Celebrating Black History Month: Top 5 African-American authors

Author Toni Morrison, 1986

Author Toni Morrison, 1986

With Black History Month on our minds, we determined Questia’s top 5 most-read African-American authors. To celebrate February, we’ve unlocked the reference books to these authors on Questia, the online research tool and library of over 77,000 academic books and 4 million journal articles, so everyone can read our free online books for the month. Some are novels, some are non-fiction and some are reference books. Leave a comment telling us which one’s you were inspired to read and what you thought!

Richard Wright:

An author of controversial novels, Wright penned the best-seller Black Boy in 1945, which remains a vital work of historical, sociological and literary significance. The seminal portrayal of one black man’s search for self-actualization in a racist society paved the journey for other successful black writers. [“Shouting Curses”: the politics of “bad” language in Richard Wright’s ‘Black Boy.’ Jennifer H. Poulos.]

Toni Morrison:

A Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, Morrison is most celebrated for her novels with epic themes and richly detailed characters such as in The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon and Beloved. [Toni Morrison’s World of Fiction. Karen Carmean.]

Zora Neale Hurston:

An American folklorist and anthropologist, Hurston authored novels, short stories, plays and essays. Her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God was written during her fieldwork in Haiti with the Guggenheim Foundation, which provides grants to professionals in the creative arts. [Zora Neale Hurston and a History of Southern Life. Lori Robison.]

Frederick Douglass:

A strong public speaker and leader in the abolitionist movement, Douglass also authored several compelling autobiographies which detailed his experiences in slavery. [Life and Times of Frederick Douglass: His Early Life as a Slave, His Escape from Bondage, and His Complete History. Frederick Douglass.]

Alice Walker:

An American novelist, Walker penned the critically acclaimed novel The Color Purple for which she was awarded a Pulitzer Prize. She was involved in the Civil Rights movement and marched in the 1963 March on Washington. [Alice Walker: ‘Color Purple’ Author Confronts Her Critics and Talks about Her Provocative New Book. Charles Whitaker.]

Our personal favorite author from the list right now is playwright August Wilson. Inspired by the area of Pittsburgh, Wilson created many plays focusing on his favorite neighborhoods. In an online article in “Afro” entitled “Morgan State to Premiere August Wilson’s Jitney,” the author mentions the series of plays Wilson wrote about Pittsburgh: “Penned by late playwright August Wilson, ‘Jitney’ was a part of Wilson’s series of 10 plays that was entitled the ‘Pittsburgh Cycle.’ Each was set in a different decade and depicted the comic and tragic aspects of the African American experience in the 20th century. Wilson ultimately received two Pulitzer Prizes for the series.”

What are your favorite African-American authorsAre there any missing here that you think should make our top five list next year? Tell us in the comments!

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