Celebrating Authors for Black History Month

February is Black History Month, a commemorative period that was originally established as a weeklong observance known in 1926 as national “Negro History Week,” by the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. During the 1960s, activists from the civil rights movement urged authority figures to expand it. In 1976, President Gerald R. Ford proclaimed February to be officially recognized as Black History month.

In honor of the month-long celebration, the Spring Creek Sun compiled a list of authors whose work has helped shine a light on social stigmas, racial barriers, political issues, and other injustices in the United States.

Toni Morrison is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, who has penned essays and novels that have been deemed as literary classics. Her best known works are: Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Jazz, Song of Solomon, Love and A Mercy. Morrison’s books explore African-American characters and the true struggles that people of color undergo in great detail. Her literary works on the African-American experience, particularly on the psychological effects of slavery in her novel Beloved, continues to be studied in schools today because of its cultural relevance and rich historical background. She is also the first African American woman to win a Nobel Prize in Literature and in 2012 Morrison was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She currently is a professor at Princeton University.  

Alice Walker is an award-winning Ameri-can novelist, poet, and activist. Her infamous novel The Color Purple earned Walker both fiction prizes for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Her novel, The Color Purple, explores the life of an African-American girl named Celie during the 1900s. The protagonist under-goes heartbreaking struggles, abuse, and bigotry. She is also separated from her sister, who is a missionary in Africa. The Color Purple is an intense tale that tests the bonds of sisterly love, female empowerment, and the desire to be free from the shackles of abuse and racism. Other books by Walker are: The Temple of My Familiar, Possessing the Secret of Joy, Third Life of Grange Copeland, By the Light of My Father’s Smile, and her poetry collection, Revolutionary Petunias. In addition to her literary works, she became a strong advocate in the black feminist movement. 

Maya Angelou was a poet, author, and civil rights activist. She made history as the first African-Ameri-can to be on the non-fiction best-seller list with her memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Angelou shares parts of her personal life, her experiences and observations of African American social issues in her works. Each novel and poem details insight into a world that needs exposure—the ugly truth and the pretty lies society interweaves within out daily life—but through her own experiences. Some of her works include: All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes, Mom & Me & Mom and Letters to My Daughter. Angelou also won two NAACP Image Awards for outstanding literary work.

Zora Neale Hurston was a novelist and short story writer who was the staple of the Harlem Renaissance. Her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, and her short story, “Sweat” paved way for other New York City writers and artists during the Harlem Renaissance (which was a period in the 1920s that African Americans were starting to be recognized for their intel-lectual contributions). Some of her other notable works are: Jonah’s Gourd Vine, a collection of stories entitled Mules and Men, a few plays called The Great Day, From Sun to Sun, and she co-wrote Mule-Bone: A Comedy of Negro Life with Langston Hughes. Despite her inspirational works, she did not receive proper recognition until after her passing in 1960.

Richard Wright is a novelist best known for his controversial but deeply educational works Uncle Tom’s Children, Black Boy, and Native Son. His work showcased the extreme poverty, racial violence, and the socio-economic issues that African Americans faced. He explored stories be-hind the single-parent stigma, and the bigotry embedded within the South with his memoir, Black Boy. He became the first African-American writer to be selected by the Book-of-the-Month Club with his novel Native Son. Some of his other works include: The Outsider, The Long Dream, Black Power, and White Man, Listen!

Ralph Ellison is a renowned author, essayist, and scholar, celebrated for his classic American novel, Invisible Man. His bestselling book won the National Book Award in 1953. His accomplishments have inspired many marginalized communities that they too can achieve greatness just like Ellison. The Invisible Man tells the story of a nameless narrator, who unveils to the readers his upbringing in the South, his troubled journey to New York and his world of being an invisible man living in a basement lair. His other writings include: Juneteenth (an unfinished manuscript that was published after his death), Shadow and Act and Going to the Territory.

Alex Haley is a journalist and novelist whose book, Roots: The Saga of an American Family, was adapted into a critically acclaimed television show in 1977, becoming the most watched show in broadcast TV history. Much of his works focused on his personal experience and his observations of the struggles Afri-can Americans have and continue to undergo. He is also known for his articles on infamous civil rights leaders and celebrities such as, Martin Luther King Jr., Quincy Jones, Sammy Davis Jr., and Malcom X. His interviews led to his book, The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a correspondent for Atlantic Magazine and has made notable fame recently with his graphic novel Black Panther: A Nation Under our Feet. In 2015, he won the National Book Award for his novel Between The World and Me. His works focus on America’s racial history and the cracks within the legislative frame-work that cause the continued existence of racism.