Free Your Mind
There is something magical when you open the first page of a new book. The peculiar yet ever satisfying smell of dried ink. The crisp and unbothered pages you can't wait to immerse yourself into. Or perhaps it's the excitement of what each new chapter will bring. Soon, you find yourself lost into an exquisitely crafted masterpiece and at the mercy of the author.
As I continue my celebration of Black History month, I must pay homage to the literary geniuses who have molded the craft and art of writing and paved the way for so many to follow in their footsteps. Their legacy and outstanding contributions to Black America and American literature's history will never be forgotten.
Octavia E. Butler (1947-2006)
James Baldwin (1924-1987)
Well known for his essays on the Black experience in America, James Baldwin was one of the 20th century's greatest writers. Baldwin moved to France in 1948 to allow himself the freedom to write more about his personal life as a gay man in a homophobic African-American community and a racist society. His time would be spent between the United States and France. Baldwin returned to the US to participate in the Civil Rights Movement. However, after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, he permanently returned to Europe. In 1956 Baldwin wrote 'Giovanni's Room' which, told the story of a white man torn between his love for a man and a woman. The novel brought him critical acclaim as a powerful American writer.
"If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." -Toni Morrison
Chinua Achebe (1930-2013)
Maya Angelou (1928-2014)
Maya Angelou was born Marguerite Annie Johnson in 1928. It would be over 20 years before she would be forever and famously known as the beloved Maya Angelou, an acclaimed American poet, storyteller, civil rights activist, playwright, autobiographer, etc. Her name was a combination of her childhood nickname and her then-husbands surname. Author of over 30 books and the recipient of more than 50 honorary degrees, she is best known for her 1969 memoir, 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings'. Maya Angelou will forever be one of the most influential women of all time.
Langston Hughes (1902-1967)
Toni Morrison (1931-2019)
Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, editor, professor, visionary, Toni Morrison was a brilliant literary force. From 1967 to 1983 she served as the first female African-American editor in Random House history and was credited with giving a voice to black stories. "There are writers that we would not know had she not been in that very crucial position as a black woman in publishing," Angelyn L. Mitchell, a professor of English and African-American studies at Georgetown University.
Richard Wright (1908-1960)
Reading will forever be fundamental, and it allows you to go to that special place and free your mind. Without history, we would be forced to create our own narratives of stories we know nothing of. As a writer, I am honored to share and continue the legacy of these phenomenal writers.
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AJ is a creative writer and storyteller writing from her home in Indiana.
"This is how you do it; you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it's done. It's that easy, and that hard." -Neil Gaiman