Established as a US national observance in 1976, today Black History Month is recognised in more and more countries around the world, including Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. No matter where you live, February presents the perfect opportunity to learn more about both African American history and the histories of Black communities around the world.

One meaningful and illuminating way to observe Black History Month is with a deep dive into good books: These 10 titles – all written by Black authors – offer something for everyone, from tales of struggle and strife to the inspiring stories of remarkable triumph.

Black Inventors: Crafting Over 200 Years of Success by Keith C. Holmes

What better way to celebrate Black History Month than to uncover the community’s vast achievements? Author Keith C. Holmes spent more than two decades researching the innovations of Black inventors around the world. His final, robust selection highlights over 800 inventors in more than 70 countries, from Germany to Tanzania (featured innovations were created between 1769 and 2011). The detailed book references over 5,000 inventions, patents and trademarks from both famous inventors and little-known or otherwise unpublished creators. This informative literature is found on school curricula around the globe, highlighting the accomplishments of Black men and women for social studies classes, Black History Month and more.

The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King, Jr.

The great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights leader, activist and minister, may be the first person to come to mind upon the mention of Black history. His leadership and his famous speeches are as powerful today as during the Civil Rights Movement; his calls for peaceful action, inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, continue to guide organisations and individuals fighting for causes as diverse as racial equality and environmental protection. As such, Dr. King’s autobiography is an essential read. Explore his life in his own words, marked by passion, humour and engaging intellect.

Coretta: My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Barbara Ann Reynolds and Coretta Scott King

Coretta Scott King was active in the peace movement as an undergrad student before meeting Martin Luther King, Jr. during graduate school. The two would later marry, and as the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., she protected and continued his legacy while making a mark of her own. King’s autobiography details her entire life up until her death in 2006, from growing up as a Black woman in the American Deep South to her work against injustice – and everything in between. This memoir was published posthumously and features her story as told to journalist Barbara Ann Reynolds.

Defining Moments in Black History: Reading Between the Lies by Dick Gregory

Named among Comedy Central’s “100 Greatest Stand-Ups”, Dick Gregory made his public debut in the 1950s, one of the most tumultuous periods in American history. He had a serious side, too, as a civil rights activist whose friends included greats like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Medgar Evers. Gregory’s book, recipient of the 2017 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in nonfiction, approaches 100 major events in American Black history through a series of essays leading all the way up to the Black Lives Matter movement of the present, covering thought-provoking issues, economic conditions, civil rights, culture and more with clarity, humour and wit.

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

A Promised Land is yet another bestseller by President Barack Obama, the 44th American president (2009-2017). President Obama has made history many times, including the day he was inaugurated as the first Black (and first non-white) president of the USA. In A Promised Land, he applies his spectacular prose to share stories from his early life all the way through his tenure in the White House, including the stories behind key strategic decisions and the pressures surrounding historic decisions during his terms. The first volume of his presidential memoirs is an inspiring and intimate, can’t-put-it-down read.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama, the first African American First Lady, is as beloved as her husband, President Barack Obama. Becoming is a personal journey that travels through growing up in the South Side of Chicago, to attending an Ivy League university as one of few minorities on campus, working as an executive while raising young children, and eventually living and working at the White House. The 2018 memoir became the bestselling book of the year (in the US) in just 15 days, a period by which more than two million copies had already been sold. There’s a Becoming journal (sold separately) featuring questions and prompts, as well as a Netflix documentary of the memoir.

The Classic Slave Narratives edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

The Classic Slave Narratives shares four firsthand stories from four real-life slaves: Olaudah Equiano, Mary Prince, Harriet Jacobs (also known as Linda Brent) and Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass would later escape and become a prolific abolitionist, statesman, writer and orator. Each story is powerful and moving, providing rare, intimate glimpses into the everyday slave experience of the American past. The book is a wonderful tool, connecting modern readers to yesterday’s slaves with greater empathy and clarity than ever before. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a historian with expertise in African American studies, as well as a writer, professor, filmmaker and literary critic. He is also the director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

In this nonfiction book, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. writes about the African American fight for equality following the post-Civil War Reconstruction Act of 1867 through the Jim Crow racial segregation laws of the mid-20th century. The historian illustrates how the Reconstruction era’s detractors led to the beginnings of white supremacy in the United States. This is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the nonlinear path that has been the African American equality and civil rights movements. Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow was featured in Time Magazine’s list of “Must-Read Books of 2019”.

Black Firsts: 4,000 Ground-Breaking and Pioneering Historical Events by Jessie Carney Smith Ph.D.

Black Firsts is an inspiring book, one to revisit time and again to be reminded of the community’s many contributions spanning science, education, journalism, the arts, business and more. A perfect addition to any coffee table, the book highlights instrumental figures in Black history – from names you may have never heard of, to celebrities like Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. Jessie Carney Smith, Ph.D. is an author and a scholar of Black studies, as well as a professor and university librarian at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

Author Margot Lee Shetterly introduces the little-known story of the role of three African American women who played a pivotal part in helping Americans win the space race. The book features the lives and contributions of three NASA “computers” (their job description at the time): Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson and Mary Jackson. Their work is stunning not only because of their race, but also because of the gender inequality common in the workplace at the time. In 2016, Hidden Figures was adapted into a film starring Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monáe and Octavia Spencer. There are also two children’s book editions: one for older children and a picture book.

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Related Articles