In honor of Black History Month, I would like to share some of my favorite art from black artists and some recommendations for further reading because there are plenty of wonderful short stories and novels that I cannot fit here.
Maya Angelou was my first introduction to the black arts. I read her memoirs I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, The Heart of a Woman, A Song Flung up to Heaven, and Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas in high school. While I was too young and too sheltered at the time to comprehend her struggle, her honesty, warmth, and wisdom deeply impacted me as a writer and a woman.
The word “freedom” is much overused, and it may not be as real as slavery–a very concrete thing–but freedom is what one is after, and as it cannot, I suppose, be given, then it obviously must be taken.~James Baldwin 1969
James Baldwin changed my life as a fiction writer. If you have time, read Giovanni’s Room. If you don’t have time, read “Sonny’s Blues.” The metaphors, the voices, and the telling details are done flawlessly.
Langston Hughes is legendary for his wordplay and rhythm, but he’s also a master at compressing years of history, trauma, and God into stanzas without losing an ounce of their power.
Nikki Giovanni was a pioneer of the Black Arts Movement and a legend today for her contributions to black pride. She is badd, mama! and I love her so much I can’t post just one of her poems.
With her celebration of ordinary people and the every day life struggles, Gwendolyn Brooks was my favorite black poet from the minute I read her work. Though I could not fully relate to the blackness, I saw my family and myself in her poems. I saw a life where we could be reconciled by all the many things we shared.
I’m not the Average Black Girl. I can only aspire to be–Ernestine Johnson
For further reading:
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston
Literally anything by Alice Walker
“On Being Young–A Woman–and Colored” by Marita Bonner
Maud Martha by Gwendolyn Brooks
“The Mother” by Gwendolyn Brooks
Sula by Toni Morrison
Cane by Jean Toomer
Who are some of your favorite black artists?
Tell me in the comments below