The written word is not only informative, it's transformative. For as long as I can remember, words have always been an escape for me. During the summer, my mom would take me to the library, where I'd get lost in the shelves for hours, pulling down books, sitting right on the floor and reading them. I'd dive into whatever world my eyes allowed me to be part of, and when it was over, I'd pull down the next book.
It was reading that helped me discover the many undeniable perks of the written word. As I matured, so did my reading. I went from Rabble Starkey to Good Night, Mr. Tom and then on to gems like Sula and Maya Angelou's poems. It was words that taught me about the importance of blackness. School wasn't teaching our history, so I sought it for myself.
From Langston Hughes to James Baldwin, I was hooked on our stories in our words. Reading about my history, struggles and triumphs despite the heartache and actual pain our ancestors endured throughout those pages I loved to turn, I understood our importance in this world. Because of black writers, I knew that my life mattered. Literacy, especially melanin-rich literacy, is important.
September was National Literacy Month, and I decided to engage you wonderful readers on Instagram around black authors—new and old—whose books are well worth the read. As the list grew, so did your interest. Many of you suggested that we compile a full list to share on the site, and so, here you have it. A full list of all the beautiful black authors and their masterpieces that we celebrated all month long.
Langston Hughes, The Weary Blues
Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye
W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk
Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Ty Alexander, Things I Wish I Knew Before My Mom Died
Amiri Baraka, Somebody Blew Up America & Other Poems
Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
August Wilson, Fences
Octavia Butler, Kindred
Alex Haley, Roots: The Saga of an American Family
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me
Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun
Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad
Walter Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress
Nikki Giovanni, Chasing Utopia
Paul Laurence Dunbar, Lyrics of Lowly Life
Joi-Marie McKenzie, The Engagement Game: Why I Said “I Don’t” to Marriage and “I Do” to Me
Mychal Denzel Smith, Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man’s Education
Gwendolyn Brooks, Annie Allen
Chinua Achebe, No Longer at Ease
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah
Ntozake Shange, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf
Tananarive Due, The Black Rose
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
Richard Wright, Black Boy
Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom
Jacqueline Woodson, Brown Girl Dreaming
Alice Walker, The Color Purple
Sonia Sanchez, Homegirls & Handgrenades