As one of the oldest Black publishers in the country, Amistad has been devoted to uplifting voices that showcase the Black experience through prose and verse. Black authors like Zora Neale Hurston, Gwendolyn Brooks and Alice Walker wrote in order to educate, entertain and empower our community. They set the standard on how our narrative is authentically shared with the world, thanks to Amistad. Without them, many of our stories would be neglected, and we must continue to share and celebrate them. In giving Black authors their flowers, we asked the Blavity community their thoughts on the importance of Black authors and why our stories matter.
Why are Black authors important?
Rob Fulson, senior business development manager: Black authors are important because they tell a unique story that can only be told from a person of color’s lens. They provide testimonials to the nation's claims to justice, freedom, equality, politics and [the] current state of the nation. They say “You don't know where you're going until you've known where you've been.” In order to know that, we need Black literature to tell us about our past.
David Howard, business development specialist: Black authors are the orators that uphold the zeitgeist of African American culture for future generations.
Which Black authors have inspired you throughout your life?
Sabine Quetant, creative marketing manager: Toni Morrison was the first author to give me an understanding of the power of language. When I read The Bluest Eye, it was as if someone had been peeking into my life and my feelings and found the words to express what I never could. It was so simple and beautiful and joyful while also complicated and raw. As a poet and artist, this became my motivation in creating. How do I bring others to those same parallel feelings, to move them, to inspire them, to shock them, to make them feel what I felt the night I first read her words and wept at the kitchen table?
Kadeem M. Pilgrim, people operations associate: The list goes on: Toni Morrison, Octavia E. Butler, Langston Hughes, Terry McMillan, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Maya Angelou, Alex Haley, W.E.B. Dubois — our writing community is brilliant!
What have Black authors meant to you?
Shanique Yates, social/digital media coordinator, freelance writer: Black authors mean a lot to me as a writer myself. Being able to read their stories as a child and to know and understand not only the importance of our stories, but the way in which we tell them made a huge difference in my life. It also led me to believe that I could grow up and have someone feel the same way about my work someday. They have been the source of inspiration for me since I was a little girl, and because of them, I became fond of both reading and writing at such an early age.
Erin Jacobs, client services associate: Black authors constantly remind me of the importance of our history and my own story as a Black woman. To me, Black authors are the keepers of our stories and the inspiration for our progression and excellence in life.
It is such a special gift Black authors have shared with us for generations, and now with the holiday season around the corner, you can share that gift with your family and friends. If you’re having a hard time figuring out which book to choose, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Check out these six books by Black authors to gift someone in your life — or keep for yourself — and enjoy a 20 percent discount from Amistad!
1. Diamond Doris by Doris Payne, for your bougie aunt
This memoir is the perfect gift to give to your auntie who enjoys the finer things in life. It focuses on how Payne used her wit and southern charm to become a “world-class jewel thief.” Creating her own path, she defied the general norms of a Black woman during the 1970s. Today, at 87 years old, Payne is telling her story.
2. Black Bottom Saints by Alice Randall, for your friend who is the life of the party
Bottom Lines Saints tells the story of columnist, entrepreneur and emcee Joseph “Ziggy” Johnson. He lives in Detroit’s legendary Black Bottom neighborhood, which is Black Mecca for jazz, sports and politics. While lying on his deathbed, Johnson reflects on his life and legacy by recounting the people who’ve shaped his life and experiences. He curates a list honoring Black Bottom’s venerable “52 Saints” paired with special libations.
3. Dick Gregory’s Political Primer by Dick Gregory, for your friend who can’t stop talking about Dave Chappelle
This book is specifically made for the conscious Black readers out there. Iconic comedian Dick Gregory explored his views on the reality of the American system for “ordinary folks.” He talked about our democracy and government, providing his candid and honest take on how the system works for politicians and American citizens.
4. Girl Gurl Grrrl by Kenya Hunt, for your GURLfriend
Girl Gurl Grrrl is for the ladies out there. Hunt celebrates Black women in the world who go through the various stages of life as mothers, businesswomen and more. She encapsulates in a humorous and provocative way “what it is to be living and thriving as a Black woman today.”
5. Africaville by Jeffrey Colvin, for your history-obsessed dad
Is your dad a history buff? If so, Africaville is the perfect gift to give him for the holidays. Author Jeffrey Colvin “chronicles three generations of the Sebolt family” from the 1930s to the 1980s. The story focuses on their legacy and the hardships they face living all over the world. It further explores factors like “notions of identity, passing, cross-racial relationships” and how they impact the family.
6. Think Black by Clyde W. Ford, for your friend who went to a PWI
Think Black chronicles the life of John Stanley Ford, the first Black software engineer at IBM. Written by Ford’s son, this book details how Ford dealt with racism in the workplace and his perseverance to combat prejudice in order to succeed in the corporate world. Ford battles with the company’s “dubious business practices” and issues with his family during the process, which makes him reflect on his place as a Black man living in a white world.
Treat your loved ones or yourself to one of these books to support Amistad and these Black authors. As a special discount for Blavity readers out there, use the code BLACKSTORIESMATTER to get 25 percent off the retail price of all print books (other formats excluded) plus shipping at harpercollins.com. This code is valid from December 12 through December 31, so shop now! Let’s commit to keeping our stories and legacies alive by buying and sharing Black literature.
This article was brought to you in partnership with Amistad.