Becoming a successful woman can be easier said than done. It’s even harder for black women. So imagine how hard it is to become a successful, black female writer. The writing game ain’t much different from the music game. We are surrounded by writers who all share the common dream of willing a Pulitzer Award, or becoming a best-seller but only a few make it. I have put together a list of five black female writers that have influenced both my writing and my views on being a black women.
Born in May 1753, Phillis Wheatley is the mother of black female writers. She was the first African-american to publish a book and the first African-american woman to earn a living writing. 1700’s was a century of slavery where blessing came short and reading was thus a privileged to have. Purchased at the tender age of seven, the Wheatley family of Boston taught her to read and write and encouraged her with her poetry. It wasn’t until 1773 when a publication Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral was released that Wheatley would receive the title as the most famous black writer of all times.
Born April 4th, 1928 in St Louis, Missouri, Maya Angelou is the definition of a DIVA OF ALL TRADES. Her list of occupations includes but no limited to novelist, journalist, director, and actress. She even did some pimping in her days. (Damn Maya). She has numerous awards and over thirty honorary doctoral degrees. All five of her autobiographical novels have been critically acclaimed. Angelou’s volume of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘Fore I die was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and in 2008 she earned a NAACP Award. Angelou’s entertainment career began in the mid 50’s as a performed when she appeared in Broadways Calypso Heat Wave and released her first album Miss Calyspo. In 1961 she appeared in the off-Broadway production The Blacks and later moved to Egypt and then in Ghana, working as an editor. Later when Angelou moved back to the states her memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings became a best seller and put her on the top of the literary monarchy. In 1972, Angelou’s screenplay, Georgia Georgia was released and she became the first black women to have her screenplay produced. But it doesn’t stop there. As I stated before Angelou is a diva of all trades. Her directorial debut was made in 1998 with Down in the Delta. She has written various essay collections and just recently published a cookbook, Great Food, All Day Long (2010).
Born May 19th 1930, Lorraine Hansberry was the first African-american playwright and youngest american to win a New York Critiques Circle Award. Hansberry was born in Chicago, Illinois. Hansberry went to a white university, University of Wisconsin but was not inspired enough. She soon dropped out and moved to New York City and attended The New School. This is where Hansberrry wrote A Raisin In The Sun, the first play written by a black women to be produced by Broadway. In 1957, Hansberry joined the Daughters of Blititis. She contributed numerous articles to their magazine, The Ladder about feminism and homophobia under the initials L.H. In 1963, her second play The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window was also produced by Broadway and had equal amount of success. A year after the plays opened on January 12th 1965, Hansberry died of cancer.
Born February 18th 1934, Audre Lorde was a activist and writer. Lorde was born and raised in New York, New York where she quickly became a leading writer. Lorde attended Hunters College and graduated in 1959. Afterwards she attended Columbia University and got her masters in Library Sciene in 1961.
Born 9th 1944, Alice Walker won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award for her fiction novel The Color Purple. Walker was born in Eatonton, Georgia. In 1970 Walker published her first novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland. Her second novel, Meridian, was published in 1976. It wasn’t until 1982 when she published The Color Purple that would soon winner a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award. The critically acclaimed adapted film was released in 1985 and twenty years later, in 2005, was turned into a Broadway musical. Walker has written several novels since including, The Temple of My Familiar (1989), Possessing the Secret of Joy (1992), Now Is The Time to Open Your Heart (2005) and her most recent memoir Chicken Chronicles, A memoir. The Cushion in the Road is set to be published this year.