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.

Vote for Your Favourite Writers

 1 
James Baldwin
(Author Best Known for His Novel 'Go Tell It on the Mountain')

James Baldwin
11
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.

 2 
W. E. B. Du Bois
(Civil Rights Activists)

W. E. B. Du Bois
5
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.

 3 
Toni Morrison
(Novelist)

Toni Morrison
10
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.

 4 
Chinua Achebe
(Nigerian novelist)

Chinua Achebe
4
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.

 5 
Ta-Nehisi Coates
(Author and Journalist Known for His Non-Fiction Books: ‘The Beautiful Struggle’ and ‘Between the World and Me’)

Ta-Nehisi Coates
6
Birthdate: September 30, 1975
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.

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.

 6 
Olaudah Equiano
(Anti Slavery Activist)

Olaudah Equiano
4
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.  

 7 
Octavia Butler
(Science fiction author)

Octavia Butler
8
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.

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 8 
Lorraine Hansberry
(Writer, Theatre director, Screenwriter, Playwright, Human rights activist)

Lorraine Hansberry
6
Birthdate: May 19, 1930
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died: January 12, 1965

Lorraine Hansberry was a writer and playwright best remembered for her play A Raisin in the Sun which emphasizes the plight of African-Americans living under racial segregation. At the age of 29, Lorraine Hansberry received the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, becoming the youngest playwright and the first African-American dramatist to win the prestigious award.

 9 

Octavia Spencer
5
Birthdate: May 25, 1972
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Montgomery, Alabama, United States

 10 
Shonda Rhimes
(Television Producer)

Shonda Rhimes
6
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.

 11 

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

 12 
Leslie Jones
(Comedian)

Leslie Jones
5
Birthdate: September 7, 1967
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Memphis, Tennessee, United States

 13 
Gladys Knight
(Singer-Songwriter)

Gladys Knight
5
Birthdate: May 28, 1944
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

 14 
Billy Dee Williams
(Actor, Novelist)

Billy Dee Williams
5
Birthdate: April 6, 1937
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York, New York, United States

Actor, voice actor, and artist Billy Dee Williams first rose to fame for his role in the Star Wars franchise in the early 1980s. Making his Broadway theater debut as a child actor, he went on to pursue a career as an artist. Eventually, he started acting again and achieved success as both an actor and an artist.

 15 
Coretta Scott King
(Civil Rights Activist, Author)

Coretta Scott King
5
Birthdate: April 27, 1927
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Heiberger, Alabama, United States
Died: January 30, 2006

The American civil rights activist was an ideal foil for her famous husband Martin Luther King Jr. in promoting racial equality. The author and singer led the Women's Movement and fought for the rights of the LGBT community. She was also known for mobilising African-Americans during the 1960 US presidential election. She founded the King Centre, a not-for-profit organization.

 16 
Daymond John
(CEO of FUBU)

Daymond John
5
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.

 17 

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

 18 
Michaela Coel
(Actress)

Michaela Coel
12
Birthdate: October 1, 1987
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: London, England

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
4
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.

 20 

J. B. Smoove
4
Birthdate: December 16, 1965
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Plymouth, North Carolina, United States

 21 
Mo'Nique
(Comedian)

Mo'Nique
4
Birthdate: December 11, 1967
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Woodlawn, Maryland, United States

 22 
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
(Critic of Islam and Advocate of Women Rights)

Ayaan Hirsi Ali
4
Birthdate: November 13, 1969
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Mogadishu, Somalia

Somali-born Dutch-American activist, feminist, and scholar Ayaan Hirsi Ali is the founder of an organization for the defense of women's rights, the AHA Foundation. She actively opposes forced marriage, honor violence, and child marriage. A former Muslim, she now identifies as an atheist and is a vocal critic of Islam. She is a recipient of the Lantos Human Rights Prize.

 23 
Zora Neale Hurston
(Folklorist, Anthropologist)

Zora Neale Hurston
5
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.

 24 
James Avery
(Film actor)

James Avery
9
Birthdate: November 27, 1945
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Suffolk, Virginia, U.S.
Died: December 31, 2013

 25 

Omarosa Manigault
5
Birthdate: February 15, 1974
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Youngstown, Ohio, United States

 26 
Gil Scott-Heron
(Poet and Singer-songwriter)

Gil Scott-Heron
4
Birthdate: April 1, 1949
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died: May 27, 2011

 27 
Audre Lorde
(Writer)

Audre Lorde
6
Birthdate: February 18, 1934
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Harlem, New York, United States
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.

 28 
Janet Mock
(Writer & Transgender Activist Know for Her Debut Book, The Memoir Redefining Realness, Became a New York Times Bestseller)

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

Martinique
4
Birthdate: 0000 AD

 30 
Ossie Davis
(Former actor who appeared in films with wife Ruby Dee)

Ossie Davis
4
Birthdate: December 18, 1917
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Cogdell, Georgia, United States
Died: February 4, 2005

 31 

Colman Domingo
4
Birthdate: November 28, 1969
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

 32 
T. D. Jakes
(Priest, Author, Writer)

T. D. Jakes
4
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.

 33 
Wole Soyinka
(Author, Poet, Playwright)

Wole Soyinka
4
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.

 34 
Lilian Thuram
(Football player)

Lilian Thuram
7
Birthdate: January 1, 1972
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe, France

French former footballer Lilian Thuram, who is now a renowned author, with books on racism such as White Thinking to his credit. His 142 appearances for the French national team made him the most capped player of his country, while he was part of the 1998 FIFA World Cup-winning squad.

 35 
N. K. Jemisin
(Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer Known for Her 'Inheritance' Trilogy)

N. K. Jemisin
4
Birthdate: September 19, 1972
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Iowa City, Iowa, United States

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.

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

 37 
Allen West
(Politician)

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

 38 

Henry Louis Gates Jr.
4
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.

 39 

Phillis Wheatley
6
Birthdate: May 8, 1753
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: West Africa
Died: December 5, 1784

 40 
Chirlane McCray
(Writer, Social Activist)

Chirlane McCray
5
Birthdate: November 29, 1954
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

 41 

Denise Nicholas
4
Birthdate: July 12, 1944
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan, United States

 42 
Frantz Fanon
(Psychiatrist)

Frantz Fanon
4
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.

 43 
Attallah Shabazz
(Malcolm X's Daughter)

Attallah Shabazz
4
Birthdate: November 16, 1958
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Queens, New York City, New York

 44 
Earl Woods
(Military personnel)

Earl Woods
4
Birthdate: March 5, 1932
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Manhattan, Kansas, United States
Died: May 3, 2006

Better known as the father of renowned golfer Tiger Woods, Earl Woods had initially been a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel. He excelled in baseball in college and learned to play golf much later, at 42. Addicted to the sport, he taught it to his son, who later became a golf legend.

 45 

Patrisse Cullors
4
Birthdate: June 20, 1983
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, U.S.

 46 
W. Kamau Bell
(Comedian)

W. Kamau Bell
5
Birthdate: January 26, 1973
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Palo Alto, California, United States U.S.

 47 
Aaron McGruder
(Writer, Cartoonist & Public Speaker)

Aaron McGruder
4
Birthdate: May 29, 1974
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Chicago

Aaron McGruder is an American writer, cartoonist, screenwriter, producer, and lecturer. He is best known for writing a Universal Press Syndicate comic strip titled The Boondocks. He also wrote its TV series adaptation where he served as the creator, head writer, and executive producer.

 48 

Clarke Peters
4
Birthdate: April 7, 1952
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: New York City, New York, USA

 49 

Bernie Casey
4
Birthdate: June 8, 1939
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Wyco, West Virginia, USA
Died: September 19, 2017

 50 

Gbenga Akinnagbe
4
Birthdate: December 12, 1978
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States