Social justice groups have traditionally used literature as a potent instrument. Literature has
been instrumental in drawing attention to issues of inequality and fostering change, from the
abolitionist literature of the 19th century to the Black Lives Matter movement of today. The
nexus between literature and social justice movements is a dynamic and ever-changing area
that has the capacity to move and challenge readers while also providing a platform for
The American abolitionist movement was one of the first instances of literature being used
as a tool for social justice. The slave tales of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Jacobs, and other
authors played a significant role in drawing attention to the horrors of slavery and advancing
the abolitionist movement. These stories were frequently written in a way that was
understandable to both literate and illiterate audiences, making them an effective instrument
for mobilisation and instruction.
In the 20th century, strong literary voices emerged during the American Civil Rights
Movement. A few of the numerous authors who utilised their art to oppose the status quo
and promote change included Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, and James Baldwin. In his
essays and books like “The Fire Next Time” and “Another Country,” Baldwin tackled issues
of racial injustice and prejudice in a way that was both intensely personal and rigorously
analytical. Angelou’s poetry and memoirs, such as “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,”
provided a moving and insightful look at what it was like to be Black and a woman in
America growing up. Many of Morrison’s books, such as “Beloved” and “The Bluest Eye,”
received high praise from critics for their examination of the African American experience.
A fresh wave of literary activism has recently been generated by the Black Lives Matter
movement. Ta-Nehisi Coates, Claudia Rankine, and Jesmyn Ward are just a few of the
authors who have utilised their writing to examine the continuous fight for racial justice in
America. The articles by Coates, including “The Case for Reparations” and “Between the
World and Me,” have received accolades for their scathing criticism of systematic racism and
their unreserved support for the lives of Black people. Rankine’s poetry and writings, such as
“Citizen: An American Lyric,” provide a nuanced and potent viewpoint on the everyday
racism and microaggressions that people of colour must deal with. With works like “Sing,
Unburied, Sing” and “Salvage the Bones,” Ward provides readers with a glimpse into the
world of working-class Black Americans in the American South.
The relationship between literature and social justice movements is not exclusive to the US.
Writers from all across the world use their writing to oppose tyranny and promote change.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian author whose books, including “Purple Hibiscus”
and “Half of a Yellow Sun,” tackle colonialism, gender injustice, and governmental
corruption. Mahmoud Darwish’s poetry in Palestine is an incisive indictment of Israeli
oppression and a stirring plea for Palestinian self-determination. “The God of Small Things”
and “Walking with the Comrades,” two of Arundhati Roy’s novels and essays set in India,
investigate the interconnections of caste, class, and gender in modern Indian culture.
In addition to reflecting social justice movements, literature also actively participates in them.
Literature can support the challenge of the prevailing narrative and elevate the voices of
people who are frequently silenced by giving a forum to marginalised voices. Literature can
promote empathy and understanding by providing a window into the experiences of others,
assisting in the bridging of gaps and the development of relationships beyond boundaries.
Literature can also be effective because it encourages readers to question authority and take
action for change.