Shirlene Green Newball*
You sure have heard of famous activists like Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, Daisy Bates, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Coretta Scott King, and Angela Davis to mention are just a few black women who participated in the civil rights movement in the United States of America.
Black women have played a pivotal and heroic role in the struggle of civil rights and the rising of black movements by being activists and writers.
Black female writer’s involvement in literature dates back to the 1950s. Once they were aware of their powers and the liberation of themselves, they used them to depict and expand black literature as an alliance for the fight.
Margaret Walker, Ntozake Shange, Gayl Jones, Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, June Jordan, Toni Cade Bambara, Alice Walker, Mari Evans, and others were part of the writers that built black literature in the USA to tackle topics such as gender, race, sexuality, violence, patriarchal, misogynist, immigration, and others.
It may be endless to compile in a single list all the distinguished black female writers because they are so many. However, after reading some of these writers listed below, I decided to extend my research for new ones and ask my friends for their recommendable black female writers.
How much literature written by black female writers have you read?
This list below contains 20 badass black women writers from different generations, countries, and continents who have influenced me because; there are women of the same race, have similar experiences like mine, and evoke emotions. I hope you can read one or more because they are all worthy of your time; choose your favorites, do your research, and share this list with others.
Ayòbámi Adébáyò (1988) was born in Lagos, Nigeria (Africa), but shortly her family moved to the state of Osun, located in the southwest.
In 2017, the Canongate Books published her novel Stay with Me that immediately was listed by Wellcome Book Prize, Baileys Women Prize for Fiction, and the 9mobile Prize for Literature.
Many of Adébáyó’s writings have been printed in magazines and anthologies.
The New York Times once wrote about her, “She writes not just with extraordinary grace but with genuine wisdom about love and loss and the possibility of redemption.”
This young writer studied with Margaret Atwood and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (1977), who is one of the most known black female writers globally.
She was born and grew up in the east of Nigeria, Africa, from an Igbo family with six children. She studied in the United States of America where she said: “My roommate had a single story of Africa, a single story of catastrophe and there was no possibility of being similar to her in any way.”
Her work has been translated nearly into thirty languages. She is the author of The Thing Around Your Neck, Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun, Americanah, and We should all be Feminist. She also had publications in big journals such as The New Yorker, Financial Times, Granta, etc. She had received distinguished awards such as Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, National Book Critics Circle, Women Prize for Fiction, and others.
A year earlier, Zadie Smith (1975), also won the prestigious literary Women Prize for Fiction (the same Adichie won). Sadie Smith, her given name, is a contemporary novelist, essayist, and story writer born in the northwest of London from a Jamaican mother and an English father. She has four siblings.
Smith’s first novel was published in 1997; titled White Teeth followed by The Autograph Man, On Beauty, NW, and Swing Time. She also has a collection of essays Changing My Mind.
She received the Whitbread First Novel and Guardian First Book Award among many others. She has been twice listed for the Granta 20 Best Young British Novelists and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
Smith’s novel NW was produced into a BBC television film. Likewise, two of Nigamerican writer Nnedi Okorafor (1974), works also have been adapted into short films.
She calls herself a Nigamerican (Nigerian-United States of America) writer because she is a descendant from Igbo parents that migrated to the USA and could not return because of the Nigerian Civil War.
Okorafor was diagnosed with scoliosis at teenage witch demanded intense therapy for her recovery. However, after she regained the ability to walk she was unable to continue with her passion for sport, so she took a creative writing class and published her first novel.
In her collection of novels and stories, she reflects West African heritage and her life in the USA. Some of her books and comics are Binti, Who fears Death, Zahrah the Windseeker, Awata Witch, Lagoon, She Shadow Speaker, Amphibious Green, Kabu Kabu, Hello Moto, Black Panther: Long live the King, Shuri, and others.
She has obtained remarkable awards such as The Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa, Africana Book Award, Carl Brandon Parallax, Andre Norton, Golden Duck, World Fantasy, among others.
Alike writer Audre Lorde’s (1934-1992), parents also were immigrants from the West Indies to New York, the USA where they procreated three daughters, she being the third.
Her career was fervent in voicing out sexism, racism, homophobia, gender, and classism as an instrument for action and change. While still being in high school, her first poem was printed in Seventeen Magazine.
Lorde is the author of The First Cities, Cables to Rage, From a Land Where Other People Live, Coal, The Black Unicorn, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, The Cancer Journals, A Burst of Light, etc.
She also wrote periodicals for Amazon Quarterly, The Massachusetts Review, Red War, The Black Woman, The Village Voice, The Iowa Review, and a lot of others.
Among awards and honors she earned the National Book Award for Poetry, National Endowment for the Arts Residency Grant, Woman of the Year Award, New York State’s Poet Laureate from 1991 to 1993, and Broadside Press Poet’s Award, etc.
Lorde was a lesbian openly known same as Roxane Gay (1974), who is bisexual, a unique writer, commemorator, professor, and editor who was born in Omaha, Nebraska (USA), from Haitian ancestries.
Her career began at age 12, as a consequence of the sexual harassment she experienced. Gay is the author of novels and essays An Untamed State, Bad Feminist, World of Wakanda, Difficult Woman, Ayiti, Hunger, and Not that Bad.
Her works have won awards such as Pen Centre USA Freedom to Write, Eisner, Lambda Literary, and others.
Gay’s writings appear in The Guardian, Best American Mystery Stories, Best Sex Writing, Tin House, The New York Times, and others.
In partnership with Medium platform, she created Gay Magazine and recently she started the production of a black feminist podcast labeled Hear to Slay.
Maya Angelou (1928-2014), is a renowned poet, storyteller, auto-biographer, playwright, journalist, and actress born in St. Louis, Missouri (USA), also shared a passion for radio journalism. She was a strong activist who contributed to the civil right movement and worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
She published volumes of poetries, essays, and plays, as well as many children, cook, and picture books.
Her work includes seven extraordinary autobiographies: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas, Gather Together in my Name, The Heart of a Woman, All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes, A Song Flung Up to Heaven, and Mom and Me and Mom.
Moreover, on January 20th, 1993, at the presidential inauguration of Bill Clinton, she recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” this recitation is the second time at a similar event that something of this kind was done. (Robert Frost recited “The Gift Outright” at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration).
Several of her writings received merited awards and honors from over seventy universities like the University of Arkansas, Ohio State University, Atlanta University, and others.
*Shirlene Green Newball is an Afro-Nicaraguan journalist and feminist who lives in Finland.
Angelou, M. (2007) I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. London. Virago Press.
Adiche, C. (2017) Half of a Yellow Sun. London. 4th Estate..
‘Afeto fértil, fértil poema: a líria de Jenyffer Nascimento’. Literafro, 10th July 2007. Available at: http://www.letras.ufmg.br/literafro/resenhas/poesia/1059-afeto-fertil-fertil-poema-a-lirica-de-jenyffer-nascimento
Corriols M. & Rossman Y. (2014) 1st. edn. Hermanas de tinta: Muestra de poesía multiétnica de mujeres nicaragüenses. Managua.
‘Courageous Zimbabwean writer whose books addressed the taboos of her society’, The Guardian, 27th April 2005. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2005/apr/27/guardianobituaries.books
Chambers Website. Available at:http://www.veronicachambers.com
Evans, M. (1984) Black Women Writers ( 1950-1980). The United States of America.
Gay’s Website. Available at: https://roxanegay.tumblr.com
Habila, H. (2011). African Short Story. 1st. edn. Granta Publications. London.
Hurston, Z. (1998) Their Eyes were Watching God. HapperCollins Publishers. New York.
Henry, P. ‘Great Expectations: An Interview with Ayobami Adebayo’, El Paris Review 8 August 2017. Available at: https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2017/08/08/great-expectations-interview-ayobami-adebayo/
Morrison, T. (1993) The Bluest Eye. Plume. United States of America.
Nndi’s Website. Available at: http://nnedi.com
Olaya, J.M. (2015) ‘Lucía Charún-Illescas, la primera novelista afroperuana’, Personajes afrodescendientes del Perú y América. Available at: https://afroliteratura.lamula.pe/2017/01/19/lucia-charun-illescas-la-primera-novelista-afroperuana/afroliteratura.lamula.pe/
Smith, Z. (2017) Swing Time. Penguin Books. United Kingdom.