African-American Short Stories: Black Lives Matter & Black History Month

These short stories were written by black authors.

Some of the stories on this page can be found in Black American Short Stories: A Century of the Best.

See also:

I’ll start with some of the more frequently anthologized stories.

“The Lesson” by Toni Cade Bambara

An inner-city class goes on a field trip to an expensive toy store. The children try to understand the differences in people’s wealth.

“The Lesson” is the first story in the Amazon preview of The Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story(22% into preview)

“Marigolds” by Eugenia W. Collier

Lizabeth recalls a time when she was fourteen, in Maryland, during the Depression. A woman in her neighborhood, Miss Lottie, lived in a dilapidated home, but had a colorful marigold garden. She was an outcast, and the children made her a target of taunts.

This is the first story in the preview of Breeder and Other Stories(16% into preview)

“Saturday Afternoon” by Erskine Caldwell

Tom Denny’s lazy Saturday afternoon is interrupted when a lynching party is formed. He joins the mob in search of Will Maxie, a black man accused of talking to a white woman.

This is the fourth story in the preview of The Stories of Erskine Caldwell(43% into preview)

“Blood-Burning Moon” by Jean Toomer

Louisa is a black woman working as a domestic helper for a white family, the Stones. She has a secret relationship with Bob Stone, a son of her employer. A black man, Tom Burwell, is also interested in her.

This story can be read in the preview of Black Voices: An Anthology of African-American Literature(Pg 19)

“Everyday Use” by Alice Walker

Mama is an African-American woman living in the Deep South. Her daughter, Dee, an educated woman who’s drawn to a traditional African identity, is coming for a visit.

“The Gilded Six-Bits” by Zora Neale Hurston

Joe and Missie, happy newlyweds, live in a modest house in an all-black community. A new man in town, Otis, opens an ice cream parlor, and makes a show of his gold accessories. He talks about his money and his success with women. Joe and Missie’s marriage is put to the test.

“The Man Who Was Almost a Man” by Richard Wright

Dave Saunders, a plantation worker, is annoyed that he’s treated like a boy. He thinks that he would be a man if he could buy a gun, so he goes to the local general store.

Read here


“Half a Moon” by Renée Watson

The seventeen-year-old narrator remembers when her Dad left when she was seven. Her Mom doesn’t think she remembers her Dad, but she does. She remembers lots of things from back then. She works at Oak Creek Campgrounds on spring break to help with the bills. She’ll be going to college next year, so she wants her last year on the job to be good. When the sixth-grade girls arrive, she recognizes one of them—Brooke, her Dad’s daughter.

This story can be read in the preview of Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America(19% into preview)

“The Comet” by W. E. B. Du Bois

Jim is a black man working as a messenger for a New York bank. Everyone is talking about a comet. The bank president sends Jim into the filthy and dangerous vaults to find two missing volumes of records. While he’s down there, there’s a great crash and the door slams shut.

This is the eighth story in the preview of The Big Book of Science Fiction(61% into preview)

“The Flowers” by Alice Walker

Myop is a ten-year-old girl who is out exploring the woods behind her family’s sharecropper cabin on a beautiful summer day. As she starts to head home she makes a shocking discovery.

“The Flowers” is the fourth story in the Amazon preview of The Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story(88% into preview)

“Baxter’s Procrustes” by Charles W. Chesnutt

The Bodleian Club contains mementos from famous authors and rare books, many of which it printed itself. Its members are avid book collectors. The narrator tells us the story of the book that brought the highest price at auction in the club’s history. It was Procrustes, written by one of their own members, Baxter.

This story can be read in the preview of Black Voices: An Anthology of African-American Literature(Pg 4)

“On the Road” by Langston Hughes

An African-American vagrant looking for some food and a place to sleep gets turned away from a parsonage and a shelter before trying to break down the door of a church.

“The Boy Who Painted Christ Black” by John Henrik Clarke

Aaron Crawford is the smartest student in the Muskogee County School. The teacher said if he were white, he could become President. He has many talents, including painting. Aaron paints his teacher a picture for her birthday. He presents it happily. When the teacher sees it, she’s surprised.

“The Reunion” by Maya Angelou

The narrator, Philomena, is an African American jazz pianist. In 1958, at a Sunday matinee at the Blue Palm Café, she notices Beth, who’s seeing a black man. Philomena’s family used to work as servants for Beth’s family. They were paid very little. When the band leader introduces Philomena, they look at each other with recognition.

“A Party Down at the Square” by Ralph Ellison

A young boy is at his uncle’s house in the South when the town’s white population excitedly gathers in the town square for the lynching of a black man.