Here at Writing It Wells, we feel it's important for voices of color to be heard within the publishing industry. As it currently stands, the majority of literary jobs and writers published are white. Without an accurate representation of Black writers and poets we are missing an integral piece of the human experience. The lack of examples and testimonies to the lives that make up a large part of our nation means that we are missing a part of our story. For our book to be whole we need to remedy this, and part of how we do this is to acknowledge the voices that have been overlooked and given less credit then they deserve.
Today we honor the lives and works of Lorraine Hansberry, Gwendolyn Brooks, Nikki Giovanni, and Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Lorraine Hansberry inspired the hearts of many with her famous play A Raisin in the Sun. She became the first black female author to ever have a play performed on Broadway.
Here's a closer look at her works:
A Raisin in the Sun
Published in 1959, her most famous work.
An award-winning play about the hopes and aspirations of a struggling, working-class family living on the South Side of Chicago connected profoundly with the psyche of black America--and changed American theater forever. The play's title comes from a line in Langston Hughes's poem "Harlem," which warns that a dream deferred might "dry up/like a raisin in the sun."
To Be Young, Gifted, and Black: An Informal Autobiography
Published in 1969, her life story.
The autobiography of Lorraine Hansberry, written in her personal style and voice.
A Raisin in the Sun: The Unfilmed Original Screenplay
Published in 1992, an adaptation of the original.
Robert A. Nemiroff (Editor), Spike Lee (Commentaries by)
Margaret B. Wilkerson (Introduction) make this remake of A Raisin in the Sun special with important changes in dialogue and exterior shots, a stunning shift of focus to her male protagonist, and a dramatic rewriting of the final scene show us an artist who understood and used the cinematic medium to transform a stage play into a profound and powerful film.
Les Blancs: The Collected Last Plays: The Drinking Gourd/What Use Are Flowers?
Published in 1972, a collective.
This book showcases Hansberry's last three plays. It includes Les Blancs, The Drinking Gourd, and What Use Are Flowers? and represents the capstone of her achievement. Includes a new preface by Jewell Gresham Nemiroff and a revised introduction by Margaret B. Wilkerson.
The Sign In Sidney Brustein's Window
Published in 1965, introduction by Robert Nemiroff.
The unforgettable portrait of a man struggling wit his individual fate in an age of racial and social injustice. This second play marks another milestone in the American theater, remarkable not only for its historical value but for its continual ability to engage the imagination and heart.
The Movement: Documentary of a Struggle for Equality
Published in 1964, a collaborative effort.
Hundreds of black & white photographs chronicling the civil rights movement. Captions and accompanying text by Lorraine Hansberry. Photographers include Danny Lyon, Don Charles, Norris McNamara, Frank Dandridge and others. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee also played a role in its creation.
Gwendolyn Brooks was a poet to be reckoned with. With several prestigious awards under her belt, she was the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize, and one of the most noteworthy poetry teachers in history.
Here are her some of her works:
A Street In Bronzeville
Published in 1945, one of her earlier works.
A student of Langston Hughes as early as 1941, Brooks penned and published her first collection of poetry about Chicago's south side called A Street Called Bronzeville in 1945. A definitive look at African American life in the 1940s, Bronzeville set the course for Brooks' illustrious career.
Published in 1950, Pulitzer Prize winner.
A sequel to her Street Called Bronzeville, Annie Allen continues to describe in detail the African American experience during the late 1940s. Through her expressive language, Brooks relates how African Americans navigated post war America, and this vivid collection has stood the test of time.
Published in 1953.
The only novel published by Brooks. Initially entitled "American Family Brown" the work would eventually come to symbolize some of Brooks' most provocative writing. In a novel that captures the essence of Black life, Brooks recognizes the beauty and strength that lies within each of us.
Bronzeville Boys and Girls
Published in 1956, a picture book.
Paired with full-color illustrations by Caldecott Honor artist Faith Ringgold. It explores the lives and dreams of the children who live together in an urban neighborhood. It consists of thirty-four poems that celebrate the joy, beauty, imagination, and freedom of childhood. It reminds us that no matter where we live, childhood is universal in its richness of emotions and new experiences.
Published in 1996.
A group of poems dedicated to Winnie Mandela, the wife of Nelson Mandela who was the first indigenous leader to hold the office of President of the Republic of South Africa.
Nikki Giovanni's career has spanned more than a quarter century, and has earned the reputation as one of America's most celebrated and controversial writers today.
Here are some of her works:
Published in 1998, a collection of love poems.
Romantic, bold, and erotic, Love Poems expresses notions of love in sensuous verse. It contains the poems Seduction, Just a Simple Declaration of Love, I Wrote a Good Omelet, All Eyez on U. These poems embody the fearless passion and spirited wit for which Nikki Giovanni is beloved and revered.
Blues: For All The Changes
Published in 1999, a collection of poems.
From the environment to our reliance on manners, from sex and politics to love among Black folk, Blues is a masterwork with poems for every soul and every mood. The poignant "Stealing Home" pays tribute to Jackie Robinson, while "Road Rage Blues" jams on time and space; Giovanni celebrates love's absolute power in "Train Rides" and laments life's transience in "Me and Mrs. Robin."
Quilting The Black-Eyed Pea
Published in 2003, poetry.
Giovanni turns her gaze toward the state of the world around her, and offers a daring, resonant look inside her own self in "Quilting The Black-Eyed Pea".
Published in 2007, the largest collection of her works.
A collection of eighty all-new poems and prose pieces that retain her distinct vision and voice yet mark a change of direction inspired by love, celebration, memories, and even nostalgia. She offers insight into her life: family and friends, the deaths of heroes and companions, nature, libraries, and the theater. She also writes of Rosa Parks, Hurricane Katrina, and Emmett Till.
Hip Hop Speaks To Children
Published in 2008, a children's poetry book.
Hip Hop Speaks to Children is a celebration of poetry with a beat. A New York Times Bestselling classic poetry book and CD that started it all, Hip Hop Speaks to Children is meant to be the beginning of a journey of discovery. It contains 50 remarkable poems and songs narrated by Queen Latifah to Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes to A Tribe Called Quest and more.
100 Best African American Poems
Published in 2010, a collaboration between poets.
A vibrant collection that spans from historic to modern, from structured to freeform, and reflects the rich roots and visionary future of African American verse. An exciting mix of classics and new writing, it features poems from Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes, Tupac Shakur, Natasha Trethewey, and many more.
Published in 2009, a collective.
Collected poems that serve as a companion to her 1997 Love Poems. Giovanni experienced many losses. Despite these, Giovanni rediscovers love that inspired this sequel. Here romantic love and all its manifestations are written as never before by one of our most talented poets. In a time of national crisis or personal crisis, this is a collection that will open minds and change hearts as only the best art can.
Black Feeling, Black Talk
Published in 1970 one of the single most important volumes of modern African-American poetry.
When her poems first emerged from the Black Rights Movement in the late 1960s, she immediately became a celebrated and controversial poet of the era.
As a witness to three generations, Giovanni has penned her observations about the outside world and reflected on herself within it in this collection of poems.
Published in 2005, a children's book.
A children's picture book written by Giovanni and illustrated by Bryan Collier. A biography of African-American civil rights activist Rosa Parks. She wrote it in honor Parks, who she knew personally thanks to her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.
Ta-Nehisi Coates started his writing career as a journalist. He wrote stirring pieces for The Atlantic, The Village Voice Washington City Paper, and Time. He later went on to write his own books bringing awareness to the struggles of the Black community as well as working on lighter comic pieces for Marvel.
Here are some of his works:
The Beautiful Struggle
Published in 2008.
Paul Coates was an enigmatic god to his sons: a Vietnam vet who rolled with the Black Panthers, an old-school disciplinarian and new-age believer in free love, an autodidact who launched a publishing company in his basement dedicated to telling the true history of African civilization. Among his brood of seven, his main challenges were Ta-Nehisi, spacey, sensitive, and out-of-place, and Big Bill, charismatic and all-too-ready for the challenges of the streets. An exceptional father-son story about the reality that tests us, the myths that sustain us, and the love that saves us.
Between The World and Me
Published in 2015, a novel.
Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current racial crisis. Learn what is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it. It poses the questions of: how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?
In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, this is a profound piece of work.
We Were Eight Years In Power: An American Tragedy
Published in 2017, a political novel.
This novel features Coates's iconic essays first published in The Atlantic, including Fear of a Black President, The Case for Reparations and The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration, along with eight fresh essays that revisit each year of the Obama administration through Coates's own experiences, observations, and intellectual development. It also includes an assessment of the election that fully illuminated the tragedy of the Obama era. We Were Eight Years in Power is a vital account of modern America, from one of the definitive voices of this historic moment.
The Water Dancer
Published in 2019, a novel.
Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he’s ever known.
Published in 2016, a comic series.
MacArthur Genius and Coates ushers in a new age for Black Panther. T'Challa is faced with a dramatic upheaval in Wakanda that will make leading the African nation tougher than ever before. When a superhuman terrorist group that calls itself The People sparks a violent uprising, the land famed for its incredible technology and proud warrior traditions will be thrown into turmoil. If Wakanda is to survive, it must adapt, but can its monarch, one in a long line of Black Panthers, survive the necessary change?
Published in 2019, a comic series.
For over 70 years, Captain America has stood in stalwart defense of our country and its people. But in the aftermath of Hydra's takeover of the nation, Cap is a figure of controversy, carrying a tarnished shield...and a new enemy is rising! Who are they? And how do they intend to co-opt and corrupt the symbol that is Captain America? Distrusted by a nation that seems to have lost faith in him, Steve Rogers is a man out of time and options. Where can a now-unsanctioned Captain America turn for aid and assistance in order to stem the rise of the cabal of influence brokers known as the Power Elite?
These writers have all earned their place amongst the most influential writers in the literary world. With these short bios and lists of their works, I hope to inspire you to read and learn more about them. Happy reading!
I do not own any of the book cover images, nor the pictures of the writers. They are only used for creative purposes, not for profit. Below are my sources.
https://www.goodreads.com/ (for book cover images), with the exception of the book cover for A Raisin in the Sun which came from Wikipedia. All images of the writers themselves came from https://www.wikipedia.org/. Dates accessed 7/9/20 and 7/10/20.
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