Black History Month

black history month

Every February, we celebrate the achievements and history of African Americans as part of Black History Month. Literature in particular has been a space for black authors to tell their stories and bookworms seeking good reads can choose from an array of fiction, poetry, historical texts, essays and memoirs.

While we love to read about historical figures, like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou and Madame C. J. Walker — it’s also great to discover stories about lesser-known Black leaders, like Rebecca Lee Crumpler, the first Black female doctor in the United States, or Daniel H. “Chappie” James Jr., the first Black four-star general in the United States Air Force. And we celebrate the accomplishments of today’s Black leaders, like Kamala Harris, Amanda Gorman, Jason Reynolds and the many names that are yet to come.

From literary icons to fresh, buzzworthy talent, we’re highlighting 10 books by African-American authors you should add to your reading list today.

Ida B. the Queen

by Michelle Duster

The extraordinary life and legacy of Ida B. Wells is celebrated in this book written by her great-granddaughter, Michelle Duster and covers this civil rights icon who brought to light the horrors of lynching in America and cofounded the NAACP.

The Hill We Climb

by Amanda Gorman

This much anticipated work from Gorman comes on the heels of her recital at President Biden’s inauguration. Gorman suggests that change is hard work but worth the effort. She is the youngest presidential inaugural poet in U.S. history.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic beloved worldwide. Her coming-of-age story is gregarious but she was an insecure black girl in the American South during the 1930s before moving to California during the 1940s. Enduring bigotry and racism and abuse, Angelou refuses subjugation and chooses to soar to become a preeminent author.

Between The World and Me

by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This memoir is a letter to Coates’s adolescent son on how to find his place in the world while describing his awakening to the truth about his place through a series of revelatory experiences — from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris. Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis.

A Promised Land

by Barack Obama
This much anticipated biography from our 44th President of the United States proves to be both a documentary of his time in office whilst also offering reflections on his early life as a community grassroots advocate to his political ascent. He offers a candid view of the tension of being on the world stage whilst balancing the needs of his young family.

The Vanishing Half

by Brit Bennett

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical, but after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age 16, one of them passes for white. Bennett explores the American history of passing whilst expertly weaving a compelling family saga and intertwines multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s as the reader learns how the past continues to influence their lives.

Lady Sings the Blues

by Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday writes about her life in this searingly honest memoir about her rough Baltimore childhood and subsequent rise to become the legendary jazz, swing and singing sensation. She chronicles her interactions with the greatest stars of the time like Bob Hope, Lana Turner and Clark Gable, and is unflinching in chronicling the racism and discrimination she endured until her tragic decline into heroin addiction.

Invisible Man

by Ralph Ellison

Ralph Ellison’s 1952 classic Invisible Man follows one African-American man’s quest for identity during the 1920s and 1930s. Because of the racism he faces, the unnamed protagonist, known as “Invisible Man,” does not feel seen by society and narrates the reader through a series of unfortunate and fortunate events he undertakes to fit in while living in the South and later in Harlem, New York City. In 1953, Invisible Man was awarded the National Book Award, making Ellison the first African-American author to receive the prestigious honor for fiction.

The Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas

Angie Thomas is part of a new crop of African-American authors bringing fresh new storytelling to bookshelves near you. Her debut young adult novel, The Hate U Give, was inspired by the protests of the Black Lives Matter movement. It follows Starr Carter, a 16-year-old who has witnessed the police-involved shooting of her best friend Khalil. The book, which topped the New York Times bestseller chart, is a timely fictional tale that humanizes the voices behind one of the largest movements of present times.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

by Zora Neale Hurston

During Zora Neale Hurston’s career, she was more concerned with writing about the lives of African Americans in an authentic way that uplifted their existence, rather than focusing on their traumas. Her most celebrated work, 1937’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, is an example of this philosophy. It follows Janie Mae Crawford, a middle-aged woman in Florida, who details lessons she learned about love and finding herself after three marriages. Hurston used black Southern dialect in the characters’ dialogue to proudly represent their voices and manner.

Black History Titles for Adults

Sing Unburied Sing
The Underground Railroad
Black Futures
What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky
An American Marriage
Just As I Am: A Memoir Cicely Tyson
Heads of the Colored People
Becoming Michelle Obama
Well-Read Black Girl
Black Ink
Icons: 50 Heroines who Shaped Contemporary Culture
Homegoing
The Autobiography of Malcom X as told to Alex Haley
24: Life Stories & Lessons from the Say Hey Kid Willie Mays
Fredrick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom
Heavy: An American Memoir
Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise (DVD)
Ali on Ali: Why He Said What He Said When He Said It
How We Fight for Our Lives
The New Jim Crow
The Devil You Know
Black is the Body
Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers & Won the Vote
Sister Outsider
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
They Come in all Colors
Kamala
How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America
The Kindest Lie
Invisible Man

Black History Titles for Children

Last Stop on Market Street
Mae Among the Stars
Chlorine Sky
Changing the Equation: 50+ US Black Women in STEM
The Fierce 44: Black Americans who shook up the world
Ron
Parker Looks Up
A Black Woman Did That
Princess Hair
Whoosh: Lonnie Johnson
The Story of Harriet Tubman
Loretta Little Looks Back: Three Voices Go Tell It
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Rise: Maya Angelou
Langston Hughes
Hidden Figures: True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race
Bread for Words: A Fredrick Douglass Story
The Teachers March: How Selma
Bronzeville
I Have a Dream
Maya Angelou
Brave. Black. 50 African American Women who changed the world
The Story of Barack Obama
Coretta Scott King
Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday & the Power of a Protest Song
Ellington was not a Street
I Look up to Michelle Obama
Strong Voices: 15 American Speeches Worth Knowing Fredrick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr
The Talk: Conversations about Race, Love & Truth
Heroes of Black History: Harriet Tubman, Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks & Barack Obama
Child of a Dream: Memoir of 1963

Books Written by Jason Reynolds

Jason Reynolds is the best-selling author of many books for young readers, including the multi-award winner Long Way Down, which was recently adapted into a stunning graphic novel with illustrator Danica Novgorodoff.

Reynolds is also the current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and his platform “Grab the Mic: Tell Your Story” is focused on listening and empowering students across the country to share their personal stories.

Reynolds’ recommendations are always terrific, so we asked him to share three books for Black History Month and what he loves about them. — Seira Wilson | Amazon Celebrity Book Picks

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
Black Enough by Jason Reynolds
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You by Jason Reynolds
Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds
Lu by Jason Reynolds
Sunny by Jason Reynolds
Ghost by Jason Reynolds
Patina by Jason Reynolds
For Everyone by Jason Reynolds
As Brave as You by Jason Reynolds

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