BLACK HISTORY MONTH SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW – BALOGUN OJETADE

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what does it mean to you to be a black writer in this society?
I realized I wanted to be a writer when I was five and vowed to write stories like Wild, Wild West, but with a Black protagonist.  To be a Black writer in this society is the same as being a Black man in this society—there are obstacles to overcome; there is white supremacy, covert and overt racism, and white privilege, but I continue to move forward and I write for a Black audience, although others are welcome to read my novels and watch my films.
Do you write full time, or do you have another full-time job? What is your educational background?
I write full-time.  I also own and direct a martial arts school, teach survival and preparedness classes and camps, and provide divination, counseling and other spiritual services. I attended Howard University as a Finance Major then transferred to Columbia College where I majored in film, with a concentration in screenwriting.
How do you best meet the challenge of juggling your day job (if applicable) and/or your family, against your writing career?
Since I work for myself, I set my own schedule.  I get up early and write, then drop my two youngest children at school.  Then I come home and write some more until my wife awakens and we spend time together until she leaves for her business.  I then write until I go to my martial arts school or have to meet with a client.  When the children come home, I spend some time with them and then spend time with my wife when she gets home.  Then I go to bed.  Lather, Rinse, Repeat.
What genre(s) do you write in, is there a favorite and which do you feel have had the most important impact on the black community? Traditionally, in mainstream media, blacks have been vastly marginalized in Speculative Fiction and fiction in general, how do you see that changing and what impact will your work have on making those changes?
I write science fiction, fantasy, horror, romance, comedy and action-adventure. My favorite genre to write is horror and most of my speculative fiction includes some elements of horror. I think my work in Steamfunk has had the most important impact on the Black community.  I see us creating more speculative work in film and television. That is going to be the key to getting more and more Black Speculative fiction to the masses. Starting late last year, I returned fully to my screenwriting and filmmaking roots, so I am confident my work will be seen on the big and small screens and will inspire more to create Black Speculative Fiction.
Who are some of the major writing influences who most inspired you?
Charles Saunders, Henry Dumas and Donald Goines.
Do you listen to music when you’re creating? If so, what type?
No, I do not. I listen to ASMR audios while I write—tapping and brushing sounds relax me and help me to create.
How long does it usually take you to complete work on a book?
A novel takes me about 60 days to write the first draft.
What does your writing schedule look like and how many hours a day do you write?
I write off and on from 6am until 6pm on days I don’t see clients/students for spiritual work. I write a total of eight or nine hours a day.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Listening to ASMR. I also say my dialogue out loud if no one is home.
How many books have you written?
34. Fiction and non-fiction.
As a black author, do you feel a personal responsibility to the black community to create content which not only entertains, but also uplifts and educates?
No. I just write what I enjoy. However, since I work to uplift and educate my people in everything else I do, it translates into, and is intrinsic to, my writing.
Is there any particular book that you’ve written that you’re most passionate about?
Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman and the as yet unreleased Granma’s Hand.
What type of research do you conduct and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I conduct several months of research before I write most of my books and I conduct small research throughout the writing.
What are some of the best resources you’ve found for research?
Thesauruses, Questia and Bio-Med Central. I also speak to my teachers in Ifa back in Nigeria, to my wife, a priest of Ifa and owner of a botanica who travels to Africa every six months, to students and friends that are mathematicians, scientists, computer programmers, professional basketball players and other spheres of knowledge, so my writing is as authentic as possible.
What have you found to be the best marketing practices for your books to the black community?
Combining a topic of interest with a panel discussion and the sale of books. My programs, From the Black Panthers to the Black Panther and Reading for Warriors have been huge successes.
How important is it that black creators work together to encourage, empower and educate the black community through their work?
It is very important. Collaboration brings about creativity and work that is fun, original and creative.
What does literary success look like to you?
Being able to live comfortably just from selling books.
What legacy do you want your work to represent and resonate in the black community and the world?
I want my books, films and television work to show that African/Diasporan spirituality, martial arts, romance, heroes and villains are cool, meaningful, and make for great stories and storytelling.
What are some of the upcoming projects you’re working on?
I am working on several screenplays and a teleplay. I have completed a few screenplays that will be shopped later this year and an award-winning screenplay I co-wrote with Milton Davis that is getting a lot of attention and making buzz in the film industry.
How can the readers learn more about your work and follow your career?
You can follow my career on chroniclesofharriet.com, on Facebook (facebook.com/Afrikan.Martial.Arts) and Instagram (@balogun_ojetade).

As  a former combat veteran (MOS: 18F), Master and Technical Director of the Afrikan Martial Arts Institute and Co-Chair of the Urban Survival and Preparedness Institute, Balogun Ojetade is the author of the bestselling non-fiction books Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within, The Afrikan Warriors Bible, Surviving the Urban Apocalypse, The Urban Self Defense Manual, The Young Afrikan Warriors’ Guide to Defeating Bullies & Trolls, Never Unarmed: The Afrikan Warriors’ Guide to Improvised Weapons, Ofo Ase: 365 Daily Affirmations to Awaken the Afrikan Warrior Within, Ori: The Afrikan Warriors’ Mindset, Ogun Ye! Protecting the Afrikan Family and Community, Kori O: Protecting Afrikan Children from Violence & Sexual Abuse, and SKG: The Black Man & Woman’s Guide to Sticks, Knives and Guns.

He is one of the leading authorities on Afrofuturism and Afroretroism—film, fashion or fiction that combines African and/or African American culture with a blend of “retro” styles and futuristic technology, in order to explore the themes of tension between past and future and between the alienating and empowering effects of technology and on Creative Resistance. He writes about Afrofuturism/Afroretroism—Sword & Soul, Rococoa, Steamfunk and Dieselfunk at http://chroniclesofharriet.com/.

He is author of twenty-five novels and gamebooks – MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman: Freedonia; Redeemer; Once Upon A Time In Afrika; Fist of Africa; A Single Link; Wrath of the Siafu; The Scythe; The Keys; Redeemer: The Cross Chronicles; Beneath the Shining Jewel; Q-T-Pies: The Savannah Swan Files (Book 0) and A Haunting in the SWATS: The Savannah Swan Files (Book 1); Siafu Saves the World; Siafu vs. The Horde; Dembo’s Ditty; The Beatdown; Initiate 16; Gunsmoke Blues; Malik: Confessions of a Black Identity Extremist; Malik: Confessions of a Black Identity Extremist 2: Enemy of the State; Granma’s Hand; Kill City and Steamfunkateers: The Steamfunk Role Playing Game and the Steamfunkateers adventure, The Haunting of the House of Crum—contributing co-editor of three anthologies: Ki: Khanga: The Anthology, Steamfunk and Dieselfunk and contributing editor of the Rococoa anthology and Black Power: The Superhero Anthology.

He is also the creator and author of the Afrofuturistic manga series, Jagunjagun Lewa (Pretty Warrior) and author/co-creator of the Ice Cold Carter photo-graphic novel series.

Finally, he is co-author of the award winning screenplay, Ngolo and co-creator of Ki Khanga: The Sword and Soul Role-Playing Game, both with author Milton Davis.

Reach him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Afrikan.Martial.Arts and on Instagram at @balogun_ojetade and @afrikanmartialarts. Find his books on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Balogun-Ojetade/e/B00AVEA7SU.

BLACK HISTORY MONTH SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW – NISI SHAWL

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what does it mean to you to be a black writer in this society?
I first realized I *could* be a writer in the 1970s, after reading a bunch of feminist SF.  I realized if Suzy McKee Charnas got away with saying what she said, I had a chance to do something similar.  What it means to me to be a black writer in this society is to have built-in “cognitive estrangement,” the quality that critic Darko Suvin thinks is essential to the imaginative genres.
Do you write full time, or do you have another full-time job? What is your educational background?
I’m a college drop-out.  I write and teach writing full time.  I work in a bookstore one day a week.
How do you best meet the challenge of juggling your day job (if applicable) and/or your family, against your writing career?
I have no day job to speak of.  I’m divorced, no children.  My family know not to talk to me–or even talk around me–when I’m writing.
What genre(s) do you write in, is there a favorite and which do you feel have had the most important impact on the black community? Traditionally, in mainstream media, blacks have been vastly marginalized in Speculative Fiction and fiction in general, how do you see that changing and what impact will your work have on making those changes?
I write science fiction, fantasy, horror, and creative nonfiction.  Which is the most influential?  I have two words for you: Black Panther.  In speculative fiction there has been a growing acceptance of the presence of African-descended writers and African-derived content since the 2009 online controversy known as “Racefail.”   Con or Bust, the Carl Brandon Society, and many other factors have supporteded this growth.
Who are some of the major writing influences who most inspired you?
Samuel R. Delany, Gwyneth Jones, Colette, and Raymond Chandler.
Do you listen to music when you’re creating? If so, what type?
I listen to instrumental music for the most part, and the sort of instrumental music depends on the sort of story I’m writing: harp music, ragtime, hard bop, electronica, so on, so forth.
How long does it usually take you to complete work on a book?
Years.  Everfair took six.  I write at a fairly slow pace.
How many books have you written?
Eight.  Now ask me how many I’ve published (five).
As a black author, do you feel a personal responsibility to the black community to create content which not only entertains, but also uplifts and educates?
Nope.  I feel a personal responsibility to my ancestors to create beauty.
Is there any particular book that you’ve written that you’re most passionate about?
I’m most passionate about The Blazing World, which my agent described as “weird.”  It’s unpublished and unsold.  It’s the first novel I ever wrote.
What legacy do you want your work to represent and resonate in the black community and the world?
I want my work to challenge and satisfy readers, to have the undeniable emotional impact of a piece of music.  I want it to set a standard that others enjoy meeting in their own work.
What are some of the upcoming projects you’re working on?
I’m revising a Middle Grade historical fantasy about two young African American girls having adventures in 1962; it’s called Speculation, and it involves a pair of magic glasses.  I’m also drafting a sequel to Everfair, my Nebula-nominated alternate history of a socialist Utopia in the 19th century Congo.
How can the readers learn more about your work and follow your career?
Google me.

Nisi Shawl is an African American writer, editor, and journalist. They are best known for co-authoring Writing the Other: A Practical Approach, which is the go-to guide to representing difference in fiction.  Their debut novel, Everfair, ws a Nebula finalist; their debut story collection, Filter House, is co-winner of the 2009 James Tiptree, Jr. Award.  Most recently Shawl edited New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color.  Among other books, they co-edited Stories for Chip, a tribute to Samuel R. Delany; and Strange Matings: Science Fiction, Feminism, African American Voices, and Octavia E. Butler.  They edit reviews for literary quarterly The Cascadia Subduction Zone, and have contributed to Ms. Magazine, The Washington Post, Tor.com, and other venues.  Shawl has appeared as a guest lecturer at several educational institutions, including Duke University and Spelman College.  They live in Seattle, near a large lake full of enticingly dangerous currents. 

BLACK HISTORY MONTH SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW – JD MASON

How do you best meet the challenge of juggling your day job (if applicable) and/or your family, against your writing career?
Commitment is everything. I don’t making writing an afterthought. It’s as important as showing up in any other aspect of my life and making the time to do it is probably a bit more important, because it’s easy to make excuses NOT to write. I set personal goals for myself. There are no magic formulas or answers. I make up my mind that I’m going to write a chapter a night, or five chapters a week, or 1,000 words a day or whatever, and I stick to that. If something gets in the way of me meeting that goal, well, that means I have to make it up and instead of writing 1,000 words that next day, I have to write 1,500 or 2,000. The excuse of not having time, really is just an excuse. We make time for what’s important to us.
What genre(s) do you write in, is there a favorite and which do you feel have had the most important impact on the black community? Traditionally, in mainstream media, blacks have been vastly marginalized in Speculative Fiction and fiction in general, how do you see that changing and what impact will your work have on making those changes?
I started out writing mainstream women’s fiction (relationship drama). Overtime, that changed and I started introducing more speculative aspects to my work. I don’t think my readers noticed, but if they did, they didn’t complain. I’m not writing in several genres; women’s fiction, mystery/suspense, romantic and dark fantasy. I do see a change in that more black writers are offering more stories in speculative fiction. And I think that one of the main reasons we’ve been marginalized in the industry is because the publishing industry has had no idea how to capitalize on it financially. They don’t believe that black folks read speculative fiction and consequently, have not spent a lot of time focusing on it. Not an excuse, but my opinion. The publishing industry isn’t big on taking risks. They tend to go with what they know works, and across the board, not just with speculative fiction, they’ve never really known how to market/publish black writers and/or relate to black readers. I like to think that, as a writer, I’m offering readers a chance to step outside of their comfort zones to try new things. Most of my audience does not read speculative fiction, but some have given my books a chance and the responses have been surprisingly nice.
Who are some of the major writing influences who most inspired you?
Walter Mosely is my literary hero because Walter rights what he wants to write. He’s never been one to stick with what works and dares to venture out into any all genres. I believe that’s the core of what a creative writer should be. Fearless, daring and willing to take risks.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
As with most writers, I think I’ve got to “feel” what I’m writing. I’ve been doing this for over 20 years and so, I think I’ve developed a good instinct on what “feels” right. My stories have to inspire whatever mood I’m trying to create in me, and if they do, then I’m confident they’ll inspire that same feeling in others. If I don’t feel it, then I have to let it go and try something else.
How many books have you written?
Over 25. I started with McMillan/St. Martin’s back in 2002 and have been writing ever since.
As a black author, do you feel a personal responsibility to the black community to create content which not only entertains, but also uplifts and educates?
I’ve always considered myself an entertainer first. Mainly because I see value in it. People read fiction to escape their reality and I’ve always believed that it’s important to provide that to my readers. I’ve always seen my writing as a way to celebrate experiences from the black perspective; love, hate, joy, pain, magic—and if someone happens to learn something from what I’ve written, all the better.
Is there any particular book that you’ve written that you’re most passionate about?
I wrote a series of books some years back called my Inherit the Crown series. The series actually tanked, but that had more to do with me than the story. Poor execution on my part and the publisher took a chance on it and lost big time, so they lost interest. I recently received the rights back to the stories and am about to re-release the series again. This is a huge risk for me because it could very well tank again. It was a terrible blow to me as a writer to have to suffer through that failure before, and I feel kind of crazy for putting myself on the line again, but I truly believe that the story is good and that it deserves one last chance to show me that. I may not sell a lot of copies or win over huge audiences, and I may be the only person in the world who loves this series, but honestly, that’s all that matters. If readers truly think it sucks, then I’m about to find out.
What does literary success look like to you?
It used to look like making the New York Times/USA Today bestseller lists, selling 50K copies of a book and making crazy money. When it looked like that, though, I was miserable. I found myself comparing my success to others and I was never good enough. Now, it looks like loving what I do. Writing what I love. Having some stranger reach out to me and say, “Hey, I loved that book”. It looks like being unafraid to fail and to try new things.
What legacy do you want your work to represent and resonate in the black community and the world?
I want people to look back at my body of work and say, “Wow! How the hell did we miss that?”. I want them to see that I believed that black people could live every type of life imaginable from billionaires to dragons to saviors and do it better than anyone could imagine.
What are some of the upcoming projects you’re working on?
I’m re-releasing my first dark fantasy series that I mentioned earlier; Of Gods & Shadows, Of Dark Creatures, and Of Doom & Light. I’m finishing up the fourth of my novellas in my black dragon series; Talos: The Forged in Fire Series, Book 2 (Eshe: The Fire Breathing Series, Book 1, Demir: The Forged in Fire Series, Book 1, and Oriana, The Fire Breathing Series, Book 2 are all available now). I have a total of 9 books planned for this series and I’ve fallen behind schedule. I’m working on revisions for a new novel “The Pearl of Dumpling” that I’m super excited about and hope to release later this year.
How can the readers learn more about your work and follow your career?
Website: https://www.jdmasonauthor.com Website:https://www.sistersanddragons.com/

BLACK HISTORY MONTH SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW: DERRICK FERGUSON

Q: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what does it mean to you to be a black writer in this society?

A: I honestly can’t remember when I didn’t want to be a writer. Way back in the 6th grade I wrote Edgar Rice Burroughs inspired stories using my classmates as the main characters. I wrote a “chapter” on both sides of a sheet of loose-leaf paper which then got passed around the classroom. Once it was done and I’d gotten feedback on it, I’d write up the next “chapter.” I’ve worked many jobs but I’ve always identified as a writer and I just knew in my spirit that’s what I put on this Earth to do.

What it means to me to me to be a black writer in this society? Mostly that I get to tell stories with black characters having experiences and adventures you don’t usually get to read about. My father was a big James Bond fan and I remember asked him why there wasn’t a black James Bond and he said; “I guess you’ll have to come up with one and write about him.” So that’s been my M.O. when it comes to writing. There are certain archetype characters that I always wondered why we didn’t have black characters representing those archetypes. Apparently, I’m not the only black writer who felt that way. This is an extraordinarily exciting time for Black Speculative Fiction, Sword & Soul and all the related fields as now we have a plethora of black heroes and heroines in all genres being written by remarkably talented black writers.

Q: Do you write full time, or do you have another full-time job? What is your educational background?

A: I retired some time ago. I’ve experienced two pulmonary embolisms. One in the 1980s, the other in the late 90s. After the second one my doctor recommended that I take it easy and Praise God I had not only the financial security to retire early but an understanding spouse who agreed with the doctor and said I should stay home and write my heart out if that’s what I wanted to do. When people ask me what’s the most important thing that a writer should have and I always say; “An understanding spouse.” My wife has a significant role in whatever success I have as it’s she who provides the environment I need to be creative.

My educational background is undistinguished. I graduated from what used to be known as The New York School of Printing but is now The School of Graphic Communications Arts. I went to that school for the journalism/writing classes but got some good training in learning how to run various printing presses which meant that right after I graduated, I stepped right into a job operating a Heidelberg press. I have taken some college courses but never regularly attended college. While I have a tremendous amount of respect for learning and for teachers, I don’t have pleasant memories of my time being a student in the NY Board of Education. The ironic thing is that I ended up working for them for eighteen years.

Q: How do you best meet the challenge of juggling your day job (if applicable) and/or your family, against your writing career?

A: Well, I don’t have a 9 to 5 so I don’t have to worry about that. As for family, it’s just my wife and me so I have extraordinarily huge chunks of time to myself in which to read, write and watch more movies than is probably good for me.

Q: What genre(s) do you write in, is there a favorite and which do you feel have had the most important impact on the black community? Traditionally, in mainstream media, blacks have been vastly marginalized in Speculative Fiction and fiction in general, how do you see that changing and what impact will your work have on making those changes?

A: So far, I’ve written in the Western, Horror, Weird Western, Classic Pulp and New Pulp genres. Strangely enough, given my lifelong love of Science Fiction I’ve yet to write a straight-up Science Fiction story or novel. Oh, I’ve had what might be charitably be called science fiction elements in some of my Dillon novels. But there’s also espionage, action/adventure, cliffhanger pulp adventure…it’s a whole hodgepodge of stuff thrown in there. 

I see a whole lot changing for People of Color in Speculative Fiction as far as TV and Mainstream Movies and Comic Books/Graphic Novels are concerned. But that’s because the technology is there so that creatives can bypass the gatekeepers who for decades have filtered their work, diluted it or just kept it out of view. Once upon a time you used to have to mortgage your house if you wanted to produce your own comic book or self-publish or make a movie.

Now? Filmmakers are shooting entire movies on their smart phone, editing on their laptops and uploading them to YouTube. You can write a book and publish it yourself thanks to Lulu or KDP. You no longer need an agent or a publishing house. The opportunity is out there. The realm of Speculative Fiction belongs to POC now and it’s wonderful because we’re now telling stories that affirm that we shall go forward to the future. That in itself is a powerful message.

What impact will my work have? I truly have no idea. That’s a question best answered by those who are still reading my stuff fifty years from now when I’ve taken my leave and either lying on a cloud playing a harp or shoveling coal in an infernal furnace.

Q: Who are some of the major writing influences who most inspired you?

A: There are a whole LOT of writers who have influenced me but I’ll give you the dirty dozen. These are the guys who I read and studied fanatically: Lester Dent. Edgar Rice Burroughs. Charles Saunders. Michael Moorcock. Ishmael Reed. George C. Chesbro. Robert R. McCammon. Stephen Barnes. Chester Himes. Stan Lee. Mike Resnick. Larry McMurtry.

Q: Do you listen to music when you’re creating? If so, what type?

A: That all depends on what kind of mood I’m in. Sometimes I don’t want to do anything but listen to the characters talking, the explosions going off and the screamed of the damned. My imagination has a pretty good sound system. But if I’m writing a Weird Western, I’ll usually have on Ennio Morricone and Gangstagrass. In fact, if I’m writing any Western, I’ll usually have Morricone playing. If I’m writing a Dillon adventure there’s Motown and 70’s/80’s music going on.

Q: How long does it usually take you to complete work on a book?

A: That depends on the book. I knocked out “Search For The Beast” in two months flat. First draft to final. “The Madness of Frankenstein” took me something like eight years. A typical Dillon adventure can take me anywhere from three to nine months to write.

I’m not one of those writers who has a set schedule to finish every book within a certain time period. Each book has its own life. Some take longer to write than others, that’s all. The only real rule I have is that I only do three drafts and no more. Unless I’m asked by an editor to do another draft. “The Thousand-Eyed Fear” was five drafts but that was because I was working with somebody’s else’s concepts and characters and I had to make the changes he asked for.

Q: What does your writing schedule look like and how many hours a day do you write?

A: I don’t have a firm hard schedule that I keep to. Which is probably why I haven’t written as many books as I should have. I do get some writing in during the day but that’s mostly rewriting and editing what I did the day before. I like writing at night the best. I’ve written as little as two hours in a day and as many as eight. If the story is flowing and the words are coming fast and furious, I don’t like to stop and luckily, I’m able to do that.

Q: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

A: I would seem to have gotten the reputation of writing action well. Readers have also said to me that they enjoy my writing so much because when they’re reading it, the prose plays out as a movie in their head. Which means I’ve done my job because that’s how my novels and stories play out in my own head. I just look and listen to what’s playing on my Mental Movie Screen and put that down on paper.

Q: How many books have you written?

A: I’ve written 8 novels, 4 collections and have stories in 19 anthologies.

Q: As a black author, do you feel a personal responsibility to the black community to create content which not only entertains, but also uplifts and educates?

A: If I had a dollar for every time somebody said to me; “You should be writing something educational for our youth” I’d never have to write another word as long as I live.

I’m a big believer in that you have to write or sing or draw or act or whatever what you are hardwired to do. I am not hardwired to uplift or educate and there are tons of black writers out there who are qualified to do that much better than I could ever aspire to do. What I am hardwired to do and what I can do extremely well is tell entertaining stories that hopeful make you forget the burdens of your day for a few hours and I’m more than happy to be able to do that. I take pride in my ability to entertain and entertain well.

Q: Is there any particular book that you’ve written that you’re most passionate about?

A: Probably “Brooklyn Beatdown” because if you had told me prior to writing that book that I would write a hardboiled pulp boxing story set in 1950s Brooklyn I’d have laughed myself into a hernia. But I surprised myself by doing so. Mainly because I drew upon much of my memories of growing up in Brooklyn during the 1970s. Believe it or not, there was still a lot of the 1950s in the way black people talked, acted and thought during the 1970s and I tapped into that. It’s not one of my best-known books but I am proud of the fact that everybody who has read it loves it and there are several professional writers (including Mike Baron who co-created and wrote the comic book “Nexus” and created/wrote “The Badger”) who are big fans of the book.

I’m also quite passionate about “Dillon and The Legend of The Golden Bell.” Even though “Dillon and The Voice of Odin” is the first book in the series, I almost rather that people read “Legend of The Golden Bell” first.

Q: What type of research do you conduct and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

A: Again, it all depends on what type of book I’m doing. I’m hideously bad at doing research and I’ll make up a fact before looking one up. But when it comes to stuff like weapons and military tactics I have to buckle down and do my proper research because I’ll get a ton of email on that. Readers who are into guns and automatic weapons apparently read action adventure novels just to see if you get the specifications correct and nothing else. And Western fans are like that as well. When I write stories about Bass Reeves that are set in an actual historical period, I do have to stop being lazy and get it right because Western fans will be sure and let you know when you’ve got something wrong, be it a date or the wrong type of saddle or spurs. They know their stuff.

When I’m in the middle of writing the first draft of a novel or story if I hit a point where I need to do research I’ll just make a note of what I have to look up in [     ] and do it later in second draft. But I allow nothing to stop the momentum of that first draft as there’s nothing more important than getting the story down. I can fix everything else later.

Q: What are some of the best resources you’ve found for research?

A: My friends on The Internet, believe it or not. There’s a valuable resource of experts in Facebook Groups that I take advantage of. If I need an answer to a question, I throw it out in one of my Facebook Groups and get back more answers than I know what to do with. And if they can’t help me then usually a half hour on Google will provide me with whatever I need.

Q: What have you found to be the best marketing practices for your books to the black community?

A: As soon as I find out, I’ll let you know.

Q: What does literary success look like to you?

A: Pretty much what I’m doing now. I write whatever I want when I want with no pressure at all. If I had to rely on my writing for my livelihood, I seriously doubt I’d be as laid back about my career as I am now. But thankfully since I don’t have to worry about that I can write the books and stories that I want to write and have fun doing so. I spent many years busting my ass at jobs I didn’t particularly like or enjoy and I’ll be damned if I’ll waste my time writing about characters and subjects that don’t interest me or don’t engage me intellectually and emotionally.

Q: What legacy do you want your work to represent and resonate in the black community and the world?

A: Again, that’s something that’s best left up to the future. if my books are still being read fifty years from now, ask those reading them what my legacy will me. I like to joke with Patricia that twenty years after I’m dead I’ll be “discovered” which is what seems to happen to a depressingly large number of black writers. I’m okay with providing entertainment now and not worried about “legacy” and all that goes with it. It’s not that I don’t care about a legacy but I’m very much a Here & Now kind of person and would rather concern myself with the impact my work is making on people today.

Q: What are some of the upcoming projects you’re working on?

A: I just finished another Bass Reeves story for the 4th Volume of Airship 27’s Bass Reeves-Frontier Marshal anthology series. So far I’ve had stories in three of the four volumes which I’m extremely proud of. I’m currently working on a collection of my Sebastian Red stories. They’re Weird Westerns featuring a supernatural gunslinger roaming an alternate Wild West I like to describe as a mash-up of Sergio Leone and Michael Moorcock.

Q: How can the readers learn more about your work and follow your career?

A: Ferguson Ink: https://fergusonink.com/ is more or less the hub of my online activities so I would advise anybody interested in me and my work to start there.

The Ferguson Theater: https://derricklferguson.com/ is where I indulge my love of movies. At last count I’ve got something like 400 movie reviews there. If you’re a movie fan then I strongly advise you to check it out.

Dillon: https://my-dillon.com/ is devoted to my best known and most successful character. Before you dive into reading any of the Dillon novels you might want to poke around here first.

Usimi Dero: https://www.facebook.com/groups/usimidero/ is my Facebook hangout group I administrate. It’s just a spot where I hang out with a bunch of wildly talented and creative people where we talk about movies, pop culture, writing, comic books, television, New Pulp, Classic Pulp, Science Fiction, mass entertainment, things of that nature.

BLACK HISTORY MONTH SPOTLIGHT: JOYCE LICORISH

Joyce Licorish is a singer, actress, best-selling author and filmmaker is born and raised in Indianapolis. She is the CEO of DreamEmpire Productions, LLC-S and the President and founder of the One Race Human Race Foundation 501(c)3 whose focus is on cultural diversity and inclusion in the arts.

DreamEmpire Films, LLC-S
www.DreamEmpireFilms.com
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt8157618/?ref_=nv_sr_1
Film Pitch, The Forgotten Timepiece: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/randgeslnpjhrel/AAA8_z-TA-Z0NNgMxq4powNba/Video/the%20forrgotten%20.mov?dl=0

SPOTLIGHT ON AFRICAN AMERICAN AUTHOR DONALD GOINES

DONALD GOINESAfrican American author, Donald Goines was born in Detroit, Michigan on December 15, 1936. He came from a middle-class background, where his parents ran a laundry business. According to stories told to him by his mother—Myrtle Goines—the family was descended from a sexual encounter between Jefferson Davis and a slave. At age 15, Goines lied about his age in order to join the Air Force, where he fought in the Korean War. During his service, Goines developed a heroin addiction which he continued after his being honorably discharged from the military during the mid-1950’s. In order to support his addiction Goines committed multiple crimes, including pimping and theft, and was sent to prison several times. While serving time in Michigan’s Jackson Penitentiary, he began writing. He initially attempted to write westerns, but decided to write urban fiction after reading Iceberg Slim’s autobiography “Pimp: The Story of My Life”.

Goines continued to write novels at a fast-tracked pace to support his drug addictions, with some books taking only a month to complete. His sister Joan Goines Coney later stated that Goines wrote at such an accelerated pace in order to avoid committing more crimes and based many of the characters in his books on people he knew in real life.
In 1974 Goines published Crime Partners, the first book in the Kenyatta series under the pseudonym, “Al C. Clark”. Holloway House’s chief executive Bentley Morriss requested that Goines publish the book under a pseudonym in order to avoid having the sales of Goines’ work suffer due to too many books releasing at once. The book dealt with an anti-hero character named after Jomo Kenyatta that ran a Black Panther-esque organization to clear the ghetto of crime. In his book The Low Road, Eddie B. Allen remarked that the series was a departure from some of Goines’ other works, with the character of Kenyatta symbolizing a sense of liberation for Goines.

“Inner City Hoodlum”, which Goines had finished before his death, was published posthumously in 1975. The story, set in Los Angeles, was about “smack”, money and murder.
On October 21, 1974 Goines and his common-law wife were discovered dead in their Detroit apartment. The police had received an anonymous phone call earlier that evening and responded, discovering Goines in the living room of the apartment and his common-law wife Shirley Sailor’s body in the kitchen. Both Goines and Sailor had sustained multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and head. The identity of the killer or killers is unknown, as is the reason behind the murders. Popular theories involve Goines being murdered due to his basing several of his characters on real life criminals as well as the theory that Goines was killed due to his being in debt over drugs.
Goines was later buried with his mother placing several of his books in his coffin.

DOPEFIEND
PERSONAL NOTE:

The highest selling genre among African Americans is Urban Fiction or Urban Lit. As a fan of Goines’ work, he was the first author in this genre I read. His work(s) have helped to shape and influence many of today’s Urban Fiction authors. It is my shared opinion that Donald Goines’ is the quintessential “Father” of Urban Fiction/Urban Lit.

 

BIBLIIOGRAPHY

Kenyatta series
• Crime Partners (1974) [as Al C. Clark]
• Death List (1974) [as Al C. Clark]
• Kenyatta’s Escape (1974) [as Al C. Clark]
• Kenyatta’s Last Hit (1975) [as Al C. Clark]

STANDALONE NOVELS

Dopefiend (1971)
Whoreson (1972)
Black Gangster (1972)
Street Players (1973)
White Man’s Justice, Black Man’s Grief (1973)
Black Girl Lost (1974)
Eldorado Red (1974)
Swamp Man (1974)
Never Die Alone (1974)
Cry Revenge (1974) [as Al C. Clark]
Daddy Cool (1974)
Inner City Hoodlum (1975)

MUSICAL INFLUENCES
Goines’ writing has had an impact upon several people, with several rappers inserting mentions of Goines and his writing into their lyrics. In his 1996 song “Tradin’ War Stories”, rapper 2Pac writes “Machiavelli was my tutor, Donald Goines my father figure”. Ludacris mentions Goines in his 2006 song “Eyebrows Down”. AZ compares himself to Donald Goines’ work in “Rather Unique,” with the line, “Your mind’s boggled but I’m as deep as Donald Goines’ novels.” Nas also named the song “Black Girl Lost” on his sophomore album It Was Written after the book by Goines. Goines’ books are also utilized in several prison literacy programs and his novel “Dopefiend” has been taught in a Rutgers University class.

FILMS
Some of Goines’ works have been adapted into film. His book “Crime Partners” was turned into a 2001 film starring Ice-T, Snoop Dogg, and Ja Rule, and in 2004 his book “Never Die Alone” was also released as a film starring DMX.

GRAPHIC NOVEL
In 2006, a graphic novel adaptation of the book “Daddy Cool” was released by Holloway House.

SPOTLIGHT ON AFRICAN AMERICAN AUTHOR CHESTER HIMES

CHESTER HIMESChester Bomar Himes was an African American writer born in Jefferson City, MS, on July 29, 1909. His parents were to Joseph Sandy Himes Sr. and Estelle Bomar Himes; his father was a peripatetic black college professor of industrial trades and his mother was a teacher at Scotia Seminary prior to marriage.

At age twelve, Himes’ father began teaching at Branch Normal College (now the University of Arkansas). He and his brother Joseph Jr., were made to sit out a gunpowder demonstration by their mother as punishment for bad behavior. The boys decided to conduct the experiment without adult supervision, which resulted in an explosion that blinded Joseph Jr. The aftermath of this tragedy had a profound effect on how Himes viewed race relations later in life. When Joseph Jr. was rushed to the nearest hospital, he was denied treatment due to his race.

“That one moment in my life hurt me as much as all the others put together,” Himes wrote in The Quality of Hurt:
“I loved my brother. I had never been separated from him and that moment was shocking, shattering, and terrifying….We pulled into the emergency entrance of a white people’s hospital. White clad doctors and attendants appeared. I remember sitting in the back seat with Joe watching the pantomime being enacted in the car’s bright lights. A white man was refusing; my father was pleading. Dejectedly my father turned away; he was crying like a baby. My mother was fumbling in her handbag for a handkerchief; I hoped it was for a pistol.”

A short time later, the family settled in Cleveland, Ohio. His parents’ marriage was an unhappy one which eventually ended in divorce.
Himes attended East High School while in Cleveland. Later, during his time as a freshman at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, he was expelled for playing a prank. He was arrested in 1928 for armed robbery and sent to Ohio Penitentiary. He was sentenced to hard labor for 20 to 25 years.
While in prison, Himes wrote a number of short stories, which were eventually published in national magazines. Later, he would state that his prison writings and publications were a means of earning respect from guards and fellow inmates. It also helped him to avoid personal violence.

Himes’ first stories appeared The Bronzeman magazine starting in 1931. His work later appeared in Esquire magazine in 1934. Of particular note was a story titled, “To What Red Hell”. His debut novel “Cast the First Stone”, dealt with the catastrophic 1930 prison fire Himes witnessed while serving time at Ohio Penitentiary. It was published almost ten years after it was written, most likely due to Himes’ unusually candid treatment—for that time period—of a homosexual relationship. Originally written in the third person, it was rewritten in the first person in a more “hard-boiled” style (which Himes would eventually become famous for) and posthumously republished unabridged in 1998 as “Yesterday Will Make You Cry”.

Himes was transferred to London Prison Farm that same year and in April 1936, was released on parole into his mother’s custody. He continued to write following his prison release, while working part-time jobs. It was during this period that he came into contact with author, Langston Hughes. Hughes facilitated Himes’s contacts with the world of literature and publishing.

In 1936 Himes married Jean Johnson (who he later divorced), Four years later, he moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as a screenwriter and also produced two novels, “If He Hollers Let Him Go” which contains many autobiographical elements — is about a black shipyard worker in Los Angeles during World War II struggling against racism, as well as his own violent reactions to racism. His next novel, “The Lonely Crusade” that charted the experiences of the wave of blacks who were part of the Great Migration. Himes’s novels encompassed many genres including the crime novel/mystery and political polemics, exploring racism in the United States. His work centered on African Americans in general, especially in two books that are concerned with labor relations and African-American workplace issues. He also provided an analysis of the Zoot Suit Riots for The Crisis, the magazine of the NAACP.

Hines screenwriting career came to an abrupt halt Jack Warner of Warner Brothers heard about him and said, “I don’t want no niggers on this lot.”
Himes later wrote in his autobiography:
“Up to the age of thirty-one I had been hurt emotionally, spiritually and physically as much as thirty-one years can bear. I had lived in the South, I had fallen down an elevator shaft, I had been kicked out of college, I had served seven and one half years in prison, I had survived the humiliating last five years of Depression in Cleveland; and still I was entire, complete, functional; my mind was sharp, my reflexes were good, and I was not bitter. But under the mental corrosion of race prejudice in Los Angeles I became bitter and saturated with hate.”

By the 1950s Himes had decided to leave the United States and settled permanently in France. Himes like the country in part due to his popularity in literary circles. While in Paris, Himes’ was the contemporary of the political cartoonist Oliver Harrington and fellow expatriate writers Richard Wright, James Baldwin, and William Gardner Smith.

Himes was most famous for a series of Harlem Detective novels featuring Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones, New York City police detectives in Harlem. The novels feature a mordant emotional timbre and a fatalistic approach to street situations. Funeral homes are often part of the story, and funeral director, H. Exodus Clay is a recurring character in these books.
The titles of the series include “A Rage in Harlem, The Real Cool Killers, The Crazy Kill, All Shot Up, The Big Gold Dream, The Heat’s On, Cotton Comes to Harlem, and Blind Man With A Pistol”; all written between 1957-1969.

COTTON COMES TO HARLEM“Cotton Comes to Harlem”, was made into a movie in 1970, which was set in that time period, rather than the earlier period of the original book. A sequel, “Come Back, Charleston Blue”, was released in 1972, and “For Love of Imabelle” was made into a film under the title “A Rage in Harlem”, in 1991.

It was in Paris in the late 1950s that Chester met his second wife Lesley Himes, née Packard, when she was assigned to interview him. She worked as a journalist for the Herald Tribune, where she wrote her own fashion column, “Monica”. He described Lesley as “Irish-English with blue-gray eyes and very good looking”. In her, he found someone who didn’t judge him for his race and he also admired her courage and resilience.

In 1958 he won France’s Grand Prix de Littérature Policière and a year later, Himes suffered a stroke, which led to Lesley quitting her job so that she could nurse him back to health. She cared for him for the rest of his life, and worked with him as his informal editor and proofreader. After a long engagement, they were married in 1978.

Lesley and Chester faced adversities as a mixed race couple living in that time period however, they were resilient and prevailed. People close to the author recalled his life with Lesley as one filled with unparalleled passion and great humor. Their circle of political colleagues and creative friends included; Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Malcolm X, Carl Van Vechten, Pablo Picasso, Jean Miotte, Ollie Harrington, Nikki Giovanni and Ishmael Reed. Their Bohemian life in Paris eventually led them to the South of France and finally on to Spain, where they remained until Chester’s death in 1984.

Some within the publishing industry regard Chester Himes as the literary equal of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Ishmael Reed has said, “[Himes] taught me the difference between a black detective and Sherlock Holmes” and it would be more than 30 years until another Black mystery writer, Walter Mosley and his Easy Rawlins and Mouse series, had even a similar effect.

In 1996, his widow Lesley Himes went to New York to work with Ed Margolies on the first biographical treatment of Himes’s life, entitled The Several Lives of Chester Himes, by long-time Himes scholars Edward Margolies and Michel Fabre, published in 1997 by University Press of Mississippi. Later, novelist and Himes scholar James Sallis published a more deeply detailed biography of Himes called “Chester Himes: A Life (2000)”.

A detailed examination of Himes’s writing and writings about him can be found in “Chester Himes: An Annotated Primary and Secondary Bibliography” compiled by Michel Fabre, Robert E. Skinner, and Lester Sullivan (Greenwood Press, 1992).

Himes was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

In May 2011, Penguin Modern Classics in London republished five of Himes’ detective novels from the Harlem Cycle.

On a personal note:

Chester Himes, along with Walter Moseley and Robert B. Parker were HUGE influences on my writing in terms of both content and style. I owe these men a great debt and I honestly don’t think that I’d be a writer today, had I not experienced reading their work(s).

 

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

If He Hollers Let Him Go, (1945)
Lonely Crusade, (1947)
Cast the First Stone, (1952)
The Third Generation, (1954)
The End of a Primitive, (1955)
For Love of Imabelle, alternate titles The Five-Cornered Square, A Rage in Harlem, (1957)
The Real Cool Killers, (1959)
The Crazy Kill, (1959)

AUTOBIOGRAPHIES:

The Quality of Hurt (1973)
My Life of Absurdity (1976)

 

 

BLACK HISTORY MONTH BOOK REVIEW #3

warmth_other_suns_211This is the last book review in conjunction with Black History Month and even though Black History Month ended yesterday, I am honored to review Isabel Wilkerson’s “The Warmth of Other Suns.”

In keeping with the common thread throughout my February blog posts, I found it poignant that this book dealt with the Great Migration. Wilkerson explores the 55 year journey of African Americans from 1915 to 1970, as they abandoned the cotton fields of the Jim Crow south in search of greater opportunity to the North. It was this movement which led to the birth of the Harlem Renaissance, the founding of Bronzeville in Chicago aka “The Black Metropolis.”
“The Warmth of Other Suns” is Isabel Wilkerson’s first book. For those familiar with my previous blog posts, The Harlem Renaissance and black writers in general, the book’s title is borrowed from the Richard Wright’s work. Wright himself fled Jim Crow Mississippi in the 1920s seeking greater opportunities which would never have been realized had he stayed in the south.
The book was based on more than a thousand interviews, but written in a captivating novel-like style that made me find it hard to think of as non-fiction while I read it. At 622 pages, it’s not a quick read, but certainly well worth the time I invested in reading it. Given the climate for non-fiction works, Wilkerson’s book is Blue Rose rising from a crack in the concrete. The book earned her the respect and recognition of scholars and an interview with Oprah, which lends to its credibility and merit.
Wilkerson gives us another outlook on exactly what The Great Migration meant and its significance to US History. This often ignored facet of American History takes a backseat to the arrival of European immigrants as they made their way to the US via Ellis Island, but is also vitally important. However, in today’s society, those black migrants who braved the journey north are viewed as a more modern version of those same Europeans who flooded America’s shores in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Wilkerson states in her work that what was a common trait amongst them was their resolve and heroic determination to deal with what life gave them in hopes of a better future. It was then no surprise that according to census data, blacks who left the South were far more educated than those who stayed. This helped to create and strengthen the black Middle Class as black migrants had higher employment rates, than their Northern-born cousins, and more stable families, indicated by lower divorce rates and fewer children born outside of marriage.
Wilkerson says, the well-known “migrant advantage” has worked historically for Americans of all colors.
The book gives the stories of real people who lived through this era and gives the reader a sense of kinship to them. I felt as though I were a part of the history as it unfolded. We follow the journey of three blacks from the south, the story of each unfolding in a different decade of the movement and each detailing a different destination. This storytelling style allowed her to explore the migration during its span of 60 years and the various destinations of blacks after their departure of the south.
Ms. Wilkerson is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist—for her work at The New York Times in 1994—who currently teaches journalism classes at Boston University. With this book she has written a well-researched and authentic account of a neglected piece of our culture. The Great Migration is not only an important component in our history as a nation and especially blacks, but also an important part of Wilkerson’s own backstory as her parents left the South to settle in Washington D.C. which had its own impact on her life.
I highly recommend for any off my followers to read this book as it is an investment in our personal banks of historical knowledge and something worthy of passing along to generations to come.
COMING SOON!!!
Review of David Russell’s “Inanimates”.

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.

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.