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Bridging the Ancestors to the Present Generations: A Black History Month Reading List

BHM1Black History Month is the time that connections need to be made between the ancestors of Black heritage and the living inheritors. As educator Christopher Emdin wrote on our blog, the stories of past battles should never be told as if they are over or conquered. The stories are alive and playing out today. Seeing the connections between the past and the present gives us the context that enriches our history. In the spirit of Emdin’s observations, we’re offering the following list of recommending reading.


Black Resistance

An African American and Latinx History of the United States
Paul Ortiz

Drawing on rich narratives and primary source documents, historian Paul Ortiz gives us this bottom-up history told from the interconnected vantage points of Latinx and African Americans fighting for universal civil rights.

The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism
Howard Bryant

Sports journalist Howard Bryant traces the rise, fall, and fervent return of the Black athlete-activist, spanning from Paul Robeson, Jackie Robinson, and Muhammad Ali to LeBron James, Colin Kaepernick, and Carmelo Anthony.

Household Workers Unite: The Untold Story of African American Women Who Built a Movement
Premilla Nadasen

Telling the stories of African American domestic workers, scholar and activist Premilla Nadasen resurrects the little-known history of domestic worker activism in the 1960s and 1970s, offering new perspectives on race, labor, feminism, and organizing.

A More Beautiful and Terrible History: The Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History
Jeanne Theoharis

NAACP Image Award-winning historian Jeanne Theoharis dissects the national myth-making around the civil rights movement, revealing its complex reality, the power of its organizing, and the beauty and scope of its vision.

Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?
Martin Luther King, Jr.

In his final book, Martin Luther King, Jr. lays out his thoughts, plans, and dreams for America’s future. He demands an end to global suffering, asserting that humankind—for the first time—has the resources and technology to eradicate poverty.


Confronting Injustice and Difficult Histories

Gather at the Table: The Healing Journey of a Daughter of Slavery and a Son of the Slave Trade
Thomas Norman DeWolf and Sharon Leslie Morgan

Sharon Leslie Morgan, a Black woman from Chicago’s South Side, and Thomas Norman DeWolf, a white man from rural Oregon, embark on a three-year journey of racial reconciliation by confronting the unhealed wounds of slavery.

Infinite Hope: How Wrongful Conviction, Solitary Confinement and 12 Years on Death Row Failed to Kill My Soul
Anthony Graves

In his powerful memoir about fighting for—and winning—exoneration, Anthony Graves gives us the moving account of his ultimate fight for freedom as a wrongfully convicted man from inside a prison cell.

Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color
Andrea Ritchie

Police-misconduct attorney Andrea Ritchie documents the evolution of movements centering women’s experiences of racial profiling and police brutality and demands a radical rethinking of our visions of safety—and the means we devote to achieving it.

The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved from Womb to Grave in the Building of a Nation
Daina Berry

Historian Daina Berry has written the first book to explore the economic value of enslaved people through every phase of their lives—including preconception, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, the senior years, and death—in the early American domestic slave trade.

Stand Your Ground: A History of America’s Love Affair with Lethal Self-Defense
Caroline Light

Scholar Caroline Light exposes a hidden history, showing how America’s racialized, violent self-defense has been legalized for the most privileged and used as a weapon against the most vulnerable.


Black Lives in Focus

Daddy King: An Autobiography
Martin Luther King, Sr.

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. candidly reveals his life inside the civil rights movement and illustrates the profound influence he had on his son, Martin Luther King, Jr., in his memoir.

Redemption: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Last 31 Hours
Joseph Rosenbloom

Award-winning journalist Joseph Rosenbloom gives us an intimate look at the last thirty-one hours of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life as he seeks to revive the nonviolent civil rights movement and push to end poverty in America.

Shout, Sister, Shout!: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe
Gayle F. Wald

Professor Gayle F. Wald tells the untold story of the flamboyant musical prodigy and 2018 Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame inductee Sister Rosetta Tharpe, America’s first rock guitar diva who paved the path for Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Eric Clapton, and Etta James.

Soul Serenade: Rhythm, Blues & Coming of Age Through Vinyl
Rashod Ollison

In his coming-of-age memoir, pop music critic and culture journalist Rashod Ollison tells his story of growing up Black and gay in central Arkansas while searching for himself and his distant father through soul music.

A Surprised Queenhood in the New Black Sun: The Life & Legacy of Gwendolyn Brooks
Angela Jackson

Award-winning writer Angela Jackson delves deep into the cultural and political force of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks, in celebration of her hundredth birthday.