Black History Month begins today, February 1st, and is a celebration of the history and culture of African Americans. First proposed by students and teachers at Kent State University in 1969, it’s now celebrated in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Ireland. Here are ten books to help you celebrate Black History Month.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
This novel, which has won way too many awards to list here, has been considered a classic since it was released in 1982. The story follows Celie, a young black girl born in the deep American south. She leads a horrific life of rape and separation until meeting Shug Avery and is inspired to take control of her own life.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
I read this book a couple of years ago, and it’s been a favorite of mine ever since. Whitehead reimagines the Underground Railroad as an actual, physical underground rail system. The characters are wonderful, the story is perfect, and I cannot recommend this book enough. Since it’s been a couple of years since I last picked it up, I’m planning on re-reading it this month.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Brown Girl Dreaming is the story of Jacqueline Woodson’s childhood in the 60s and 70s living in both South Carolina and New York. She tells her history through verse and tackles finding her place in the world. I purchased this book from Book Outlet not too long ago, and this is another book I want to get to this month.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou is a legend, and this classic autobiography of hers is a must-read. Growing up in the American south, Maya and her brother encounter racism, with Maya even being attacked. Later in life, she moves to San Francisco and learns how to how to love and appreciate herself.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
This is a recent non-fiction book that looks into American history and the idea of race. This book is written in letters to Coates’s son, making it even more personal. Part autobiography and part history, this book is essential to anyone wanting to read about the role of race in the American past.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
A book that many Americans probably read in high school, this classic describes a journey from the Deep South to Harlem and the racism in between. From the Goodreads synopsis, “Ralph Ellison’s nameless protagonist ushers readers into a parallel universe that throws our own into harsh and even hilarious relief.”
March: Book 1 by John Lewis
John Lewis is a Congressman and was also an important figure in the American civil rights movement. March is an autobiography told in graphic novel form with artist Nate Powell doing the illustrations. In it, Lewis tells his own story for the fight for equality.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This book took the country by storm after it’s release in the first half of 2017, and with good reason. The storytelling is absolutely perfect. The tale follows Starr Carter, a 16-year-old who lives in a poor, African-American neighborhood while attending a very fancy prep school where she is one of the only students of color. One day her childhood best friend, Khalil, is shot by the police, and she is the only witness. Starr has to decide if she should speak up or not. If you haven’t already read this book, you really should get to it.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
In this autobiography, Malcolm X describes his philosophies and conversion to Islam. Malcolm X was undoubtedly one of the most important historical figures of the civil rights movement, so this book is a great way to learn more about his life and motivations.
The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr by Martin Luther King, Jr
Another important autobiography to read. Martin Luther King Jr was probably the most important figure of the civil rights movement and inspired an entire generation of people (and still does). While this autobiography was compiled after his death, it was done so by collecting King’s interviews, correspondence, unpublished writings, and more.