In order to celebrate Black History Month, it is only appropriate to celebrate those African Americans that came before and influenced the world we live in today. There is hardly anything in the world more influential than literature and books. Even with all the media today, books are still significant sources of entertainment and learning. That being said, let’s learn about some of the black authors that were game-changers and influential in their time and continue to be today.
Zora Neale Hurston was a black female author who changed the literary game with her writing. Hurston came into the public eye during the Harlem Renaissance, a historic black movement in literature. During the time she was writing, black people were trying to gain the respect and prestige of their fellow white men by creating classy and upscale literature. However, Hurston was the exception. She focused solely on African American culture, displaying black livelihood in her literature. She also did not write about people in the context of white America. Most of the black characters in her books only interact with other black people. One major piece of work Hurston wrote that should be checked out is “Their Eyes Were Watching God.”
Another fantastic author that deserves recognition is the critically acclaimed Maya Angelou. Angelou is often thought of as the spokesperson of African American women and their culture. Angelou often communicated the struggles of African Americans while demanding social justice. She was one of many African women who sought out using autobiographical literature in order to empower and illustrate African life. Her most famous autobiographical work is called, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”
Among Hurston and Angelou, the Harlem Renaissance also housed the great poet, Langston Hughes. Hughes is known as being one of the primary contributors to the Harlem Renaissance. Hughes was the first person to incorporate jazz tunes into his literary work and created the art form of jazz poetry. Hughes often incorporated black heritage and culture into his works and became known for his colorful portrayals of black life. The author was incredibly influential in his time and a lot of his contemporaries were inspired by him and dedicated their work to him. The play “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry was named for a line in one of Hughes’ poems. One of many good works by Hughes to check out is “Not Without Laughter.”
African American writer, James Baldwin spent most of his life escaping racial prejudice outside the United States and yet he is still considered a quintessential American author. Baldwin used his writing to commentate on his experience as an openly gay black man. He wrote a novel called “Go Tell it on the Mountain” that was unlike anything written in his time or even today. It immediately became an American classic. Naturally, Baldwin provided a lot of inspiration for fellow and future black homosexual writers and artists.
Another black author that has a lot of influence, especially today, is Toni Morrison. Morrison appeared decades after these other writers, yet her style and voice show the influence these authors have made on her writing. She has won many awards including the Pulitzer Prize for her novel “Beloved.” Like Maya Angelou, she is considered the voice for African American women of her generation.
These are just a few authors that influenced and inspired the literary world we see today. Without these excellent black authors we would not have the same contemporary poetry and literature, making them deserving of celebration, but not just on this month, but every month.