1,826 readers cast votes back in 2001 for their favorite African-American authors. Here we share the 50 authors who received the most votes ranked in the order of the total number of votes received. Below are the top 15. To see the rest, go to: http://aalbc.com/authors/top50authors.php?
# 1 — (6.24%) Toni Morrison # 2 — (5.42%) Zora Neale Hurston # 3 — (4.82%) Maya Angelou # 4 — (4.71%) J. California Cooper # 5 — (4.33%) Alice Walker # 6 — (3.94%) Langston Hughes # 7 — (3.72%) E. Lynn Harris # 8 — (3.56%) James Baldwin # 9 — (3.23%) Terry McMillan # 10 — (3.18%) Bebe Moore Campbell # 11 — (2.74%) Richard Wright # 12 — (2.57%) Walter Mosley # 13 — (2.52%) Eric Jerome Dickey # 14 — (2.41%) Sheneska Jackson # 15 — (2.19%) Octavia Butler —Copyright AALBC.com.
In light of the recent events surrounding racial and social injustice around the country, knowing our history, as part of our eternal quest to “stay woke,” is more important than ever. While many of us are experiencing a new movement unfolding right before our eyes, scholars, experts and even regular folks with stories to tell, have been putting their experiences to the page to enlighten generations.
The publishing industry suffers from the same lack of diversity and racial biases that plague society at large. While many books don’t make school reading lists or even the New York Times Bestsellers List, there are countless classics that break down the Black experience in America.
It’s hardly a complete list, which could go on for volumes, but it’s a great starting point:
1. The Mis-Education of the Negro, Carter G. Woodson
This book is of primary importance in understanding the legacy of slavery and how it affects Black Americans’ perspectives in society. The book essentially argues that Black Americans are not educated, but rather conditioned in American society. It challenges Black Americans to “do for themselves” outside of the constructs that are set up for them.
2. And Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
This is one of the most affirming books you will ever read. Technically, it is a collection of poems which focus on hope, determination and overcoming struggle. It contains one of Angelou’s most famous poems, Phenomenal Woman.
3. The Souls of Black Folk, W. E. B. Du Bois
One of the most important books on race in sociology and African-American studies, it is a collection of essays that Du Bois wrote by drawing from his personal experiences. Two of the most profound social concepts – The Veil And Double Consciousness were written about in this book which have come to be widely known as part of the experience of being Black in America.
4. The Color Purple, Alice Walker
You may have seen the movie from Steven Spielberg or the recent Broadway musical, but I highly encourage you read this powerful novel, too. The book explores in depth the low position Black women are given in society through the lens of a particular group of women. The story explores both interpersonal turmoil and socially-inflicted violence toward Black women, as well as the bonds they share.
The death of legendary civil rights leader Julian Bond on August 15th left a community bereft, yet grateful for a life well-lived and legacy that will inspire and inform generations of activists to come.
Author and poet Alice Walker posted a fitting tribute to Bond on her website, remembering the young, passionate activist he was in college and the icon he would become.
It’s definitely worth the read:
Julian Bond 1940-2015
The first time I sang We Shall Overcome Was in a circle On the lawn of Trevor Arnett Library At Atlanta University And by chance I was holding Your hand. We were all so young, Julian, And so hopeful In our solidarity. I stumbled over some of the words In the new to me Song But you sang solemnly, Correctly, Devoutly, Believing every word You sang With your whole Handsome Heart. A friend writes That you will be buried At sea And I nod Because that is how it felt Those years so long ago; That we were so young, Vulnerable, Swimming against An awesome tide of hatred And despair Definitely At sea.
In a recent interview withBlack Enterprise, feminist journalist and activist Gloria Steinem had some refreshing things to say about Black women’s progressive history in the fight for gender equality.
“I thought that [Black women] invented the feminist movement…I learned feminism disproportionately from Black women. ”
Steinem explained that in earlier years, surveys showed that African American women were twice as vocal and biased towards feminist issues and beliefs as their White counterparts. She also spoke on her personal practice of giving the floor to other young women (whether or not they self-identify as feminists) to address concerns for people of varying socioeconomic backgrounds. If she is challenged by younger Black women who say that feminism doesn’t speak to them, Steinem says:
“I don’t say anything. I listen because the point is that we help each other to get dignity and autonomy and freedom. We’re here to help each other.”
Steinem has a history of working with Black feminists. In 1972, Steinem founded Ms. Magazine with Dorothy Pitman-Hughes, the author and child welfare advocate. Steinem was also affiliated with the deceased lawyer Flo Kennedy and worked alongside Alice Walker, making Walker one of the earliest Black editors at Ms.
The famous feminist spoke on the issues of police brutality as well, noting the importance of equally employing women in the police force to calm racially tense situations.
“[W]e haven’t been raise with our masculinity to prove. All the studies show that if a woman cop arrives on the scene, she de-escalates the situation by her presence and a man cop escalates. So while we’re talking as we should about cops looking like the community, how come we don’t say they should be half women?”
J. California Cooper, an award-winning writer whose black female characters confront a world of indifference and betrayal, but find kinship there in unexpected places, died on September 20th in Seattle. She was 82. A spokesman for Random House, her publisher, confirmed her death. She had had several heart attacks in recent years.
Ms. Cooper won an American Book Award in 1989 for the second of her six story collections, “Homemade Love.” Her short story “Funny Valentines,” about a woman in a troubled marriage who repairs an old rift with a cousin when she moves back home, was turned into a 1999 television movie starring Alfre Woodard and Loretta Devine.
Writing in a vernacular first-person style, Ms. Cooper set her stories in an indeterminate rural past permeated with violence and the ghost of slavery. The African-American women she depicts endure abandonment, betrayal, rape and social invisibility, but they survive.
“Some Soul to Keep” (1987), her third collection, includes over-the-back-fence tales. One story tells of two women who become close friends after one woman’s husband dies and the other’s leaves. They learn that long-lived rumors of their dislike for each other had been fabricated by their husbands. Another story is about a blind girl who is raped by her minister, gives birth to his son and raises him alone because, she explains, he makes her forget she is blind.
Ms. Cooper’s 1991 novel, “Family,” one of five she wrote, is narrated by the ghost of a slave woman who committed suicide before the Civil War and who follows the lives of her descendants as they mingle and procreate in a new interracial world, marveling at how “from one woman all these different colors and nationalities could come into being.”
Ms. Cooper was clear about the religious values that informed her stories. “I’m a Christian,” she told The Washington Post in 2000. “That’s all I am. If it came down to Christianity and writing, I’d let the writing go. God is bigger than a book.”
In an interview on NPR in 2006, she said, “What I’m basically trying to do is help somebody make some right choices.”
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — PBS will commemorate Black History Month with shows including a profile of The Color Purple author Alice Walker.
The public television service announced Tuesday that the program about Walker will air Feb. 7 as part of the American Masters series.
Other PBS shows marking Black History Month in February include American Promise, a coming-of-age documentary about two young men, and a documentary about a Mississippi state commission that investigated foes of segregation.
American Promise airs Feb. 3 on the POV showcase. Spies of Mississippi will air Feb. 10 on the Independent Lens program.
To mark Black History Month online, PBS.org will offer Behind the Lens, about photographer Eunique Jones Gibson‘s portrayals of prominent African-Americans as youngsters.