Here is our collection of expert-recommended books written by African American authors.
We spoke to Professor Farah Jasmine Griffin, director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies at Columbia University and she recommended five works of the best African American literature.
Becoming by Michelle Obama is one of our most recommended recent books. The New Jim Crow, a book that exposes the racial discrimination inherent to the American justice system, by the civil rights lawyer Michelle Alexander, is the most recommended nonfiction book in our race and racism books section.
If you're looking for kids' books, we have an interview on the best books on black icons, aimed at younger children. African American authors dominated the shortlist of the prestigious Newbery Medal this year. Here's our interview with the chair of the judges, Krishna Grady, on the best kids' books of 2020. An unmissable audiobook for young adults is The Hate U Give.
Other notable fiction books include:
Just Above My Head by James Baldwin
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Black Unicorn by Audre Lorde
Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
High Cotton by Darrly Pinckney
Other notable nonfiction books include:
Islam and the Blackamerican by Sherman Jackson
The Philadelphia Negro by W E B DuBois
We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Between the World and Me Ta-Nehisi Coates
In 1995, Octavia Butler became the first science fiction and fantasy author to be awarded a Macarthur 'genius' grant. Her writing often dealt with the moral complexities of survival, and foregrounded African American characters at a time where Black protagonists were few. Nisi Shawl, a personal friend and editor of Butler's collected works, selects five of the best books to read for an introduction to Octavia Butler's writing.
Festivals of Freedom: Memory and Meaning in African American Emancipation Celebrations, 1808-1915
by Mitch Kachun
Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery
by Barbara Krauthamer & Deborah Willis
Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South
by Stephanie Camp
To 'Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women's Lives and Labors after the Civil War
by Tera Hunter
A Black Women's History of the United States
by Daina Berry & Kali Gross
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.
Black Reconstruction in America
by WEB Du Bois
Exodus: Religion, Race and Nation in Early Nineteenth-Century Black America
by Eddie S Glaude Jr
Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression
by Robin D G Kelley
Hands on the Freedom of the Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC
Faith S. Holsaert, Martha Prescod, and others (eds.)
Creating Black Americans: African-American History and Its Meanings, 1619 to the Present
by Nell Irvin Painter
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.
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.
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement
by Carole Boston Weatherford & Euka Holmes
Josephine: A Dazzling Life
by Christian Robinson & Patricia Hruby Powell
The Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History
by Vashti Harrison
by Misty Copeland
Life Doesn't Frighten Me
by Jean-Michel Basquiat & Maya Angelou
Jamia Wilson and Andrea Pippins discuss books that that tell the stories of some of the greatest black icons in history – and explain why reading books that celebrate these extraordinary lives can be transformational for all children.