(Just a Few) Black Writers to Read and Honor Black History Month

by | Feb 2, 2023 | Art, blog, Content Marketing, writing

At Better Content Matters, we believe that Black history is US history, and we are excited to honor February as Black History Month. It gives us a great opportunity to recognize some beloved Black authors whose work has shifted our narrative and collective consciousness. There are far too many amazing Black writers to confine it to one month, so we at BCM honor and support them all year long!

Black Writers to Read this February (and After)

There may be too many writers to list here, but we think the following list is a good start. Check out some of our favorites, and then let us know who we are missing. 

  • Britt Bennett. Too often for lists regarding writers, we rely on people from the past. But there are so many notable writers crafting beautiful work today. Brett Bennett is one of those people. Her debut novel, The Mothers, is lyrical enough to get lost in, but the plot never leaves the reader behind. Her follow-up novel, The Vanishing Half, should be required reading. With nods to Toni Morrison, Nella Larson, and Kate Chopin, this character-driven novel will stay with you long after you’ve closed the covers. 
  • Walter Mosley. This list (like many similar lists) leans heavily on the literary side of Black writing, but Mosely’s work plays with literature while offering a heart-pounding thriller with endings you won’t see coming. However, don’t let the word “mystery” fool you. His novels explore moral dilemmas in unexpected ways. Start with Devil in a Blue Dress, then just follow the series. His characters are richly drawn, but his stories won’t let you put them down. 
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates. Among many important anti-racist books out there, Coates’ letter to his son, Between the World and Me, is like a poem. Not only is it artfully crafted, but by creating this book as a letter, it lets the reader feel like we are peeking behind the veil of another’s life. As a writer who has balanced pop culture (he wrote for Marvel) and contemporary literature, Coates is able to reach through the pages and find readers where they are. If you enjoy audible books, Between the World and Me is beautifully read by Coates himself. 
  • Zora Neal Hurston. Many people know Hurston from their AP English class; the novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God has been a staple on the AP test for decades. While that is an amazing book, Hurston was not only a great fiction writer. She was an avid traveler who could clearly and beautifully articulate the cultures of other areas. There is nothing I’ve read more romantic or joyous than her description of a Jamaican girl, walking down the aisle to be wed in her nonfiction book, Tell My Horse

“The impatient girl was finally robed for her wedding and she was led out of the room to face the public and her man. But here went no frightened, shaking figure under a veil. No nerve-racked female behaving as if she approached her doom. This young, young thing went forth with the assurance of infinity. And she had such eagerness in her as she went!”

Her book, Every Tongue Got to Confess, is akin to an anthropologist’s work in a world where they grew up. Many artists and writers died not knowing about their eventual success. Of all those people, the one I’d most like to talk to about it would be Hurston. I can hear her laughing over our glasses of too-sweet sweet tea.

  • Jason Reynolds. Reynolds first gained recognition as a writer for middle school-aged kids, then for his young adult work. However, you don’t have to be a young adult to enjoy his novels (at least I hope not). He has won a plethora of awards, partly because his work is immensely relatable. The characters he creates are both familiar and new to us. Readers of any age are able to feel and empathize with his characters. 
  • Michael Thomas. Author of Man Gone Down, winner of the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award Michael Thomas both beautifully and tragically recounts his story of the American Dream gone wrong. He provides a snapshot of what it’s like to feel slated to fail in life and the desire to escape that harsh sentence. I hope you enjoy his wandering stream-of-consciousness writing style and meticulous attention to detail as much as I did. 

And There Are So Many More

These are a few of my favorite writers, but February isn’t long enough to have time to read all the great works out there by Black writers. Roxane Gaye, Colson Whitehead, Nella Larson, Octavia Butler, Jericho Brown, Ralph Ellison, Maya Angelou, and of course, Toni Morrison. In fact, whatever genre you like to read, you can bet a Black author has got some special insight into it. Let us know what Black writers you’ve read, and let our list guide your reading as February comes to a close and beyond.

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Alisa Hummell

Alisa Hummell

Alisa Hummell began her career teaching at Northern Michigan University but found she missed putting pen to paper. She began Better Content Matters with Christie Moll and Kimberlee Henry. Together, they were dedicated to covering a gap in marketing to include boutique writing services that helped clients with their SEO while crafting language that spoke to people – and not just bots. In the wake of AI, that need has grown ever more important.