African American Literature 1960-1969
The Angry Ones by John A. Williams
The debut novel of John A. Williams, The Angry Ones was published only in paperback form. The story is about a college-educated black man and the troubles he encounters when he is desired by a white woman. White went on to write many novels, including the best-selling The Man Who Cried I Am, a fictionalized account of the life and death of Richard Wright.
The first edition of The Angry Ones was published by Ace, New York in 1960.
The Grand Parade by Julian Mayfield
The Grand Parade centers around politics in the fictional city of Gainsboro, where integration is the pivotal question. With a sprawling cast of characters along the political, economic, social, and racial spectrum at the cusp of the Civil Rights era. This is the third novel by Julian Mayfield, an American actor, director, writer, lecturer, and civil rights activist.
The first edition of The Grand Parade was published in New York by The Vanguard Press in 1961
A Different Drummer by William Melvin Kelley
A Different Drummer is the debut novel of author William Melvin Kelley. The novel is about a mythical Southern state that mysteriously loses its entire black population. The story of the disappearance of the black population is told by multiple white narrators, highlighting the white population's dependence on black people for labor and white supremacy.
Along with being credited with coining the term ‘woke’ in 1962 (defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “Alert to injustice in society, especially racism.”), a 2018 piece in the New Yorker dubbed Kelley "The Lost Giant of American Literature" reviving interest in his works,
The first edition of A Different Drummer was published by Doubleday and Company, New York, 1962.
The Learning Tree by Gordan Parks
The Learning Tree is a semi-autobiographical novel by photographer, writer, and composer Gordan Parks. This coming-of-age story centers around Newt Winger, a young black teen, and his family, living in a small Kansas town in the 1920s. A 1969 film, based on the novel and written and directed by Parks, was the first film directed by an African-American for a major film studio in the US. In 1989, The Learning Tree was one of the first 25 films selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant"
The first edition of The Learning Tree was published by Harper & Row in 1963.
Catherine Carmier by Ernest Gaines
Catherine Carmier is a love story set in the countryside of Louisiana, where the protagonist Jackson returns after living in San Francisco for ten years. It is the first published novel by author Ernest Gaines, who went on to write many renowned and award-winning books, including Of Love and Dust (1968), The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1971), and A Lesson Before Dying (1993).
The first edition of Catherine Carmier was published by Atheneum, New York, in 1964.
Ladies of the Rachmaninoff Eyes by Henry Van Dyke
The debut novel of Henry L. Van Dyke, Jr., Ladies of the Rachmaninoff Eyes follows Oliver, a young black man struggling with his identity, who lives with his aunt, the housekeeper for an old Jewish widow. The two women in the story have formed a deep bond over thirty years of living together, despite their social and racial differences. Grieving over the death of her son to suicide, the Jewish woman hires a conman to perform a seance, and chaos ensues.
The first edition of Ladies of the Rachmaninoff Eyes was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 1965.
Jubilee by Margaret Walker
Margaret Walker’s debut novel Jubilee weaves her family history into a story that she spent 30 years researching after hearing as a child from her grandmother, who was the real Vyry’s child. Vyry, the child of a white plantation owner and his black mistress, is a true Southern heroine, intelligent, strong, and brave. The novel traces the South’s prewar opulence, through the brutal Civil War and into the promises of Reconstruction. Set in Georgia and Alabama, it follows Vyry’s life from childhood to adulthood.
The first edition of Jubilee was published by Houghton Mifflin & Co, Boston, MA in 1966.
Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delaney
Babel-17 is the seventh novel published by science fiction writer Samuel R. Delany. The Sapir–Whorf hypothesis plays an important part in this novel in which a poet is bent on deciphering a secret language that is the key to the enemy’s deadly force. Babel-17 was a joint winner of the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1967 (with Flowers for Algernon) and was also nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1967.
First published in 1966 by Ace, Delany hoped to have Babel-17 originally published as a single volume with the novella Empire Star, but this did not happen until a 2001 reprint.
A Glance Away by John Edgar Wideman
A Glance Away is John Edgar Wideman’s first novel, published when he was 26 years old. Two characters, Eddie Lawson, a young African American, and Robert Thurley, a white professor, are linked through ‘Brother’ - a drug-dealing friend of Eddie’s trying to lure him back to drugs, and the lover of the aging and confused Thurley. The action unfolds over the course of a day as the men try to save themselves from their demons. The New York Times Book Review raved "Here is a novelist of high seriousness and depth. He has all sorts of literary gifts, including a poet's flair for a taut, meaningful, emotional language."
The first edition of A Glance Away was published by Harcourt, Brace & World, New York, in 1967
Mama Black Widow by Iceberg Slim
In Mama Black Widow Otis Tilson’s family fled the plantation, but in the Urban North they were greeted by the grim and violent realities of the ghetto. Tilson is a young, gay, black man, and as a drag queen in the violent and dangerous urban world, he finds he can live a more truthful life in the shadows and on the streets as his family is destroyed by the darkness. Robert Beck, better known as Iceberg Slim, was a pimp who became an influential author, writing about the dark side of criminal life in vivid detail. His first book, a memoir, Pimp: The Story of My Life was published in 1967. Slim ushered in the era of "Black Exploitation" influencing 1960s cinema and eventually Hip Hop culture.
The first edition of Mama Black Widow was published by Holloway House, Los Angeles in 1969.
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Author Bio: Amy C. Manikowski is a writer, bookseller, trail-diverger, history buff, and pitbull lover. She graduated from Chatham University with an MFA a while ago, and after wandering aimlessly settled in Asheville NC.