BlackFacts Details

6 Revealing Autobiographies by African-American Thinkers

Like the narratives written by former enslaved African-Americans, the ability to tell ones story has played an important role in the lives of African-American men and women. Below are six autobiographies that highlight the important contributions men such as Malcolm X and women such as Zora Neale Hurston played in an ever-changing society. 

In 1942, Zora Neale Hurston published her autobiography, Dust Tracks on a Road. The autobiography offers readers a glimpse into Hurston’s upbringing in Eatonville, Fla. Then, Hurston describes her career as a writer during the Harlem Renaissance and her work as a cultural anthropologist who traveled through the South and Caribbean. 

This autobiography includes a forward from Maya Angelou, an extensive biography written by Valerie Boyd as well as a P.S. section that includes reviews of the book’s original publication. 

Written with the help of Alex Haley, X’s autobiography is based on interviews that took place over the span of two years—from 1963 to his assassination in 1965.

When Crusade for Justice  was published, historian Thelma D. Perry wrote a review in the Negro History Bulletin calling the text An illuminating narrative of a zealous, race-conscious, civic- and church-minded black woman reformer, whose life story is a significant chapter in the history of Negro-White relations.

Before passing away in 1931, Ida B. Wells-Barnett  realized that her work as an African-American journalist, anti-lynching crusader, and social activist would be forgotten if she did not begin to write about her experiences.

In the autobiography, Wells-Barnett describers her relationships with prominent leaders such as Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass and Woodrow Wilson. 

Considered one of the most powerful African-American men of his time, Booker T. Washington’s autobiography  Up From Slavery offers readers insight into his early life as a slave, his training at Hampton Institute and finally, as president and founder of Tuskegee Institute.

National Trust for Historic Preservation