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

4.48  ·  Rating details ·  256 ratings  ·  62 reviews
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 se
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published January 30th 2018 by 37 Ink
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Start your review of Black Ink: Literary Legends on the Peril, Power, and Pleasure of Reading and Writing
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. Punishab
Jun 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
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.
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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 con
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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"
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookstobuy
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 bei
Jul 17, 2018 added it
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.
Rebel Women Lit
Feb 26, 2018 added it
Shelves: arcs
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 e ...more
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, books, race
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,
Carolyn J
Jun 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
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,
Dec 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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.
Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 Afri ...more
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jason Robinson
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
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 Fic
Mar 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 litera
Connie Kuntz
May 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 cont
Dec 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: african-american
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
Marcus Nelson
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 yea ...more
Dan'l Danehy-oakes
Dec 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
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 White
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 i
Lauren Dandridge
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 ...more
Carol Ashey
Nov 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
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 Ma ...more
Mar 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Mar 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: african-america
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 ...more
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 r ...more
Jun 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Antigo Martin-Delaney
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.
Nov 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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.
May 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
These essays are a book lover's dream. Engaging and thoughtful. Lively and powerful. An easy way to acquire a list of new-to-me authors and to remember past favorites. I will say it is formatted to present essays in order by time period so if you, like me, have trouble feeling a disconnect with hte older, more formal, writing styles, than just skip around to make it an easier read but do read them all! ...more
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Essay collections offer a unique kind of reader experience, one that can be rewarding in a different way from novels or even other types of...
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“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.” 1 likes
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