Books have always been an important part of my life. I’m enamored by the very sight of them. I’m that guy that goes into every book store and roams way too long. I’m also that guy that has books piled up at home, forever working my way through that list. I find solace, comfort, and empowerment from reading books, especially from Black authors. Below are some books that I’ve read in the last few years that can add some meaning to your Black History Month:
12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
Before the incredible movie, this story was a powerful memoir from 1853. The story follows Northup’s tragic kidnapping in Washington DC, horrific enslavement in the deep South, and ultimately his journey back to freedom. It’s a harrowing account, yet so important to understanding the treatment of Black slaves in the United States.
Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
Demonstrating the true strength, passion, intelligence, and resiliency of one of the world’s most beloved public figures, Mandela’s autobiography speaks volumes about the importance of identifying a cause, organizing people, and working towards justice. This is a lengthy read, spanning most of his lifetime, but within every word, Mandela bravely shares his story of inspiration with the world.
Dreams from my Father by President Barack Obama
While many people believe this book was written more recently, President Obama actually wrote this memoir after this selection as the first Black president of Harvard Law Review. It’s a powerful reflection on childhood, family, race, belonging, and community. If you’re missing President Obama (like me), this is a powerful must read on #44.
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
How has the racial caste system in the United States continued after slavery and Jim Crow? Alexander powerfully and intricately demonstrates how mass incarceration stemming from the War on Drugs, particularly of Black men, is the New Jim Crow, a morphed form of systemic racism that will continue to plague the Black community in the United States.
The Work by Wes Moore
A follow-up to his other incredible book, The Other Wes Moore, this book details Moore’s adventures trying to find meaning and purpose as a Black man in the United States during the 21st century. For anyone looking for some inspiration and guidance, this is the read for you.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Written as a thoughtful memoir to his teenage son, Coates reflects upon the racist society of the United States and his experiences growing up in Baltimore, attending Howard University, and living in New York. It’s a deeply personal reflection on the impact of racism upon generations of Black people. Echoing the review of Toni Morrison, this book is required reading for everyone.
Obviously, there are lots of holes on this list — James Baldwin, Angela Davis, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, and so many others. That just gives me another excuse to get my hands on more books! For Black History Month this year, I’m reading Roots by Alex Haley (an absolute classic) and the March Trilogy by John Lewis (a series of three graphic novels detailing Lewis’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement). I truly believe in the power of books and ideas to change the world. Comment below with the books you’re reading during this Black History Month and let’s go to work.