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

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


View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for delivery by Wednesday, September 29


Spanning over 250 years of history, Black Ink traces black literature in America from Frederick Douglass to Ta-Nehisi Coates in this “breathtaking anthology celebrating the power of the written word to forge change” (O, The Oprah Magazine).

Throughout American history black people are the only group of people to have been forbidden by law to learn to read. This expansive collection seeks to shed light on that injustice, 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 the Pleasure—and featuring a vast 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. “This electric and electrifying collection of voices serves to open a much-needed window onto the freedom struggle of black literature. It’s a marvel, and a genuine gift for readers everywhere” (Wil Haygood, author of The Butler: A Witness to History).

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.

Related collections and offers

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501154294
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 12/04/2018
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 1,197,594
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.38(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Stephanie Stokes Oliver is the author of Daily Cornbread: 365 Secrets for a Healthy Mind, Body, and Spirit; Seven Soulful Secrets for Finding Your Purpose & Minding Your Mission; and Song for My Father: Memoir of an All-American Family. Formerly the editor of Essence, and founding editor-in-chief of Heart & Soul, she started her magazine career at Glamour. For more information, see

Nikki Giovanni is one of the most decorated poets of our time. She is the recipient of seven NAACP Image Awards, a National Book Award, a Caldecott Honor, a Coretta Scott King Award, and a Grammy nomination. She is the author of three New York Times bestsellers as well as many poetry collections for children and adults. You can visit her online at

Read an Excerpt

Black Ink

Yolande Cornelia “Nikki” Giovanni grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and spent her summers with her grandparents in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she was born in 1943. Giovanni graduated with honors from her grandfather’s alma mater, Fisk University. A world-renowned poet, author, commentator, activist, and educator, Giovanni has published volumes of poetry, nonfiction, essays, and children’s books.

She gained initial fame in the 1960s, as a leading voice of the Black Arts Movement, in the time of the civil rights and Black Power struggles. Awarded seven NAACP Image Awards, she has been nominated for a Grammy and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Since 1987, she has served on the faculty of Virginia Tech, where she is a university distinguished professor.

Giovanni’s literary greatness is on par with the twenty-five legendary writers included in this anthology. In the following foreword, she has graciously shared her own experiences in the tradition of the narrative of the book. She also sets the stage for what precedes the era of these writers in America—the horrific journey of the Middle Passage. While few of us ever think of it, overcoming language differences among the captured enslaved and then subsequently learning American English were among the first miracles along the path toward Black authorship as we know it today—from the peril of education to the power of literacy and then the pleasure of literature. First a moan, then a song, now a book.

Table of Contents

Foreword: Our First Stories Nikki Giovanni xiii

Introduction: Reading Matters Stephanie Stokes Oliver xvii

The Peril 1800-1900

Suspected of Having a Book Frederick Douglass 3

Nine Years Deprived of a Sheet of Paper Solomon Northup 13

A Whole Race Begins to Read Booker T. Washington 25

The Negro in Literature and Art W. E. B. Du Bois 41

The Power 1900-1968

Books and Things Zora Neale Hurston 49

Poetry Is Practical Langston Hughes 57

The Business of the Writer James Baldwin 57

Turning Point Malcolm X 73

Lessons in Living Maya Angelou 81

Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. 93

The Site of Memory Toni Morrison 99

Where Are the People of Color in Children's Books? Walter Dean Myers 111

Reading for Revolution Stokely Carmichael [Kwame Tore] 117

Twenty-One Alice Walker 127

A Temporary Library in a Small Place Jamaica Kincaid 135

What Is an African American Classic? Henry Louis Gates Jr. 143

New Black Scribe Terry McMillan 155

The Pleasure 1968-2017

Mfa vs. Poc Junot Díaz 163

Create Dangerously Edwidge Danticat 173

How to Write Colson Whitehead 187

From Jamaica to Minnesota to Myself Marlon James 193

I Once Was Miss America Roxane Gay 199

The Mecca TA-Nehisi Coates 207

The Danger of the Single Story Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 215

Bonus Feature What Books Mean to Me President Barack Obama An Interview With Michino Kakutani 225

Permissions and Credits 237

Acknowledgments 241

Customer Reviews