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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Sullivan: 5 Black authors to read for Black History Month

Haylee Mormon
Student Jennifer Greer explores the Mitchell Memorial Library.

Literature is a beautiful gift bestowed on this world. It provides space for people to speak their truth and allows people who previously did not have a voice to speak freely and be creative in their own manner. Black authors are essential to literature and its growth. As we enter Black History Month, here are five Black authors who contributed greatly to literature and ought be celebrated.

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison is arguably one of the most influential Black authors in the world of literature. Morrison received many awards throughout her career including the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for her fiction novel, “Beloved.” She also received the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature and was the first African American woman to do so. Even after her death in 2019 at 88 years old, Morrison’s work is still influencing people to tackle hard issues. 

Her debut novel was “The Bluest Eye,” which follows Pecola, a young Black girl, struggling with loving herself and her features. This heartbreaking story tackles racial conflict, sexual abuse and self-worth. This was the start of Morrison’s career writing about hard issues. 

Some of her more well-known works include “Song of Solomon” and “Beloved.” Morrison never strayed away from writing about the struggles that African Americans have and continue to endure. Her works paved the road for writers everywhere to address difficult topics through literature.

Colson Whitehead

Colson Whitehead is an established writer who has received many awards for his work. His 1999 debut novel “The Intuitionist” was nominated as the Common Novel at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), a long-standing tradition at RIT that previously had included authors such as Maya Angelou. Whitehead is one of four authors to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction twice. The first of the two novels, “The Underground Railroad,” follows a slave in the South who tries to gain freedom through the Underground Railroad. Published in 2016, “The Underground Railroad” received the National Book Award for Fiction that same year and the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2017. Whitehead’s second novel published in 2019, “The Nickel Boys,” explores abuse at a reform school in the Jim Crow era and received the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Whitehead has proven himself as a versatile author, dabbling in fiction, non-fiction, essays and short stories. He is an author who no doubt deserves to be on this list.

James McBride

James McBride has been in literature for decades and continues to be influential with not only his novels but also his talents as a musician and composer. McBride’s influential memoir “The Color of Water,” published in 1995, follows his life growing up in a large and poor family. The novel remained on the New York Times bestseller list for two years and is considered an American classic. 

McBride’s novel “The Good Lord Bird,” which follows American abolitionist John Brown, won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2013. His most recent novel,“The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store,” published in 2023, is set in the 1920s and 30s and follows Black and Jewish residents in a town in Pennsylvania. The New York Times listed this title among the 100 Notable Books of 2023.

McBride received much praise over the years for his various works and is considered essential to depicting racial lines, issues and struggles.

Brandon Taylor

Brandon Taylor has received critical acclaim for various works throughout his career. He wrote his debut novel “Real Life,” which tells the story of a gay, Black doctoral student, in just under five weeks and was praised for the way he challenged readers to look inwards and discover their purpose.  His collection of short stories, “Filthy Animals,” received The Story Prize in 2022. His latest work, “The Late Americans,” published in May 2023, follows a group of college students as they navigate life. 

Taylor may not have a ton of work under his belt, but he is certainly not an author to overlook.

Leila Mottley

Leila Mottley is relatively new to the scene of literature, but that certainly has not stopped her from achieving success early on in her career. Mottley has been nominated for multiple awards, including the 2022 Booker Prize, making her the youngest ever booker nominee. Her debut novel, “Nightcrawling,” follows a young Black woman who becomes entangled with a failing justice system and showcases such originality and hope. Mottley also has an unreleased poetry collection titled “woke up no light” that will make its debut this year.

Mottley certainly is making a name for herself early on in her career and will no doubt continue to contribute greatly to literature as a whole. Mottley is a young Black author on the rise that you do not want to miss out on.

While these are just a few Black authors to celebrate, countless others also deserve celebration. Becoming an author is a feat, no doubt, but becoming an author who writes such moving and inspiring novels is another.

About the Contributor
Grace Sullivan
Grace Sullivan, Staff Writer
Grace Sullivan is a senior communication major. Grace is currently a staff writer for The Reflector.
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