In the midst of the crazy, pink and heart-shaped whirlwind that is Valentine’s Day, it’s important to recognize what else we are here to celebrate: Black History Month, a time when we can remember, honor and learn from past and present African Americans who have fought for justice and equality across the globe.
With this in mind, we are shining a spotlight on a few influential Black women writers who have used their craft and passion for the written word to speak their truth.
“It’s particularly important to study Black women writers because readers who are Black women need to find themselves represented in literature, and readers who are not Black women need access to Black women’s experiences,” said PLNU literature professor Katie Manning. “By this, we can see our similarities as humans and also we can understand some of the experiences and pressures that are unique to Black women’s lives that we might not be able to see or imagine on our own.”
Here are four of our top author recommendations and prepare to get inspired:
Alice Walker: This highly acclaimed novelist, poet and essayist is also known for her work as a social activist and advocate for civil and women’s rights. She is the author of The Color Purple, which won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. The well-known novel focuses on the life of African American women in the 1930s and addresses issues such as social class and gender roles.
Maya Angelou: A poet, essayist and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou was an internationally acclaimed icon. One of her several autobiographies, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, brought Angelou well-deserved recognition and was an instant bestseller. Angelou is also widely known for her poetry, some of which include “Still I Rise,” “Phenomenal Woman” and “On the Pulse of the Morning,” which she recited at Bill Clinton’s inauguration. As a civil rights activist, Angelou worked closely with the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: As a Nigerian writer of novels, short stories and nonfiction, Adichie is widely regarded as a powerful influence in African and Black literature. Her novels, including Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, and Americanah, all received critical acclaim, along with her well-known book-length essay We Should All Be Feminists.
Gwendolyn Brooks: The first African American to ever win the Pulitzer Prize, Gwendolyn Brooks was one of the most highly influential poets of the 20th century. Her work focused on the lives of ordinary people in her community, while highlighting issues concerning civil rights. Some of her most well-known pieces include, “We Real Cool,” “To Those of My Sisters Who Kept Their Naturals” and “the mother.”