top of page

Acknowledgement Series: Toni Cade Bambara, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Gayl Jones, and Paule Marshall

Still going strong with our Acknowledgement Series featuring the lives and works of Black writers and poets throughout the ages. We've covered so many noteworthy individuals so far and are having a blast doing so! From Maya Angelou, to Alice Walker, Martin Luther King Jr., to Toni Morrison and James Baldwin we're learning so much about our story as a nation.

Publishing should be a diversified industry. Both in careers and literature published. There are so many stories that have yet to be explored. To learn about some of these amazing adventures, check out the rest of this series here.

To follow along and be notified of when new posts in this series release, subscribe on our homepage.

You can also connect with us at @writingitwells on Instagram to see more information about us including creative works such as poetry and short stories.

Toni Cade Bambara found her influences in the culture of New York City and jazz music. She used that inspiration to champion the Black Arts Movement and Black Feminism.

Here are some of her works:

Gorilla, My Love

Published in 1972, a collection of stories.

In these fifteen stories, Bambara gives us compelling portraits of a wide range of unforgettable characters, from sassy children to cunning old men, in scenes shifting between uptown New York and rural North Carolina. A young girl suffers her first betrayal. A widow flirts with an elderly blind man against the wishes of her grown-up children. A neighborhood loan shark teaches a white social worker a lesson in responsibility.

Find it here.

The Sea Birds Are Still Alive

Published in 1977, collection of stories.

Here are ten stories of Black life written with Bambara's characteristic vigor, sensibility and winning irony. The stories range from the timid and bumbling confusion of a novice community worker in "The Apprentice" to the love-versus-politics crisis of an organizer's wife, to the dark and bright notes of the title story about the passengers on a refuge ship from a war-torn Asian nation.

Find it here.

The Salt Eaters

Published in 1980, a novel.

Velma Henry has always been a fighter, but she has fallen on hard times. Exhausted by her political struggles, she is undergoing healing in the Southwest Community Infirmary. Confronting her there is Minnie Ransom, spinster and fabled vehicle of the spirit world.

Find it here.

Deep Sightings and Rescue Missions: Fiction, Essays and Conversations

Published in 1996, a collection of short stories.

Edited and with a Preface by Toni Morrison, this collection of short stories, essays, and interviews offers lasting evidence of Bambara's passion, lyricism, and tough critical intelligence. Included are tales of mothers and daughters, rebels and community activists and aging gangbangers, as well as essays on film and literature, politics and race, and on the difficulties and necessities of forging an identity as an artist, activist, and black woman.

Find it here.

Those Bones Are Not My Child

Published in 1999, her magnum opus.

Edited by Toni Morrison, Bambara's last novel leaves us with an enduring and revelatory chronicle of an American nightmare. In a suspenseful novel of uncommon depth and intensity, Bambara renders a harrowing portrait of a city under siege. Having elected its first black mayor in 1980, Atlanta projected an image of political progressiveness and prosperity. But between September 1979 and June 1981, more than forty black children were kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and brutally murdered throughout "The City Too Busy to Hate."        

Find it here.

Paul Laurence Dunbar was a poet, novelist, and playwright. He wrote largely about the African American experience in the 1800s and 1900s.

Here are some of his works:

Folks From Dixie

Published in 1898, short story collection.

Dunbar's first collection of short stories was published in 1898. Much like his earlier books of poetry, Dunbar's stories examined the lives of African-Americans both before and after emancipation. While his poetry tended to portray more sentimental situations, this collection of stories offered a harsher look at the realities of the situation, especially regarding racial prejudice. His first work of fiction was well-received, which encouraged him to publish more.

Find it here.

The Heart of Happy Hollow

Published in 1904, a collection of short stories.

Features sixteen short stories that provide rare glimpses into the lives of African Americans after the Civil War. Through characters ranging from schemers to preachers, Paul Laurence Dunbar crafted a rare snapshot of long-lost communities and their poignant sensibilities. In this collection, readers meet an influential entrepreneur who must navigate a treacherous political landscape; a Southern spiritual leader who must learn to accept the mores of his son, who was educated in the North; a reporter who restores hope in Santa Claus to a group of destitute siblings; and a host of other unique men and women giving voice to timeless themes.

Find it here.

The Sport of the Gods

Published in 1902, a novel.

In this extraordinary novel, Paul Laurence Dunbar tells the story of a displaced Southern family's struggle to survive and prosper in early Harlem. "The Sport of the Gods" was one of the first novels to depict the harsh realities of ghetto life and the revolutionary truths it uncovered still resonate today.

Find it here.

Gayl Jones wrote the hard stories that everyone else was afraid to. Dealing with things such as slavery, breeding mistresses, sexual and emotional abuse, she told the stories of women exploited by a system that gave them no other choices.

Here are some of her works:


Published in 1975, a novel.

The tale of blues singer Ursa, consumed by her hatred of the nineteenth-century slave master who fathered both her grandmother and mother. History and fiction have told little about those black slave women who were mistress and breeder to their white owners. There are some facts and figures, but they tell us nothing about the women themselves: their motives, their emotions, and the memories they passed on to their children. Jones's first novel is a gripping portrait of this harsh sexual and psychological genealogy.

Find it here.

Eva's Man

Published in 1976, her second novel.

Imprisoned for the bizarre murder of her lover, Eva Medina Canada recalls a life tormented by sexual abuse and emotional violence.

Find it here.

White Rat

Published in 1977, short stories.

Originally published in 1977, White Rat contains twelve provocative tales that explore the emotional and mental terrain of a diverse cast of characters, from the innocent to the insane. In each, Jones displays her unflinching ability to dive into the most treacherous of psyches and circumstances. In uncompromising prose, and dialect that veers from northern, educated tongues to down-home southern colloquialisms, Jones illuminates lives that society ignores, moving them to center stage.

Find it here.

The Healing

Published in 1998, novel.

Harlan Jane Eagleton travels to small towns, converting skeptics, restoring minds, and healing bodies. But before she found her calling, Harlan had been a minor rock star's manager and, before that, a beautician. Harlan retraces her story to the beginning, when she once had a fling with the rock star's ex-husband and found herself infatuated with an Afro-German horse dealer. Along the way she's somehow lost her own husband, a medical anthropologist now traveling with a medicine woman across eastern Africa. Harlan draws us deeper into her world and the mystery at the heart of her tale: the story of her first healing.

Find it here.


Published in 1999, novel.

Sojourner Nadine Jane Johnson, nicknamed Mosquito, is an African-American woman from Kentucky who drives a truck on the border between Texas and Mexico. Along the way, she becomes an unwitting agent of the contemporary underground railroad, as she puts it, the Sanctuary movement, dedicated to the safe passage of illegal immigrants from Mexico to the United States.

Find it here.

Paule Marshall influenced generations through her teachings and writings, using her personal heritage and traveling to supplement her works.

Here are some of her works:

Brown Girl, Brownstones

Published 1959, novel.

A vivid and bittersweet classic coming-of-age tale, set in immigrant Brooklyn during the Great Depression and World War II, Brown Girl, Brownstones chronicles the efforts of Barbadian immigrants to surmount poverty and racism and to make their new country home. Selina Boyce is torn between the opposing aspirations of her parents: her hardworking, ambitious mother longs to buy a brownstone row house while her easygoing father prefers to dream of effortless success and his native island's lushness.

Find it here.

Soul Clap Hands and Sing

Published in 1961, four short novels.

The stories take place in Barbados, Brooklyn, British Guiana and Brazil and follow people of various races and cultures who suffer mid-life crisis and try to find their true identities. A prim old Negro, comes back from America to live in Barbados like a white man, is shocked by his young servant girl's first love affair. An aging Jewish professor tries to reduce a part-Negro student and is destroyed. A white-Negro-Chinese radio announcer slowly slips from his ambiguous identity into alcoholism, homosexuality and death. An aging comedian in Rio finds himself lost in the myth he has created. These novellas each center on aged men who have sacrificed companionship for fame, fortune, or prestige.

Find it here.

The Chosen Place, the Timeless People

Published in 1969, a novel.

The chosen place is Bourneville, a remote, devastated part of a Carribean island; the timeless people are its inhabitants- black, poor, inextricably linked to their past enslavement. The advance team for an ambitious American research project arrives, and the tense ambivalent relationships that evolve between natives and foreigners, blacks and whites, haves and have-nots keenly dramatize the vicissitudes of power.

Find it here.

Reena and Other Stories

Published in 1983, story collection.

This collection of short stories illustrates the growth of a remarkable writer. Opening the volume is the much-acclaimed autobiographical essay, “From the Poets in the Kitchen,” which pays homage to the hard-working, storytelling West Indian women who serve as her muses, women who fought back against oppression and invisibility using the only weapon at their command: the spoken word. Such women appear in her luminous short stories, which travel from Brooklyn to Barbados and back again.

Find it here.

The Fisher King: A Novel

Published in 2001, a novel.

In 1949, Sonny-Rett Payne, a jazz pianist, fled New York for Paris to escape both his family's disapproval of his music and the racism that shadowed his career. Now, decades later, his eight-year-old grandson is brought to Payne's old Brooklyn neighborhood to attend a memorial concert in his honor. The child's visit reveals the persistent family and community rivalries that drove his grandfather into exile.

Find it here.

Triangular Road: A Memoir

Published in 2009, a memoir.

In Triangular Road, famed novelist Paule Marshall tells the story of her years as a fledgling young writer in the 1960s. A memoir of self-discovery, it also offers an affectionate tribute to the inimitable Langston Hughes, who entered her life during a crucial phase and introduced her to the world of European letters during a whirlwind tour of the continent funded by the State Department. In the course of her journeys to Europe, Barbados, and eventually Africa, Marshall comes to comprehend the historical enormity of the African diaspora, an understanding that fortifies her sense of purpose as a writer.

Find it here.

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. (for book cover images). All images of the writers themselves came from except for the image of Gayl Jones which came from goodreads. Paule Marshall's photo came from Dates accessed 8/13/20 and 8/14/20.

#writingitwells #writing #writer #acknowledgementseries #letthemhearus #amplifymelanatedvoices #amplifyblackvoices #blackliterature #learnblackculture #diversifypublishing #writingadvice #writingtips #writinginspiration #teachingwriting #learningwriting #reading

  • Pinterest
  • Instagram
bottom of page