95 Dates of Importance in African American Novel History

[By Howard and Kenton Rambsy]

1852– The
Heroic Slave
, a novella by Frederick Douglass, is published in 1852 by
John P. Jewett and Company. The novella resembles a slave narrative even though
it is a work of fiction.
1853– William Wells Brown—escaped slave from
Kentucky—publishes Clotel;
or, The President’s Daughter
in London. His novel is considered
the first to ever be published by an African American.

1859– On September 5, 1859 Harriet Wilson’s novel, Our Nig, was
published anonymously by George C. Rand and Avery, a publishing firm in Boston.
Wilson is considered the first African American to publish a novel within the
continental United States.
1859– As a response to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle
Tom’s Cabin, abolitionist Martin Delany began publishing Blake: Or The
Huts of America
 in a serialized form.  This was the first novel
by a black man to be published in the United States. 
1898– The Uncalled, Paul Laurence
Dunbar’s first novel, is published by Dodd, Meed, and Company.
1900– Charles Chesnutt’s The House Behind the
is published by Boston publishing house, Houghton Mifflin
Company. His novel expands the thematic representations of race, miscegenation,
and passing of his earlier short story collections.
1901– Paul Laurence Dunbar’s second novel The
 is published by New York publishing house Mead, Dodd and
1901-1902–  Sutton E. Griggs founds Orion
Publishing Company in Nashville, Tennessee and publishes two self-authored
novels back-to-back—Overshadowed (1901) and Unfettered (1902).
1903–  Souls of Black Folk by
W.E.B. DuBois is published by A.C. McClurg & Co., Chicago. His collection
of essays and concept “double consciousness” would influence the work of many
African American novelists.
1912– James Weldon Johnson publishes The
Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
 anonymously through small New York
publisher Sherman, French, and Company.
1913– Author and director Oscar Micheaux publishes
his first novel, Conquest: The Story Of A Negro Pioneer, through
The Woodruff Press. The novel is published anonymously and is based on his life
as a homesteader.
1918– Hope’s Highway by Sarah Lee
Brown Fleming is published by Neale Publishing Company
1923– Cane by Jean Toomer is
published by Boni and Liveright.
1926-1927– Oscar Micheaux directs and produces The
Conjure Woman (1926) and The House Behind the Cedars (1927). These two films
are inspired by two novels by Charles Chesnutt.
1927– Knopf  Publishing company republishes The
Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man
 with James Weldon Johnson being
credited as the author unlike the 1912 version.
1928– The Walls of Jericho by
Rudolph Fisher is published by Knopf.  
1928– Home to Harlem by Claude McKay
is published by Harper and Brothers.
1929– Claude McKay wins Harmon Gold Award for
Literature for his novel Home to Harlem.
1929– Passing by Nella Larsen is
published by Knopf.
1929– The Blacker the Berry: A Novel of Negro
 by Wallace Thurman is published by the Macaulay Company
1930– Not Without Laughter, the only
novel written by Langston Hughes, is published by Knopf.
1930– Nella Larsen becomes the first black person to
be awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. She uses the funds to travel Europe to
write a novel.
1931– Black No More by George
Schuyler is published by The Macauley Company
1932– One Way To Heaven by Countee
Cullen is published by Harpers.
1937– Their Eyes Were Watching God by
Zora Neale Hurston is published by J.B. Lippincott.
1940 – Native Son by Richard Wright
is published; the work is a Book-of-the-Month Club selection.  
1941 –  Orson Welles directs stage adaption
of Native Son by Richard Wright. Actor Canada Lee stars as
Bigger Thomas.
1941 – Richard Wright receives the NAACP’s
Spingarn Medal. 
1945 – If He Hollers Let Him Go by
Chester Himes is published.
1946 – The Street by Ann Petry
is published.
1952 – Invisible Man by Ralph
Ellison is published.
1953 – Ralph Ellison receives the National Book
Award for Fiction for Invisible Man.
1953 – Go Tell It on The Mountain by
James Baldwin is published.
1953 – The Outsider by Richard
Wright is published.
1953 – Maud Martha by Gwendolyn
Brooks is published.
1959 – Brown Girl, Brownstones by
Paule Marshall is published.
1962 – And Then We Heard Thunder by
John Oliver Killens is published.
1963 – Lawd Today! By Richard
Wright is published posthumously.
1966 – Jubilee by Margaret
Walker is published.
1967 – The Man Who Cried I Am by
John A. Williams is published. 
1970 – The Bluest Eye by Toni
Morrison is published by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston Publisher.
1971 – The Autobiography of Miss Jane
 by Ernest Gaines is published.
1972 – Mumbo Jumbo by Ishmael
Reed is published and becomes, along with Flight to Canada (1976),
one of Reed’s most critically acclaim works. 
1974 – The Autobiography of Miss Jane
, a television movie based on the novel by Ernest Gaines, is
broadcast on CBS.
1975 – Corregidora by Gayl
Jones is published.
1976 – Roots: The Saga of an American
by Alex Haley is published.
1976 – Flight to Canada by
Ishmael Reed is published. The novel becomes, along with Mumbo Jumbo (1972),
one of Reed’s most critically acclaimed works.
1977 – Roots, the television
mini-series, based on Alex Haley’s novel, airs on ABC, on January 23 – 30.
1977 – Song of Solomon by Toni
Morrison is chosen as a Book-of-the-Month Club selection. The novel assists in
giving Morrison national attention.
1979 – Kindred by Octavia
Butler is published. The novel, which is based on time travel and slavery,
assists in bringing Butler attention beyond the genre of science fiction.
1980 – The Salt Eaters by Toni
Cade Bambara is published.
1982 – The Color Purple by Alice
Walker is published.
1982 – The Women of Brewster Place by
Gloria Naylor is published.  
1983 – Alice Walker wins the Pulitzer Prize for
Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction for her novel The Color
1985 – Steven Spielberg produces and directs The
Color Purple
, a film based on Alice Walker’s novel.
1986 – A second adaptation of Richard Wright’s
Native Son is made with Victor Love playing the role of Bigger Thomas and Oprah
Winfrey playing his mother, Mrs. Thomas. 
1988 – Toni Morrison wins the Pulitzer Prize for
Fiction for her novel Beloved.
1989 – Donna Deitch directs the television
mini-series The Women of Brewster’s Place based on Gloria
Naylor’s novel. The mini-series stars Oprah Winfrey, Robin Givens, and Jackée.
1990 – Devil in a Blue Dress by
Walter Mosley is published.
1990 – Middle Passage by
Charles Johnson is published.
1990 – Charles Johnson is awarded the National
Book Award for Fiction for Middle Passage. During his acceptance
speech, Johnson acknowledged the 1953 winner of the award Ralph Ellison, who
was in the audience. 
1992- Waiting to Exhale by Terry
McMillan is published.
1993 – Ernest J Gaines A Lesson Before
 is published by Knopf Publishing group.
1993 – Ernest J Gaines A Lesson Before
wins National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction
1993 – Toni Morrison wins the Nobel Prize for
1994 – Breath, Eyes, Memory by
Edwidge Danticat is published.    
1995 – Carl Franklin directs Devil in a
Blue Dress
 based on Walter Mosley’s novel. The film stars Denzel
1995 – Forest Whitaker directs Waiting
to Exhale
 based on Terry McMillan’s novel. The film stars Whitney
Houston and Angela Bassett.
1995 – Carl Franklin directs Devil in a
Blue Dress
 based on Walter Mosley’s novel. The film stars Denzel
1995– Octavia Bulter becomes the first science
fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant.
1996 – The White Boy Shuffle by Paul
Beatty is published. 
1996 – Oprah Winfrey starts “Oprah’s Book Club,”
featuring book for her viewers to read and discuss. 
1996 – Oprah’s Book Club features Toni
Morrison’s Song of Solomon (1977) in October.
1997 – Oprah’s Book Club features Ernest
Gaines’s A Lesson Before Dying (1993) in September. 
1997 – Paradise by Toni
Morrison is published. 
1998  – Oprah’s Book Club features Toni
Morrison’s Paradise (1997) in January. 
1998 – Kevin Rodney directs How Stella
Got Her Groove Back
 based on Terry McMillan. Angela Bassett, Taye
Diggs, and Whoopi Goldberg star in the film. 
1998 – Oprah’s Book Club features Edwidge
Danticat’s Breath, Eyes, Memory (1994) in May.  
1999 – The Intuitionist by
Colson Whitehead is published. 
2000 – Oprah’s Book Club features Toni
Morrison’s The Bluest Eye (1970) in April. 
2000 – The Coldest Winter Ever by
Sister Souljah is published. 
2001 – John Henry Days by
Colson Whitehead is published. 
2002 – Colson Whitehead receives a MacArthur
2002 – Oprah’s Book Club features Toni
Morrison’s Sula (1973)  in April. 
2002 – Leaving Atlanta by Tayari
Jones is published.
2003 – Getting Mother’s Body by
Suzan-Lori Parks is published.
2003 – Love by Toni Morrison is
2003 – The Known World by
Edward P. Jones is published.
2004 – Edward Jones is awarded the National Book
Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in for The
Known World
2007 – Apex Hides the Hurt by
Colson Whitehead is published.
2008 – A Father’s Law by
Richard Wright is posthumously published. 
2008 – A Mercy by Toni Morrison
is published.
2009 – Sag Harbor by Colson
Whitehead is published.
2011 – Zone One by Colson
Whitehead is published. 
2011 – Salvage the Bones by
Jesmyn Ward is published.