Penguin Presents Classics in African American Literature

By Kayleigh Voss | June 8 2020 | Humanities & Social Sciences

PENGUIN CLASSICS

Because what you read matters.


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For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,800 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Presented here are some of our favorite African American classics.


We are honored to publish Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize– and National Book Award–winning novel The Color Purple as a Penguin Book. A powerful cultural touchstone of modern American literature, The Color Purple depicts the lives of African American women in early twentieth-century rural Georgia and broke the silence around domestic and sexual abuse, narrating the lives of women through their pain and struggle, companionship and growth, resilience and bravery.

The Color Purple


Buried in the archive for almost ninety years, Claude McKay’s Romance in Marseille is a vital document of black modernism and one of the earliest overtly queer fictions in the African American tradition. The novel traces the adventures of a rowdy troupe of dockworkers, prostitutes, and political organizers—collectively straight and queer, disabled and able-bodied, African, European, Caribbean, and American—and is set largely in the culture-blending Vieux Port of Marseille at the height of the Jazz Age.

Penguin Civic Classics


We also recommend these other classic reads: Ida B. Wells’s investigative reporting in The Light of Truth, George S. Schuyler’s landmark comic satire Black No More, and Jean Toomer’s modernist masterpiece Cane. A new highlight to our series is The Housing Lark by Trinidad-born author Sam Selvon, whose humorous and poignant novel depicts a group of friends, Black and Indian, from Trinidad and Jamaica, and explores the Caribbean migrant experience in London in the 1960s.

Black History Month


Marcus Aurelius

The Color Purple
A Novel
978-0-14-313569-2
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Alice Walker's iconic modern classic is now a Penguin Book.A powerful cultural touchstone of modern American literature, The Color Purple depicts the lives of African American women in early twentieth-century rural Georgia. Separated as girls, sisters Celie and Nettie sustain their loyalty to and hope in each other across time, distance and silence. Through a series of letters spanning twenty years, first from Celie to God, then the sisters to each other despite the unknown, the novel draws readers into its rich and memorable portrayals of Celie, Nettie, Shug Avery and Sofia and their experience. The Color Purple broke the silence around domestic and sexual abuse, narrating the lives of women through their pain and struggle, companionship and growth, resilience and bravery. Deeply compassionate and beautifully imagined, Alice Walker's epic carries readers on a spirit-affirming journey towards redemption and love.
$17.00 US
Dec 10, 2019
Paperback
304 Pages
Penguin Books

Romance in Marseille
978-0-14-313422-0
The pioneering novel of physical disability, transatlantic travel, and black international politics. A vital document of black modernism and one of the earliest overtly queer fictions in the African American tradition. Published for the first time. A Penguin Classic A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice/Staff Pick
$16.00 US
Feb 11, 2020
Paperback
224 Pages
Penguin Classics

The Light of Truth
Writings of an Anti-Lynching Crusader
978-0-14-310682-1
The broadest and most comprehensive collection of writings available by an early civil and women’s rights pioneerSeventy-one years before Rosa Parks’s courageous act of resistance, police dragged a young black journalist named Ida B. Wells off a train for refusing to give up her seat. The experience shaped Wells’s career, and—when hate crimes touched her life personally—she mounted what was to become her life’s work: an anti-lynching crusade that captured international attention.This volume covers the entire scope of Wells’s remarkable career, collecting her early writings, articles exposing the horrors of lynching, essays from her travels abroad, and her later journalism. The Light of Truth is both an invaluable resource for study and a testament to Wells’s long career as a civil rights activist.For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
$19.00 US
Nov 25, 2014
Paperback
624 Pages
Penguin Classics


Cane
978-0-14-313367-4
The Harlem Renaissance writer's innovative and groundbreaking novel depicting African American life in the South and North, with a foreword by National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honoree Zinzi Clemmons
$15.00 US
Jan 08, 2019
Paperback
224 Pages
Penguin Classics

The Housing Lark
978-0-14-313396-4
The humorous yet poignant novel of West Indian migrant life in London that adds an iconic voice to the growing Caribbean canon A Penguin Classic
$15.00 US
Jan 14, 2020
Paperback
160 Pages
Penguin Classics