10 prominent Black authors to celebrate during Black History Month


Shreya Jagannathan

Maya Angelou is one of the greatest and most renowned Black authors in history, widely known for her autobiography “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.”

Ananya Mukherjee, Web Manager

Black History Month is an annual celebration of the achievements of African Americans and their indispensable contributions to U.S. history. February has been designated as Black History Month since 1976, and the 2023 theme celebrates “Black resistance.” It centers around the resistance of oppression and racial terrorism, amongst other hardships Black people in the United States are faced with.

In alliance with the theme, it is important to note the contributions Black people have made to US society. Individuals such as George Carver, James Baldwin, and Maya Angelou were pioneers in the fields of science, art and literature. Each voice brought a new perspective that shifted American culture and aided in the social development of the country.

Here are 10 memorable authors to commemorate during Black History Month this year.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

Maya Angelou was a renowned author and civil rights activist who was known for her unique style of autobiographical writing. Her 1969 autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” propelled her into international fame and earned her the title of the first African-American author with a non-fiction bestseller. She published seven autobiographies and multiple essays, plays, television shows, and poetry books over the course of 50 years. She was also awarded two National Association for the Advancement of Colored People awards for her contributions.

Toni Morrison (1931-2019)

Toni Morrison was a passionate storyteller with a love for songs and folktales. She began her career as a fiction editor at Random House publishing company before teaching writing in both the State University of New York and Princeton University. Her first bestselling novel was “The Bluest Eye,” the story of a victimized Black girl with an obsession for white standards of beauty. She later won a Pulitzer Prize for her 1987 novel “Beloved.” Her fierce and unapologetic voice won her the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993.

Alex Haley (1921-1992)

Alex Haley was a U.S. Coast Guard before pursuing his writing career. He wrote a variety of fiction and non-fiction works, as well as poetry and journalism articles. His realistic and historical fiction works such as “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” propelled him into the spotlight. However, his most famous work is “Roots,” a chronicle of tales about his enslaved family line, which won the Pulitzer Prize. 

Iyanla Vanzant (1953-present)

Iyana Vanzant is an author, television personality and inspirational speaker. She published her first book “Tapping The Power Within: A Path To Self Empowerment For Black Women,” in 1998. She also published five New York Times Best Sellers over the span of her career, and is hailed as one of the country’s most influential African Americans (Ebony Magazine 2004), as well as one of top 100 most influential women in the U.S. (WD Magazine 2003).

His works raised public awareness of racial and sexual oppression and portrayed his personal challenges and experiences in an unequal and biased society.

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960)

Zora Neale Hurston was an American author, filmmaker and anthropologist. Her works revolved around the racial struggles of African-Americans in the early 1900s. She is best known for “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” a story that broke the literary norms of the past by centering around the experiences of a black woman. Zora was unique in her approach to literature and incorporated an element of self-awareness in all her pieces.

James Arthur Baldwin (1924-1987)

James Baldwin was a playwright and a novelist. He was considered one of the voices of the American civil rights movement. His works raised public awareness of racial and sexual oppression and portrayed his personal challenges and experiences in an unequal and biased society. He is well-known for novels “Notes of a Native Son” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain.” The former was a best-seller that sold over a million copies after its publication in 1961.

Brit Bennett (1990-present)

Brit Bennett is an LA-based author whose debut novel, “The Mothers,” was a New York Times Best Seller. Its sequel explored racial inequality and the experiences of a set of biracial twins. The success of this story resulted in its adaptation as a limited series on HBO. Further, Bennett is known for her powerful personal essays and the memorable and truthful tone with which she delivers lectures on themes of racial injustice. 

Alice Walker (1944-present)

Alice Walker is a novelist, poet, and social activist. In 1982, she made headlines with her novel, “The Color Purple,” and became the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. The book talks about the experiences of a Black woman living in southern America in the 1900s and was later adapted into a popular film and stage musical. Aside from writing, Walker is a feminist and advocate for human rights who shares her opinions on her acclaimed blog “Alice Walker’s Garden.”

Carl Weber (1964-present)

Carl Weber is an American author and publisher, and owns the publishing company Urban Books. He primarily writes in the urban romance genre and is the New York Times Bestselling author of books such as “The Preacher’s Son” and “So You Call Yourself a Man.” Furthermore, he has branched out into screenwriting and has turned some of his novels into independent films, which have garnered success. 

Rivers Solomon (1989-present)

Rivers Solomon is an author of literary and speculative fiction. Their debut novel, “An Unkindness of Ghosts,” won the Community of Literary Magazines and Presses’ Firecracker Award in Fiction. River describes their life as “one in the margins, where they are much at home.” Further, they were a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.