Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Black Ink: Literary Legends on the Peril, Power, and Pleasure of Reading and Writing

Rate this book
Spanning over 250 years of history, Black Ink traces black literature in America from Frederick Douglass to Ta-Nehisi Coates in this masterful collection of twenty-five illustrious and moving essays on the power of the written word.

Throughout American history black people are the only group of people to have been forbidden by law to learn to read. This unique collection seeks to shed light on that injustice and subjugation, as well as the hard-won literary progress made, putting some of America’s most cherished voices in a conversation in one magnificent volume that presents reading as an act of resistance.

Organized into three sections, the Peril, the Power, and Pleasure, and with an array of contributors both classic and contemporary, Black Ink presents the brilliant diversity of black thought in America while solidifying the importance of these writers within the greater context of the American literary tradition. At times haunting and other times profoundly humorous, this unprecedented anthology guides you through the remarkable experiences of some of America’s greatest writers and their lifelong pursuits of literacy and literature.

The foreword was written by Nikki Giovanni. Contributors include: Frederick Douglass, Solomon Northup, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King, Jr., Toni Morrison, Walter Dean Myers, Stokely Carmichael [Kwame Ture], Alice Walker, Jamaica Kincaid, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Terry McMillan, Junot Diaz, Edwidge Danticat, Colson Whitehead, Marlon James, Roxane Gay, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Colson Whitehead.

The anthology features a bonus in-depth interview with President Barack Obama.

272 pages, Hardcover

First published January 30, 2018

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Stephanie Stokes Oliver

11 books4 followers

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
187 (58%)
4 stars
110 (34%)
3 stars
21 (6%)
2 stars
1 (<1%)
1 star
0 (0%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 67 reviews
Profile Image for Michelle.
651 reviews181 followers
February 13, 2018
In this anthology Stephanie Stokes Oliver brings together 25 of the most illustrious and talented Black authors. Spanning from America’s antebellum period to the present Black Ink documents the evolution of Black thought and the power of the written word. To achieve this endeavor Stokes Oliver has divided our literary history into three major epochs: The Peril, The Power and The Pleasure.

The Peril of Education reminds us of the danger inherent with the process of reading for the slave. Punishable by death our ancestors literally risked their lives in order to learn to read.
The Power of Literacy illustrates the struggle for Civil Rights and the impact that reading and writing had on defining Black identity and self-determination.
Lastly, The Pleasure of Literature celebrates the freedom enjoyed by today’s writers of color and the diverse imprint they have etched into the literary canon.

Although I have read most of these authors it was an uplifting experience learning about the process by which they were motivated and encouraged by the written word. In my own lifetime some of these very authors have given me the strength to push through my own trials. Black Ink is a necessary history, one that I will certainly be returning to.
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,467 reviews564 followers
June 23, 2020
A well-curated collection of essays by brilliant scholars and writers, all black, writing about literature and writing. It starts with Frederick Douglass and ends with Obama. Very inspiring.
Profile Image for Andre.
521 reviews141 followers
December 13, 2017
Fantastic! Every so often a book comes along that is needed, this is one of those books. Black ink. Just sit a moment with this quote from the introduction, by editor Stephanie Stokes Oliver, “It’s hard to believe that the relaxing, recreational endeavor of reading a good book that so many of us savor and take for granted was, for more than two hundred years, not only illegal for most African Americans enslaved in many states of the South, but also punishable by death.”

I mean when you really consider the weight of that, the possibility of beatings, lashings, indeed death for reading, that’s very heavy. Well Stephanie Oliver has compiled a volume that takes a look at reading and by extension writing and what it has meant to some of our greatest writers and how the love of words drove them to reach higher, strive harder. She takes twenty-five writers historical and current and uses excerpts from their works and interviews to compile this historical and worthy document of black ink. Frederick Douglas to Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Each essay has a mention about reading and/or writing that acted as a guide to inspire, motivate and in some cases advocate on behalf of some greater cause. This is the type of book that you will return to again and again, for inspiration, for ammunition to coax non-readers towards a more literary leaning or maybe something else. But I assure you, it won’t be one you put up on the shelf, perhaps the night stand to keep it within reach for a quick peruse of a certain essay. The book is divided into three parts, The Peril, The Power and The Pleasure. From the section titles it shouldn’t be hard to figure what each section is about. She presents the essays in chronological order by birth of the writer, so the younger contemporary writers will be in the later section. That doesn’t preclude them from being associated with power and peril, but certainly not peril in the historical sense.

For years whenever the voting conversation would take center stage, someone would always remark ‘people died for your right to vote’ and I would answer that with a pithy response like ‘well people also died for you to be able to read and you haven’t read a book since you’ve been an adult.’ That would always be an exchange ender. So, for this reader I was thrilled to see the following quote, again from the introduction, “When it comes to voting rights, Black parents often admonish their grown children to be sure to exercise their freedom in every election, because people died in the fight to obtain the right to vote. The proof is not disputed……The story of the struggle for full literacy among African Americans has yet to be documented as thoroughly. The purpose of Black Ink: Literary Legends on the Peril, Power, and Pleasure of Reading and Writing is to help fill that void.” Well congratulations Ms. Stephanie Stokes Oliver you have done a tremendous job in filling that void. Big thank you to Netgalley and Atria books for providing an advanced ebook. Book will drop Jan. 30, 2018 just in time for Black History Month.

Profile Image for Nicky.
184 reviews22 followers
December 16, 2018
This is an impressive list of literary voices discussing what should basically be an inalienable human right.

"It’s hard to believe that the relaxing, recreational endeavor of reading a good book that so many of us savor and take for granted was, for more than two hundred years, not only illegal for most African Americans enslaved in many states of the South, but also punishable by death.

Reading matters. Writing matters"
Profile Image for Valerie.
88 reviews47 followers
April 30, 2019
I love books that make me want to read more books. This collection, edited carefully by Stephanie Stokes Oliver, is one of those books.

With excerpts from various writers over the span of 200+ years and a foreword by Nikki Giovanni, Black Ink is a reminder of what reading and writing have brought to people within our community over the span of many lifetimes. Though I had read from many of these writers before (including the books a few of these pieces were sourced from), revisiting them and being introduced to many others was an incredibly rewarding and gratifying joy to read. As an editor, I am impressed by Oliver's ability to make so many voices with a wide variety of perspectives and experiences come together into a cohesive collection on writing.

I can see myself revisiting this again in the future and for many years to come, making me think I should purchase my own copy to add to my personal library. It serves as a tangible reminder that though writing and reading are joys I have always found my own solitary solace in, they are also things I can share with the collective in a meaningful and powerful way.
Profile Image for Marla.
53 reviews1 follower
July 17, 2018
This was a helpful quick read. I had read things by some of the authors, Frederick Douglass, MLK Jr, but it was a nice resource to have bits from all of them combined into one place. They are important voices that often get overlooked when talking about our history—valuable voices that add perspective.
Profile Image for Rebel Women Lit.
22 reviews55 followers
February 26, 2018
Black Ink, a compendium of excerpts from various African American Authors, is a great primer for anyone looking to make a foray into the world of African American Literature. With writers spanning from the slavery era (Fredrick Douglas) to Barack Obama, the excerpts collectively tell a story of Black Resistance to oppression through the written word. From Booker T. Washington’s struggles to learn to read to the revolutionary fervor of Stokely Carmichael, a reader will be able to appreciate the evolution of the struggle for Black freedom as they flip through the pages of Black Ink.

The collection moves in chronological order, beginning with a testament from Fredrick Douglas, where he explains his struggles to learn to read. In these early excerpts, one theme is clear, reading and writing are one of the hallmarks of civilization, of culture, and African Americans refuse to be excluded from participating in it, despite white Americas attempt to prevent them. The further reads into the book, the more one gains an appreciation for how far Black America has come. Authors such as Langston Hughes tell their stories as they learnt to create fiction that gives as glimpse of the African American world view, which includes, but is not limited to, the race question. While Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois surveys the great contributions to the zeitgeist which Black authors had already made at that stage in history.

Nevertheless, no group is a monolith, and one could not gain that impression from reading this book. Authors come from different genders, class backgrounds and political ideologies. As Chimamanda Adiche states in her section, there is no single story. In the still continuing tale of black struggle, the perspectives on obstacles to progress and tactics to overcoming them vary widely in the black community. These ideological camps include revolutionary socialists, black nationalists (not mutually exclusive by the way) and even relatively conservative perspectives.

This diversity envelopes African American perspectives on identity, and their own place in the culture of the Unites States and the world at large. Ta-Nehisi Coates carries us deeply into these identity issues from the perspective of his days as a young college student. Where he posits that as a youth, Chancellor Williams “Destruction of Black Civilization” was virtually his bible. However, the identity carved in Black Ink is not rooted in Africa as would be implied by Chancellor Williams.

There is an unfortunate absence of writers who connect their history back to the motherland. The irony of a race who was among the first to create the very art of writing, finding themselves in a land far flung from their ancestral home, having to fight tooth and nail to learn to read would not have been lost on Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois.

Nevertheless, the reader is still taken on a journey which is enlightening and stimulating. There is no way all perspectives from African Americans could be given in one short book. Still, for those wanting to become more acquainted with African American authors, Black Ink is a great place to start.

Thank you to Atria/37 Ink for sending us an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Black Ink: Literary Legends on the Peril, Power, and Pleasure of Reading and Writing was reviewed by a Guest Editor
Profile Image for LindaJ^.
2,134 reviews6 followers
December 30, 2019
This anthology collects the wisdom of 25 African-American writers (and readers) about the value of reading and writing to them as individuals and to the world. The book is broken into three parts.

The first part - The Peril (1800-1900) - focuses on the time when it was illegal, and punishable by death, for slaves in American to learn to read and write. The writers in this section are Frederick Douglass, Solomon Northup, Booker T. Washington, and W.E.B. Du Bois. The writings by Douglass, Northup, and Washington are taken from their autobiographies or memoirs. Hopefully their stories are never forgotten. The Du Bois segment is taken from two sources - a survey of Black literature from early Egyptian civilizations to 1913 and an essay written in 1926 titled "Criteria of Negro Art."

The second part - The Power (1900-1968) - covers post-emancipation through the Civil Rights/Black Power era. It includes writings by Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King Jr., Toni Morrison, Walter Dean Myers, Stokely Carmichael (aka Kwame Ture), Alice Walker, Jamaica Kincaid, Henry Louis Gates Jr., and Terry McMillan. The autobiographical writings of these authors focus on how they were shaped by their reading or what writing has meant to them. The only individual I was not familiar with was Walter Dean Myers and his musings about the need for children's books that had other than middle class, white kids is powerful -- Books transmit values. They explore our common humanity. What is the message when some children are not represented in those books? Where are the future white personnel managers going to get their ideas of people of color? Where are the future white loan officers and future white politicians going to get their knowledge of people of color? Where are black children going to get a sense of who they are and what they can be? … There is work to be done. And thank goodness, work has been done in connection with children's books.

Part three - The Pleasure (1968-2017) - includes authors born in the generations after us Baby Boomers - Gen Xers and Millennials. Those included are Junot Diaz, Edwidge Danticat, Colson Whitehead, Marlon James, Roxane Gay, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and, denoted as a "bonus feature," President Obama's interview with Michiko Kakutani. Three of these authors - Diaz, James, and Adichie - were born in other countries but now live, at least part-time, in the United States. All of them are award winners, although President Obama's awards have not been for his writing. While Diaz came across as angry, the others struck me as very thoughtful and helpful.

This is an important book about the power of language and the value of being able to read and write. The editor made excellent choices in the authors and the material included.
Profile Image for Carolyn J.
50 reviews
June 28, 2018
Review of Black Ink by Stephanie Stokes Oliver

In Black Ink: Literary Legends and the Perils, Power, and Pleasure of Reading and Writing, Stephanie Stokes Oliver curates a collection of twenty-five essays by black writers. The essays offer a balance of humor and soberness on the struggle, power and joy of reading and writing, and cover a period of nearly two and a half centuries. Included in the anthology are such celebrated writers of black literature in America as James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Jamaica Kincaid, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Marlon James and former president Barack Obama. Although I recognize all of the authors’ names, only sixteen of the twenty-five made it through my Read List, at least once. With Black Ink, I hoped to be exposed to works that I never would have discovered on my own, especially in my seemingly haphazard way of choosing reading material--by “feel.” I was not disappointed.

The organization of Black Ink ushers the reader into a history lesson without the textbook tone. Mrs. Oliver groups the twenty-five essays into three sections, with labels taken from the second part of the book's title. Each section covers an era of Black history in America, documenting the journey from the slaughter of enslaved blacks who dared learn to read to the value of creating made up worlds that grapple with real world crises and moral dilemmas that our present day democracy can’t even talk about without tearing the country apart. Within a number of the essays, authors reference secondary resources for further perusal and study like slave narratives, titles of Black literary classics, and names of lesser known writers whose contribution to the foundation of black literature has been forgotten. For my own records, I jotted a few down, hoping to read at least one by the year’s end.

To single out one writer from the compilation would, in my opinion, diminish the significance of the others. Every essay left a mark on my soul and encouraged me to continue to read outside of my comfort genre, write dangerously, think globally, and remember from where and whom I came. Furthermore, Black Ink inspires me to continue writing until I have no more words, until the goals that I set propel me to the next level, until the words return and push me closer to a fraction of the excellence exemplified in the bibliography of publications curated in Oliver’s collection. At least that’s my takeaway. Well, that and this one quote from Frederick Douglass that stuck with me beyond the last line of the final page:
“Now,” said [Mr. Auld], “if you teach that n***** (speaking of myself) how to read, there would be no keeping him. It would forever unfit him to be a slave.”

© readwriterblue/cjt 2018
Profile Image for Akilah.
22 reviews
January 10, 2021
Enlightening, relative to the plight of black people and their journey towards literacy - reading & writing. We somehow forget about this, and this book does a great job of piecing it together; providing, essentially, a chronological look into how we -black people- sought out literacy as well as versions of ourselves in our writings. I now want to buy and read every book mentioned.
Profile Image for Kenneth.
230 reviews1 follower
March 1, 2019
This was a truly outstanding work. It is a collection of vignettes from 25 writers mostly of African American descent though there are also West Indians and one native born African included. Each one is just a few pages and the topic is related to their first, or their most powerful encounters with literature, either their own writing or how they were inspired by the power of the written or spoken word. I read it in honor of Black History Month. Though in the past year I have read a work of African history written by an African American the vast majority of my reading is non-fiction written by authors of European or Americans of European descent. It is perhaps an indictment of me that prior to reading this book, I had read only four of the authors within it all of their works non-fiction despite the fact that I have met one of the authors in person and have a signed first edition of his most famous work.

The content itself is extraordinary, especially because literacy and reading have been such an important part of my own life, to read about how other people, famous and competent writers came to love it as I do, is really a wonderful experience. As well as to discover how different the same experience can be. Whether it's learning how Fredrick Douglass surreptitiously taught himself to read or how Booker T. Washington did, or how Zora Neale Hurston was evicted the day she sold her first novel. There is also deep thinking, reading Toni Morisson's essay was to be placed in the iron grip of a fierce intelligence. The great are humanized, the piece by Stokley Carmichael is very candid and the language is excellent.

I highly recommend this, if you do not have a lot of familiarity with these authors, this is an excellent introduction.
Profile Image for BreAna.
3 reviews
June 27, 2019
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. What stood out to me was, though these authors of color all have different, yet similar stories and have had different life experiences, writing got them through some tough situations, and in some circumstances saved their lives. That is powerful.
Profile Image for Angela.
158 reviews3 followers
January 1, 2020
This book is one I think should be read by all black book clubs. I also think it should be read by students at black colleges and universities. It’s historical and helps you to understand the struggles of learning to read and why education is so important in our society.
Profile Image for Jason Robinson.
240 reviews8 followers
September 10, 2018
This was a fantastic read from a socio-political, historical, and literary standpoint. A well curated collection of essays from African-American writers and intellectuals through United States history on the importance and love of writing and literature and how both were pivotal and vital to our nation and men and women of color today.
Profile Image for Shirleynature.
200 reviews59 followers
January 1, 2019
I treasure this anthology of wise words and breadth of perspective--vivid & resonate inspiration on the empowerment found in reading and writing by many historical and contemporary Black American authors.
The last pages thoughtfully share an interview with President Barack Obama on "What books mean to me" from January 2017. "...The role of stories to unify--as opposed to divide, to engage rather than to marginalize--is more important than ever."

And thanks to Columbus from the group Literary Fiction by People of Color for sharing a link to
Barack Obama' Best Books (music and movies) 2018 via Facebook:

"As 2018 draws to a close, I’m continuing a favorite tradition of mine and sharing my year-end lists. It gives me a moment to pause and reflect on the year through the books, movies, and music that I found most thought-provoking, inspiring, or just plain loved. It also gives me a chance to highlight talented authors, artists, and storytellers – some who are household names and others who you may not have heard of before. Here’s my best of 2018 list - I hope you enjoy reading, watching, and listening.

Here’s a reminder of the books that I read this year that appeared on earlier lists:
Becoming by Michelle Obama (obviously my favorite!)
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Broken Ladder: How Inequality Affects the Way We Think, Live, and Die by Keith Payne
Educated by Tara Westover
Factfulness by Hans Rosling
Futureface: A Family Mystery, an Epic Quest, and the Secret to Belonging by Alex Wagner
A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
A House for Mr Biswas by V.S. Naipaul
How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt
In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History by Mitch Landrieu
Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
The New Geography of Jobs by Enrico Moretti
The Return by Hisham Matar
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Warlight by Michael Ondaatje
Why Liberalism Failed by Patrick Deneen
The World As It Is by Ben Rhodes

Here are my other favorite books of 2018:
American Prison by Shane Bauer
Arthur Ashe: A Life by Raymond Arsenault
Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday
Feel Free by Zadie Smith
Florida by Lauren Groff
Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David W. Blight
Immigrant, Montana by Amitava Kumar
The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson
Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Max Tegmark
There There by Tommy Orange
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

My favorite movies of 2018:
Black Panther
The Death of Stalin
Eighth Grade
If Beale Street Could Talk
Leave No Trace
Minding the Gap
The Rider
Support the Girls
Won’t You Be My Neighbor

And finally, my favorite songs of 2018:
Apes••t by The Carters
Bad Bad News by Leon Bridges
Could’ve Been by H.E.R. (feat. Bryson Tiller)
Disco Yes by Tom Misch (feat. Poppy Ajudha)
Ekombe by Jupiter & Okwess
Every Time I Hear That Song by Brandi Carlile
Girl Goin’ Nowhere by Ashley McBryde
Historia De Un Amor by Tonina (feat. Javier Limón and Tali Rubinstein)
I Like It by Cardi B (feat. Bad Bunny and J Balvin)
Kevin’s Heart by J. Cole
King For A Day by Anderson East
Love Lies by Khalid & Normani
Make Me Feel by Janelle Monáe
Mary Don’t You Weep (Piano & A Microphone 1983 Version) by Prince
My Own Thing by Chance the Rapper (feat. Joey Purp)
Need a Little Time by Courtney Barnett
Nina Cried Power by Hozier (feat. Mavis Staples)
Nterini by Fatoumata Diawara
One Trick Ponies by Kurt Vile
Turnin’ Me Up by BJ the Chicago Kid
Wait by the River by Lord Huron
Wow Freestyle by Jay Rock (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
And in honor of one of the great jazz singers of all time, who died this year, a classic album: The Great American Songbook by Nancy Wilson"
December 28 at 2:27 PM · Public
Profile Image for Trisha.
438 reviews10 followers
April 12, 2020
Black Ink: Literary Legends on the Peril, Power, and Pleasure of Reading and Writing is one of the best anthologies I have read in a long, long time. Not only is it well-written, interesting, and important, it’s also extremely relevant to my field of study, my profession, and my passions.

A collection of 25 essays written between the early 1800s and the early 2000s, this anthology of Black writers’ perspectives on reading and writing is a lament for the struggles of those excluded from the literary world and a celebration of the power of that world.

The early essays move readers through the literary journeys of some of the most influential Black authors at the turn of the 20th century. Kept from reading and writing by practice and law, Blacks often learned in secret, protesting their restrictions and then using their newfound power to tell the world the truth about slavery and racism. This section on the Peril of Reading reveals the revolutionary power of words to communicate truth and effect change by excerpting works from The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, Up From Slavery, The Souls of Black Folk, and Twelve Years a Slave. Writing is activism.

The middle section, on the Power of Reading, contains 13 essays from writers such as Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Martin Luther King Jr., and Toni Morrison, to name a few. This is a much broader cross-section of authors and topics than part 1 and attempting to effectively paraphrase them in their entirety is just not possible, nor would it communicate the breadth of force these essays possess.

The third section focuses on the Pleasure of Reading and Writing, featuring authors such as Junot Diaz, Roxane Gay, and Ta-Nehisi Coates. The final selection is an interview with Barack Obama on his relationship with reading. My favorite essay here is “The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who so beautifully argues the necessity of multiplicity and diversity in stories.

For more about my thoughts on this book, check out my review post at http://unfinishedintellectual.com/201...
Profile Image for Connie Kuntz.
495 reviews29 followers
May 25, 2018
This is an inspiring collection of essays that helped cement my understanding of who did what, when. It includes varying degrees of historical and personal emotional upheaval and is an excellent teaching tool.

It begins with a foreword by Nikki Giovanni (swoon) and ends with an interview of Barack Obama (love). This collection also includes work by Zora Neale Hurston (who has been in the news lately), historical figures like Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and W. E. B. Du Bois; and contemporary names like Terry McMillan, Roxane Gay, and Edwidge Danticat.

I recommend owning (not borrowing) this book. Names like Toni Morrison, Malcolm X, Langston Hughes, Martin Luther King, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou are a part of everyday conversation. We read their work. We know when they died (if they have died). We know where they are from. We know their religion. We see them speaking. We honor their birthdays and, if they are deceased, we note the anniversaries of their deaths. We see schools dedicated to them. We see festivals and streets named after them. Having this book at the ready helps make sure that continues. It sets the example for the next generation.

In this day and age of ridiculously ghost-written books like Ivanka Trumps, "Women Who Work" and Ivana Trump's, "Raising Trump", we need this book (and other books by African American authors) in every classroom, library, bookstore, coffeeshop, waiting room, etc..

This collection also includes inspirational advice not just for life, but for writing.

At whose mercy?
Profile Image for Kathryn .
4 reviews6 followers
December 27, 2019
Fabulous book. A great introduction to some of the most highly esteemed African American authors from Frederick Douglass to Ta-Nehisi Coates. I will use the essay by Stokley Carmichael [Kwame Ture], and one other, probably Langston Hughes, in teaching critical reading and writing for the First-Year Composition course I teach at a community college in Southern Arizona. I usually ask my students to read the literacy narratives of Malcolm X, Jimmy Santiago Baca, and Sherman Alexie.

Yes, I know the list is all male, but I am looking for women of color and luckily just found some in a book called "Nevertheless, We Persisted: 48 Voices of Defiance, Strength, and Courage" with an introduction by Amy Klobuchar.

Happy to hear your suggestions for literacy narrative essays by women so I can improve the list my students read in Spring 2020.


"Contributors include: Frederick Douglass, Solomon Northup, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King, Jr., Toni Morrison, Walter Dean Myers, Stokely Carmichael [Kwame Ture], Alice Walker, Jamaica Kincaid, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Terry McMillan, Junot Diaz, Edwidge Danticat, Colson Whitehead, Marlon James, Roxane Gay, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Colson Whitehead. The anthology features a bonus in-depth interview with President Barack Obama."
Profile Image for Marcus Nelson.
Author 3 books6 followers
March 10, 2018
Pure inspiration. A collection of Black writers telling their love and relationship with the art of the written word. Along with a few examples of their work, their stories are amazing with what they had to do to get their gift out to the world. A broke Zora Neal Hurston, facing eviction and spending money she didn’t have to mail out her manuscript. A discouraged Malcolm X, using some painful “advice” as fuel to become the great man he did. A written letter thrown in the fire after waiting 6 years for an opportunity to present itself and numerous other accounts detailing the struggles yet perseverance of the African American voice.

Knowing that the punishment for learning to read was death, slaves never became discouraged and actually went to all lengths to achieve this task which they knew led to education which ultimately led to knowledge/freedom.

And not just the desire to read, Blacks writers have been abundantly prolific in displaying their craft. In addition to the many slave narratives, the Harlem Renaissance bought forth a gaggle of authors that exhibited their craft.

It’s great to see the dedication to literature and hopefully in this technological age, this volume will influence many readers to appreciate the drive, dedication, commitment and talents of not just the famed writers listed but many more that have followed in their footsteps.
Profile Image for Dan'l Danehy-Oakes.
536 reviews10 followers
December 28, 2020
Subtitle: Literary Legends on the Peril, Power, and Pleasure of Reading and Writing.

This is a history-by-examples of Black letters in America. More: it is a history-by-examples of the meaning, for Black Americans, of reading and writing in America.

Beginning with excerpted slave narratives and ending with Barrack Obama,'s essay on his relationship with books, with stops on the way for writers like W.E.B. Du Bois and Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston and Ta-Nahesi Coats, Maya Angelou, Colson Whitehead, and so many others, it describes the desire to read and write, the privilege of reading and writing, and the pleasure of reading and writing, across two centuries of Black experience in America.

I am not fit to comment on how "authentically" it reflects that experience; I am white. But I can say that it builds in an almost pointillistic manner a rich picture of what that experience might be, of many versions of that experience over time.

I was enriched by it.
Profile Image for Emile.
273 reviews
May 15, 2018
One of the unexpected joys of this collection for me was how clearly the voices of all these classic authors came through. In one of the included essays, by Henry Louis Gates Jr. reflecting on what makes a literary classic, he quotes Mark Twain: a classic is "something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read."

Many of the included pieces moved various classics and authors out of that category for me, and often because of how present and compelling the voice of the authors was in the selections. I have read some Baldwin before, but this reminded me how amazing he is, as well as giving me a kick to go read Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, more Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Marlon James and many others.
Profile Image for Lauren Dandridge.
122 reviews
February 24, 2019
For this month, in honor of Black History Month, I’ve chosen to only read books written by Black people. Black Ink was an excellent addition to this venture. It’s a powerful history of the significance of reading and writing to create cultural and political change, and specifically provides some valuable context for many of the books and authors I’ve already read and/or plan to read more of. Each essay provides a piece of the timeline from Frederick Douglass to present day, and I feel as though I have a much better understanding of Black History, especially as it relates to the written word and storytelling, as a result of this book.
Profile Image for Carol Ashey.
100 reviews1 follower
November 20, 2019
A really good overview of African American Literature. It was nice to read something truly different from my own perspective; I learned a lot, definitely feel more informed having read it. Looking forward to reading more, and delving into specific authors. I wrestled with the text when it got to the Power section, lots of anger there (justified), makes me feel sad about history. Chimamanda Ngoze Adiche is my favorite, followed by Solomon Northup and Edwidge Dandicat. Only author I skipped was Malcolm X because the last line of his section (I peeked) was just spiritually heartbreaking, and if I had read it I probably wouldn’t have finished the book.
Profile Image for Beth.
3,176 reviews13 followers
March 25, 2019
I grabbed this from the library because it looked like a book about writers liking reading, and I'm always up for a book about reading. But because it looks explicitly about what reading means to Black people in America, starting from the time of slavery when being caught reading could mean death, it packs an especially powerful punch. This isn't "as a kid reading was my favorite hobby" (although some contributors include that) but also "reading and writing are part of what makes me human and no one can deny it to me." An excellent choice to break my reading block.
Profile Image for Cynthia.
Author 4 books5 followers
March 6, 2020
Thanks to Miah Daughtery for recommending this book. I particularly liked the short essays by Booker T. Washington, Langston Hughes, Martin Luther King, Jr, James Baldwin, and Alice Walker. Well, I would, wouldn't I? Some of these I had read before--Toni Morrison's, Walter Dean Myers', and Chimamanada Adichie's-- and a few I found annoyingly forgettable (Junot Diaz). But the book provides such a breadth of descriptions of what reading and writing has meant to black people throughout history, and especially a people who have not been allowed to be literate--Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Jo.
392 reviews10 followers
July 19, 2020
I could NOT put this book down! A superb collection of excerpts from 25 brilliant Black authors from Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Du Bois to Roxane Gay, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and an interview with Barack Obama on "What Books Mean to Me." Filled with the thrill of illumination and moments of hardship, discovery, and transformation, this is an exceptional selection of writing that instantly made my All-Time Favorites list. Thanks to Christine Platt, The Afrominimalist, for recommending this one. :) @theafrominimalist on Instagram.
1,614 reviews3 followers
June 2, 2018
I read too much to enter everything I read into here, but this deserves a mention. It's a collection of essays, extracts and other sources. The authors are all black writers through American history, talking about the importance of reading. The critical thing to note is that while it does focus on the black experience, the love of reading and what the authors are saying is relevant to everyone. A very nice collection.
Profile Image for Antigo Martin-Delaney.
155 reviews2 followers
September 22, 2018
Unbalanced, but worth reading

The majority of the readings in this book were from authors I that read or was familiar with. That said, I did not enjoy all the selections contained in this book. The selection on peril was more balanced than that of power and the one on pleasure was mixed from my perspectives.

This was a book club selection and I look forward to the discussion among our members.
767 reviews4 followers
November 18, 2018
Stories can be used to empower and humanize, a quote by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, summarized this book for me. Stephanie Oakes Oliver brings together a span of 250 years of black literature, telling of when it was a punishable crime for a black to learn to read and write, to the freedom and joys of expression, to the opening of minds to much more than a single view. This collection of essays by twenty five authors, classic and contemporary, are personal, provoking and inspirational.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 67 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.