Black authors have used their voices and ideas to create magnificent inspirational works of literature for millennia.
While some of these works tackled important societal problems and injustices that resulted in significant social transformations, others brought in a new sense of self-actualization for both black men and women.
These stories were written by black authors and centered on the black experience.
In honor of the voices that spoke through amazing literary works and made both large and small impacts, here are ten popular novels published by Black Authors that you should be aware of.
1. The Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
Genre: Novel, Fiction, Bildungsroman (1952)
Author Ralph Ellison presents the story of a nameless young black man recalling his college years and his time in Harlem in The Invisible Man. He navigates his way through the twentieth century, where reality is illusory and he can only exist by deception.
Ellison was inspired by a story related to him by Gurley while collecting folklore from black New Yorkers for the government-funded Federal Writers Project. Sweet-the-Monkey, a man from South Carolina, had obtained the ability to become invisible by cutting out the heart of a black cat, climbing a tree backwards, and cursing God. He used his newfound power to plunder banks, residences, and stores and was never caught.
Ellison wrote and published only one novel, Invisible Man. It received the National Book Award for Fiction, making Ellison the first African-American to receive the honor, as well as the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award.
Ellison’s work urged Americans to broaden their social and political perspectives. It also demonstrated how many barriers were in the way of African Americans achieving true equality and self-actualization.
2. Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
Genre: Novel, Historical Fiction (1958)
Things Fall Apart follows Okonkwo, a warrior and the leader of an Igbo community in Nigeria. The story follows his life events leading up to his expulsion from the village for accidently killing a clansman, as well as his seven-year exile and eventual return.
Chinua Achebe’s first literary masterwork, created to teach readers about the importance of African culture. Readers are taken into Nigerian life before and during the British colonization through the narrator’s eyes. The book has been translated into over 50 languages and sold about 13 million copies worldwide. It is the most popular African literature. Things Fall Apart spent four weeks on USA Today’s Best-Selling Books List in 2006. Oprah Winfrey named it one of the “Five Books Everybody Should Read Once.”
Many African writers have been inspired by Achebe’s debut novel to discover passionate and effective ways of communicating their creative works about Africa’s culture, history, and society.He is often regarded as the ‘Father of Modern African Literature.’
3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
Genre: Autobiography, Biography (1969)
The book chronicles Maya Angelou’s life from the age of three to sixteen. It depicts her maturation as a bright yet insecure Black girl in Southern America.
Following the recommendation of her friends and associates, Angelou released the book as part of a series of autobiographical works. The book went on to become a best-seller and was nominated for a National Book Award.
It portrays the dynamics of victimization and its resolution. The book also criticizes the inequity between Blacks and Whites in America during the period of segregation.
4. Roots – Alex Haley
Genre: Novel, Biography, Historical Fiction, Fictional Autobiography (1976)
Kunta Kinte, a young Gambian man abducted and sold as a slave at the age of 17, is the subject of Haley’s Roots. The book traces his life and the lives of seven generations of his descendants in the United States, all the way down to Alex Haley, who finally tracked out the town where his ancestor was taken.
Haley authored the book because he wanted to understand more about his family history.He’d always heard stories about his ancestor Kunta Kinte being kidnapped from Gambia by slave traffickers. The novel received numerous honors, including the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Awards.
The novel prompted an examination of the darker sides of American civilization. It rekindled the awkward conversation between black and white Americans that continues to this day.
5. Our Sister Killjoy – Ama Ata Aidoo
Genre: Fiction (1977)
The book chronicles the thoughts and experiences of Sissie, a black-eyed squint who travels to Europe to “better” herself. Her worldview is molded by her unwavering awareness of Africa’s problems, particularly neocolonialism, as well as the corruption and dishonesty of the African elite.
Ama Ata Aidoo, a Ghanaian novelist, intended to refute African stereotypes about the West being a land of opportunity in her book. She explains how colonialism’s legacy follows Africans who travel overseas to seek their fortunes. Her first novel was published as an author.
Aidoo’s work examines the complicated relationship that exists between Africa and Europe. The book’s theme is centered on the black diaspora and colonialism, with a concentration on the colonization of the mind.
6. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
Genre: Epistolary Novel (1982)
The Color Purple follows Celie, an impoverished 14-year-old African-American girl who begins to write letters to God after experiencing tragic events in her life.
Alice Walker was inspired to write the book in part by a story her sister told her about a love triangle involving their grandfather. She was also inspired to create the book by the lives of people she knew that were not being told.In 1938, the book sold 5 million copies and received the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
The Color Purple was viewed as a representation of reality in the twentieth century, since it exposed the evils of racism, misogyny, domestic violence, trauma, and abuse that African-Americans suffered.It also portrays how an oppressed woman found her path to fulfillment.
7. Waiting to Exhale – Terry McMillan
Genre: Fiction, Romance Novels (1992)
S: Penguin Random House
McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale is followed by Getting to Happy. This novel chronicles the stories of Savannah, Gloria, Robin, and Bernadine, best friends who find strength in each other despite their previous difficult experiences with men.
Terry authored this fictional book after going through a divorce with her husband, Jonathan Plummer. When the book was released, it was a huge success. It spent 11 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. McMillan, a struggling writer at the time, became a billionaire by just waiting to exhale.
The novel’s central theme is self-realization. It gave Black women a voice and focused attention on their thoughts about love and marriage.
8. Audacity of Hope – Barack Obama
Genre: Biography (2006)
The documentary The Audacity of Hope focuses on Barack Obama’s underlying ideals and goals for America, as well as his decision to run for president.
Obama’s book is about rising above the divisions of partisan politics, race, geography, and religion to pursue a new form of equality.
His book is based on a keynote speech he gave at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, which was subsequently used in his 2008 presidential campaign.
9. Quiet Strength – Tony Dungy
Genre: Biography, Christian Literature (2008)
Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy is a book on faith. He encourages readers to discover their gifts and use them to benefit others in the book. His literary work also digs on his upbringing in a Christian household.
Tony Dungy is a professional football player and coach who spent 13 seasons as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Indianapolis Colts in the National Football League. Quit Strength, his book, became a New York Times Best Seller. It also won the Retailer’s Choice Award in 2008.
The book demonstrates that one may always overcome life’s difficulties and emerge a better person.
10. Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Genre: Fiction, Romance (2013)
The plot revolves around Ifemelu, a young Nigerian lady who migrates to the United States to attend university and battles with issues of racism, identity, and relationships. The book also details her relationship with Obinze, her Nigerian boyfriend.
Chimamanda was a Black African Nigerian in America who understood what it meant to be a person of color in America. She based her book on the lessons she gained while navigating race issues. Her novel received the National Book Critics Circle Fiction Award in 2013 and was named one of The New York Times’ top ten books of the year. Former President Barack Obama added the book to his library of African books.
The novel’s topic is the value of authenticity, and it addresses themes of gender and ethnicity. Americanah also discussed the difficulties of living in a military-ruled Nigeria and the desire of its residents to immigrate in search of better chances.