Ann Petry was born in 1908 in Connecticut to a pharmacist and an entrepreneur. She trained as a pharmacist, though she was always writing short stories during her down time.
When she got married, she had to choose whether to stay in her familiar life - or choose the excitement of a potential literary career in New York City. She decided to leap into the unknown.
Inspired by the social activism and Black cultural environment of Harlem, where she ended up, she first worked as a journalist, while she continued writing short stories and essays on the side.
Her work focused on everyday, law-abiding Black folks, who strove for the American dream - but were hampered by sexism and racism. Eventually, filled with despair after consistent disrespect, they lash out in dramatic ways.
Her first novel, The Street, which was published in 1946, followed this theme - and it was a sensation! Petry sold over 1.5 MILLION copies, and it was even translated into French, Spanish, Japanese, and Portuguese!
This incredible success paved the way for modern urban bestsellers like “Push,” “The Coldest Winter Ever,” and “The Hate U Give.”
Michelle Obama’s recent success is an incredible feat - but let’s always remember to celebrate the Black women who have paved the way. Pick up a copy of The Street at your local Black bookstore!