Black History Month Booklist

While I’m not Black myself, I wanted to make an extra effort this year to read more Black authors. While I still have plenty of books on my To Be Read (TBR) list, I have had success in coming across some amazing books by Black authors that I thought I’d share in the spirit of Black History Month. While some of these books have to do with history, I have also been getting into Afrofuturism, a term used to describe an aesthetic that has to do with the African diaspora and connecting it to future technology and world organization (A good mainstream example of Afrofuturism would be Wakanda). Afrofuturism has often been linked with science fiction because of the immediate science fiction aspect that comes with the futurity of civilization, but also because of the (often undermined) history of Black people being the drivers of pop culture and innovation. So without further due, here are some great books by Black authors, rich with Black experiences for us to all take in:

  1. 1. Black History: The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

    I first read this book almost four years ago now, but I can honestly say that something comes up that brings me back to this book pretty much every month. If you want an in-depth look into how slave catching contributed to the police force we know today, or how the War on Drugs drives our prison industrial complex and mass incarceration, Alexander takes us back to the days of Jim Crow laws and traces their iterations to the present. If you ever need to argue with someone who thinks that we solved racism after the civil rights movement, take notes on this book; it will give you a beautiful baseline for outlining systemic racism’s penetration into every fabric and layer of American society today.

  2. 2. Black Present: How To Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi

    While this book is a memoir of sorts for Kendi’s life, his presence in today’s Black Lives Matter movement and contemporary issues roots this book in the now, especially as this was only published in 2019. Yes, this book offers a great look into the historical context for racism in America, but what makes this present is Kendi’s clear-cut guide for what needs to be done in order to move towards being anti-racist (which, if you read the book, you’ll know that this is not the same as being “not racist”). This book has a wonderful balance of memoir and action that will help you examine your own beliefs, and remain orientated towards a future of anti-racism.

  3. 3. Black Future: Binti: The Complete Trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor

    This book definitely has elements of Afrofuturism: Binti, the main character, is a girl who is about to go to a University in another galaxy to study being a Harmonizer, which involves a complex blend of math and magic that has been known to her family and the Himba people for ages (the Himba people are a real indigenous group in current day Namibia, Southern Africa). Yet, Binti must overcome racism not just as a Black girl from Earth, but also as a human in an intergalactic world with alien race issues of its own. While this book is awesome to read as far as the worldbuilding of space travel, it is also still rooted in African history and criticism of today’s world.

Although I separate these books by their general location in history, they all address the history, present, and future of Black people. This is how I’ve begun to look at Black History Month as well: I can learn as much about prominent Black historical figures as I want (and I will), but that doesn’t mean much as far as honoring Black people when there are Black people today showing up and making history, when there are so many people involved in the struggle of a better tomorrow. I hope to keep learning about Black history beyond February, and to be present for those who are making history right now.