Black History through Fiction (please help!)

Making a Timeline of African-American History, using Fiction

Part of the horror of being a slave and other displaced/repressed person, or descendant thereof,  is that your history is lost. Only rich, privileged people had time to write, whether autobiographies, novels, or histories. That is why the trend of slaves and ex-slaves writing narratives in the middle of the 19th century is so rare and wonderful and why historical fiction written from the viewpoint of POC is also rare and wonderful. Any book that highlights these unique, mostly untold stories, deserves and needs to be spotlighted and applauded.

SO HERE’S THE PROJECT: We are going to fill this timeline in! Going as far back as we can, and up until the Civil Rights Movement (because I feel that there is plenty of literature for that time period, plus I have to cut off the window for historical fiction as some point… If I’m wrong, let me know!), let’s collect fiction, poetry, and biographies (because we’re interested in the people of these time periods. However, if there’s is non-biographical nonfiction that you think should be included, go ahead and suggest it! The one request I have regarding nonfiction is that it be very readable and accessible to the average reader.) chronicling the history of African Americans. (I’m specifying African Americans, but should we open it up to include the histories of the whole African diaspora? A similar project for other minorities would be totally awesome, but I’m going to hold onto my Ambition Hat here and just limit it to Black history.)


Books in this color are historical fiction.
Books in this color are not. (That is, they were written around the time the book takes place or are autobiographical.)
The time periods referenced are when the books  take place, not when they were published. 

1775 – 1803?
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation Volume I: The Pox Party and The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves by M.T. Anderson

1815 – Kindred by Octavia Butler
First half of the 1800s? Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs
1818-1845 Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
1850sWench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
1856ish – Beloved by Toni Morrison
1863 – A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott

1900 – The House Behind the Cedars by Charles W. Chesnutt
Early 20th centuryTheir Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
1905-1915 (appr)? – Quicksand by Nella Larsen
1910-1925 (appr)? – Passing by Nella Larsen
1912-1920s – 
Black Boy by Richard Wright
1930sNative Son by Richard Wright

1940ish?  – The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
1944-45 – Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis

Poetry (years in publication – excluding posthumous publications)
James Weldon Johnson (1892 – 1936)

Langston Hughes (1926 – 1967)
Claude McKay (1917 – 1948?)
Jean Toomer (1923 – 1949)
Countee Cullen (1925-1942)
Arna Bontemps (1931 – 1973)

Nonfiction that I’m not including on the timeline but is worth reading!
W. E. B. Du Bois – The Souls of Black Folk (1903)
Zora Neale Hurston –
Mules and Men (1935)


Here is a link to the original post. Please comment either here or there with your own comments, additions, and suggestions!


8 thoughts on “Black History through Fiction (please help!)

  1. Saw this when visiting blogs from the Read-a-thon. I’m going to bookmark this page and get back to you with my list later. I went through a period where I only read African-American historical fiction so my list is quite long. As it is 1:30 in the morning and my brain is a bit fried, I’ll compile my list and post it here most likely in the next few days. I like this project…it’s a wonderful idea.

  2. Wright’s autobiography, “Black Boy,” would be a good addition. I’ve read it twice for different American Lit classes.

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