Famous Essays By African American Authors

Writers of color on the internet have banded together to form a seemingly-magical, melanin-filled alliance. It's not breaking news that this industry isn't as equally distributed as Cruella De Vil's hair. It's less half-white/half-black and more all-white with subtle black highlights — not a cute look for hair or the writing world.

Although these writers have done a stellar job of working to make names for themselves as individuals, it is with the help of each other that their writing reaches more eyes. Via their various social media platforms — Twitter, mostly —they promote each other and celebrate the accomplishments of their peers. It’s a beautiful thing, y’all.

So even though there are definitely lists out there highlighting young black women writers, I'm gonna just go ahead and hit you with another one because there’s nothing like reading an essay that’s actually accessible to me rather than forcing myself to relate to something that wasn’t written with me — or someone like me — in mind. Here are a few writers I’ve been vibing on lately.

  1. Hannah Giorgis

Giorgis is a self-proclaimed “awkward black girl, black feminist writer, organizer, artist, editor...” and so much more, as listed on her site, Ethiopienne. She’s written for sites such as The New Yorker, The Guardian, and The Hairpin, but most recently, she’s been spitting truth on the intersection of pop culture, race, class and gender on BuzzFeed.

Whether it’s a silly piece on treating your edges with respect or a serious story on using the internet as a coping mechanism amidst a failed mental health system, Giorgis is always serving up realness.

As a fellow East African girl with her own share of name-pronunciation issues, here’s an essay that resonates with me on a special level: "Where Everybody Knows Your Name."

  1. Ashley Reese

Reese has contributed great stuff to Gurl.com and Golly Magazine but her Accidental Virgin column on The Gloss is my Scandal and Ms. Reese is my Olivia Pope — for the record, I’ve only seen like two episodes of Scandal but I still reserve the right to use this metaphor.

Following the chronicles of someone’s vagina might seem odd — then again, people even live-tweet their poops at this point — but trust me, there is good writing to be read here. It’s so much more than just a "will she or won’t she have sex" sort of thing. Reese is willing to put herself out there as she fearlessly navigates topics others fear to tread.

One of my favorite’s is a departure from her usual light-hearted pieces that takes a hard look at interracial relationships and street harrassment.

  1. Bim Adewunmi

Adewunmi writes about stuff like internet culture, feminism, television, and art. When you’re feeling thirsty, you can mosey on over to her Crush of the Week column for a thoughtfully curated celebration of wildly attractive people — both in the traditional and non-traditional sense.

She also serves as a Culture Editor at BuzzFeed UK, where she’s written absolute gems like, "The 15 Most Important Things About That “Magic Mike XXL” Poster." It’s kind of a masterpiece. I think about it often.

But Adewunmi writes about serious topics too — not that a description of Channing Tatum’s cap as a necessary accessory to his performance to Ginuwine’s “Pony” isn’t serious — and a piece that definitely deserves a read is "An Article About Black Women Shouldn’t Have To Come With A Warning Label." She begs the question, “What is it that prevents people from seeing themselves in us?” and breaks down the empathy gap as Adewunmi explores the reasons behind why she can manage to find herself in characters like Matt Saracen or Phoebe Buffay as a black woman but most white folks don’t bother attempting to relate to the Joan Claytons and Whitley Gilberts of the television world.

  1. Rahawa Haile

Haile is an Eritrean-American. Okay, I admit I am too, but that’s not why I chose her. She's a short-story writer and essayist as described on her Tumblr. She’s written for sites such as The Awl, The Guardian, The Toast, and Hazlitt. She calls herself a Cumulus Advocate and serves as the Cloud Twitter emissary.

Aside from her year-long project, during which she reads one short story a day on a quest to highlight writers who aren’t white men, Haile also takes time to write about everything ranging from the Horn of Africa to Tracee Ellis Ross.

Again, I’m not being biased here (I totally am) but the piece of hers I hold closest to my heart is "'Ertra, Ertra, Ertra' And The Problems With Patriotism Performed At A Shrill, Unpleasant Register." Haile unabashedly says what all Eritreans have always secretly thought: our national anthem sucks. The sound of our national anthem being sung is, at best, cause for some mild auditory discomfort and, at worst, the unsolicited gift of a splitting headache. In her hilarious essay, Haile manages to find the good in a song that once made her run and hide under the sink as an 8-year-old.

5. Pilot Viruet

Viruet is basically a television goddess. She’s the television/entertainment editor at Flavorwire, founder of the highly entertainingTV Hangover, and has written for outlets such as New York Magazine and The A.V. Club.

I look to Viruet's writing for all of my television watching needs. For example, this past Friday, I read her article "Cancel All Your Weekend Plans and Binge-Watch Aziz Ansari’s Unbelievably Excellent Netflix Series ‘Master of None’" and did exactly as the headline suggested. I must say, the only disappointing moment in the series was when I realized that I’d finished the final episode. I shall wait for season two with bated breath and you shall take all of Viruet's recommendations to heart because she will never lead you astray.

Of course, she doesn’t only write about television. In fact, an essay of hers that I love isn’t really about TV at all. In "Black Exhaustion," Viruet delves into the overhwelming fatigue that comes with being black.

From fiction to non-fiction, there were some undoubtedly moving books by black authors that deserves a spot on everyone's bookshelf or Kindle. The poignant words of Ta-Nehisi Coates, who won the National Book Award, are all too vital given today's racial climate, while producer extraordinaire Shonda Rhimes makes overcoming a personal obstacle as simple as saying "yes." These along with Toni Morrison's God Help the Child, Mat Johnson's Loving Day and Joy-Ann Reid's Fracture have made this a great year for black authors. Take a look at some of our favorites.

  • God Help the Child, by Toni Morrison
  • Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes
  • Bewtween the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, by Issa Rae
  • Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi
  • The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind, edited by Claudia Rankine, Beth Loffreda and Cap Max King
  • Jam on the Vine, by LaShonda Katrice Barnett
  • The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America, by Tamara Winfrey Harris
  • Undivided: A Muslim Daughter, Her Christian Mother, Their Path to Peace, by Patricia Raybon and Alana Raybon
  • Fracture, by Joy-Ann Reid
  • The Truth About Awiti, by CP Patrick
  • Negroland, by Margo Jefferson
  • Spectacle: The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga, by Pamela Newkirk
  • Queen Sugar, by Natalie Baszile
  • The Turner House, by Angela Flournoy
  • Loving Day, by Mat Johnson
  • The Light of the World: A Memoir, by Elizabeth Alexander
  • A Moment of Silence, by Sister Souljah
  • Ghost Summer: Stories, by Tananarive Due
  • The Sellout, by Paul Beatty
  • Balm, by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
  • The Abduction of Smith and Smith, by Rashad Harrison
  • Ordinary Light: A Memoir, by Tracy K. Smith
  • Multiply/Divide: On the American Real and Surreal, by Wendy S. Walters
  • Black Man In A White Coat, by Damon Tweedy

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