Tag Archive | Black History Month

And Still I Rise

It doesn’t seem like it would be Black History Month without a mention of Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. This stalwart intellectual, author and filmmaker is a regular supplier of commentary and programs for the Public Broadcasting System, a sample of which includes his recent “And Still I Rise:  Black America Since MLK” documentary (there’s also a book; see below.).


When I am able, I watch his show Finding Your Roots, which traces the family lineage of famous people sometimes going as far back as their original homeland. I will never forget the episode with Chris Rock (actor, comedian) who discovered his great grandfather (I might be missing a great) was a Union soldier who took up the fight for freedom once he became free. Rock cried when he discovered this and I cried, too. It was moving! After learning something that profound, how does one not stick out one’s chest and proudly proclaim, “I’m black and I’m proud!”

As we celebrate Black History Month I think about what Black America would look like if every black person stuck out their chest and said, “I’m black and I’m proud,” and meant it. I imagine there would be no more gang violence or black-on-black crime. I imagine the effects of separation by light-skinned versus dark-skinned would vanish and there’d be a great reduction of black men in prison or on the streets. In the Black America of “I’m black and I’m proud,” education would be priority number one, hard work number two, and one goal—the continued rise of all black people in body, spirit and mind—would be the be all, end all.

Black people, we can do this! We can still rise, and not only during Black History Month when pride runs high, but all year, every year. Even if our great-grandfather did not fight for freedom, we can all claim a legacy of freedom fighting. How? By voting. By writing letters to our newspaper editors or writing emails to news/media outlets. By attending board and council meetings and challenging our leaders when necessary. By creating our own non-profits that address societal ills. By starting our own businesses (and supporting those businesses). By posting positive images and facts over negative ones. By speaking truth regardless of how hard that might be. By fighting, fighting, fighting.

Black people, we can do this! If our forefathers could rise out of slavery to run countries and businesses, to raise healthy families, to hang on to positive morals and values, to make a way out of no way, how can we not rise with all that is available to us? We can do this. We can rise. We must rise.

Black Literary Facts – 2014

Another February has come and with its arrival another opportunity to meet more Black writers and receive an introduction (or maybe re-introduction) to their works. Some of these writers I have met; others I have not. But, all impressed me with their talent and/or successes. I hope you enjoy reading about these impressive writers and that you’ll be inspired to read some or all of their works. Enjoy Black History Month and Black Literary Facts!

Leslie Esdaile Banks – With more than 60 works to her credit, Banks is best known for her Vampire Huntress Legend series and her romance novels.

Eleanor Taylor Bland – As a mystery novelist, Bland’s focus was to “give voice to those normally without a voice.” Marti MacAlister is the heroine in her eleven-book MacAlister detective series.

Charles W. Chesnutt – Author and essayist, Chestnutt wrote novels and short stories dealing with race and social identity during the post Civil War.

Donald Crews – A two-time Caldecott Honor winner, Crews authored the children’s books Freight Train and Truck.

Eric Jerome Dickey – This New York Times bestselling author has penned over twenty novels that feature strong female characters in lead roles.

Percival Everett – He is a poet, novelist and short story writer as well as the recipient of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, Believer Book Award, the PEN and numerous other awards.

Sharon G. Flake – This writer is a Publisher’s Weekly favorite. She is a young adult literary writer whose goal is to give hope, foster beliefs and encourage dreams.

Ernest Gaines – A National Endowment for the Arts recipient, Gaines has had several of his novels adapted to film, the most popular being The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and A Lesson Before Dying.

Marita Golden – Author of 14 works of fiction and nonfiction, she has received the Black Caucus of the American Library Association Honor Award and the Literary Award for Fiction for After.

Eloise Greenfield began writing children’s book because “far too few books told the truth about African-American people.” Her writings reflect her seriousness in telling the truth of her people.

Francis Ray – Romance novelist and short story writer who penned more than 50 books. She was an award winning, bestselling writer as well as the creator of a foundation to help victims of domestic abuse.

bell hooksAin’t I a Woman? is the title of this author’s work which greatly influenced contemporary feminist thought. She has also written literature for young people.

Elliott Eli Jackson – This author, poet and speaker writes nonfiction books, blogs and essays on spirituality and healing. He is a frequent speaker at conferences.

Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a Harvard professor and the author of 16 books. In addition, he is affiliated with The Root, a daily online magazine.

Jesse C. Jackson – A young adult novelist whose stories focused on minorities forced to integrate a white environment is best known for Call Me Charley and Tessie.

Etheridge Knight – This poet wrote multiple books of poetry during the time of the Black Arts Movement. He was engaged with such notables as Amiri Baraka, Haki Madhubuti, and Sonia Sanchez.

Alain Locke – A Rhodes Scholarship winner, Locke’s writings and focus was on African and African American literature and writers. He wrote The New Negro, which is a classic.

John Marrant – In 1785, his pamphlet, A Narrative of the Lord’s Wonderful Dealings with John Marrant, a Black, was published and was so popular it was reprinted many times.

Brandon Massey – This award winning author of horror and suspense has published novels and short story collections. His works also appear in anthologies.

Richard Bruce Nugent – A popular figure during the Harlem Renaissance, his novel Gentleman Jigger was published in 2008, 70 years after it was written.

ZZ PackerDrinking Coffee Elsewhere was this author’s international bestseller. She has published frequently in The New Yorker and Granta.

Gordon Parks – Best known as the most important black photographer of our time, he is also the first African American to write and direct a Hollywood feature film, The Learning Tree based on his novel.

Alvin F. Poussaint – This author has written several nonfiction books on parenting, crime and other contemporary issues. In addition, he has an impressive list of articles on the same topics.

Willis Richardson – A playwright during the ’20s and ’30s, Richardson is considered a leader in the Negro Theatre movement. His plays were performed around the country and received countless awards.

Carl Hancock Rux – He is an award-winning poet, playwright, novelist, essayist and recording artist. His work, A City Reimagined: Voices of 9/11 in Poetry and Performance is a tribute to 9/11.

Ishmael Reed – A poet, essayist and novelist, he is best known for Mumbo Jumbo and Flight to Canada. Two of his books were nominated for the National Book Awards and other prizes.

Brenda Jackson – This USA Today and New York Times bestselling romance author has penned more than 100 novels and has more than three million books in print.

Angela Davis – Author of Women, Race, and Class and Are Prisons Obsolete?, Davis is best known for her work in social, civil and women’s rights.

May Miller – Her poem, Blazing Accusation is well known and was written after the 1963 bombing in Birmingham. She is also the award-winning playwright of The Bog Guide and Within the Shadows.

Black History Month Featuring Black Literary Facts

Growing up in a town that had one black teacher on staff (and only for one year during my high school days), I recognized a deficit in my bank of African American literature and authors. So every year during Black History Month I try to expand my knowledge about black authors and/or black literary works, and every year I am amazed at the treasures I unearth. This year I’m sharing some of my newfound treasures with you. You may already be familiar with some of the titles, authors or facts and if so, great. Maybe you know of others you can share with me.

Black Literary Facts:
Octavia Butler, 1947 – 2006, was a pioneer in the sci-fi genre. She was one of few females and blacks who wrote in the genre. In 1995, she received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, one of the coveted genius grants.

E. Lynn Harris was a groundbreaking author who died in 2009 but left an impressive literary mark. He virtually created a new genre–gay, black men in conflict and in loving relationships. His best known work is Invisible Life, 1991.

Dorothy West is recognized as one of the last surviving members of the Harlem Renaissance. She is best known for The Living Is Easy, 1948 and The Wedding, 1995.

Langston Hughes was a poet, playwright, editor and novelist. His most famous poem, The Negro Speaks of Rivers was written and published a year after he graduated from high school. His home in New York City has landmark status.

Christopher J. Perry founded the Philadelphia Tribune in 1884 and this newspaper continues to operate. He began writing articles at age 14 and promoted to editor before striking out on his own to start the Tribune.

Amiri Baraka served as Poet Laureate of New Jersey and founded the Black Arts Movement in Harlem in the 1960s. In addition to poems, he has written essays and dramas. He is the recipient of an Obie, NEA and Rockefeller grant.

Third World Press is the oldest and largest publisher of black thought and literature in the U.S. It was founded in 1967 by Haki R. Madhubuti, Johari Amini and Carolyn Rodgers.

Novelist Terry McMillan began her distinguished career as a Doubleday fiction contest winner. She won the American Book Award and is known for her books, Mama and Waiting to Exhale.

J. California Cooper began her writing career as a playwright. She turned her dramatic storytelling skills to fiction, publishing Homemade Love in 1986, a collection of stories which won her an American Book Award.

Zora Neale Hurston is known as the most prolific black woman writer of the first half of the 20th century. She is best known for Their Eyes Were Watching God and Dust Tracks on a Road.

Two-time Pulitzer winner August Wilson was a playwright. He is best known for The Pittsburgh Cycle, a series of plays covering ten decades.

Poet Sonia Sanchez was heavily involved with the Black Arts Movement. She is a Pew fellow and has authored more than 16 books.

James Baldwin, novelist, poet and essayist is best known for Go Tell It On The Mountain, which is considered an American classic. He often credited his stint as a preacher for turning him to writing.

Dr. Jewell Parker Rhodes is a multiple award winner for her novels and other works. Some of her honors include the American Book Award, PEN, and NEA.

NY Times Bestselling author Zane publishes and writes black erotica under Strebor Books. She has taken a taboo subject and turned it into a platform of freedom for millions.

Ntozake Shange, an Obie winner is best known for her choreopoem/play For Colored Girls. Her works speak to issues that impact not just black but all women.

James Weldon Johnson is best known as the composer of Lift Every Voice and Sing, the song which the NAACP dubbed the Negro National Hymn. He was also a journalist, poet and novelist.

Gorilla, My Love was Toni Cade Bambara’s most recognized work. Its collection of stories depicted blacks in non-stereotypical fashion. She also wrote essays and scripts.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised is Gil Scott Heron’s oft quoted composition. His entire body of work influenced neo soul, hip hop, and spoken word.

U.S. National Book Award and Newbery Award recipient Virginia Hamilton was the author of 41 books in multiple genres. She won every major award for children’s books.