In 1987, writer Toni Morrison told New York Times reporter Mervyn Rothstein the importance of being an African-American woman and writer. Morrison said, Ive decided to define that, rather than having it be defined for me....In the beginning, people would say, Do you regard yourself as a black writer, or as a writer? and they also used the word woman with it - woman writer. So at first I was glib and said Im a black woman writer, because I understood that they were trying to suggest that I was bigger than that, or better than that. I simply refused to accept their view of bigger and better. I really think the range of emotions and perceptions I have had access to as a black person and as a female person are greater than those of people who are neither. I really do. So it seems to me that my world did not shrink because I was a black female writer. It just got bigger.
Like Morrison, other African-American women who happen to be scribes, have had to define themselves through their artistry. Writers such as Phillis Wheatley, Frances Watkins Harper, Alice Dunbar-Nelson, Zora Neale Hurston and Gwendolyn Brooks all have used their creativity to express the importance of Black womanhood in literature.
In 1773, Phillis Wheatley published Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. With this publication, Wheatley became the second African-American and first African-American woman to publish a collection of poetry.
Kidnapped from Senegambia, Wheatley was sold to a family in Boston who taught her to read and write. Realizing Wheatleys talent as a writer, they encouraged her to write poetry at a young age.
Frances Watkins Harper achieved international acclaim as an author and speaker. Through her poetry, fiction and nonfiction writing, Harper inspired Americans to create change in society. Beginning in 1845, Harper published collections of poetry such as Forest Leaves as well as Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects published in 1850. The second collection sold more than 10,000 copies--a record for a poetry