African American Authors & Books: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Mary Beth Burns

Mary Beth has taught 1st, 4th and 5th grade and has a specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She is currently an assistant principal.

Reading is one of the best things you can do for your mind. Have you ever read a book written by an African American author? What about a book that has African American main characters? Come and learn about a few of these in this lesson.

The Importance of African American Authors and Books

There are millions of books in the world and millions of authors who wrote these books. The books come in all shapes, sizes, and genres. The people who wrote them come in a wide variety, as well — They have different genders, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds.

So, why is it important to specifically learn about African American authors? There are a few reasons for this. First of all, African Americans haven't had an easy road in America. They began as slaves who didn't get a formal education, and most likely couldn't write or read. After that, they struggled to get equal access to education throughout the Civil Rights Movement. Therefore, a book that was written and published by an African American is a pretty incredible thing. Secondly, in order to be a well-read person, it's important to read from a variety of perspectives, which includes those that can speak to the African American experience. Lastly, exposure to diversity can help you understand the world around you.

Barbara Johns was a Civil Rights activist who fought for equity in education.
Barbara Johns Civil Rights Activist

The Early Years

It all began with Phillis Wheatley who was captured from Africa to be a slave. The family who purchased her taught her to read and write, and she went on the be the first African American to publish a poem in 1767.

One of the most famous African American authors of all time is Langston Hughes. He was known for his poetry, which was very popular during the Harlem Renaissance, a movement during the 1920s when African Americans were making major moves in the areas of art, music, and literature. His poetry was about what it was like to be Black in the United States, which really pushed the envelope during that time.

Another African American man who will always be remembered for his writing was W. E. B Du Bois. He was the first African American man to get a Ph.D. from Harvard and went on to write several nonfiction influential pieces about Black rights, such as the case study he wrote in 1899. A case study is a report written after the author studies someone or something for a long period. For example, if you were to observe a family in another culture over a period of time, you could report your findings on their culture in a case study.

W. E. B. Du Bois

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