African American History Books, recommended by Imani Perry

Princeton Professor Imani Perry—a prolific scholar of African American Studies whose biography of Lorraine Hansberry, Looking For Lorraine,  won the 2019 PEN Biography Prize—recommends five books she considers essential to an understanding of the history of black life in America.

The Best African American Literature, recommended by Farah Jasmine Griffin

An ever-growing body of authors are writing about the reality of what it means to be black in America, says Farah Jasmine Griffin, director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies at Columbia University. Here she recommends five works of African American literature, from greats like Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison to lesser-known gems by Ann Petry.

The best books on African American Women’s History, recommended by Keisha N. Blain

Black women’s stories are often untold, but their critical role in American society and politics is finally being broadly acknowledged. Black activists today are building upon the legacy of African American women who have been using every open avenue to seek social justice for centuries. And “no matter how many obstacles are erected to impede them,” says award-winning historian Keisha N. Blain, Black women “are unstoppable.”

The Best Books for Juneteenth, recommended by Barbara Krauthamer

June 19th, or ‘Juneteenth,’ is a holiday commemorating the final end of slavery in the United States. Professor Barbara Krauthamer, a leading historian of African American slavery and emancipation, talks us through its significance down the decades and which books to read to get a better understanding of what it’s all about.

The best books on The Harlem Renaissance, recommended by William J. Maxwell

It was a golden age for American culture, a flourishing of Black literature, music and the arts that exploded in the 1910s and lasted through to the Great Depression. It was focused on Harlem, the area of New York City above Central Park, but its origins and its impact were much, much broader. William J. Maxwell, Professor of English and African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, recommends some of the best books on the Harlem Renaissance.

The Best Antiracist Books for Kids, recommended by Paula Young Shelton

Understanding the African American experience is not just about learning about suffering, it’s also about celebrating a vibrant culture and its roots across the millennia. Paula Young Shelton, author of Child of the Civil Rights Movement, recommends the best antiracist books for kids.