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Some Great Contemporary Black Writers to Read and Support

(photo above by Kat Stokes via Unsplash)

In the wake of the recent police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the targeting and murder of Ahmaud Arbery, waves of activism have flooded the country. As hundreds of thousands participate in the Black Lives Matter movement through demonstrations, protests, artwork, and sharing thoughts and resources on social media platforms, discussions about how best to be an ally have moved to the center of our discourse.

One of the things many people have urged allies to do is listen. Listen to Black voices and learn from them. Many urge white and non-Black allies not to speak over Black voices, but to amplify them. An accessible and easy way to listen and learn is to read Black authors.

If you want to better your allyship, learn from Black perspectives, or just read some good books, here is a list of contemporary Black writers you can support now. Note that I chose to compile modern writers because these are people you can actively support by reading their works, following them on social media, and sharing what you’ve learned from them. But if classic works are more your taste, you might enjoy pieces from the legendary Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, and Richard Wright (among many, many others). This is by no means a comprehensive list — there are thousands of Black writers to appreciate — but those in this list are undoubtedly talented and worth your read.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates

Coates is a prolific journalist best known for his work as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. His essays for the publication are thought-provoking and insightful to the American experience. He often uses pop culture to examine race relations, inviting readers who may otherwise avoid the subject (if this interests you, read “I’m Not Black, I’m Kanye”). Coates’ “The Case for Reparations” is one of his most in-depth works, writing personal reflections on individuals’ stories and placing them in the context of a broader American history. And if all this hasn’t sold you on Coates, he also writes “Captain America” and “Black Panther” comics for Marvel.

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bell hooks

hooks is one of the most important feminists of our time. Her primer on feminism, “Feminism is for Everybody,” uses easy-to-understand language to make theory accessible to every type of reader. Her other works center Black issues, and her first book, “Ain’t I a Woman?: Black Women and Feminism,” was one of the first major works to bring intersectional feminism to the spotlight. (Although the book was published in 1981, she wrote her first draft as a college student at just 19!)  Anyone looking to learn more about feminism, and Black femininity specifically, should read hooks.

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Elaine Welteroth

Welteroth is the former editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue, and she’s the one who turned the magazine from one focused on superficial fashion to a progressive and informative resource for young people (which inspired memes like this one). But in all seriousness, Welteroth was the driving force behind creating a place where young people can find important information about social justice, sexuality, and culture. Since leaving the magazine, she has published her book “More Than Enough,” and she remains a great source of fashion inspiration on Instagram.

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Toni Morrison

Morrison’s recent passing is a tremendous loss to the literary community. Her fiction prose is inimitable and unforgettable. She has been consistently writing since the ‘70s, and her most recent book, “God Help the Child,” was released in 2015. Specifically, many people have cited her novel “Beloved” as a work that changedtheirlife. Her works give a peek into the realities of life as a Black American. As cruel and heartbreaking as her stories could be, they often are also hopeful and inspiring. Morrison is absolutely essential reading.

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Janet Mock

Mock’s debut book “Redefining Realness” is an intimate and poignant memoir about her experiences growing up as a Black trans woman. Her writing style is very personal and accessible — the words are easy to read but the subject matter can be harrowing at times. Her second book “Surpassing Certainty” is also a memoir detailing her young adult life. If you like reading personal accounts or like reading about the intersectionality of racial and LGBTQ issues, Mock’s works make them enjoyable. She also writes and directs for Ryan Murphy’s “Pose” if you prefer to watch your media.

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Written by Abby Sacks

Student at the University of Virginia studying Psychology and Media Studies. When not writing or hanging out with my cat, can be found watching too much bad TV and being too old for TikTok but enjoying it anyway.

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