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In just a few short days it will be February, which in the United States means it’s Black History Month. We here at OWL Educational Services thought we’d kick things off early, and give you, the regular blog readers, a small list of 5 Black authors who have helped changed the course of literature. Be sure to seek out their books at your local library.

1.) Maya Angelou

Poet, author and activist, Maya Angelou was deeply influenced by such writers as Langston Hughes and W.E.B Du Bois. She is perhaps best known for such works as I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the first in seven autobiographies concerning her life.

2.) James Baldwin

James Baldwin was a novelist, essayist, social critic, and public intellectual, who as well as being a strong voice for Black America also became an early voice for gay men. Among his most famous books is the novel Go Tell It on The Mountain, and the essay collection Notes on a Native Son.

3.) Octavia Butler

A student and protege of Harlan Ellison in the famous Clarion Writers Workshop, Octavia Butler would go on to become the first science fiction author to win the MacArthur Fellowship. Her novel Kindred tells the story of a Black woman who must travel back in time in order to save her own life by saving a white, slaveholding ancestor; the book would go on to be taught in several colleges and universities, as both science fiction and African American literature.

4.) Langston Hughes

Famed author of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes wrote poetry, novels, short stories, essays, and plays. Among his most famous works is the poetry collection The Weary Blues, as well as the novel Not Without Laughter, which won him the Harmon gold medal in literature.

5.) Toni Morrison

Considered the voice of African American women, Toni Morison is the winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature. Among her most famous books are the novels Beloved and Song of Solomon.

(A longer, more comprehensive list—“10 Black Authors Everyone Should Read”—can be found on the PBS website.)

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