Black women in the United States are transforming the literary world as writers, editors, magazine editors and scholars.
Here are six black women who changed the landscape of modern American literary culture.
A former Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for New York Times, Dana Candy in 2020, he became the first black person to run a major publishing house, Simon & Schuster. She is also the author of the best-selling memoir, Newspaper for Jordan, about his deceased partner, a veteran of the war in Iraq.
Dawn Davis, becomes editor-in-chief of Enjoy your meal magazine – one of the preeminent cooking publications in the United States – in February 2021. A lifelong foodie, she is the first black editor in print. In her first tryout for the magazine, she wrote, “When the call came to leave book publishing to take the helm of this legendary magazine because it cared about racial and cultural equity, it was impossible to resist”.
After a long career in fashion, Samira Nasr became the first black editor of Harper’s Bazaar in 2020. “I just want to bring more people with me to the party,” she told the Washington Post in February 2021, “because I think it’s going to make it more interesting.” Before Harper’s Bazaar, Nasr worked for vogue and Seduce magazines in New York.
Gloria Jean Watkins (1952-2021), pictured above, was known by her pseudonym bell hooks. As a professor and social activist, Hooks changed the way universities taught about the intersection of race, gender, and class. During her lifetime, she wrote more than 30 books, including her seminal 1981 text, Am I not a woman? : Black women and feminism, which transformed feminism in the 1980s and 1990s. whatever authentic meaning of the term, it is to want for all, women and men, liberation from sexist role models, from domination and oppression.
Octavia E. Butler (1947–2006) was the first science fiction writer to win a MacArthur Genius Fellowship in 1995. Butler has produced over two dozen novels exploring themes of black injustice, women’s rights, the climate crisis and political issues. “I write about people doing amazing things,” she said. “It turned out to be called science fiction.”
Neighborhood Jesmyn is a novelist and professor of creative writing at Tulane University. After earning a writing degree from the University of Michigan, Ward published her first book in 2008 and has published six novels since. Ward is the first woman to win the National Book Award twice for her works, Collect the bones (2011) and Sing, without burial, sing (2017).