Some of the people who helped shape the path of social equality for African Americans were authors who pointed out social injustices through works of fiction and nonfiction. From W.E.B. Du Bois to Toni Morrison, African American authors have had a large impact upon their community.
Richard Marshall, associate professor of English and Director of the Writing Lab, identified just one out of the many black authors who had a significant impact on society today.
“The big name is Frederick Douglass. If you read his narrative [Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave] it explains a lot of what people don’t know about American slavery and gets some of the ideas of the effects that have lasted all the way up to today,” Marshall said.
Douglass was born into a life of slavery and only learned to read and write because his owner’s wife illegally taught him to be literate. He set the pace for many other African Americans to become educated in a time when that was not at all accepted.
Assistant Professor of English Salvatore Pane pointed out a couple of other authors that he believes have had an effect on society.
“I have to go back to Maya Angelou. When you think of the landscape of American poetry in the twentieth century, it’s so shaped by her work, and she’s still relevant today. She is still active in the community and doing readings,” Pane said. “She bares her humanity on the page in a way that everyone can relate to. It’s an easy thing to say you’re going to do, but it’s very difficult to do without appearing sentimental or pretentious, but she never really does. Her work operates on this level where it can be appreciated by all readers.”
Pane went on to describe a modern author who he believes is still helping change the landscape of modern literature, Ashley Ford.
“She has done some events here at UIndy and a lot of students really love her work. She’s a fantastic essay writer and memoirist. She’s doing really interesting work, and she’s really young, too. She is about five years older than our students,” Pane said.
He spoke very highly of Ford who is an Indianapolis writer and suggested that students should seek out and read her work as well as follow her Twitter account @iSmashFizzle.
There are many other authors who have made great contributions to society, such as Ralph Ellison, but there are also modern artists like Adrian Matejka and Curtis Crisler that continue to add to the black literary voices. We can all learn from the lessons that Douglass, Angelou, Ford and the plethora of other black authors who have contributed to the betterment of society.