African American

Early African American Literature

  • Lucy Terry‘s poem “Bars Fight” is the oldest known work of African American Literature, written in 1746.
  • Jupiter Hammon was the first published Black writer with the publication of his  poem “An Evening Thought: Salvation by Christ with Penitential Cries” in 1761.
  • Phillis Wheatley‘s Poems on Various Subjects was the first published book by an African American. After undergoing trials to prove her authorship, the poetry collection was published in 1773.
  • William Wells Brown‘s novel Clotel was the first novel written by an African American, published in England in 1853.
  • Our Nig, written by Harriet Wilson, was the first novel written by an African American that was published in the United States.
  • Other writers of this early period who wrote in the genre of the slave narrative typical of the period include Harriet Jacobs and Frederick Douglass .
  • Some important writers who wrote during the post-slavery era in the U.S. : W.E.B Dubois, Booker T. Washington, Amy Jacques Garvey, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Charles W. Chesnutt

Harlem Renaissance

The “Harlem Renaissance” was a period of about 20 years in the early 20th century that saw an explosion in Black art and culture. The movement was centered in Harlem, but the literary output of the period came from all over the U.S.  Some of the authors of the Harlem Renaissance are listed below:

  • Langston Hughes, poet
  • Claude McKay
  • Zora Neale Hurston
  • Alice Walker
  • Jean Toomer
  • Dorothy West
  • Countee Cullen
  • Frank Marshall Davis
  • Wallace Thurman

Civil Rights Era

Black writers writing during the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s :

  • James Baldwin
  • Richard Wright
  • Ralph Ellison
  • Gwendolyn Brooks
  • Nikki Giovanni
  • Sonia Sanchez
  • Lorraine Hansberry
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.

Contemporary Writers

  • Poets: Amiri Baraka, Rita Dove, Gwendolyn Brooks, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Ishmael Reed, Cyrus Cassells, Elizabeth Alexander, Saul Williams, Nikki Giovanni
  • Novelists: Octavia E. Butler, Samuel R. Delany, Alex Haley (Roots), Gayl Jones, Rasheed Clark, Jamaica Kincaid, Randall Kenan, John Edgar Wideman, Mat Johnson, Colson Whitehead, David Anthony Durham, Percival Everett, Edward P. Jones, ZZ Packer, Tayari Jones
  • Playwrights: August Wilson, Ntozake Shange, Ed Bullins, Suzan-Lori Parks, Katori Hall, Lynn Nottage, Tarell McCraney, Anna Deavere Smith