It’s officially Black History Month and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than by highlighting some amazing black authors! These authors have paved the way, telling the stories that need to be told in a way that is both profound and thought-provoking.
These seven authors create characters that look like them and placed them in the leading role instead of making them the “sassy” friend who always has perfectly-timed snarky commentary to share.
Most of these authors, those still with us, continue writing groundbreaking novels that reflect the state of the world, past and present. Check them out!
Nic Stone made a name for herself in the publishing world with her debut novel Dear Martin. She tackles issues that few others have dared to. However, while the topic may be controversial she approaches it with diction and poise that sparks conversations rather than arguments.
According to her bio: After graduating from Spelman College, she worked extensively in teen mentoring and lived in Israel for a few years before returning to the US to write full-time. Growing up with a wide range of cultures, religions and backgrounds, Stone strives to bring these diverse voices and stories to her work.
With such a diverse background her novels Dear Martin, Odd One Out, Jackpot, and Clean Getaway have something for everyone.
Angie Thomas has the gift of storytelling and uses it to draw people in; Angie’s debut novel, The Hate U Give, was a true testament to that. The #1 New York Times bestseller has received numerous awards, including the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and William C. Morris Award. Angie herself won the Walter Dean Myers Grant in 2015, awarded by We Need Diverse Books, which was created “to provide financial support to promising diverse writers who are currently unpublished.” She was also awarded the Coretta Scott King Honor – this award was created to “recognize outstanding books for young adults and children by African American authors and illustrators that reflect the African American experience.”
The Hate U Give is now a major motion picture, reaching an even bigger audience. Angie continues pushing boundaries and addressing important topics in her sophomore novel On the Come Up.
Jason Reynolds writes novels and poetry for young adults and middle-grade readers. He published several poetry collections before he published his first novel, When I Was The Greatest, in 2014. He won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent for his first work of prose. The award was established to affirm new talent and to offer visibility to excellence in writing and/or illustration which otherwise might be formally unacknowledged.
His novel As Brave As You won the 2016 Kirkus Prize; the 2017 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Youth/Teen, which celebrates the outstanding achievements and performances of people of color in the arts; and the 2017 Schneider Family Book Award, given by the American Library Association recognizing authors and illustrators for the excellence of portrayal of the disability experience in literature for youth.
His latest work of poetry, Long Way Down, was named a Newbery Honor book, a Printz Honor Book, and best young adult work by the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Awards.
Toni Morrison was a writer known for her examination of the black experience, specifically the black female experience, within the black community.
Some of her works include The Bluest Eye, about a victimized young black girl who is obsessed by white standards of beauty and longs to have blue eyes; Song of Solomon, which is the novel that brought Morrison to national acclaim; Tar Baby, which explores race, class and sex, among other things; Beloved, which won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction and is based on the true story of a runaway slave who, at the point of recapture, kills her infant daughter in order to spare her a life of slavery; and many, many more.
Throughout all of her works however, there is a central theme: the black American experience. Her characters often struggle to find themselves and their cultural identity in a society that views them as lesser. Morrison was one of the pioneers in writing about the black experience in ways that were never done before. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 in recognition of her body of work.
James Baldwin was an essayist, playwright, novelist and pioneer of the American civil rights movement. His notable works include Notes of a Native Son, The Fire Next Time and Go Tell It on the Mountain.
Baldwin went against the literary grain with his discussions of racial, sexual orientation and social issues in his novels and essays. Similar to Morrison, he was known specifically for his essays on the black American experience.
He wrote about, for the time, taboo subjects that writers seldom dared broach. He even, at times, wrote specifically for white Americans in order to try and educate them on what it meant to be black; it gave white Americans a new perspective on the black American experience.
Jasmine Guillory has been making a name for herself in the romantic comedy genre since 2018. In a genre that was primarily whitewashed, she has given it the diversity that it so desperately needed.
Her debut novel The Wedding Date was a USA Today bestseller and in just 2 short years, the series has grown to five books. She has seamlessly opened the door for other writers of color to make a mark on genres that, for far too long, haven’t been inclusive.
Some of you may know Tomi Adeyemi as the author of Children of Blood and Bone but where she has gotten the most acclaim is through teaching creative writing. According to her website, she “was recently named to the 2020 Forbes 30 Under 30 list, and her website has been named one of the 101 best websites for writers by Writer’s Digest.”
She has said that she writes about “what it feels like to live in a world where you’re constantly afraid that your brother or father or future child will become the next tragic headline.” In doing so, she is teaching a whole new generation of writers to give people a new perspective on things that they may not understand.
When talking about her writing: “…that is why I write…it is a burning passion to tell a story about someone who is different and to force readers to fall in love with what is different from them. It’s the thought that one day a little girl might be able to walk into the library and see a protagonist that actually looks like her. It’s the idea that maybe someone who grows up around people who don’t look like him might like the story enough to think twice before resorting to unwavering hatred.”