Famous Authors Who Are Black Women

There are many black women who have become great authors. The experiences of life that they have encountered have given a depth to their writing that is difficult to replicate for those who have not enjoyed the same journey.

The first black woman to have her work adapted for screenplay was Maya Angelou, and she was inspired by other great writers such as Langston Hughes and W.E.B Du Bois. She was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1972 for “Just give me a cool drink of water ‘fore I dillie” which was a collection of her poetry.

The poet and novelist Maya Angelou

Her most famous work was “I know why the caged bird sings” which was semi auto-biographical and was so popular that it was reproduced on several occasions. A great deal of her work was influenced by the difficult lives that most American Black Women suffered in the 1960s.

One of the earliest black women novelists was Zora Neale Hurston who wrote from her apartment in New York in the 1930s. She produced over 50 novels, short stories and essays. She specialized in writing about the culture and traditions of African – American women, as opposed to dealing with the inequality that they suffered in a predominately white society.

One of the most successful black female writers has been Toni Morrison. She hailed from an academic background, having earned her Master’s Degree from Cornell University in 1955. Her most celebrated novel was “Beloved” which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988. The book caused quite a stir and when it did not win the National Book Award there were protests from black critics with a letter published in the New York Times.

She was then awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993. Her fame saw her appearing on the front cover of Time Magazine and her notoriety increased further when “Beloved” was released as a film. With Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover playing major roles the film was a success and resulted in many more purchases of her written work.

Toni Morrison who wrote the novel “Beloved”

Another female black novelist who has won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction is Alice Walker who received the award in 1982 for her publication of the “Color Purple”, which also won the National Book Award. From an early age Walker was blinded in one eye and this was when she learned how to read and write.

Raised in Georgia, she attended a segregated school, but it was clear that she was academically gifted and she won an academic scholarship to Sarah Lawrence College in New York where her writing started to flourish. As well as writing Novels she also studied poetry and worked as a magazine editor.

She fought fiercely for the rights of black women and coined the phrase “womanist”, which means a feminist of color. She has fought discrimination wherever she encountered it and the stories of her novels often include black women of great moral fiber.

An author that died far too young was Lorraine Hansberry who passed away at the age of 35. She was the first Black female author to have a play performed on Broadway, when a “Raisin in the sun” was performed in 1959. It won the New York Critics Circle Award for best play and her work inspired the singer Nina Simone to write the song “Young Gifted and Black”. Sadly in 1965 she lost her fight against cancer and the literary world lost a great writer. However, since this time she has been replaced by many others.

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