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Frederick Douglass, in his seminal work Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, and American Slave, said that becoming literate allowed him to pursue his freedom: "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." Many African Americans, starting in the 18th century, used their gift of literacy to write in the cause of justice and freedom, and to celebrate their heritage. To truly understand Black history and our current society, it is important to know these authors' works. Find out more about them and some of their important works below!
The "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass" is regarded as one of the most important accounts of slavery in 19th century America that has ever been written. The story accounts Douglass's life from early childhood growing up on a Southern Plantation to his eventual escape to the North. Douglass tells of his life with various owners, his struggle to learn and teach other slaves, and his eventual escape from slavery. As an escaped slave Douglass becomes a passionate abolitionist and served as an inspiration to many other early African Americans.
This iconic work by DuBois contains many essays with his thoughts on race and the rights of African Americans. DuBois draws on his own experience as an African American in pre-Civil Rights era America to make his arguments. This text is important to the fields of Black history and social science, as it is considered an early work in sociology.
UP FROM SLAVERY is Booker T. Washington's autobiography, detailing his life as a slave child, his gaining of freedom and education, and his work establishing vocational schools for minorities. This edition contains contextual background essays about the text and its author.
There are so many important works by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. available in our library to read! However, WHY WE CAN'T WAIT is a good place to start when getting to know his works and history. It provides background on the Civil Rights Movement and the Birmingham campaign, critical moments in the life of MLK, and also outlines strategies and expectations for the future.
Though there is a famous autobiography by Black rights activist Malcolm X, BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY will provide the reader with the background and reasoning behind many of the issues Malcolm X tackled, such as interracial marriage, women's rights, and political alliances. A must-read to get inside the mind of this famous Black rights leader.
Probably Hurston's most famous work, this novel focuses on the life of strong, independent African American Janie Crawford as she struggles to find love and strength in the hostile American South of the 1930s.
A key novel in the history of African American fiction, INVISIBLE MAN follows the adventures of an unnamed young Black man as he moves from the American South to New York City. Exploring the idea that racism causes people to see not the person in front of them, but only the context and their own prejudices, the novel brilliantly portrays the identity struggles of so many African Americans in the post Civil War era.
This semi-autobiographical novel tells the story of 1930s Harlem teenager John Grimes and his life with his family and the Pentecostal Church. The novel shows how the Pentecostal Church influenced the lives of African Americans in both positive and negative ways.
This novel follows the development of an African American family -- the author's own -- from the 18th century into the 20th. It reveals the trials of slaves and Black people up through the Civil Rights movement, and also the importance of understanding family heritage and the stories and cultures out of which slaves were taken.
NATIVE SON follows the story of Bigger Thomas, his life of poverty, and the crimes he commits within his context of fear. The novel reveals the terrible conditions faced by those living in poverty and ignorance, as well as problems with the American justice system.
Phillis Wheatley was an 18th-century African slave educated in the home of her master. With her ability to read and write, she soon started creating poetry, which was eventually published. This was an almost unheard-of event, as she was a woman and Black. Though some of her poems have been criticized for not being condemning enough of slavery, Wheatley and her poetry remain an essential part of Black history and literature. This volume contains both her poems and letters, with background context provided.
Langston Hughes, an iconic figure of the Harlem Renaissance, was a prolific writer of novels, plays, and poems, but perhaps is best known for the latter. This anthology contains 860 of Hughes' poems, which cover topics such as education, racial consciousness, justice, and the world of jazz.
Adure Lorde was a Black, lesbian poet who wrote about and fought against racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, and other social injustices. Collected here are both her early and late poems, covering a wide variety of topics. This volume allows the reader to obtain a good feel for the breadth and depth of Lorde's work.
Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000), was an African American poet who wrote about the joyful times and struggles of African American communities. Contained here are several poems from three of her earlier books, as well as some later poems. Many deal with the experience of Black people in American society.
Lorraine Hansberry was an African American playwright and the first female African American playwright to have a show performed on Broadway. Though she wrote several plays, she is best known for A RAISIN IN THE SUN, which follows the lives of a black family in Chicago trying to raise themselves up.