Celebrating and Amplifying the Voices of Black Authors
by Vanessa Acheampong on Feb 15, 2021
Black History Month, which began in 1926 as a week-long event, initially served as a way of remembering and educating others about important Black people who made significant contributions to the United States history. In the 1970s, Black History Month was extended to the month-long observance we know today. Today, Black History Month is more than just about remembering and educating others about important Black people and events. It is about celebrating the Black women and men who have achieved great success in their fields. From Vice President Kamala Harris, to actress, writer, and producer Issa Rae, to author Angie Thomas, there are so many Black women and men who are knocking down barriers and shattering the glass ceilings that previously kept others out.
In this week’s blog post, I wanted to highlight a few of my favorite Black authors and my favorite books from them. The BookedBag just launched its new color, Royal in celebration of Black History Month. This color is only available for a limited time, and it comes with a special edition Black History Month button! I don’t know about you, but I cannot think of a better way to celebrate Black History month than to support a Black-owned business like The BookedBag, by buying the Royal Bookedbag to keep all of your favorite books safe for years to come.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (1970) - Toni Morrison is one of the most well-known authors in America. Unlike many others, I did not discover Toni Morrison until my 20s when I became a teacher. At the end of my first year, I decided that I wanted to revamp my 12th grade ELA curriculum to amplify more voices not traditionally heard/read in ELA classes. I spent the summer reading anything and everything I could get my hands on, and one of those books was Toni Morrison’s first book, The Bluest Eye.
The book tells the story of 11-year old Pecola Breedlove who just wants blue eyes and blonde hair; so that she will be beautiful. This book highlights the importance of representation in the media. It explores what it means to be beautiful and demonstrates what happens to those we cast away because they are “different.” I love reading this book with my students because although this book was first published in 1970, they find it extremely relatable to the world we live in today; especially in terms of today’s society’s never-ending quest for beauty.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (1952) - This book chronicles the life of the book’s nameless narrator who reflects on his life and the invisibility he has felt for a significant part of his life. In his reflection, the narrator shares about growing up as a Black man in the South and the trials and tribulations he faced as a result of his skin color from those around him, both white and black. One of the most well-known excerpts from this book is the section about The Battle Royal; which is one of the many sections of this book that illuminates the struggle the narrator faces to find his place in society when what he believes to know as truth is directly contradicted by the actions of those around him.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017) - If you have not heard about Angie Thomas or her first book (which is also a movie) The Hate U Give by now, then you are in luck because I am here to introduce you to both! Angie Thomas is a best-selling YA author, and it is because she is a phenomenal writer/story-teller. Thomas was one of the first authors to highlight the plight of today’s urban black teenager. Teenagers who are not only struggling to discover who they are but are now also struggling to stay alive. While also time and time again, they are mourning the death of other teenagers, and at times loved ones, who are often murdered at the hands of those charged with protecting them.
This book, and movie, are a must-read and watch for anyone, but especially for teenagers. My students loved this book because as they said, “she talks how we talk,” and “she’s talking about stuff that we are going through.” As an educator, one of my goals is to help my students think critically about the world around them, and The Hate U Give allows for readers to do just that. The book’s title is derived from a quote from the late poet, rapper, and activist, Tupac Shakur. Throughout the book, Thomas challenges readers to decide if it is true that the hate we give little infants destroys everyone, and if it is true, how do we as a society can combat this to create a better world for everyone.