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social studies > black history > Black Writers Index > a-c | d | e-g | H-I | j-n | o-t | w-x < literature

Black History Notable Authors ~

Alex Haley
Jupiter Hammon
Lorraine Hansberry
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Hubert Harrison
Robert Hayden
Chester Himes
bell hooks

Langston Hughes
Zora Neale Hurston
Gwen Ifill

Roots by Alex Haley
by Alex Haley

(no commercially
available poster)

Alex Haley
b. 8-11-1921; Ithaca, NY
d. 2-10-1992 (heart attack)

Alex Haley is best known as the author of Roots: The Saga of an American Family and The Autobiography of Malcolm X, written in collaboration with Malcolm X.

America's first Negro poet;: The complete works of Jupiter Hammon of Long Island
America's first Negro poet:
The complete works of Jupiter Hammon of Long Island

Jupiter Hammon
b. 10-17-1711; Long Island, NY
d. before 1806

Poet Jupiter Hammon, who was a slave his entire life, became the first African-American published writer in America when a poem appeared in print in 1760.

Jupiter Hammon quote ~
• “If we should ever get to Heaven, we shall find nobody to reproach us for being black, or for being slaves.”

Playwright Lorraine Hansberry Enjoys Music at the Raisin in the Sun Opening Night Party at Sardis, Photographic Print
Lorraine Hansberry
at the Raisin in the Sun
Opening Night Party
Photographic Print

Lorraine Hansberry
b. 5-19-1930; Chicago, IL
d. 1-12-1965; New York City

Playwright Lorraine Hansberry's best known work, A Raisin in the Sun, was inspired by her family's fight against racially segregated housing laws. She was the youngest person, and only the 5th woman, to receive the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for best play of the year; she died at age 35 from cancer.

Lorraine Hansberry quotes ~
• “A woman who is willing to be herself and pursue her own potential runs not so much the risk of loneliness as the challenge of exposure to more interesting men — and people in general.”
• “I wish to live because life has within it that which is good, that which is beautiful and that which is love. Therefore, since I have known all of these things, I have found them to be reason enough and — I wish to live. Moreover, because this is so, I wish others to live for generations and generations and generations.”
• “Eventually it comes to you: the thing that makes you exceptional, if you are at all, is inevitably that which must also make you lonely.”
• “Never be afraid to sit a while and think.”

FYI - the title A Raisin in the Sun is from the poem “A Dream Deferred” by Langston Hughes.

Frances E. W. Harper, Print
Frances E. W. Harper,

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
b. 9-24-1825; Baltimore, MD
d. 2-22-1911

Frances Harper, an African American abolitionist, poet and teacher, was born to free parents and orphaned at an early age. She published her first book of poetry at age twenty and her first novel, Iola Leroy: Shadows Uplifted (1892), at age 67. She lived with the William Still family for a time.

A Hubert Harrison Reader
A Hubert Harrison Reader

(not commercially
available poster)

Hubert Harrison
b. 4-27-1883; (now U.S. Virgin Islands)
d. 12-17-1927 (appendicitis)

Hubert Harrison, a West Indian born writer, orator, educator, critic, and radical political activist, was based in Harlem, New York. Harrison was described by A. Philip Randolph as “the father of Harlem radicalism”.

Robert Hayden
Robert Hayden

(no commercially
available poster)

Robert Hayden
b. 8-4-1913; Detroit, Michigan
d. 2-25-1980; Ann Arbor

Robert Hayden was a poet, essayist and educator, as well as the first African-American appointed United States Poet Laureate 1976-78 (Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress).

Hayden studied with W. H. Auden at the University of Michigan, and was also awarded the Avery Hopwood Award (1941). He also became a Bahá'í and religion played a significant influence on his poetry.

Chester Himes Expatriate African American "Noir" Novelist, Writer of Detective Novels, 1946, Photographic Print
Chester Himes Expatriate African American “Noir” Novelist, Writer of Detective Novels, 1946,
Photographic Print

Chester Himes
b. 7-29-1909; Jefferson City, Missouri
d. 11-12-1984; Moraira, Spain

Chester Himes is best remembered as a writer of “hardboiled” crime and detective fiction.

He left Hollywood screen writng (was fired by racist Jack Warner) and moved to France where he was awarded the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière in 1958.

Chester Himes books

Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, belle hooks
Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice
of Freedom,
bell hooks

(not commercially
available poster)

bell hooks
née Gloria Jean Watkins
b. 9-25-1952; Hopkinsville, KY

bell hooks, the pen name of Gloria Jan Watkins, is a feminist and social activist whose writng focuses on the interconnectivity of race, class and gender. She is a professor of English and has published numerous books of poetry and nonfiction.

belle hooks quotes ~
• “The function of art is to do more than tell it like it is-it’s to imagine what is possible.”
• “When we face pain in relationships our first response is often to sever bonds rather than to maintain commitment.”
• “Genuine love is rarely an emotional space where needs are instantly gratified. To know love we have to invest time and commitment...‘dreaming that love will save us, solve all our problems or provide a steady state of bliss or security only keeps us stuck in wishful fantasy, undermining the real power of the love -- which is to transform us.’ Many people want love to function like a drug, giving them an immediate and sustained high. They want to do nothing, just passively receive the good feeling.”
• “I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else's whim or to someone else's ignorance.”
• “Love is a combination of care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect and trust.”
• “When we drop fear, we can draw nearer to people, we can draw nearer to the earth, we can draw nearer to all the heavenly creatures that surround us.”
• “I am passionate about everything in my life – first and foremost, passionate about ideas. And that's a dangerous person to be in this society, not just because I'm a woman, but because it's such a fundamentally anti-intellectual, anti-critical thinking society.”
• “Being oppressed means the absence of choices.”
• “One of the most subversive institutions in the United States is the public library...”
• “I entered the classroom with the conviction that it was crucial for me and every other student to be an active participant, not a passive consumer ... education as the practice of freedom ... education that connects the will to know with the will to become. Learning is a place where paradise can be created.”
• “No other group in America has so had their identity socialized out of existence as have black women... When black people are talked about the focus tends to be on black men; and when women are talked about the focus tends to be on white women.”

Stars of the Harlem Renaissance - Langston Hughes Poster
Stars of the Harlem Renaissance - Langston Hughes Poster

Langston Hughes
b. 2-1-1902; Joplin, MO
d. 5-22-1967; Harlem, NYC

Langston Hughes was the biggest literary star of the Harlem Renaissance. He produced a truly astonishing amount of writing in his lifetime: sixteen books of poetry, twenty plays, seven collections of short fiction, many magazine and newspaper articles, three autobiographies, and two novels, as well as opera librettos, movie scripts, essays, and children's books.

James Mercer Langston Hughes was born on February 1, 1902, in Joplin, Missouri. His parents split up soon after, and Hughes grew up all over the Midwest. He enrolled at Columbia University in New York City, but he dropped out after a year. After that, he worked as a sailor and traveled the world, and he wrote poems and stories.

Hughes' poem “The Weary Blues,” which was written after a visit to a Harlem nightclub, was the first poem to use blues music form. It won first prize in an Opportunity magazine contest. When his first book of poetry, also called The Weary Blues, was published in 1926, the 24-year-old was suddenly a celebrity.

Hughes soon moved to Harlem; eventually, he adopted the neighborhood as his permanent home. He used street slang and jazz rhythms in blues-based poems like “Theme for English B” and the stories in The Ways of White Folks. Langston Hughes had come to be known as “The Poet Laureate of Harlem” by the time he died on May 22, 1967.

• more Langston Hughes posters
• more literature posters

Zora Neale Hurston
Zora Neale Hurston,

Zora Neale Hurston
b. 1-7-1891; AL (raised in FL)
d. 1-28-1960

“Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.” Their Eyes Were Watching God

• more Zora Neale Hurston posters

The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.
The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama

Gwen Ifill
b. 9-29-1955; NYC

Journalist, television newscaster, political analyst, and author Gwen Ifill is the managing editor and moderator for Washington Week (PBS) and a senior correspondent for The NewsHour (PBS). She moderated the 2004 and 2008 Vice Presidential debates, and is the author of the book The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.

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