Each February marks the annual observance of Black History Month, when the nation celebrates African American and black history around the world, remembering those who struggled with adversity and prevailed over prejudice. This year, we have selected our most insightful, powerful and thought-provoking books to reflect upon…
by Doreen Rappaport
Hyperion Books for Children
This picture book biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. brings his life and the profound nature of his message to young children through his own words, being one of the most influential and gifted speakers of all time. By using quotes from some of his most famous and moving speeches on remarkable watercolor paintings with vibrant patterns and textures, Martin Luther King Jr’s powerful story can be shared with children of the next generation.
by Catherine Clinton
Back Bay Books
Harriet Tubman has entered history as one of nineteenth-century America’s most enduring and important figures. But just who was this remarkable woman? For the many slaves she led north to freedom, she was Moses. But to the slaveholders who sought her capture, she was a thief and a trickster. Now, in a biography widely praised for its impeccable research and its compelling narrative, Harriet Tubman is revealed for the first time as a singular and complex character, a woman who defied simple categorization.
by Alice Walker
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Published to unprecedented acclaim, The Color Purple established Alice Walker as a major voice in modern fiction. This is the story of two sisters – one a missionary in Africa and the other a child wife living in the South – who sustain their loyalty to and trust in each other across time, distance, and silence. Beautifully imagined and deeply compassionate, this classic novel of American literature is rich with passion, pain, inspiration, and an indomitable love of life.
by W.E.B Du Bois
This book is a landmark in the history of literature of black protest. W. E. B. Du Bois (1868–1963) played a key role in developing the strategy and program that dominated early 20th-century black protest in America. In this collection of essays, he eloquently affirms that it is beneath the dignity of a human being to beg for those rights that belong inherently to all mankind.
by Kadir Nelson
Balzer + Bray
The story of America and African Americans is a story of hope and inspiration and unwavering courage. Told through the unique point of view and intimate voice of a one-hundred-year-old African American female narrator, this inspiring book demonstrates that in gaining their freedom and equal rights, African Americans helped their country achieve its promise of liberty and justice – the true heart and soul of the nation.
by Nelson Mandela
Back Bay Books
Nelson Mandela is one of the great moral and political leaders of our time: an international hero whose lifelong dedication to the fight against racial oppression in South Africa won him the Nobel Peace Prize and the presidency of his country. In this moving and exhilarating autobiography, he tells the extraordinary story of his life – an epic of struggle, setback, renewed hope, and ultimate triumph.
by Veronica Chambers
St. Martin’s Press
Michelle Obama is unlike any other First Lady in American History, and while many books have looked at Michelle Obama from a fashion perspective, no book has fully explored what she means to our culture – until now. While offering a parting gift to a landmark moment in American history, this book is also a conversation about race, class, marriage, creativity, womanhood and what it means to be American today.
by Zadie Smith
At the center of this invigorating story are two unlikely friends, Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal. Set against London’s racial and cultural tapestry, venturing across the former empire and into the past as it barrels toward the future, this novel revels in the ecstatic hodgepodge of modern life, flirting with disaster, confounding expectations, and embracing the comedy of daily existence.
by Robin Talley
In 1959 Virginia, Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily. Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, this is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.
by Keeanga-Yahmahtta Taylor
The Black Lives Matter movement has awakened a new generation of activists. In this stirring and insightful analysis, activist and scholar Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor surveys the historical and contemporary ravages of racism and persistence of structural inequality such as mass incarceration and Black unemployment. In this context, she argues that this new struggle against police violence holds the potential to reignite a broader push for black liberation.