11 Books By Black Authors That Were Later Adapted Into Movies

A good way to celebrate all the magic of Black History Month is by reading up on some classic novels and watching their film adaptations. While some are absolute tearjerkers, these are all masterfully written novels — and the films are really great too. Below you'll find some of my favorites.

1.Waiting to Exhale

The cover of ‘Waiting to Exhale’

This emotional 1992 romance novel, written by Terry McMillan, is about a group of four Black women who share a very special bond, and centers on their unique experiences with the men in their lives.

The popular 1995 adaptation starred Whitney Houston, Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, and Lela Rochon and featured an entire African American cast. And yes, it’s the movie with the iconic scene of Angela Bassett burning a car in her robe!

Berkley Books / Via kobo.com, 20th Century Fox

2.How Stella Got Her Groove Back

Also written by Terry McMillan, this romantic novel is about a workaholic named Stella who is persuaded by her best friend to take a holiday to Jamaica, where she falls for a native 20 years her junior.The movie, which closely follows the novel, was released in 1998 and features solid acting from Angela Bassett and Taye Diggs. It's considered one of the most beloved Black rom-coms of all time.

Also written by Terry McMillan, this romantic novel is about a workaholic named Stella who is persuaded by her best friend to take a holiday to Jamaica, where she falls for a native 20 years her junior.

The movie, which closely follows the novel, was released in 1998 and features solid acting from Angela Bassett and Taye Diggs. It's considered one of the most beloved Black rom-coms of all time.

Signet, 20th Century Fox

3.Hidden Figures

Written by Margot Lee Shetterly, the novel is centered on three intelligent Black mathematicians, who proved themselves useful in the Space Race in the first half of the 20th century, working as computers at NASA.The adaptation was a critical and commercial success, earning an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Led by brilliant performances by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae, it loosely follows the plot of the novel.

Written by Margot Lee Shetterly, the novel is centered on three intelligent Black mathematicians, who proved themselves useful in the Space Race in the first half of the 20th century, working as computers at NASA.

The adaptation was a critical and commercial success, earning an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Led by brilliant performances by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae, it loosely follows the plot of the novel.

William Morrow & Company, 20th Century Fox

4.Precious (Push)

This 1996 novel is one of the more emotional stories on the list. Written by Sapphire, it is a story about an obese girl and the traumatic experiences shaped her struggles in life.We understand if you're skipping the film this month, but it’s noteworthy to mention that this adaptation by Lee Daniels is a masterpiece. Gabourey Sidibe and Mo'nique absolutely killed their roles. It’s no wonder it won several awards, including two Oscars!

This 1996 novel is one of the more emotional stories on the list. Written by Sapphire, it is a story about an obese girl and the traumatic experiences shaped her struggles in life.

We understand if you're skipping the film this month, but it’s noteworthy to mention that this adaptation by Lee Daniels is a masterpiece. Gabourey Sidibe and Mo'nique absolutely killed their roles. It’s no wonder it won several awards, including two Oscars!

Alfred A. Knopf, Lionsgate

5.For Colored Girls

Another tearjerker on the list is Ntozake Shange's theatre piece, which follows the story of seven women who experience racism and sexism. It was released in 1976 to rave reviews.While adapted in 1982, Tyler Perry's 2010 film is undoubtedly the more popular version. It features a star-studded cast of Janet Jackson, Kimberly Elise, Loretta Devine, Kerry Washington, Whoopi Goldberg, Tessa Thompson, Anika Noni Rose, Phylicia Rashad, and Thandiwe Newton — and is an emotional roller coaster!

Another tearjerker on the list is Ntozake Shange's theatre piece, which follows the story of seven women who experience racism and sexism. It was released in 1976 to rave reviews.

While adapted in 1982, Tyler Perry's 2010 film is undoubtedly the more popular version. It features a star-studded cast of Janet Jackson, Kimberly Elise, Loretta Devine, Kerry Washington, Whoopi Goldberg, Tessa Thompson, Anika Noni Rose, Phylicia Rashad, and Thandiwe Newton — and is an emotional roller coaster!

Scribner Book Company, Lionsgate

6.The Pursuit of Happyness

Based on the memoirs of motivational speaker and businessman Chris Gardner, this autobiographical novel deals with his struggles and relationship with his son as they experience homelessness for almost a year.An inspiring adaptation featuring Will and Jaden Smith was released months after the novel came out in 2006, and it remains one of Smith's standout roles, earning him a nomination for Best Actor at the Oscars.

Based on the memoirs of motivational speaker and businessman Chris Gardner, this autobiographical novel deals with his struggles and relationship with his son as they experience homelessness for almost a year.

An inspiring adaptation featuring Will and Jaden Smith was released months after the novel came out in 2006, and it remains one of Smith's standout roles, earning him a nomination for Best Actor at the Oscars.

Amistad Press

7.The Color Purple

Released in 1982, this novel by Alice Walker polarized the Black community. While some tagged it raw and emotional, others felt it was too traumatic. It's a powerfully moving story about a Black girl's initial sufferings and later triumph.The film emerged three years after publication and was an absolute success. The performances by Whoopi Goldberg, Margaret Avery, and Oprah Winfrey received unanimous praise for depicting strong female companionships.

Released in 1982, this novel by Alice Walker polarized the Black community. While some tagged it raw and emotional, others felt it was too traumatic. It's a powerfully moving story about a Black girl's initial sufferings and later triumph.

The film emerged three years after publication and was an absolute success. The performances by Whoopi Goldberg, Margaret Avery, and Oprah Winfrey received unanimous praise for depicting strong female companionships.

Harcourt Brave Jovanovich

8.Beloved

One of the great Toni Morris's most notable works, Beloved is a remarkable, haunting novel about a mother's house taken over by ghosts and the reincarnation of her lost daughter. It is considered one of the best works of fiction.Oprah Winfrey, Thandiwe Newton, Danny Glover, and Kimberly Elise round out this adaptation's main cast. The film stays true to the haunting nature of the novel and was nominated for Best Costume Design at the Oscars.

One of the great Toni Morris's most notable works, Beloved is a remarkable, haunting novel about a mother's house taken over by ghosts and the reincarnation of her lost daughter. It is considered one of the best works of fiction.

Oprah Winfrey, Thandiwe Newton, Danny Glover, and Kimberly Elise round out this adaptation's main cast. The film stays true to the haunting nature of the novel and was nominated for Best Costume Design at the Oscars.

Alfred A. Knopf, Touchstone Pictures

9.Fences

This popular play by August Wilson is set in the 1950s and deals with the evolving African American experience. It’s about a man and his struggle to provide for his family, leading to emotional tussles with those around him.The film adaptation came in 2016, with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis earning rave reviews for their performances and numerous awards. Davis earned an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

This popular play by August Wilson is set in the 1950s and deals with the evolving African American experience. It’s about a man and his struggle to provide for his family, leading to emotional tussles with those around him.

The film adaptation came in 2016, with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis earning rave reviews for their performances and numerous awards. Davis earned an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

Penguin Books, Photo Credit: David Lee / David Lee

10.Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Another classic by August Wilson, the popularity of this novel increased with the release of its 2020 adaptation. Set in the 1920s, this play covers the entire Black experience — from music, religion, exploitation, and art. This story takes place in a recording studio where a Black Ma Rainey's band engages in tussles while waiting to record.This film earned Chadwick Boseman a posthumous Oscar nomination for his stellar performance alongside Viola Davis as Ma Rainey.

Another classic by August Wilson, the popularity of this novel increased with the release of its 2020 adaptation. Set in the 1920s, this play covers the entire Black experience — from music, religion, exploitation, and art. This story takes place in a recording studio where a Black Ma Rainey's band engages in tussles while waiting to record.

This film earned Chadwick Boseman a posthumous Oscar nomination for his stellar performance alongside Viola Davis as Ma Rainey.

Samuel French, Incorporated, Netflix

11.Think Like a Man

While the films are insanely popular, the original self-help book by Steve Harvey is a big bestseller, as the author gives women his insights on how men think and behave, including how to succeed in relationships with men. The star-studded ensemble for this 2012 film absolutely delivered a wholesome, fun-to-watch romantic comedy, and even spawned a sequel, Think Like a Man Too. With hilarious performances led by Kevin Hart, Think Like a Man has to be the most lighthearted and humorous film on this list.

While the films are insanely popular, the original self-help book by Steve Harvey is a big bestseller, as the author gives women his insights on how men think and behave, including how to succeed in relationships with men.

The star-studded ensemble for this 2012 film absolutely delivered a wholesome, fun-to-watch romantic comedy, and even spawned a sequel, Think Like a Man Too. With hilarious performances led by Kevin Hart, Think Like a Man has to be the most lighthearted and humorous film on this list.

HarperLuxe, Sony Pictures

Of all these Black novels and films, how many have you read or seen? And what are your favorite Black-authored novels that you want to see adapted for the screen? Let us know in the comments!

Make sure you head here for more of our Black History Month coverage!

Black history month buzzfeed graphic
Kathy Hoang / BuzzFeed