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10 Books To Read For Black History Month

10 Books To Read For Black History Month

February marks Black History Month — when this country pauses to acknowledge the Black community and our contributions to American history. The 10 books below have been chosen because they will help guide you into recommitting to Black liberation. From fiction to memoir to poetry to self-help, this list will leave you more aware and offer ways to turn that awareness into action.

We Want Freedom: A Life in the Black Panther Party by Mumia Abu-Jamal

It’s important to remember that while we now can say Black Lives Matter, many of our ancestors died for their activism. Mumia Abu-Jamal, known as “the world’s best-known death-row inmate” by The New York Times, has long spoken out against racialized poverty and police brutality. His case was contested for nearly 20 years. Then, finally, his death sentence was overturned in 2001. In his memoir, Abu-Jamal gives us a front-row seat into the Philadelphia branch of the Black Panther Party, one of the most vilified racial justice organizations in American history.

Unafraid of the Dark: A Memoir by Rosemary L. Bray

Rosemary Bray tells a story of being bussed into a predominantly white, wealthy school where the differences between her and her peers were beyond blatantly evident. In an act of survival, Bray began stealing money from her classmates until she was caught by a faculty member. Instead of expelling her, the school gave Bray an allowance so that she could meet her needs. This book forces us to reimagine what it truly means to look out for the most marginalized people in our communities and what is possible when we do.

How to Talk to Your Boss about Race: Speaking Up Without Getting Shut Down by Y-Vonne Hutchinson

Many self-help and business books tell us how to get ahead in the workplace without ever mentioning how difficult it is for Black people and people of color to show up authentically and succeed in white spaces. This book is our saving grace — a how-to guide that happens to be humorous. The humor helps to better understand and digest the subject matter. It’s also a memoir about Hutchinson’s experience as a Black woman determined to create a more inclusive work environment. So, it’s much more than talking to your boss; it’s also about a culture change.

Do Better by Rachel Ricketts

Do Better is a true guide providing personal stories to connect to, questions to reflect on, and action steps to take. This is one of the best books to read as an ally and is important for Black people who want to have deeper conversations about white supremacy.

Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America 1619-2019 by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain

These authors are two of the nation’s leading anti-racist writers and educators, and this is their first collaborative work. The book combines essays, short stories, and historical narratives to communicate what the past 400-plus years have been like for Black American descendants of slavery.

The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story by Nikole Hannah-Jones

As with Four Hundred Souls, The 1619 Project is another formidable work. When a book about the origin and history of African Americans can shake up a nation, leading to debates about what children are, or aren’t, learning in schools, you know that it has to be powerful. It should not be controversial to learn the true origin of this nation and how the remnants of slavery infuse our society. This book is a must-read for everyone, not just Black people.

The Prophets by Robert Jones, Jr.

Jones Jr. is a writer that truly creates magic with his pen. In The Prophets, he transports us to the antebellum South, but not for the typical slavery narrative we’re used to. By no means does Jones sugarcoat the violence of plantation life, but he contrasts it brilliantly with the love between two enslaved Black men. In doing so, he reminds us that queer Black people have always existed.

Mourning My Inner Black Girl Child by Reelaviolette Botts-Ward

Black girlhood is under attack as Black girls are forced to grow up quickly in response to the racist and sexist environments they are forced to endure. In this poetry collection, Botts-Ward is beautifully transparent, so that readers can either see themselves and heal—or understand the intersecting experiences of Black women.

Abolition.Feminism.Now. by Angela Y. Davis, Gina Dent, Erica Meiners, and Beth Richie

Abolition is nothing new, but it is just now making its way into mainstream conversations. It has brought fear around what it means and what its implementation would mean for society at large. In this book, four of the nation’s leading racial and gender justice thinkers have joined together to talk about how abolition can be a solution to gender-based violence and support survivors beyond our current criminal legal system. In order words, they are allowing us to see that abolition is nothing to be afraid of.

You Don’t Know Us Negroes and Other Essays by Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston has definitely made an impact on me as a writer, as she has written some of the most celebrated works by any Black author. This posthumous collection is full of essays that span several decades of her work. Hurston provides her evaluation of the slave trade, Black vernacular, fake leaders, H.B.C.U.s, race relations, and more during and after Jim Crow.

While these books are available on Amazon and everywhere books are sold, I’ll encourage you to pick one up at your nearest Black-owned bookstore or through online communities that curate and amplify the voices of Black authors.

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