20 legendary Black science-fiction authors you need to know

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Pauline Hopkins

Pauline Hopkins, who lived around the same time as Charles W. Chesnutt, had a more difficult career than her fellow author. What was it that made her acceptance as an author so unpalatable for many, though she shared some of the same themes and activist causes as Chesnutt? It could be that she was not just a Black American, but a woman, and one who wrote some truly groundbreaking works for her time. Hopkins also was not afraid to be outspoken and bold, though she was sometimes afraid of the consequences her actions would bring.

Don’t let the fact that her contemporaries were quick to dismiss her drive you away, though. Hopkins is an important author, and arguably one of the foundational figures in Black science fiction.

Her last novel, Of One Blood: Or, The Hidden Self, was published in 1903. It concerns Reuel Briggs, a medical student who is blithely dismissive of his own race and of Black history in general. Briggs still ends up going on an archaeological expedition to Ethiopia, where he is forced to confront these attitudes.

Eventually, Briggs crosses paths with a mysterious woman who first appears to be suffering from amnesia. However, he eventually learns that she is the reincarnation of a Princess of Meroe. This lost world turns out to be very real. It’s a proto-Wakanda, where Black people live in a proud, utopian community. Once Briggs turns a corner and realizes that he, too, should take pride in his heritage rather than hiding, he becomes king of Meroe.