Black History Month Reading List: Celebrating Black Authors

As many of you know, Black History Month is among us! Although some of us celebrate black history daily, this month holds special significance because it is a time in which we highlight the achievements of Blacks throughout history. Black History month began as “Negro History Week” and has since spread to Canada and The U.K., devoting a month to celebrate people of the African diaspora.

There was a time in history when blacks in America were not even allowed to learn how to read or write. Today, there are so many amazing black authors worth celebrating. Here’s a list of must-read books by black authors, who give a deeper look into the black experience from multiple perspectives and genres.


1. The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou

The Completed Collected Poems of Maya Angelou features amazing poems by Maya Angelou, with a variety of topics, including race, trauma, love, and overcoming difficulties. This book combines her previously published poetry books, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diiie, Oh Pray My Wings Are Gonna Fit Me Well, And Still I Rise, Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing?, and I Shall Not Be Moved. 


2. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah tells the story of the couple, Ifemelu and Obinze and the struggles they face after leaving Nigeria due to military dictatorship.  Ifemelu leaves Nigeria to study in The United States, where she soon discovers racism and racial separations in American culture that she never experienced back in Nigeria. As she struggles to cope, she begins a blog, Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black. While Ifemelu is in America, Obinze faces his own struggles as an illegal immigrant in England.  Adichie’s novel examines important issues such as identity, race, privilege, and immigration. Find out if Ifemelu and Obinze end up together by reading this thought-provoking novel! 


3. Kindred by Octavia Butler

If you’re into science fiction, this book is perfect for you! Octavia Butler began her inspiration for writing after watching a bad movie.  She knew she could do a better job and wanted to “write herself into” the science fiction genre, since there weren’t many black science fiction writers in her time. Kindred tells the story of 26-year old Dana, who discovers she can time travel back to the 1800s. Dana finds herself on a Maryland plantation and soon meets her ancestors. She then goes on a series of time travel trips and must learn how to survive slavery and maintain her life in her own time. Kindred is often viewed as a mixture of science fiction and a slave narrative.


4. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Michelle Alexander discusses the issue of mass incarceration and discrimination towards African-American men. She notes that the War on Drugs is used as a new tool of discrimination and racism, making people of color, specifically black men the new target. The title, The New Jim Crow, serves as a metaphor for mass incarceration issue in The United States. Alexander believes that mass incarceration is “a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow.


5. Women, Race, and Class by Angela Davis

In Women, Race, and Class, Angela Davis brings awareness to the racism and classism behind the women’s liberation movement in The U.S. She further highlights struggles in the black feminist movements, as well as the issues of the white feminist movements throughout history, which are still very relevant today.


6. The Misadventure of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae

This book is for all the awkward black girls like myself. Issa Rae sums up what it’s like to be an introverted, awkward black girl by discussing everything from love, relationships with friends, body image, and self-acceptance in her humorous tone. The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl truly helps you embrace those awkward moments.