Sixty Years of Great Books by African-Americans

Ebony, November 2005 | Go to article overview

Sixty Years of Great Books by African-Americans


SCORES of African-Americans have written major books since the inception of EBONY in 1945. Some of them are listed below. The bulk the titles were compiled from the results of an unscientific poll of writers and critics conducted for our 60th Anniversary. EBONY BookShelf added recent books.

BLACK BOY: A RECORD Of CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH (Harper & Brothers, 1945), a semiautobiographical novel that explores author Richard Wright's life in Mississippi until he moved to Memphis. Also important is Wrights searing novel NATIVE SON, an intense story of oppression and urban rage set in Chicago and published in 1940, five years before the beginning of EBONY in Chicago.

INVISIBLE MAN (Random House, 1952), by Ralph Ellison, is known as one of the 20th century's most important works of fiction.

THE COLLECTED POEMS OF LANGSTON HUGHES (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1995), a rich and varied volume of 860 poems, written by the Poet Laureate of Black America, edited by Arnold Rampersad and David Roessel.

A RAISIN IN THE SUN: A DRAMA IN THREE ACTS (Random House, 1959), the landmark play about a beleaguered Black family living in Chicago, by Lorraine Hansberry.

THE FIRE NEXT TIME (Dial, 1963), the best collection of essays since the publication of W. E. B. DuBois' 1903 publication, THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK, by James Baldwin. In another classic by Baldwin, GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1953), Baldwin tells a rich story about the religious conversion of a Harlem boy.

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF W. E. B. DUBOIS (International, 1968), by one of America's greatest writers and scholars. See also DUSK OF DAWN, published in 1940.

THE WORLD OF GWENDOLYN BROOKS (Harper & Row, 1971), a collection of the Pulitzer Prize-winner's poetry: A STREET IN BRONZEVILLE, ANNIE ALLEN, THE BEAN EATERS and IN THE MECCA and her autobiographic novel, MAUD MARTHA.

MERIDIAN (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1976), the story of three activists caught up in a struggle for definition and freedom, by Alice Walker, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1983. Other classics by Walker are BY THE LIGHT OF MY FATHER'S SMILE (Random House, 1998) and THE SAME RIVER TWICE: HONORING THE DIFFICULT (Scribner, 1996), a memoir that explores the impact of THE COLOR PURPLE on the author's life and work through a series of essays, personal letters and journal entries.

ROOTS (Doubleday, 1976), an African-American's search for the truth about his African and African-American roots, by Alex Haley.

BELOVED (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1987), the Nobel Prize-winning novel by Toni Morrison about a captured runaway slave who cuts her daughter's throat rather than return her to slavery.

THE FOLLOWING TITLES ARE ALSO WORTH READING AND RE-READING:

IF HE HOLLERS, LET HIM GO (Doubleday, 1945), a novel, by Chester Himes.

THE STREET (Houghton Mifflin Co., 1946), a novel, by Ann Petry.

THE NEGRO IN OUR HISTORY (Associated Publishers, 1947), a Black history classic, an updated edition by Carter G. Woodson with Charlie Wesley.

FROM SLAVERY TO FREEDOM: A HISTORY OF AFRICAN AMERICANS (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1947), a Black history classic, by John Hope Franklin. See also IN SEARCH OF THE PROMISED LAND: A SLAVE FAMILY IN THE OLD SOUTH (Oxford University Press, 2005), by John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger.

JESUS AND THE DISINHERITED (Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1949), a meditation on nonviolence and the Christian tradition, by Howard Thurman.

AFRICA, LAND OF MY FATHERS (Doubleday, 1954), by Era Bell Thompson.

BLACK BOURGEOISIE: THE RISE OF A NEW MIDDLE CLASS IN THE UNITED STATES (Free Press, 1957), a sociological study, by E. Franklin Frazier.

STRIDE TOWARD FREEDOM: THE MONTGOMERY STORY (Harper & Brothers, 1958), a first-person account of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, by Martin Luther King Jr.

HERE I STAND (Beacon Press, 1958), an autobiography, by Paul Robeson.

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