1350 – Manuel II Palaiologos (or Palaeologus), Byzantine emperor who was also the author of letters, poems, a Saint’s Life, treatises on theology and rhetoric, an epitaph for his brother Theodore I Palaiologos, and a “mirror of prince” for his son and heir John; this mirror of prince has special value, because it is the last sample of this Byzantine literary genre that usually took the form of a textbook meant to instruct a new ruler on governance, behavior, politics, and history.
1838 – Bonkim Chondra Chattopadhyay (also known as Bankim Chandra Chatterjee), Indian writer, novelist, poet, editor, and journalist, best known for Vande Mataram, the Sanskrit poem that became the lyrics of India’s national anthem.
1850 – Lafcadio Hearn, Greek/Irish/Japanese writer best known for his books about Japan, where he was known as Koizumi Yakumo, and for his writings about New Orleans, Louisiana; he was named after the island of Lefkada (a Greek Island in the Ionian Sea) where he was born.
1868 – Adelaide Casely-Hayford, Sierra Leonean short-story writer, autobiographer, lawyer, activist, educator, and feminist.
1869 – Emma Goldman, Lithuanian-born writer, journalist, publisher, lecturer, political activist, philosopher, autobiographer, and nurse who played a pivotal role in the development of anarchist political philosophy in North America and Europe in the first half of the 20th century.
1872 – Paul Lawrence Dunbar, African-American poet, novelist, and playwright, much of whose work was written in dialect.
1878 – He Xiangning, Chinese writer, poet, artist, politician, and human-rights activist; as Minister for Women’s Affairs, she advocated equal rights for women and organized China’s first rally for International Women’s Day; she also organized resistance against the Japanese invasion of China.
1880 – Helen Keller, American author, educator, journalist, and political activist for the deaf and blind, for labor rights, and for women’s suffrage; her early autobiography was adapted into several works about her; she was the first deaf and blind person to earn a bachelor’s degree
1896 – Helen Sewell, Caldecott Honor-winning American children’s book author and illustrator; among many other works, she illustrated the first editions of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books.
1906 – Catherine Cookson, British novelist known for her fiction based in northeast England; she also wrote under the pen names Catherine Marchant and Katie McMullen, and was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire; in her lifetime, she was the top-selling UK novelist ever.
1912 – E.R. Braithwaite, Guyanese writer, novelist, teacher, and diplomat who was best known for his stories of social conditions and racial discrimination against black people; he was the author of the 1959 autobiographical novel To Sir, With Love, which was made into a British film starring Sidney Poitier.
1924 – Efua Sutherland, Ghanaian writer, poet, playwright, theatrical director, children’s author, publisher, educator, and child advocate; she was an influential figure in the development of Ghanaian theatre and helped to introduce the study of African performance traditions at the university level.f
1928 – James Lincoln Collier, Newbery Honor-winning American author of children’s historical fiction; he was also a musician.
1929 – Peter Maas, American journalist and author of nonfiction books, notably several mafia biographies.
1936 – Lucille Clifton, National Book Award-winning American poet, writer, educator, and Poet Laureate of Maryland.
1938 – Alan Coren, English humorist, writer, satirist, and panelist on television and radio quiz shows.
1939 – Ivan Doig, American novelist, best known for regional historic fiction set in Montana.
1949 – James P. Hogan, Locus Award-winning British author of hard science fiction.
1951 – Anita Diamant, bestselling American author of nonfiction and fiction books; her works deal with issues of Jewish practice and the role of women; she is best known for her debut novel, The Red Tent.
1951 – Mary McAleese, Irish writer, journalist, lawyer, university teacher, and politician who was president of Ireland; when she was first elected in 1997, succeeding Mary Robinson as president, she became the first woman in the world to succeed another woman as president.
1953 – Alice McDermott, National Book Award-winning American novelist, essayist, and professor.
1956 – Scott Cunningham, American author of books on Wicca, new age practices, and alternative religions.
1961 – Meera Syal, award-winning English novelist, screenwriter, comedian, writer, actor, and film producer.
1964 – Wojciech Cejrowski, Polish journalist, photographer, writer, journalist, sociologist, publicist, and explorer.
1966 – J.J. Abrams, American television and movie writer and producer, best known for his work on the television show Lost and for some of the “Star Wars” movies.
1970 – Cecily von Ziegesar, American author best known for the “Gossip Girl” books.
1971 – Jo Frost, English nanny, television personality, and author of books on child rearing.
1975 – Teju Cole, Nigerian-American writer, photographer, and art historian.
1977 – Cyril Wong, award-winning Singaporean poet, novelist, short-story writer, and critic; his poems are said to “shimmer with language, art, religion, disaster, death, murder, adultery and, of course, love.”
1985 – Paul Downs Colaizzo, American playwright.