Today is the first day of Black History Month, and if you’re looking for a way to educate yourself and expand your knowledge about the accomplishments, contributions, and joy of Black people in American history, as well as reflect on the inequalities and injustices that have been done against them, here are 12 books by some of the most accomplished and celebrated Black authors and advocates for you to reflect on this month and beyond:
The 1619 Project, inaugurated with a special issue of The New York Times Magazine, challenges us to reframe U.S. history by marking the year when the first enslaved Africans arrived on Virginia soil as our nation’s foundational date.
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.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou – BIOGRAPHY, ANGELOU
“Here is a book as joyous and painful, as mysterious and memorable, as childhood itself. 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.”
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates – 305.8 COA
“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. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?”
Billie Holiday: The Graphic Biography by Ebony Gilbert – GN BIOGRAPHY HOLIDAY, BILLIE
“Widely recognized as one of the greatest jazz singers of all time, Billie’s emotive voice, distinct phrasing, and flawless technique cemented her place as an American icon. Now, new and longtime fans alike have the opportunity to learn more about Lady Day’s short but spectacular life. This graphic novel provides a timely look into the fascinating life of a fighter, survivor, and world-renowned artist.”
All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks – 306.7 HOO
“‘The word ‘love’ is most often defined as a noun, yet we would all love better if we used it as a verb,’ writes bell hooks as she comes out fighting and on fire in All About Love. Here, at her most provocative and intensely personal, renowned scholar, cultural critic and feminist bell hooks offers a proactive new ethic for a society bereft with lovelessness–not the lack of romance, but the lack of care, compassion, and unity. People are divided, she declares, by society’s failure to provide a model for learning to love.”
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett – F BENNETT, BRIT
“The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?”
Beloved by Toni Morrison – F MORRISON, TONI
“Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. Sethe has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe’s new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved.”
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston F HURSTON, ZORA
“The epic tale of Janie Crawford, whose quest for identity takes her on a journey during which she learns what love is, experiences life’s joys and sorrows, and come home to herself in peace. Her passionate story prompted Alice Walker to say, ‘There is no book more important to me than this one.'”
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates F, COATES, TA-NEHISI
“Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her—but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he’s ever known.”
It’s Not All Downhill From Here by Terry McMillan – F MCMILLAN, TERRY
“Loretha Curry’s life is full. A little crowded sometimes, but full indeed. On the eve of her sixty-eighth birthday, she has a booming beauty-supply empire, a gaggle of lifelong friends, and a husband whose moves still surprise. True, she’s carrying a few more pounds than she should be, but Loretha is not one of those women who think her best days are behind her—and she’s determined to prove wrong her mother, her twin sister, and everyone else with that outdated view of aging wrong. It’s not all downhill from here.”
“Homegoing follows the parallel paths of these sisters and their descendants through eight generations: from the Gold Coast to the plantations of Mississippi, from the American Civil War to Jazz Age Harlem. Yaa Gyasi’s extraordinary novel illuminates slavery’s troubled legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed—and shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation.”
Stop by WNPL or our events calendar for more information about Black History Month Displays and programs here at WNPL!