Famous Black Writers

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou.
8
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: April 4, 1928
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Died: May 28, 2014
Poet, author, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou was a champion for black feminism and is best remembered for her autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sing. The recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and over 50 honorary degrees was also a child sex abuse survivor.

 2 James Baldwin

James Baldwin.
4
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: August 2, 1924
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Harlem, New York, United States
Died: December 1, 1987

Amongst the greatest writers of the 20th century and a leading literary voice in the civil rights movement, James Baldwin extensively explored issues like race, sexuality and humanity in his work. His best known work include his debut novel Go Tell It on the Mountain and his books of essays Notes of a Native Son and Nobody Knows My Name.

 3 W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois.
4
Famous As: Civil Rights Activists
Birthdate: February 23, 1868
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Great Barrington, Massachusetts, United States
Died: August 27, 1963

W. E. B. Du Bois was an American civil rights activist, sociologist, and Pan-Africanist. Du Bois played an instrumental role in fighting for full civil rights for people of color around the world. A co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Du Bois also played an important role as the leader of the Niagara Movement.

 4 Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison.
4
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: February 18, 1931
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Lorain, Ohio
Died: August 5, 2019
Author, editor, and Princeton professor Toni Morrison is best remembered for her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Beloved, part of a trilogy. Some of her other notable works include The Bluest Eye and Song of Solomon. She received the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature. She also wrote several children’s books and plays.

 5 Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes.
8
Famous As: Poet, Novelist, Playwright, & Columnist
Birthdate: February 1, 1902
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Joplin, Missouri, United States
Died: May 22, 1967

Langston Hughes is best remembered as a prominent leader of the Harlem Renaissance. He was one of the first to write jazz poetry. He also wrote plays and short stories. He was a columnist for The Chicago Defender and wrote the iconic poem The Negro Speaks of Rivers.

 6 Chinua Achebe

Chinua Achebe.
4
Famous As: Nigerian novelist
Birthdate: November 16, 1930
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Ogidi, Nigeria Protectorate
Died: March 21, 2013

Chinua Achebe was a Nigerian poet, novelist, professor, and critic. Often described as Africa's greatest storyteller, Achebe is widely regarded as the father of modern African writing. He was the recipient of several awards and honors, including the Man Booker International Prize 2007. His novel Things Fall Apart is one of the most read books in Africa.

 7 Olaudah Equiano

Olaudah Equiano.
4
Famous As: Anti Slavery Activist
Birthdate: 1745 AD
Birthplace: Igboland
Died: March 31, 1797

Olaudah Equiano was a writer and abolitionist who was part of the abolitionist group, Sons of Africa, composed of Africans living in Britain in the 18th century. Enslaved as a child and sold to different “masters,” he eventually purchased his freedom and became one of the leaders of the anti-slave trade movement in the 1780s.  

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 8 Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates.
4
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: September 30, 1975
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland, United States

Author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates gained international prominence while serving as the national correspondent at The Atlantic. His writings on socio-political issues related to African Americans and white supremacy garnered him much appreciation. He is a recipient of the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center Prize for Writing to Advance Social Justice. He also writes fiction and comics.

 9 August Wilson

August Wilson.
6
Famous As: American playwright
Birthdate: April 27, 1945
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: October 2, 2005
August Wilson, also known as "theater's poet of black America,” was a renowned playwright. He is best remembered for The Pittsburgh Cycle, his series of 10 plays that focused on the 20th-century African-American community. Two of his plays, Fences and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, were turned into movies.

 10 Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler.
6
Famous As: Science Fiction Writer
Birthdate: June 22, 1947
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Pasadena, California, United States
Died: February 24, 2006

One of the finest African-American sci-fi authors, Octavia Butler was raised single-handedly by her widowed mother. Best known for the Patternist series and the short story Bloodchild, she often mingled mythology and spirituality in her work. She was the first sci-fi author to receive a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.

 11 Richard Wright

Richard Wright.
4
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: September 4, 1908
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Roxie, Mississippi, United States
Died: November 28, 1960

 12 Danai Gurira

Danai Gurira.
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: February 14, 1978
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Grinnell, Iowa
Danai Gurira is best known as Michonne from The Walking Dead and as Okoye from the Marvel films Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame. She earned a Tony nomination for writing the Broadway play Eclipsed. She has been a UN Goodwill Ambassador and promotes arts and women empowerment.

 13 Octavia Spencer

Octavia Spencer
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: May 25, 1972
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Montgomery, Alabama, United States

 14 Lorraine Hansberry

Lorraine Hansberry
5
Famous As: Writer, Theatre director, Screenwriter, Playwright, Human rights activist
Birthdate: May 19, 1930
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Chicago
Died: January 12, 1965

 15 Sidney Poitier

Sidney Poitier.
4
Birthdate: February 20, 1927
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Miami, Florida, U.S.

Sidney Poitier is a Bahamian-American actor who became the first Afro-Bahamian and Black male actor to receive an Oscar for Best Actor in 1964. In 2009, he was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His life and work inspired a couple of documentary films, including the 2008 film Sidney Poitier, an Outsider in Hollywood.

 16 Shonda Rhimes

Shonda Rhimes.
6
Famous As: Television Producer
Birthdate: January 13, 1970
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Chicago

Shonda Rhimes is a screenwriter, author, and television producer. She is credited with creating, writing, and executive producing one of the most popular American medical drama TV series ever, Grey's Anatomy. She is also credited with creating series like Private Practice and Scandal. In 2007, she was named in Time magazine's list of 100 People Who Help Shape the World.

 17 Ralph Waldo Ellison

Ralph Waldo Ellison.
3
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: March 1, 1914
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States
Died: April 16, 1994

 18 Gladys Knight

Gladys Knight
4
Famous As: Singer-Songwriter
Birthdate: May 28, 1944
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

 19 Anita Hill

Anita Hill
4
Famous As: Attorney
Birthdate: July 30, 1956
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Morns, Oklahoma, USA

 20 Daymond John

Daymond John.
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Famous As: CEO of FUBU
Birthdate: February 23, 1969
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, United States

Daymond John is an American investor, businessman, author, TV personality, and motivational speaker. He is credited with founding FUBU, a hip hop apparel company, for which he also serves as the president and CEO. He is also credited with founding a consulting and brand management firm called The Shark Group, where he serves as the CEO.

 21 Assata Shakur

Assata Shakur.
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Famous As: Murder Convict
Birthdate: July 16, 1947
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Jamaica, New York, United States

Assata Shakur is a former member of the revolutionary organization 'Black Liberation Army'. Sentenced to life for murder, Shakur escaped from the 'Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women' and was eventually granted political asylum in Cuba. She is the first woman to be added to FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list. Her life inspired the documentary film Eyes of the Rainbow.

 22 Michaela Coel

Michaela Coel
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Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: October 1, 1987
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: London, England

 23 Ernie Hudson

Ernie Hudson
4
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: December 17, 1945
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Benton Harbor, Michigan, USA

 24 Alice Walker

Alice Walker.
4
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: February 9, 1944
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Eatonton
Author Alice Walker is best known for her National Book Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple. She is credited with coining the term womanist, to mean feminist of color. Her marriage with Melvyn Roseman Leventhal was the first official interracial marriage in the state of Mississippi.

 25 Karamo Brown

Karamo Brown
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Famous As: Television host
Birthdate: November 2, 1980
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Houston, Texas, U.S.

A dynamic talk and lifestyle television host, Karamo Brown is also a reality television personality, actor, author, and an award-winning activist. Beginning his career with a small role in The Princess Diaries, he later switched to television, making his mark with the MTV reality series The Real World: Philadelphia.  Also a published author, he has three titles to his credit.

 26 Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: September 15, 1977
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Enugu, Nigeria

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian writer and feminist. She is popular for writing novels, such as Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun. She is credited with popularizing African literature among a new generation of readers, especially in the United States. In 2015, she was named in Time magazine's list of 100 Most Influential People.

 27 Omarosa Manigault

Omarosa Manigault
4
Famous As: Writers
Birthdate: February 15, 1974
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Youngstown, Ohio, United States

 28 Stella Immanuel

Stella Immanuel
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Famous As: Physician, writer
Birthdate: 1965 AD
Birthplace: Cameroon

 29 J. B. Smoove

J. B. Smoove
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: December 16, 1965
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Plymouth, North Carolina, United States

 30 Mo'Nique

Mo'Nique
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Famous As: Comedian
Birthdate: December 11, 1967
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Woodlawn, Maryland, United States

 31 Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston.
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Famous As: Folklorist, Anthropologist
Birthdate: January 7, 1891
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Notasulga
Died: January 28, 1960

Zora Neale Hurston was an author, anthropologist, and filmmaker. As an African American woman, she often depicted racial issues in the films she made. Her works also reflected her struggles as a black woman. In her early career, she conducted anthropological and ethnographic research and focused more on writing and film-making in her later years.

 32 Lashana Lynch

Lashana Lynch.
4
Famous As: Actress
Birthdate: November 27, 1987
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Hammersmith, London, England, UK
Lashana Lynch is best known for her roles of Rosaline Capulet in the series Still Star-Crossed and Maria Rambeau in the film Captain Marvel. She received the Laurence Olivier bursary in drama school. Lynch will be seen as Nomi in the upcoming James Bond film No Time to Die

 33 Alex Haley

Alex Haley.
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 11, 1921
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Ithaca
Died: February 10, 1992

 34 Yolanda King

Yolanda King.
4
Famous As: Activist
Birthdate: November 17, 1955
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Montgomery, Alabama
Died: May 15, 2007

African American activist, Yolanda King, was the first-born child of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. Exposed to social justice activism at a young age, she grew up to be an outspoken supporter of civil rights and LGBTQA+ rights. She was also known for her artistic endeavors. She died of heart disease at 51. 

 35 James Avery

James Avery
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Famous As: Film actor
Birthdate: November 27, 1945
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Suffolk, Virginia, U.S.
Died: December 31, 2013

 36 Gil Scott-Heron

Gil Scott-Heron
4
Famous As: Singer, Writer, Composer, Poet, Pianist
Birthdate: April 1, 1949
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Chicago
Died: May 27, 2011

 37 Frantz Fanon

Frantz Fanon
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Famous As: Psychiatrist
Birthdate: July 20, 1925
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Fort-de-France, Martinique, France
Died: December 6, 1961

Frantz Fanon was a French-West Indian born in Martinique, a former French colony. A skilled psychiatrist and physician, he realized the impact of colonialism on the human mind while treating French soldiers and Algerians. The author of books such as The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon supported the Algerian independence movement.

 38 Janet Mock

Janet Mock.
4
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: March 10, 1983
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Honolulu, Hawaii, United States

 39 Ralph Sampson

Ralph Sampson.
4
Famous As: Basketball Player
Birthdate: July 7, 1960
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Harrisonburg, Virginia, United States

 40 Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde.
6
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: February 18, 1934
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Harlem, New York City
Died: November 17, 1992

Author and poet Audre Lorde is remembered as a firebrand feminist and a champion for the LGBT community. Openly lesbian, she penned iconic volumes such as Cables to Rage and The Black Unicorn. She also recorded her 14-year struggle with cancer in The Cancer Journals and A Burst of Light.

 41 T. D. Jakes

T. D. Jakes
4
Famous As: Priest, Author, Writer
Birthdate: June 9, 1957
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: South Charleston

Known for his baritone voice and his signature goatee, T. D. Jakes is a bishop at The Potter's House and a filmmaker, too. He has produced and appeared in films such as Jumping the Broom and Not Easily Broken, the latter being based one of his novels.

 42 Martellus Bennett

Martellus Bennett.
4
Famous As: Football Player
Birthdate: March 10, 1987
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: San Diego, California, United States

 43 Dwayne Wayans

Dwayne Wayans
4
Famous As: Composer, Actor, Musician, Writer
Birthdate: July 20, 1956
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: New York City

 44 Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Henry Louis Gates Jr.
4
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: September 16, 1950
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Keyser, West Virginia

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is an American literary critic, historian, professor, filmmaker, and public intellectual. He is currently serving as the director of the Hutchins Center at Harvard University. Over the years Gates has been honored with several prestigious awards including the National Humanities Medal. In 1997, he was named in Time magazine's 25 Most Influential Americans list.

 45 N. K. Jemisin

N. K. Jemisin
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: September 19, 1972
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Iowa City, Iowa, U.S.

N. K. Jemisin became the first writer to win the Hugo Best Novel award thrice consecutively and is best known for her Inheritance trilogy and her Broken Earth series. The African-American author is also a trained psychologist and has worked as a counsellor in several universities.

 46 Eldridge Cleaver

Eldridge Cleaver.
4
Birthdate: August 31, 1935
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Wabbaseka, Arkansas
Died: May 1, 1998

 47 Lilian Thuram

Lilian Thuram
4
Famous As: Football player
Birthdate: January 1, 1972
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe, France

 48 Wole Soyinka

Wole Soyinka.
4
Famous As: Author, Poet, Playwright
Birthdate: July 13, 1934
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Abeokuta

Wole Soyinka is a Nigerian playwright, poet, and essayist. In 1986, he became the first sub-Saharan African to be honored with the Nobel Prize in Literature. As a young man, he worked with the Royal Court Theatre in London. In Nigeria, he was actively involved in the country’s freedom struggle. He has taught at various international universities.

 49 Phillis Wheatley

Phillis Wheatley.
5
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: May 8, 1753
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: West Africa
Died: December 5, 1784

 50 Allen West

Allen West
4
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: February 7, 1961
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia (U.S. state) Georgia, U.S.