The act of writing with a pen on a piece of paper has the power to create whole new worlds, inspire people to take action, and even bring about social change through the use of just a few letters. In fact, the Literary Arts have played a significant role in advancing social justice, and in recognition of this, the Arts Council of Fayetteville is celebrating three outstanding African American authors from our state.
Anna Julia Haywood Cooper (Raleigh, NC) was a remarkable individual who dedicated her life to education and activism. Her book, A Voice from the South: By a Black Woman of the South, was a pioneering work in black feminism and aimed to improve the lives of the entire African-American community by highlighting the progress of Black women. Her words continue to inspire us today, as she believed in the universal cause of women's rights and the inalienable rights of all humanity to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Despite being born into slavery, she earned her Doctor of Philosophy degree at the age of 65, becoming the fourth black woman in American history to achieve that honor. Her work was recognized and celebrated, and her legacy of hope and perseverance continues to inspire us even today.
Charles Waddell Chesnutt (Fayetteville, NC) was an inspiring American author, essayist, political activist, and lawyer, who used his work to explore complex issues of racial and social identity in the post-Civil War South. He was a trailblazer, being the first African American to be published in The Atlantic Monthly with his short story "The Goophered Grapevine." Chesnutt's literature continued to inspire and educate readers on topics like color and class preferences within the Black community and the difficulties of racialization, "passing," and social place.
Chesnutt's most important work, The Conjure Woman, was a collection of stories that featured supernatural elements and highlighted the life of a formerly enslaved man, Uncle Julius. Through his storytelling, Uncle Julius achieved his goals and provided care for his circle, inspiring readers to use their talents to achieve their goals and care for those around them.
Chesnutt's legacy also includes his refusal to "pass" as a white man despite his majority-European ancestry. He identified as African American and used his voice to shed light on the discrimination and struggles faced by Black people in the South.
Chesnutt's life and work continue to inspire people today to use their talents to create change, stand up for their beliefs, and promote equality and justice.
Brendan Slocumb's (Fayetteville, NC) life has been deeply intertwined with music. He speaks of it as a life-saving force and a gift that should be bestowed upon children. At the tender age of nine, he began playing the violin, thanks to a public school music program. While his peers were out running the streets and falling into trouble, Brendan was busy rehearsing, honing his skills and perfecting his craft. Brendan's love for the violin opened doors of opportunity that he never could have imagined. His first novel, 'The Violin Conspiracy' (Anchor Books), was a gripping tale of a young black musician who discovers that his old family fiddle is actually a priceless Stradivarius. The book was chosen as a GMA Book Club pick, cementing Brendan's place as a talented writer. In 2023, Brendan published his second novel, 'Symphony of Secrets' (Anchor Books), a fascinating story of a music historian who uncovers a shocking truth about the world's greatest composer. The book sheds light on the injustice that neurodivergent black women face in the music industry. Brendan's journey is one of hard work, dedication, and a passion for music and writing. It is a reminder that with perseverance, one can overcome any obstacle and achieve greatness.