A RECENT HISTORY OF BLACKS IN JOURNALISM

Be sure to check out NABJ and support black media!

Be sure to check out NABJ and support black media!

This is the final Black History Month blog post for 2013! The weekly posts were so well received that this is likely to become an annual occurrence, so thank you to all of you who liked the posts!I will be looking at blacks in journalism.

Black journalists were largely only hired by black presses, which were small and only serviced the black community. Mainstream presses were no different than any other industry and continuously refused to hire blacks.

When the Civil Rights Movement gained national interest during the 1960s, as a large number of American inner cities became the sites of urban riots, black journalists who were employed by black presses were finally able to gain employment with the mainstream media.

The newsrooms of mainstream news sources were nearly all white back in 1968. The National Commission on Civil Disorders warned that America was “moving toward two societies, one black, one white, separate and unequal.” The bias was reflected with impunity in the mainstream news media. At this time, blacks held less than 1% of newsroom jobs across the country.

Unfortunately, the black presses suffered from the integration it had long championed and as a result, many black presses ceased publication altogether. The once prosperous major black presses simply couldn’t compete with the extensive coverage provided by mainstream television networks and major newspapers, as well as the higher salaries they provided their newly hired black journalists.

According to a Huffington Post article, “The Chicago Defender’s weekly circulation fell from a high of 257,000 in 1945 to 33,000 by 1970. The Pittsburgh Courier shrunk in the same period from a high of 202,000 to 20,000.”

These developments as well as the time frame they occurred, tie into the Great Migration which has been a prevalent theme in the Black History Month posts I’ve written this year. However, in this instance we find that while looking for better opportunities, many black journalists inadvertently caused black news sources to suffer and virtually die. The impact this had on the black community was devastating not only because it eliminated a large number of jobs, but also because we as a community were no longer in a position to report on those things which affect our day to day lives and to accurately relay facts without the stereotypical slant that mainstream media is infamous for.

In recent years, there appears to be a reverse migration of sorts which has many black journalists returning to their roots as it was. A good portion of these moves were facilitated by layoffs and buyouts within the mainstream media outlets, but others were fueled by the black journalists own disillusionment with mainstream media and/or their desire to focus on issues which have a greater impact upon the black community.

Regardless of the reasons, black journalists are turning the tide and switching paths from black presses to the mainstream media to plot their course back home. Many mainstream outlets are even creating black oriented ventures like NBC’s The Griot, which I personally subscribe to and find quite informative as well as Huffington Post’s Black Voices.

However, on the flip side of things, this reverse migration has garnered attention and new talent to black-oriented media, but also has a negative impact on the diversification of mainstream media.  I suppose the laws of physics are hard at work here, in that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

What started as a trickle has since turned into a flood of movement.

According to an article in the Huffington Post titled, “Black Journalists Quitting Mainstream Outlets, Returning To Black Press, “Sylvester Monroe resigned in 2006 as Sunday national editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and, two months later, joined the staff of Ebony magazine. In 2008 the renowned byline of Jack E. White, the first black columnist at Time magazine, began to regularly appear on The Root, where Lynette Clemetson, formerly of The New York Times and Newsweek, was managing editor. By March of this year when Constance C. R. White, once an influential New York Times fashion writer, was named editor in chief of Essence, the trickle had swelled into a river of prominent African-American journalists streaming to black-oriented media. The names of veterans like Lynette Holloway and E. R. Shipp, formerly of The New York Times; Teresa Wiltz, Natalie Hopkinson, and Michael Cottman, all of The Washington Post; Joel Dreyfuss, formerly of Fortune and PC Magazine, and Amy DuBois Barnett of Harper’s Bazaar and Teen People, are turning up in places like Ebony, Jet, and Essence; at BlackAmericaWeb.com, a division of Reach Media, Inc.; and at The Root, the online site spearheaded by Harvard’s Henry Louis Gates Jr. and published by The Washington Post Company.”

It is held that at one time blacks come into journalism driven by a passion to accurately report on issues in their communities, which explains the return to black press.  They could perhaps use the skills and experience they had gained while employed with mainstream media and apply it to black oriented media and improve its deteriorated reputation and standing.

As Black History Month 2013 comes to an end, I encourage everyone to take the time to expand their minds and broaden their horizons with a look into news sources outside of the mainstream, so that you may form a more informed opinion on things that occur within our country and around the world. Support black news sources and the men and women who work within the industry, but as always take whatever you receive with a grain of salt and an open mind.

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THE WARMTH OF OTHER SUNS BOOK REVIEW POSTPONED

sad-faceHello friends!

Unfortunately due to some unforeseen circumstances and time constraints, I’ve had to postpone the review of Isabel Wilkerson’s book, “The Warmth of Other Suns,” until next Friday. However, be sure to stay tuned because I will also be review a collection of short stories as well, so that’s TWO reviews next Friday!!!

My regular post will be uploaded on Monday as scheduled and I thank you who follow me here for your continued support and understanding!

REMEMBER TBIYTC (The Best Is Yet To Come)!!!

THE HISTORY OF BLACK WRITERS IN POETRY, LITERARY FICTION & ROMANCE (PART TWO)

BLACK WRITERS IN ROMANCE & LITERARY FICTIONIn this week’s blog post, I’m celebrating the rich history and influential accomplishments of black writers of poetry, literary fiction and romance.

This is Part Two of a two-part post.

Black writers continued to flourish even beyond The Harlem Renaissance and on into the Civil Right Era.

During a time known as The Great Migration—which began after World War I and continued through 1970—many blacks moved from the South and headed North in search of greater opportunities and equal treatment.

Many ventured to large northern cities like Chicago and Northern Indiana, where they found work in factories and other industries.

The migration from the south gave rise to a new sense of independence within the Black community and contributed to the growth of black urban culture developed during the Harlem Renaissance. It also sparked the growing Civil Rights movement which had a powerful impact upon the voice of that era, ranging from the 1940’s through the 1960’s.

The activists of the Civil Rights movement in their efforts gave the writers of the time a platform in which to address issues such as ending segregation, racism and to develop a new sense of Black Nationalism.

A profound writer of this period was James Baldwin, whose work addressed issues of race and sexuality. He is perhaps best known for his novel Go Tell It on the Mountain. He wrote stories and essays which were personal reflections that examined the nature of being both black and homosexual when neither was accepted in American society and culture.

Baldwin wrote nearly 20 books, which included Another Country and The Fire Next Time.

Another writer of that era was Richard Wright. He and Baldwin were friends and he called Wright “the greatest Black writer in the world for me”. Wright is perhaps best known for his novel Native Son (1940), which told the story of Bigger Thomas, a Black man who struggled for acceptance in Chicago.

Baldwin was so impressed by the novel that he titled a collection of his own essays Notes of a Native Son, in reference to Wright’s novel. However, their friendship fell apart due to one of the book’s essays, “Everybody’s Protest Novel,” which criticized Native Son for lacking credible characters and psychological complexity. Among Wright’s other books are the autobiographical novel Black Boy (1945), The Outsider (1953), and White Man, Listen! (1957).

Another novelist of this period was Ralph Ellison, best known for his novel Invisible Man (1952), which won the National Book Award in 1953. Even though he did not complete another novel during his lifetime, Invisible Man was so influential that it secured his place in literary history. After Ellison’s death in 1994, a second novel, Juneteenth (1999), was pieced together from the 2,000-plus pages he had written over 40 years. A fuller version of the manuscript will be published as Three Days Before the Shooting (2008). Jones, Edward, The Known World, 2003 Carter Stephen, New England White 2007 Wright W.D. Crisis of the Black Intellectual, 2007.

During the Civil Right Era, there was a rise in the number of black female poets, one of the most notable being Gwendolyn Brooks, who became the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize. It was awarded to her for her 1949 book of poetry, Annie Allen. Along with Brooks, other female poets who reached a level of notoriety during the 1950s and ’60s are Nikki Giovanni and Sonia Sanchez.

Also during this time, a number of playwrights came to attain national attention, most notably Lorraine Hansberry, whose famous play A Raisin in the Sun focuses on a poor Black Chicago family living and went on to win the 1959 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award.

Another noteworthy playwright who gained attention was Amiri Baraka. She was known for writing controversial off-Broadway plays. In more recent years, Baraka has become known for his poetry and music criticism.

A number of important books and essays dealing with human rights were penned by the Civil Rights leaders. Martin Luther King, Jr‘s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” is a leading example.

In the 1970s, black literature began to reach the mainstream as works by black writers continually reached best-selling and award-winning status. This was also during this time that the work of African-American writers finally came to be recognized by academia as a legitimate genre of American literature.

As part of the larger Black Arts Movement, which was inspired by the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, African American literature began to be defined and analyzed. A number of scholars and writers are generally credited with helping to promote and define African-American literature as a genre during this time period, including fiction writers Toni Morrison and Alice Walker and poet James Emanuel to name a few.

Other black writers of note are:

Toni Cade Bambara

Gayl Jones

Alex Haley

Rasheed Clark

Ishmael Reed

Jamaica Kincaid

Randall Kenan

John Edgar Wideman

Maya Angelou

Rita Dove

Cyrus Cassells

Natasha Trethewey

Thylias Moss

Ntozake Shange

Ed Bullins

Suzan-Lori Parks

August Wilson

Edward P. Jones

David Anthony Durham

Tayari Jones

Kalisha Buckhanon

Mat Johnson

ZZ Packer

Colson Whitehead

Chester Himes

Walter Mosley

Hugh Holton

Ernest J. Gaines

Samuel R. Delany

Octavia E. Butler

Steven Barnes

Tananarive Due

Robert Fleming

Brandon Massey

Charles R. Saunders

John Ridley

John M. Faucette

Sheree Thomas

Nalo Hopkinson

A recent explosion of black romance writers has occured in before unprecedented rates. While the genre is not highly represented by blacks, there are several of note.

Gwen Forster, Brenda Jackson, Carmen Green, Beverly Clark, Celeste O. Norfleet, Kayla Perrin, Donna Hill and Marcia King-Gamble to name a few.

A resurgence of the Urban Lit genre has become popular amongst black writers and readers  alike. Some of the most prominent names are:

Eric Jerome Dickey

Kimberla Roby Lawson

Carl Weber

Mary B. Morrison

Bebe Moore Campbell

E. Lynn Harris

Terry McMillan

The undisputed title “Queen of black erotica,” goes to Zane. Her novels have been best sellers and also garnered her a cable series based upon her popular Sex Chronicles series.

Black/African-American literature has enjoyed additional attention due largely to the efforts of talk-show host Oprah Winfrey. She has continually leveraged her fame to promote literature through Oprah’s Book Club. Oprah has brought African-American writers a far larger audience than they might otherwise have received.

BLACK HISTORY MONTH BOOK REVIEW #2

14290517_121006023000The Man in 3B
by Carl Weber
Review by John F. Allen

What do you get when you combine popular 80’s sitcom, 227, Desperate Housewives and Boyz ‘n the Hood, with a splash of Clue? You get more than what you bargained for, which is more than your average Urban Lit novel. That’s what you’ll find in Carl Weber’s The Man in 3B!

When Daryl Graham aka The Man in 3B moves into a Jamaica Queens apartment building, all the females lose their minds and the men become jealous lunatics. Apparently this brother is finer than wine, all that and a bag of chips and the cat’s meow, with all the women—from eighteen to eighty, married and single—wanting to claim the title of Pussy Galore. He’s also everything every brother wants to be with a charisma that they will never possess.

Many of the female residents are in dysfunctional and broken relationships and see Daryl Graham as Doctor Feel Good/Mister Big Stuff, the cure for what ails them and just the right prescription to fill their empty lives with HOT SEX!

The front stoop of this New York walkup is gossip central, where mostly all of the building’s female residents congregate to chinwag about the latest, greatest dirt going on in and around the building. They also stake out the entrance for any chance to catch a glimpse of Daryl, whom they all have professed a burning desire to sleep with. Because of this, he is quickly welcomed into the building with much more than friendly neighbor affection, weaving his way into each of the tenants’ lives.

Enter Connie, the overweight and sexually frustrated wife of Avery Mack, a down on his luck former mortgage broker whose disgust in Connie’s appearance is readily apparent and quite mean-spirited. A chance encounter leads to Daryl offering to help Connie in her mission to lose weight and possibly save her disintegrating marriage. However, Daryl’s charisma is not lost on Connie and his flirtations begin to make her feel attractive, appreciated and more confident than she’s felt in years.

Enter Avery, whose disgust and lack of sensitivity to his wife leads him to ask for a divorce. He is plunged into a further downward spiral when he gets in over his head with a bad element. Avery’s only concern is to reclaim the luxurious lifestyle he once had and he’s determined to achieve that goal by any means necessary. Despite his contempt for Connie, he becomes jealous of Daryl for showing interest in her and for how she’s decided to take control of her life and move on without him.

Enter Benny, a smart, shy and sheltered young man who strikes up an unlikely friendship with Daryl and begins to look up to him as a role model, much to the dismay of Benny’s father, Ben—a local firefighter and resident “Histress,” to the ladies of the building. When their time together becomes more frequent and Benny approaches his twenty-first birthday, he begins to reevaluate his life and his identity as an adult.

Enter Krystal, Daryl’s first love, who calls him back into her life for sexual escapades after years apart. While Daryl wants to be in a serious relationship, Krystal only wants to have fun. What she doesn’t tell Daryl is that she’s involved with another man who she has no intentions of leaving. Krystal abruptly leaves Daryl hanging when her current boyfriend proposes and unwittingly ends up moving into the same building where Daryl lives. She tries to use this situation to her advantage as she wants Daryl to continue ringing her bell, yet also make things work with her fiancé, but Daryl’s not having any of that and sends her packing.

Everything is hunky dory until someone is murdered…

Everyone becomes a prime suspect as many of the residents have means, opportunity and motive. This throws everyone into a tizzy and deepens the mystery that surrounds exactly who Daryl Graham really is and what about him brings out such passionate emotions in those who encounter him.

The plot of this novel is tightly wound and while Daryl serves as the nexus to the other characters, Weber is able to give each and every one a unique and distinctive voice. The transition from Urban lit to Whodunit is masterful and I applaud Weber’s ability as a writer to pull it off. I was so invested in the discovery of what happened next, I almost forgot at times it wasn’t a Walter Mosley mystery novel I was reading. Where’s Socrates Fortlow when you need him?

The mystery surrounding Daryl Graham and how his presence and influence has affected everyone in the building are just some of the reasons you’ll want to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next.

The Man in 3B is filled with interesting, dysfunctional characters with plenty enough personality to keep the reader intrigued and invested from start to finish.

I’ve been a fan of Carl’s work from his first novel, “Lookin’ for Luv.” He has failed to disappoint me with his writing and I encourage you to take a look at each and every one of his novels.

But if you want to know all the juicy details and the fate of these well-developed characters in The Man in 3B, you’ll have to read the book!

STAY TUNED! Next week I review “The Warmth of Other Suns,” by Isabel Wilkerson!!!

THE HISTORY OF BLACK WRITERS IN POETRY, LITERARY FICTION & ROMANCE (PART ONE)

BLACK WRITERS IN ROMANCE & LITERARY FICTIONIn this week’s blog post, I’m celebrating the rich history and influential accomplishments of black writers of poetry, literary fiction and romance.

This is Part One of a two-part post.

The history of black writers is rarely acknowledged before the Harlem Renaissance in mainstream America. Although that period was a great time of growth for blacks in the arts, the history of black writers goes much farther back.

In 1746, Lucy Terry—a black slave in Deerfield, MA—wrote the ballad, “Bars Fight”. The piece wasn’t published until 1854 in The Springfield Republican with an additional couplet and again in Josiah Holland’s History of Western Massachusetts, 1855.

Noted poet Phillis Wheatley’s book, “Poems on Various Subjects”, was published in 1773, prior to the War of Independence. She holds the honor of being the first African American to publish a book and the first to achieve an international reputation as a writer. Wheatley was born in Senegal, but at age seven was captured and sold into slavery. She soon mastered the English language and began writing. Her poetry earned the praise of many leading figures of the American Revolution including George Washington. The validity of her works were often challenged as the white people of the time found it hard to believe that a black person was capable of such refined writing.

The credit for the earliest works of fiction by African American writers goes to William Wells Brown and Victor Séjour. Not very many people know of these men and because of the times in which they lived (1800’s), it is no surprise.

Brown was a prominent abolitionist, lecturer, historian, playwright and novelist during the 1800’s. His novel Clotel (1853) is considered the first novel written by an African American. The novel was published in London, where Brown lived at the time. He was also a pioneer of various literary genres, including travel writing and drama.

Sejour was born in New Orleans as a free man, but moved to France at the age of nineteen. While there, he published his short story “Le Mulâtre” (“The Mulatto”) in 1837. It has the distinction of being the first known work of fiction published by an African American however, it was written in French and published in a French journal, and had no apparent influence on later American literature. Unfortunately, Séjour never returned to African-American themes in his subsequent works.

As time progressed, slavery ended and blacks were attempting to fit themselves into a society which shunned them, a significant period marked a creative surge within the black community. The period was known as the Harlem Renaissance, and ran from 1920 to 1940. Based in the Harlem community in New York City, the Harlem Renaissance was part of a larger peak of social thought and culture within the African American community.

During this time, the US experienced a growth of African American literature and art. It was a turning point for black literature as prior to this time; books written by African Americans were primarily read solely by other blacks. An abundance of Black artists, musicians and others produced classic works in various fields from jazz to theater. However, this movement spurred black literature, fine art and performance art to be absorbed into mainstream American culture, although it can be argued that perhaps the period is best known for the literature that came out of it.

Some of the most renowned writers of this period were: Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, & Zora Neale Hurston to name a few. Hughes first received attention in 1922 with the publication of The Book of American Negro Poetry. The work was edited by James Weldon Johnson as an anthology which featured the work of many of the period’s most talented poets, such as Claude McKay.

McKay went on to publish three novels, Home to Harlem, Banjo and Banana Bottom, as well as a collection of short stories.

Zora Neale Hurston was another prominent figure of the Harlem Renaissance. She wrote the classic novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God in 1937. Her works ranged from anthropology to short stories and novels, but unfortunately they fell into obscurity for decades. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that her work was rediscovered thanks to a 1975 article by Alice Walker published in Ms. Magazine.

Despite the fact that by and large Hughes and Hurston were the two most influential and recognizable writers of the era, others became well known also, such as: Jean Toomer, author of Cane—a collection of stories and poems about rural and urban lives of blacks. Dorothy West was another whose novel, The Living is Easy, examined the life of an upper-class black family.

Countee Cullen was also a writer of note, whose poems described the everyday life of blacks. His works include: Color (1925), Copper Sun (1927) and The Ballad of the Brown Girl (1927).

Other known authors of this period were: Wallace Thurman, author of the novel The Blacker the Berry: A Novel of Negro Life (1929), which focused on intra-racial prejudice between lighter skinned and darker skinned blacks.

Frank Marshall Davis, whose poetry collections, Black Man’s Verse (1935) and I am the American Negro (1937), were published by Black Cat Press, and earned him critical acclaim.

This concludes Part One of The History of Blacks in Literary Fiction and Poetry. Part Two will be featured in the blog post scheduled for next Monday, 18 February 2013.

Friday, 15 February 2013 I will post my review of Carl Weber’s The Man in 3B, STAY TUNED!!!

BLACK HISTORY MONTH BOOK REVIEW #1

This week’s spotlight author is Zaji!

For a complete bio, please visit: http://thezaji.com/write/bio/

BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION WRITERSWhen I started reading, “When We Were One” by Zaji, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. The blurb on the back cover piqued my interest, but after reading it, I was rewarded with a very well written and inspiring story.

Unlike most of today’s speculative fiction, this novel was thankfully devoid of vampires, werewolves and zombies. Don’t get me wrong, as a writer and fan of urban fantasy I like my supernatural creatures, but it is refreshing to read a book where they aren’t present.

The story takes place on Parthos, a world where a unique race of women known as the Parthonites, live peacefully and in harmony with their environment. When their unique system of reproduction yields an anomaly, they are at a loss on how to understand why this has happened and how to deal with it. Meanwhile, visitors seek to uncover the secrets of their culture by any means necessary.

I liked, “When We Were One,” because of the spirit in which it was told. There was a sense of serenity I got from simply reading the story. It captured me with a sense of wonder and left me pleasantly satiated.

Even though the story took place in a fantasy realm, it resonates with core values that are intertwined in the spirit of humanity as we know it. As I read the novel, I got a definite sense of real world applications with a shot of history, which served to weave a tapestry of entertaining, insightful and inspiring prose.

The one critique I have of the novel, or at least the copy I read, was that the font style slowed down my reading considerably, about a third of the way through the novel. While I liked the look of the font aesthetically, but I found it wasn’t conducive to prolonged reading. I would encourage Zaji to consider a more standard font, for the sake of her readers.

As an added bonus, I had the honor of interviewing the author and here are her responses to my questions:

1) What drew you to write in speculative fiction and why do you feel that it is a powerful and/or worthy genre?

I’ve been a lover of speculative fiction for as long as I can remember. The Twilight Zone was my first taste of speculative fiction, given that it featured both science fiction and speculative fiction stories. I have probably watched nearly every Twilight Zone ever made. I was then drawn to other authors such as Octavia Butler, who skillfully created worlds that drew me in. I felt like I was in her stories, a part of her villages, moving through time with her characters. I honestly have a love for all types of fiction, but writing speculative fiction gives me the freedom to create anything I want and make you believe it. Speculative fiction allows me to open up the cosmic gateways of possibility and explore everything conceivable. The limits are only confined to my imagination. Through speculative fiction, I can show readers what could be if they only let their mind explore the ideas.

2) Who are some to the authors who inspired you on your journey as a writer, and why?

 Authors who inspired me include Octavia Butler, Tananarive Due, Steven Barnes, Brandon Massey, M.P. Shiel, Ray Bradbury; too many to name.

3) Are you working on any other projects that you can share?

I am currently working on the prequel to When We Were One, as well as several short stories. I’m also planning a writers’ retreat I hope to have this year in the summer. Additionally, I’m considering doing an online Self-Publishing workshop for writers who desire to self-publish their works.

Many of the short stories I’ve been writing might work for a book of short stories, Ray Bradbury style. For example, all of the stories in Martian Chronicles were published as individual works in other publications. He put them all together in one book given that they were all related to Mars. I’d like to do something similar.

4) What do you want readers to take away from, “When We Were One”?

I want readers to go away with any aspect of the work that moves them. I am not the type of writer who wants readers to see specifically what I see or what I meant when I wrote it. I want them to see what comes through for them. Each person, depending on their life experiences, will see and feel something different when they read a work. Some will see the obvious, but others will feel the not so obvious. I give each reader freedom. I want them to allow that freedom to take them where it needs to take them when they read my work. I want them to feel what they need to feel so that they move to the next level of their existence. They cannot move to the next level of my existence and life based on what I meant the work to be for me, they can only move where they need to be, in their own time and understanding. Works I read 20 years ago look very different to me now because of my experiences. I often read them again and think, how did I miss that? How come I didn’t understand that before? Or even remember reading that part? This is because we do not see the world as it is, we see it as we are. This is the same with reading. We do not read based on what a work is, we read and understand a work based on who we are in that moment. I want readers to see what they need to see in this moment when they read my work. This is not to say that some works aren’t obviously positive or negative and need no interpretation, but for the most part, our response to any given work is based on how we see the world. All else is open for discussion and sharing if the opportunity arises.

5) When can readers expect future installments in the series?

I’m a slow writer. But I do hope to have the prequel to When We Were One done by early next year.

In conclusion, I highly recommend picking up this novel and giving it a read. I look forward to reading more adventures set in this unique and wondrous world, with its plethora of strong, dynamic characters and thought provoking situations.

For more information on Zaji and how to purchase her novels, please visit her website: http://thezaji.com/

Next Friday I will be reviewing Carl Weber’s latest novel, The Man in 3B!

Until then, REMEMBER TBIYTC (The Best Is Yet To Come)!!!

THE HISTORY OF BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION WRITERS

FIRST IN A WEEKLY SERIES FOR FEBRUARY 2013!

BLACK SPECULATIVE FICTION WRITERS     In the spirit of celebrating Black History Month, I’m dedicating my weekly blog posts to honor the accomplishments of black writers with a look into their work and contributions to the writing profession. I will be tasking myself with reading the work of one black author per week and reviewing their work as a blog post. These posts are meant to be educational, insightful and inspiring. In addition, I will be writing a post exploring blacks in a particular genre. The first post in the series will focus on the history of black writers in speculative fiction!

Within the various genres of speculative fiction, blacks are an even larger group of minorities than they are as a whole within society. And while the collective of black speculative writers is small, I believe that their voices are huge and resonate within the black fan community as a growing demographic.

Of black speculative fiction writers, some of the most popular to come to mind are Octavia Butler, Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due and Charles R. Saunders. However, the roots of blacks in speculative fiction go back much farther than them.

One of the foremost U.S. black political leaders of his time was Martin Delany (1812 – 1885). In 1859, Mr. Delany published Blake, or the Huts of America as a serial in the Anglo-American Magazine. The novel dealt with an alternate history where a successful slave revolt in the Southern states led to the founding of a black country in Cuba. Unfortunately, the novel remained unfinished. Noted black speculative fiction writer, Samuel R. Delany (no relation), has described it as being about as close to a Science Fiction style alternate history novel as you can get.

Another noted early black speculative fiction writer was Charles W. Chesnutt. He wrote folkloric Hoodoo stories and published a collection called The Conjure Woman in 1899, which is the first known speculative fiction collection written by a person of color.

Most people don’t associate W.E.B. Dubois with speculative fiction however, he wrote several science fiction short stories including, The Comet which depicted a world where the only survivors of an apocalyptic event were a black man and a white woman. This marks the first post-apocalyptic fiction work where an African American appears as the subject.

By the 1920’s, African writers began publishing works of speculative fiction, which because of the social climate of the time, received very little if any attention.

In 1920, Thomas Mofolo (1876 – 1948) of South Africa published his novel, Chaka which was written in Sotho. The novel presented a magical realist account of the life of Shaka the Zulu king.

Another African novelist, Jean-Louis Njemba Medou wrote Nnanga Kon, a 1932 novel which covered the first contact between white colonialists and the Bulu people. In Cameroon, where Medou hails from, the novel became so popular it is the basis of local folklore.

In 1945, Makonnen Edalkaccaw, an Ethiopian writer, penned the story of Yayne Ababa in Amharic. It is noted as an early work of Muslim science fiction and depicts the adventures of a teenage Amahara girl who was sold into slavery.

In the years that followed, have been graced with a growth in the number of blacks writing stories and novels in speculative fiction which includes: Charles R. Saunders, Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due, Octavia Butler, Maurice Broaddus, Nisi Shawl, Brandon Massey, Zaji, Milton Davis, L.A. Banks, Balogun Ojetade, Chesya Burke, Wrath James White, Valjeanne Jeffers, N.K. Jemisin, Talitha McEachin, Paul West, Alicia McCalla, Thaddeus Atreides, Brandon Easton, Xavier Moore, Seressia Glass, Hannibal Tabu , Sheree Thomas, Nalo Hopkinson and Nnedi Okorafor to name but a few.

Despite what’s displayed on the bookshelves of large chain bookstores, there are plenty new and emerging black speculative fiction writers who are making their mark and raising the various genres to another level. I encourage fans of speculative fiction, beginning with the readers of this blog to support these writers and help to give the genres a shot in the arm and to be representative of various cultures and subcultures throughout the US and the world. Modern black speculative fiction writers now cover a wide range of genres including: Science Fiction, Steampunk, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy and Horror however, two emerging sub-genres to appear have been Sword & Soul and Steamfunk which predominately feature characters of color.

I challenge my readers to put aside a couple of hours each week and pick up a book written by a black author during Black History Month. I encourage you to start by checking out the works of the above mentioned authors, as you’d be broadening your horizons and expanding your minds, which are two components of reading I find most admirable. Trust me; you’ll be glad you did!

FRIDAY’S BLOG POST: A review of Zaji’s novel, “When We Were One.”