During the first wave of the Great Migration (1916-1940), in which millions of African Americans left the rural South and moved to urban areas, primarily in the Northeast and Midwest , cultural renaissances such as the Harlem Renaissance (1920s and 1930s) and Chicago Black Renaissance (1930s and 1940s) saw urban neighborhoods flourish with black artists and intellectuals.
Many prominent and famous black authors played a crucial role in these revivals. 24/7 Tempo has compiled the most influential black authors of the 20th century, using sources such as PBS, the Poetry Foundationand Biography.com to find authors whose work had an impact during the 20th century. (Writers who were solely journalists were not included.)
From post-Reconstruction analyzes by WEB DuBois, to the cultural phenomenon that is Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (which has not only been adapted into film and play, but also inspired Oprah Winfrey to launch her Book Club), the works of these Black authors were revolutionary in the way they shaped American culture.
A universal human experience wants to be seen as a whole and unique being. These authors have played a crucial role in helping pave the way for a diversity of black voices to be heard in the American cultural landscape. They span the spectrum from poets, playwrights and novelists to intellectuals whose speeches have shaped the civil rights movement and black feminist theory. Here are 25 women who shaped the feminist movement.
In a society as diverse as ours, it’s important that everyone – not just black Americans – read books by black authors. Exposure to a multitude of cultures can help people develop empathy for those who are unlike them, which in turn can lead us towards a fairer and more inclusive society. Learn about Martin Luther King and 49 other most important civil rights leaders of the 20th century.
Click here to see the most influential black authors of the 20th century