In honor of Black History Month, I decided to share some of my favorite African American writers that I’ve enjoyed through the years. This is my overall favorites list, so many of these titles are not kid-friendly. Therefore, this short list will provide reading material for all to enjoy.
One of the advantages to being a classroom teacher was constantly being exposed to new reading material for children. Now that I have put teaching behind me (for the time being) these resources aren’t readily available to me. I have to purposely seek out new children’s authors and illustrators.
In recent years in my teaching career, I’ve come to enjoy the book Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe. This is a classic tale of a prince having to choose a wife between the good sister and the wicked sister. This book has been a student favorite over the years and since most children are familiar with Cinderella, my students have always enjoyed studying the parallels between the two stories.
Christopher Paul Curtis is another author I’ve come to enjoy in my last few years of teaching. Bud, Not Buddy is a young readers’ chapter book that my students have really enjoyed. You may have to guide kids through this book because of the dialect Curtis chose, but overall it becomes an easy read for kids once they get accustomed to the language. I’ve enjoyed reading this book with and without my students. It’s funny, charming, and children can easily lose themselves on Bud’s journey.
If you like Sci-Fi as much as I do then you would enjoy reading Octavia Butler. A friend of mine introduced me to her books a few years ago and I was hooked. I have read two of her books, Kindred and Fledgling. I read Fledgling first. I enjoyed it so much, that upon finishing the book I ran out the very next day and purchased Kindred. I do believe I finished the book within three days. These were those rare books that kept me up at night because I had to keep reading to find out what would happen next. Both of these books are in my collection to stay and I already have other Butler books on my reading list.
The following list is compiled of materials that are considered classics in the African American community. I was first introduced to these authors in high school and studied them in depth during my college years. I fell in love with these works and to date these works remain in my collection.
Mulatto by Langston Hughes was a play I performed an excerpt from during my competitive speaking years in high school. The excerpt prompted me to read the play in it’s entirety. Langston Hughes was a renowned poet, playwright, and writer of many different works. Of the many works I’ve read, Mulatto stands as a favorite of mine. The compelling, tragic tale of a biracial son struggling to connect with his plantation owner father is absolutely riveting.
You can’t discuss black writers and authors without mentioning Maya Angelou. Also introduced to me in high school, I became familiar with many of her works. One that is, and always will be, etched in my mind (as well as my college school mates I’m sure) is her poem, Phenomenal Woman. This poem is a mantra for women everywhere! It is a timeless classic in the black community and probably will continue to be for many years to come.
Finally, Fences by August Wilson is timeless. I first saw an excerpt of this play performed by friends as a teenager. Then I had the privilege of seeing the play performed at the theater. I was deeply moved by this story of a black man struggling to pave the way for other blacks to have opportunities not afforded them at the time. The play takes place during the baseball season in which Hank Aaron led the Braves to the World Series. This one was a tear-jerker for me, but a story I’ll always enjoy.
There you have it. My short list of favorites. Back to pounding the keys I must go in hopes that I’ll end up on someone’s favorites list soon;)