These Classic African American Novels Will Enrich Your Life

African American Novels

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Adding classic African American Novels to your must-read list will expand your understanding of Black culture. These novels will also allow the reader to experience richly detailed characters that lay bare their pain and suffering and hopes and dreams. The authors of these classic African American novels express their political views, their views on living in a racist society, and many more themes. 

Much of what we read today, including novels, we read on our Kindle devices or other digital devices. But it‘s important to switch it up sometimes and hold a real book in our hands.

Relax in an old comfy armchair with a chai tea latte, or whatever does it for you, and open one of the books listed below. You will experience the WOW factor.

Note: these authors may have written more novels than are listed here.

5 Male Authors of African American Novels

Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes

Ralph Ellison

Ralph Ellison

W.E.B. DuBois

W.E.B. DuBois

James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1901– May 22, 1967) was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri. One of the earliest innovators of the literary art form called jazz poetry, Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance” (Wikipedia).

Hughes' debut novel:

  • Not Without Laughter (1930)

Richard Nathaniel Wright (September 4, 1908 – November 28, 1960) was an American author of novels, short stories, poems, and non-fiction. Much of his literature concerns racial themes, especially related to the plight of African Americans during the late 19th to mid-20th centuries suffering discrimination and violence” (Wikipedia).

Wright’s novels: 

  • Native Son (1940)
  • Black Boy (1945)
  • The Man Who Lived Underground (1941)

Ralph Ellison (March 1, 1913 – April 16, 1994) was an American writer,  literary critic, and scholar best known for his novel Invisible Man, which won the National Book Award in 1953 . . . A posthumous novel,  Juneteenth, was published after being assembled from voluminous notes he left upon his death” (Wikipedia).

Ellison's novel:

  • Invisible Man (1953)

William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (February 23, 1868 – August 27, 1963) was an American socialist, sociologist, historian, and Pan-Africanist . . . Du Bois was a prolific author. His collection of essays, The Souls of Black Folk, is a seminal work in African-American Literature . . . ” (Wikipedia). 

DuBois’ historical novel:

  • Dark Princess (1928)

James Baldwin

James Arthur Baldwin (August 2, 1924 – December 1, 1987) was an American writer. He garnered acclaim for his work across several forms, including essays, novels, plays, and poems. His first novel,  Go Tell It on the Mountain, was published in 1953 . . . His first essay collection, Notes of a Native Son, was published in 1955” (Wikipedia).

Baldwin novels:

  • Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953)
  • Giovanni’s Room (1956)
  • Another Country (1962)
  • If Beale Street Could Talk (1974)
  • Just Above My Head (1979)

4 Women Authors of African American Novels

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison

Zora Hurston

Zora Hurston

Alice Walker

Alice Walker

Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler

Chloe Anthony Wofford Morrison (February 18, 1931 – August 5, 2019), known as Toni Morrison, was an American novelist. Her first novel, The Bluest Eye, was published in 1970. The critically acclaimed Song of Solomon (1977) brought her national attention and won the National Book Critics Circle Award. In 1988, Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved (1987); she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1993” (Wikipedia).

Morrison's novels:

  • The Bluest Eye (1970)
  • Song of Solomon (1977)
  • Beloved (1987)

Zora Neale Hurston (January 7, 189  – January 28, 1960) was an American author,  anthropologist, and filmmaker. She portrayed racial struggles in the early-1900s American South and published research on hoodoo. The most popular of her four novels is Their Eyes Were Watching God, published in 1937. She also wrote more than 50 short stories, plays, and essays” (Wikipedia).

Hurston's novels include:

  • Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937)
  • Jonah's Gourd Vine (1934)
  • Moses, Man of the Mountain (1939)
  • Seraph on the Suwanee (1948)

Alice Malsenior Tallulah-Kate Walker (born February 9, 1944) is an American novelist, short story writer, poet, and social activist. In 1982, she became the first African-American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, which she was awarded for her novel The Color Purple . . . Walker has published seventeen novels and short story collections, twelve non-fiction works, and collections of essays and poetry”(Wikipedia”).

  • The Color Purple (1982)
  • Meridian (1976)
  • Possessing the Secret of Joy (1992)
  • The Temple of My Familiar (1989) 

"Octavia Estelle Butler (June 22, 1947 – February 24, 2006) was an American science fiction author and a multiple recipient of the Hugo and Nebula awards. In 1995, Butler became the first science-fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship” (Wikipedia). 

Butler’s novels include:

  • Survivor (1978)
  • Kindred (1979)
  • Parable of the Sower )1993)
  • Parable of the Talents (1998)
  • Wild Seed (1980)
  • Clay’s Ark (1984)
  • Fledgling (2005)

It’s crucial to read with a mindset of understanding. Distractions will dilute your understanding and minimize a rich reading experience. Read these classic African American Novels with a non-rushed attitude. Be prepared to be whisked away to another time, another place, and another dimension.

Select a novel. Take the journey!

Unless indicated otherwise, all images: Dream by Wombo

Langston Hughes. (2023, May 28). In Wikipedia.

Richard Wright (author). (2023, July 19). In Wikipedia.

W. E. B. Du Bois. (2023, July 28). In Wikipedia.

Ralph Ellison. (2023, July 26). In Wikipedia.

James Baldwin. (2023, July 21). In Wikipedia.

Toni Morrison. (2023, July 27). In Wikipedia.

Zora Neale Hurston. (2023, July 26). In Wikipedia.

Alice Walker. (2023, July 17). In Wikipedia.

Octavia E. Butler. (2023, July 28). In Wikipedia.

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