From Maya Angelou to Toni Morrison; The Female Pioneers of the Black Literary Movement

Maya Angelou

Placing the spotlight on the female literary giants of the 21st century

During October we celebrated Black History Month and I think it is important to place the spotlight on some of the most
influential and impactful black female writers of the 21st Century.

Literature has long been the tool of the oppressed to articulate their frustrations with societal norms and the marginalisation of their minority group. Literary canon often excludes black female authors meaning that transformative pieces of literature go undiscovered and unread. Recognising the talents of black women is incredibly important as they occupy a space of intersectionality in which gender and race are explored and their lived experiences provide a diverse and unique perspective on life. I hope to rectify this issue by producing a list of some of the most influential writers of our time. This list is for anyone who wishes to diversify their reading and go beyond the literary canon.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Chimananda Ngozi Adichie is a highly acclaimed and educated Nigerian author who found appraisal for her first novel Purple Hibiscus. Since the success for her first novel, Adichie has continued to establish herself as one of the most significant authors of our time. Her novels deal with matters such as feminism, nationality, family, religion, politics and identity.
Works: We Should All be Feminists, Half of a Yellow Sun and Purple Hibiscus

Maya Angelou
Poet, activist, actress, author, screenwriter, dancer and civil rights activist; Maya Angelou has cemented herself as one of the world’s most prominent authors, acclaiming her fame with her memoir ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ Angelou is one of the most accomplished black female authors of all time. Definitely one to look into for those beginning to diversify their reading.
Works: And Still I Rise, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie, The Heart of a Woman and others

Toni Morrison
Writer, poet and playwright Toni Morrison was one of the most prominent black women in the literary world, receiving a Nobel Prize in Literature (1993), Morrison became known for her raw portrayal of the black female experience within the black community. Her works tackle white beauty standards and the pressure black women feel to attain standards unrealistic to themselves, the construction of whiteness and blackness in literature and the portrayal of the black self in white American literature.
Works: The Bluest Eye, Beloved, Song of Solomon, Sula, Home, children’s books, plays, poetry and more.

Octavia Butler
Fans of science fiction will find a favourite in Octavia Butler, in her novels, Butler finds a common ground for science fiction and African spiritualism. Butler is often left out of the discourse about influential black authors but her works are amazing pieces of literature which deserve recognition.
Works: Patternmaster, Kindred, Dawn and Parable of the Sower

Angela Davis
Angela Davis might be one of the most recognised names on this list; activist and educator, Davis has been a massive instigator of change for several decades. Member of the Black Panthers organisation and the all-black branch of the Communist party, Davis has made her political and social stance very clear. She is a feminist, liberationist and advocate. Today Davis is professor and author of many books all of which are fantastic reads for people interested in the history of black liberation, white privilege and feminism.
Works: Women, Race and Class, If They Come in the Morning:
Voices of Resistance, Women, Culture and Politics, The Meaning of Freedom: And Other Difficult Dialogues

  • Valentia, Digital Student Ambassador, The School of English

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