Ohio is not only the cradle of the presidents, but also the birthplace and home to many beloved African American writers. Ohio’s black authors can boast many literary prizes spanning from poetry awards to Nobels to Newberys. In celebration of Black History Month in February, here are a few of Ohio’s most revered writers.
Jacqueline Woodson is the Newbery Honor-winning author of Brown Girl Dreaming, After Tupac and D Foster, Feathers, and Show Way. She was recently named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress. Woodson continues to be active in the writing community and loves to promote the work of public libraries.
Virginia Hamilton, a local children’s author, was awarded the Newbery Medal, the National Book Award, the Hans Christian Andersen Medal, and many more. The farmlands of southwestern Ohio had been home to Hamilton’s family since the late 1850s, when her grandfather came to Ohio as an infant via the Underground Railroad. In 1969, Virginia and her husband and fellow writer, Arnold Adoff, built their “dream home” in Yellow Springs.
Greene County Public Library honors Virginia’s legacy with a dedicated area inside Yellow Springs Community Library. Along the street outside is an historical marker noting her connection to the community.
Rita Dove was born in Akron, Ohio. Dove writes poetry, essays, and fiction. She attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, before publishing her first book of poetry in 1980. In 1987 she won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Six years later, Dove was named US Poet Laureate. At forty years old, she was the youngest poet ever elected to the position.
Although he was not born in Ohio, Langston Hughes has an Ohio connection. Before he moved to New York City and became one of the most prominent poets of the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes was a resident of Cleveland. While living in Cleveland, Hughes wrote for the school newspaper and drafted plays, poems, and short stories in his third story bedroom.
Toni Morrison was born in Lorain, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. Morrison is one of the most prestigious writers to hail from the Buckeye State, having been awarded the Pulitzer, Nobel, and several other literary honors. Morrison has written novels, plays, nonfiction, and children’s books.
Nikki Giovanni was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1943. When Giovanni was a young child, she moved with her parents to Cincinnati, Ohio. She has published nonfiction, children’s literature, and recordings. Giovanni’s pride in her African-American heritage comes from her grandmother, who taught her how to tell stories. She has taught at several universities, including The Ohio State University.