Dean College

  • Black History Month: Literature

    Black History Month 4

    Each week in February, we'll celebrate some of the historical achievements and impacts that prominent African-American figures have made in a variety of industries.

    Read on for this week's feature on literature!

    Maya Angelou was a poet, civil rights activist, and American author. In 1969, Angelou released her award-winning memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which was the first nonfiction best-seller by an African American woman. Throughout her life, Angelou released many works of poetry and books including Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I Die, On the Pulse of Morning, A Song Flung Up to Heaven, and Letter to My Daughter’. Additionally, Angelou was the first African American woman to have her screenplay produced when her drama Georgia, Georgia was released in 1972. Angelou was honored many times throughout her life including two NAACP Image Awards for outstanding literary work, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom award in 2010.

    Phillis Wheatley published her first and only book of poems, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral in 1773 making her the first African American to publish a book and the first to achieve an international reputation as a writer. Additionally, this made Wheatley the third American woman to publish a book.

    Frederick Douglass was an author, orator, and a human rights leader in the anti-slavery movement. Douglass was taught to read and write at the age of twelve, even though at the time it was against the law to educate slaves. Through reading newspapers such as The Columbian Orator, Douglass became interested in political writing and literature. In 1845, Douglass wrote and published his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave which became a best-seller in the United States. Douglass went on to write several autobiographies about his experiences in slavery and his life after the Civil War, as well as contributing to abolitionist newspapers such as The North Star, Frederick Douglass Weekly, and New National Era.

    Wole Soyinka is a playwright and political activist who became the first African-American to win a Nobel Prize in Literature when he won in 1986. In the 1950s, Soyinka published his first notable play, A Dance of the Forests which mocked the Nigerian political elite. Throughout his career, Soyinka has continued to publish hundreds of works including dramas, novels, essays and poetry.

    Check back on the Dean College Blog webpage for more stories!

Take the next Step