February is Black History Month, if you’re looking to educate yourself about the important moments and people of African-American history, books can be a great tool. To help you find just the right one for your learning needs, here is an overview of some of the best Black History Month Books on the market today.
Here are 15 books to grow your knowledge:
In this book, Maya Angelou recounts her life experiences growing up as an African-American woman in the segregated South. It is a powerful memoir of courage and resilience. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right. Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic beloved worldwide
This autobiography details Malcolm X’s life story, from his troubled youth to his conversion to Islam and rise in activism. In the searing pages of this classic autobiography, originally published in 1964, Malcolm X, the Muslim leader, firebrand, and anti-integrationist, tells the extraordinary story of his life and the growth of the Black Muslim movement.
This Pulitzer Prize-winning book tells the story of the Great Migration, when more than six million African Americans left the South between 1915 and 1970 in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves.
This autobiographical novel follows Richard Wright’s journey growing up in Mississippi and Tennessee during the Jim Crow era. When it exploded onto the literary scene in 1945, Black Boy was both praised and condemned. Orville Prescott of the New York Times wrote that “if enough such books are written, if enough millions of people read them maybe, someday, in the fullness of time, there will be a greater understanding and a more true democracy.”
This book examines how mass incarceration has replaced segregation as the new form of racial control in America, creating a permanent underclass of African Americans. Seldom does a book have the impact of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Since it was first published in 2010, it has been cited in judicial decisions and has been adopted in campus-wide and community-wide reads; it helped inspire the creation of the Marshall Project and the new $100 million Art for Justice Fund; it has been the winner of numerous prizes, including the prestigious NAACP Image Award; and it has spent nearly 250 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.
Told through a series of essays, Coates shares his thoughts and insights on race in America. In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis.
In this memoir, Jefferson reflects on her upbringing as a Black upper-class woman during the civil rights era.Jefferson brilliantly charts the twists and turns of a life informed by psychological and moral contradictions, while reckoning with the strictures and demands of Negroland at crucial historical moments—the civil rights movement, the dawn of feminism, the falsehood of post-racial America.
Gates looks back on his childhood in West Virginia and growing up in the integrated North to explore the complexities of race and identity.In a coming-of-age story as enchantingly vivid and ribald as anything Mark Twain or Zora Neale Hurston, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., recounts his childhood in the mill town of Piedmont, West Virginia, in the 1950s and 1960s and ushers readers into a gossip, of lye-and-mashed-potato “processes,” and of slyly stubborn resistance to the indignities of segregation.
This collection of essays covers a range of topics from politics to pop culture, exploring the Obama era and its aftermath.We Were Eight Years in Power features Coates’s iconic essays first published in The Atlantic, including “Fear of a Black President,” “The Case for Reparations,” and “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” along with eight fresh essays that revisit each year of the Obama administration through Coates’s own experiences, observations, and intellectual development, capped by a bracingly original assessment of the election that fully illuminated the tragedy of the Obama era.
Baldwin’s classic essay collection examines race relations in the United States from a personal and thoughtful perspective.At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin’s early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, the book is an intensely personal and provocative document from the iconic author of If Beale Street Could Talk and Go Tell It on the Mountain. It consists of two “letters,” written on the occasion of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, that exhort Americans, both black and white, to attack the terrible legacy of racism.
In this poetic exploration of race in America, Rankine confronts the everyday racism faced by African Americans. Claudia Rankine’s bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seeming slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV-everywhere, all the time.
This novel tells the story of Janie Crawford, an African-American woman in the early 1900s who sets out to find her own identity and independence. Originally published in 1937, Their Eyes Were Watching God has become one of the most important and enduring works of modern American literature. Written with Zora Neale Hurston’s singular wit and pathos, this Southern love story recounts Janie Crawford’s “ripening from a vibrant, but voiceless, teenage girl into a woman with her finger on the trigger of her own destiny.”
Rothstein tells the story of how government policy created and enforced racial segregation in the United States. Widely heralded as a “masterful” (Washington Post) and “essential” (Slate) history of the modern American metropolis, Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law offers “the most forceful argument ever published on how federal, state, and local governments gave rise to and reinforced neighborhood segregation” (William Julius Wilson). Exploding the myth of de facto segregation arising from private prejudice or the unintended consequences of economic forces, Rothstein describes how the American government systematically imposed residential segregation.
This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel follows Cora, an escaped slave who makes her way to freedom via the Underground Railroad. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the terrors of the antebellum era, he weaves in the saga of our nation, from the brutal abduction of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is both the gripping tale of one woman’s will to escape the horrors of bondage—and a powerful meditation on the history we all share.
Kendi gives an in-depth look at the history of racism in America, from its roots to present day. In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. He uses the life stories of five major American intellectuals to drive this history: Puritan minister Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, and legendary activist Angela Davis.
These are just a few of the great books about Black history that can be explored during Black History Month. Whether you’re looking for memoirs, fiction, or non-fiction, there is something out there to satisfy every kind of reader. By reading and learning about the struggles, triumphs, and stories of African-Americans’ past and present experiences, we can work to create a more just future for everyone. Happy Black History Month!
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