Whether it was poetry, sermons, or slave narratives, African American Literature began in the 18th century and evolved and flourished throughout history. The literature told of our experiences in America and shared our triumphs and tribulations. Each historical time period has its own characteristics as well as noteworthy authors and titles.
The largest body of work from this time period includes:
Slave narratives were first person accounts of the physical, emotional, mental, and sexual cruelty of slavery. It documented their struggles and sorrows as well as their hopes for the future. Several well known slave narratives were written during this era including Frederick Douglass' Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, William Wells Brown's Narrative of William Wells Brown, Nat Turner's The Confession of Nat Turner, Booker T. Washington's Up From Slavery, and Olaudah Equiano's The Interesting Narrative and the Life of Oladah Equiano.
In the period after the Civil War and slavery, Black Americans worked to navigate the new political and social terrain. The literature worked to correct inaccurate perceptions that African Americans were not intellectual or creative. This was also a time period where the authors documented the hopes of African Americans socially, politically, and spiritually. Writers during this period included fiction writers Charles Chestnutt and James Weldon Johnson as well as poets and non-fiction writers.
The Harlem Renaissance ushered in an abundance of creativity from Black writers, poets, and dramatists in addition to music, dance, and visual arts. Some of the most influential names during this period included Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Nella Larsen, and Jean Toomer.
A Brief Guide to the Harlem Renaissance by Poets.org
An Introduction to the Harlem Renaissance by the Poetry Foundation
Authors you might want to check out: Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Margaret Walker, Lorraine Hansberry, Gwendolyn Brooks.
Authors you might want to check out: Amiri Baraka, Haki Madhabuti, Sonia Sanchez, Gwendolyn Brooks, Douglas Turner Ward, Nikki Giovanni, Ntozake Shange,
Major contemporary African American fiction writers include, but are not limited to: James Baldwin, Octavia Butler, Charles Chestnut, Samuel Delaney, Gayle Jones, Toni Morrison, Walter Mosely, Ishmael Reed, Angie Thomas, Alice Walker, Jesmyn Ward, Jaqueline Woodson.