Phillis Wheatley was brought to Boston from Senegal as a slave child who spoke no English. She was purchased by John Wheatley as a personal servant to his wife. The Wheatleys educated Phillis, who mastered English, Latin, and Greek. Her volume of English poetry, published in 1773, is the earliest known publication by an African-American writer. [This rare portrait from Revue des Colonies in Paris shows her full face and wearing an evening dress and jewelry.]
Octavia E Butler is one of five women writers tougher than Hemingway; reading about her and the other four female writers is eye opening insight into the thoughts and feelings of these female pioneers and the way their writing distinguished them.
Gil Scott-Heron, soul & jazz poet, musician, author, & self-described "bluesologist". He was primarily known as a spoken word performer, addressing social & political issues, particularly with his popular "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" work. His music, notably on Pieces of a Man and Winter in America, influenced & helped engender later African-American music genres such as hip hop & neo soul. Music writers have described him as "the godfather of rap" & "the Black Bob Dylan". R.I.P.
Marita Odette Bonner (Occomy) was an African American writer, essayist, and playwright associated with the Harlem Renaissance Era. She attended Radcliffe University, a gifted pianist, founder of the Boston area chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and author of "Being Young-A Woman- And Colored", a 1925 essay published in The Crisis negro newsmagazine.
Toni Morrison ~ novelist - The first African American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature and winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Her enthralling books illuminate the mysteries of the human heart and unflinchingly take on the toughest issues.
Langston Hughes, a Harlem Renaissance poet, helped pave the way for African American writers to be heard in the 1900's with his first published book "The Weary Blues" which was published in 1926. This was yet another way that Modernist literature was creating a new atmosphere in American Society.