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Inspiring Quotes From 12 Great Black Writers

Updated on February 2, 2017
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As a published author and playwrite now based in China Ava blogs across various platforms.

Andrea Levy

Award Winning Writer Andrea Levy
Award Winning Writer Andrea Levy

An Introduction

The following quotes are in no particular order except ladies first.

Each writer will have a unique and sometimes unimagined effect on whoever reads their work.

I believe that when they put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, they never intended to write a line or a paragraph that would change the world. They simply sought a necessary means of self-expression.

Having their words cited and paraphrased, reprinted and often quoted was simply a natural progression.

Great writing, like the creamiest part of the milk, always rises to the top.

1. Andrea Levy

"A lot has been made of the humour - it's upset some people that a book on slavery isn't a misery fest, as if you're not taking it seriously enough. Whereas I think humor is part of the human condition. This is how human interactions work, you laugh and you're serious. But if you laugh doesn't mean it's not a serious book."

Andrea Levy addressing the detractors of her book, 'The Long Song'.

Personally I have often wondered why 'literary' books are so downright miserable. Is that what makes it worthy of a prize, the fact that the characters barely smile?

As Andrea rightly points out, a novel true of any human experience will highlight the laughter as well as the tears.

The Long Song by Andrea Levy

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

2. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“I recently spoke at a university where a student told me it was such a shame that Nigerian men were physical abusers like the father character in my novel. I told him that I had recently read a novel called American Psycho,and that it was a shame that young Americans were serial murderers.”

What can I add to this very clever retort from a prominent and powerful writer?

Chimamanda's novels can seem like a slow burn until you complete them and find yourself catching your breath at the dynamic authority with which she writes and, apparently, speaks.

Half Of A Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Terry McMillan

3. Terry McMillan

"I travel every opportunity I get or make. The world is amazing. Seeing other places and how others live, is like being in a dream. You won't want to come home."

Terry McMillan

I've tasted gloriously soft, doughy, straight-from-the-oven, smells-like-a-dream German bread whilst in the super-clean, city of Hamburg and, I've climbed the refreshingly cool, crystal clear waters of Dunns River Falls in Jamaica.

I've brought Seville oranges in Spain and wooden clog shoes in Amsterdam. I've frozen through a Canadian winter and basked in Bahamian sunshine.

Through it all, I've found inspiration every step of the way.

Terry says that you don't need to be rich to travel. I'm certainly not rich so I guess I would agree.

I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillan

Maya Angelou

4. Maya Angelou

"Some critics will write 'Maya Angelou is a natural writer' - which is right after being a natural heart surgeon."

After many years of writing I have come to realise that the more I do it, the more 'natural' I become!

My 'desire' to write is natural. It lives, breathes, eats and sleeps with me.

My 'actual writing' is discipline, dedication and continuous improvement.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Gwendolyn Brooks

5. Gwendolyn Brooks

"When you love a man, he becomes more than a body.

His physical limbs expand, and his outline recedes, vanishes. He is rich and sweet and right. He is part of the world, the atmosphere, the blue sky and the blue water."

I love this because it doesn't say that men have to be right or strong or unable to cry. It doesn't even say that men have to be providers and seek safety in stereotypes. It says that women can love men from an alternate, wonderful and beautiful point of view.

In Montgomery And Other Poems by Gwendolyn Brooks

Buchi Emecheta

6. Buchi Emecheta

"Where this gourd drops to the ground, there shall be our home and there you shall increase and multiply, and your people, your sons and daughters, shall fill the new town, and that town will grow and will always be yours." From the Novel 'Slave Girl.'

Buchi addresses issues of identity, belonging and roots.

She makes a brave, bold, promise that there will be certainty, stability and new life where there was none before.

If this is what's missing for you, here's a hope that's strong and solid.

Buchi Emecheta

Walter Mosley

Creater of Easy Rawlins and Socrates Jones, Author Walter Mosley
Creater of Easy Rawlins and Socrates Jones, Author Walter Mosley

7. Walter Mosley

"The older you are, the more you live in the past. I have to remember that young people are living in this world today and I have to be advised by them as they are advised by me."

Walter surprised many when he departed from his traditional detective genre to write science fiction.

Maybe he was being advised by his younger audience?

Walter recognizes that just because you're young doesn't mean you're uninformed.

When The Thrill Is Gone by Walter Mosley

James Baldwin

8. James Baldwin

“I can't believe what you say, because I see what you do.”

James addresses the needs of children often in his writing.

This is a warning of how they watch and imitate us and the possible consequences. It also warns us not to be hypocrites with each other.

James' writing is always profound, always intelligent.

Another Country by James Baldwin

Chinua Achebe

9. Chinua Achebe

“One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised."

What do you do when no-one else believes that you're right? Where do you stand when you stand alone?

According to Chinua, author of the fantastic book 'Things Fall Apart,' you stand on the side of right.

Don't change your position. Retain your integrity.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe


Benjamin Zephaniah

Influential Poet, Author and Musician from my home town, Birmingham UK, Benjamin Zephaniah
Influential Poet, Author and Musician from my home town, Birmingham UK, Benjamin Zephaniah

10. Ben Zephaniah

"I say there are human beings and human non-beings, a male can be either one. Human beings have to try to understand themselves and others, they should have compassion and seek truth with independent thought."

It's easy to forget about independent thought when we're bombarded with messages telling us what we should think, feel and do about everything from the latest product to the newest celebrity.

Switch off sometimes and give the space in your head a chance to experience its own unique vision.

Books by Benjamin Zephaniah

Courttia Newland

11. Courttia Newland

"Having read all my life and found it a great source of pleasure, one thing had always bothered me - I never saw myself reflected in the pages of anything I read. This prompted me to write my first book and has kept me inspired to date! Telling untold stories keeps me alive."

Courttia's hit debut novel 'The Scholar' entered a marketplace so full that initially it didn't even acknowledge him, yet he made an impact and has kept on going influencing numerous young readers worldwide.

What do you see, read, feel or hear on a regular basis that doesn't reflect you and what are you doing about it?

Music For The Off-Key. Short Stories by Courttia Newland

Alex Wheatle

12. Alex Wheatle

"I first came across The Black Jacobins by [the Afro-Trinidadian writer] C L R James in prison and that turned my life around. It made me realise that even though my life was crap, black people in history had lived a lot worse. It also made me think, 'maybe I can contribute."

Alex emerged from a less than ideal period in his youth to become a prolific and rightly celebrated writer whose work evokes memories and stirs heartfelt passion.

Doing what you want to do, the way you want to do it is not easy. But neither is marching to the beat of someone else's drum.

No matter your circumstances, you can always contribute to something greater than yourself even though at times it may feel as though you're going up a down escalator.

Brixton Rock by Alex Wheatle


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    • InspiringWriter profile image

      Ava Ming 2 years ago from Shenzhen, China

      Hi B. Leekley, yes, I've viewed that talk. She's pretty fantastic.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      One of my favorite Ted Talks is Adichie's "The Danger of a Single Story".

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 5 years ago from Minnesota

      I found the quotes really beneficial and educational. Great hub.

    • InspiringWriter profile image

      Ava Ming 5 years ago from Shenzhen, China

      Thanks Mactavers, hope they meant something to you as well (-:

    • mactavers profile image

      mactavers 5 years ago

      Great quotes and wonderful comments about their meanings to you.