5 Must Read Classic Short Stories by Black Authors

 

Literature by Black authors is largely ignored or marginalized in literary canons. This is not because there aren’t any works worthy enough for inclusion but because of the overarching domination of institutional racism and sexism. Here, we take a brief look at short stories penned by Black authors.

If you have any more recommendations for short stories you think others would enjoy, please share them in the comments!

 

 

Sonny’s Blues by James Baldwin

James Baldwin, a classic African American writer, writes “Sonny’s Blues” to show the differences between two brothers and the way that they deal with the world around them. This story examines the extremes ways people deal with the trials and tribulations of life. Sonny’s brother tries to insulate himself against the problems and ignore the difficulties while Sonny himself faces his problems head on, for better or worse. The troubles in their lives are further exacerbated by the fact that they are African American.

 

Space Invaders by Derrick Bell

Through science fiction, “Faces at the Bottom of the Well” explores the multifaceted aspects of racism in a series of allegories. In the brilliant scenario entitled Space Invaders, visitors from outer space demand the U.S. government it’s Black citizen in turn for a chance to clean up pollution, new technology and enough gold to erase its debts.  It’s a frightening tale of how rights aren’t secured for marginalized people that lack power to defend and protect themselves.

 

Girl by Jamaica Kincaid

In this brilliant narrative, Kincaid explores the the stereotypical roles of Caribbean women through the conversation between a mother and daughter. Yet, the mother’s explicit instructions are not completely limiting her to passive or docile roles, but at times teaches her how to navigate and have power within those tight spaces.

 

Thank You, Ma’am by Langston Hughes

In the short story Thank you, Maam, Hughes tells a story about a young boy’s and an older woman’s paths colliding when the child attempts to steal her purse. In the process of the theft he loses his balance and the women kicks him in the butt onto the street before, literally and symbolically, picking him up. Hughes through this piece humanizes the tough old black woman and young hoodlum unlike white authors of the time.

 

Sweat by Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston—novelist, folklorist, and anthropologist— writes the story of a woman trapped in an physically, emotionally and verbally abusive relationship. Though a victim of domestic violence, the protagonist is not a weak person. It is her strength which her husband is threatened by, and it is her strength that will be the source to overcoming the abuse.

 

What are some of your favorite short stories by Black authors? Which of the ones listed have you had the chance to read? Let us know below!

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zellie imani

Zellie is a writer, photographer, activist, and teacher based in North Jersey.
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