for his compelling work on race, notably Notes of a Native Son and The Fire Next Time. Baldwin was out about his homosexuality and atheist beliefs. In addition to writing, he also taught at several universities.
12: Phillis Weatley Born 1753 - December 5, 1784 Senegal, West Africa | Phillis Wheatley was brought to Boston on a slave ship in 1761 and purchased by John Wheatley as a personal servant to his wife. The Wheatleys educated Phillis, and she was soon mastering Latin and Greek, and writing poetry. Phillis Wheatley impressed everyone she met in the late 18th century, proving to the world that dark skin did not indicate intellectual inferiority.
13: Booker T. Washington April 5, 1856 - November 14, 1915 Franklin County, Virginia | Educator Booker T. Washington was one of the foremost African-American leaders of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Washington put himself through school and became a teacher. In 1881, he founded the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama (now known as Tuskegee University), which grew immensely and focused on training African Americans in agricultural pursuits. A political adviser and writer, Washington clashed with intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois over the best avenues for racial uplift.
14: Gwendolyn Brooks June 7, 1917 - December 3, 2000 Topeka, Kansas | Gwendolyn Brooks was a postwar poet best known as the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize, for her 1949 book Annie Allen. She began writing and publishing as a teenager, eventually achieving national fame for her 1945 collection A Street in Bronzeville. She published her first poem in a children's magazine at age 13. By 16, she had published approximately 75 poems. She began submitting her work to the Chicago Defender, a leading African-American newspaper. Her work included ballads, sonnets and free verse, drawing on musical rhythms and the content of inner-city Chicago.
15: Alex Haley August 11, 1921 - February 10, 1992 Ithaca, New York | Alex Haley was an American writer whose works of historical fiction and reportage depicted the struggles of African Americans. When Haley published Roots in 1976 — part fictionalized novel, part richly detailed historical account — the book caused a national sensation. A review in the New York Times stated, "No other novelist or historian has provided such a shattering, human view of slavery," and the book went on to win the Pulitzer Prize. In 1977, ABC adapted Roots into a television miniseries that attracted a record-shattering 130 million viewers.