Cover image for African-American writers : a dictionary
African-American writers : a dictionary
Hatch, Shari Dorantes.
Publication Information:
Santa Barbara, Calif. : ABC-CLIO, [2000]

Physical Description:
xv, 484 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS153.N5 A3444 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating
PS153.N5 A3444 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Reference material
PS153.N5 A3444 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Black History Non-Circ

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A timely survey of an important sector of American letters, African American Writers examines a multitude of black cultural leaders from the 18th century to the present.

* Includes bibliography and illustrations

Author Notes

Shari Dorantes Hatch is a professional writer specializing in history, biography, and the social sciences.

Michael R. Strickland is assistant professor of literacy education at New Jersey City University and a Paul Robeson Fellow at the Institute for Arts and Humanities Education.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Finding information about African American writers has always entailed searching in a variety of resources. Children's writers, political writers, poets, songwriters, novelists, and speechwriters are covered in different sources, some easy to find, others not. Information about some writers, such as Toni Morrison and Phillis Wheatley, is readily available. Information about other, more obscure writers, such as Abby Fisher, who authored the first published cookbook by an African American woman, is harder to locate. And unearthing facts about those who penned comic strips, compiled bibliographies, or wrote scripts or political columns is even more challenging. This very complete and readable dictionary helps to meet that challenge. Spanning the entire history of African American expression, it covers more than 530 individuals, including writers of commercials, hymns, newspaper editorials, and rap songs along with screenplays, novels, autobiographies, essays, and poetry. Publishers, editors, and patrons of the arts are included as well. Entries vary from just a sentence for actor Laurence Fishburne to 10 pages for Richard Wright. A handful of important movements, publications, and genres (e.g., Harlem Renaissance, Negro Digest, Spirituals) are also treated. Each author entry begins with the author's birth name, followed by pseudonyms or alternative names and birth and death dates if available, as well as the genres appropriate to the individual. In addition to biographical facts, the editors have included information about what inspired the authors to compose their works, in the hope that the volume would be "a springboard for further investigation or even a source of ideas." Cross-references are in bold type, and each entry ends with abbreviated source references. The book is sprinkled with photographs and concludes with an appendix of writers by genre, a chronology of writers and a chronology of "firsts," full bibliographic references, and an index. Many of these authors have been profiled in other works, including Gale's Black Writers and Something about the Author. The Oxford Companion to African American Literature (1997) covers more than 400 authors, as well as works, characters, magazines and newspapers, publishers, influences, genres, and other related topics. Libraries holding such titles may choose not to add the ABC-CLIO volume to their reference collections, although the benefit of having information on so many authors in one place cannot be overstated. Recommended for high-school, public, and academic libraries.

Library Journal Review

This unique title profiles several hundred African American fiction and nonfiction writers from Colonial times to the present. The table of contents lists the authors alphabetically and then divides them into 17 categories (novels, short stories, slave narratives, etc.) and nine themes (Folktales, the Harlem Renaissance, Trickster Tales, etc.); authors whose work spans several categories are listed separately under each. The profiles themselves, presented alphabetically and ranging from a paragraph for less well known writers like Ai Ogawa to three pages for writers like Ralph Ellison or Terry McMillan, are both biographical and critical, although the amount of criticism varies. Included in each entry are the writer's birth and death dates, the categories into which he or she fits, and any pseudonyms. Black-and-white illustrations, references, genre lists, a comprehensive index, and chronologies of the writer's life dates and of African American literary firsts complete this impressive title. Hatch, a freelance writer, and Strickland (creative writing, Jersey City State Coll.) are to be commended; no other single work seeks to include all past and present African American writers of significance in such an affordable format. The book is not without its flaws, however, the primary one being uneven writing. (Entries are not attributed, but most were written by Hatch with some help from other contributors.) Some entries have the polished, formal writing style that one expects from a reference work, while others suffer from a liberal use of colloquial English, awkward sentence structure, and far too many distracting parenthetical statements. One hopes that later editions will correct these problems and include any omissions. Despite the drawbacks, the comprehensiveness of the work, its affordability, and the promise of future updates make this an appealing choice for all public and academic libraries."Leah J. Sparks, Bowie P.L., MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The first collective biography to focus on African American fiction and nonfiction writers, 1760 to the present, this book provides more than 500 entries, ranging in length from 25 words to several pages, and includes writers' favored genres, birth and death dates, biographical sketches, and references. It also includes articles on periodicals and presses (e.g., Negro World, Broadside Press) and topics (e.g., Black Arts movement, spirituals). Editors Hatch and Strickland describe their work as a "springboard for further research"; unfortunately, the entries lack complete bibliographies of either the authors' works or further reading. Most articles are unsigned. Oxford Companion to African American Literature, ed. by William L. Andrews, Frances Smith Foster, and Trudier Hams (CH, Jan'98), is a more thorough and scholarly treatment of literary figures, although it covers only literary figures deemed "exemplary." Hatch and Strickland's work is unique for its inclusion of nonfiction writers such as John Hope Franklin, not to mention personalities like rapper Queen Latifah. Appendixes include a list of writers by genre, a chronology of writers, a chronology of "firsts," and a list of references. Black-and-white illustrations and an index are also included. Recommended for general and academic collections. C. S. McGowan; Fairfield University