Keep Learning About Black History With These 23 Vital Books

Black History Month might be ending, but learning about black history never should.

The shortest month of the year is coming to a close, and with it, the country’s yearly celebration of Black History Month. The presidential speeches have been declaimed, and the flurry of media inquiry into black achievements throughout American history is subsiding. But the end of February need not ― and should not ― be the end of learning about the history of black people.

The history of black Americans contains immense oppression and suffering, all too often papered over by white-dominated educational systems. It also contains great artistic, scientific and social achievements, for which black creators are often given little credit. With the rich history of African-Americans often ignored save for one short month each year, it’s no wonder many never learn much more than George Washington Carver’s peanut-based achievements.

So why not commit to learning about black history all year round? Here are 23 books, worth reading in any season, that dive deeper into major moments in black history:

Isabel Wilkerson shines a light on the human stories behind the mass movement of black people in the rural South to Northern, Eastern and Western cities after 1915. (Find it here.)
Simon and Schuster
An inside look at the Civil Rights Movement, from one of its most prominent figures. (Find it here.)
Basic Books
This economic history argues that the evolution of American capitalism was deeply intertwined with slave labor, and documents the inhuman cruelties of the domestic slave trade and productivity pushes that allowed the cotton trade to burgeon in the South. (Find it here.)
Metropolitan Books
Family Properties explores an oft-forgotten historical injustice: redlining, a practice by which federal agencies denied mortgage insurance to buyers in black or integrated areas. Redlining rapidly drove segregation and left black families prey to exploitative sellers. Beryl Satter, whose father battled these injustices as a Chicago lawyer, paints both a personal and a sweeping portrait of the phenomenon. (Find it here.)
For anyone who remains unclear on the problem with white feminism, Killing the Black Body makes it eminently clear. Dorothy Roberts lays out the many distinct ways black women’s reproductive rights have been systemically infringed upon, such as forced sterilization — injustices which have often been ignored by a mainstream feminism focused on white, middle-class women’s concerns. (Find it here.)
Harper Perennial
A portrait of a legendary Supreme Court justice as a lawyer, Devil in the Grove catches up with Thurgood Marshall shortly before he brought the seminal Brown v Board of Education suit The book focuses on Marshalls defense of four young black men in Florida targeted by prosecutors and the KKK after a young white woman made rape allegations. (Find it here.)
Nation Books
Ibram X. Kendi examines how racist ideas were spread throughout American history in this sweeping, award-winning history of thought. Bonus: He recently published a reading list in The New York Times, consisting of 24 books he describes as “the most influential books on race and the black experience published in the United States for each decade of the nation’s existence.” (Find it here.)
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
A detailed history of an influential Chicago-based newspaper that gave voice to the black community, The Defender traces the publication from its founding in 1905 to its role in speaking out about Jim Crow to its profound impact on politics in the middle of the century. (Find it here.)
The Original Black Elite demonstrates the crushing power of Jim Crow by telling the story of Daniel Murray, a black man who, along with a cohort of outstanding contemporaries, achieved wealth and status in the post-Civil War era -- until their assimilation into the white upper class was stymied by the rise of segregation. (Find it here.)
The New Press
It's always a good time to read The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander's chilling analysis of how black men are disproportionately targeted and more heavily punished by the criminal justice system -- and the oppressive consequences for the black community. (Find it here.)
Simon and Schuster
In a new history of the Emmett Till case, Timothy B. Tyson recounts the horrific story of a young boy who was brutally lynched after a white woman (falsely) alleged that he made lewd comments to her. The Blood of Emmett Till weaves this infamous event, and its aftermath, into a broader story of white supremacist violence and rhetoric that extends into the present day. (Find it here.)
Broadway Books
If you somehow missed this book about a black woman's DNA being exploited for decades of research -- catch up fast. This year it's becoming a movie starring Oprah. (Find it here.)
William Morrow
The women profiled in Hidden Figures -- which is already a major motion picture -- made meaningful, intentional contributions to the science of American space exploration, only to be largely ignored by history. (Find it here.)
First published in 1872, black abolitionist William Still's contemporaneous accounts of the Underground Railroad offer a peephole into the experiences of people escaping slavery. The account is drawn directly from his interviews of the hundreds of people he aided in escape. (Find it here.)
Tribeca Books
First published in 1933, The Mis-education of the Negro examines how the educational system itself worked against black children, teaching them not to seek out ambitious life paths. (Find it here.)
Third World Press
Chancellor Williams's 1971 tome excavated the submerged history of black people in Africa and beyond. The extensively researched book unsettled the problematic common assumption that black civilization created no meaningful cultural or historical achievements. (Find it here.)
University of North Carolina Press
In an extensive oral history, E. Patrick Johnson tells the stories of black gay men who have made their homes in the South. (Find it here.)
Penguin Classics
Malcolm X collaborated with journalist Alex Haley to write his autobiography over the two years leading up to his assassination. The final result has been a landmark influence on many black thinkers and activists. (Find it here.)
Chicago Review Press
Assata Shakur's autobiography takes readers inside black activist movements of the 1970s, giving a first-person account of her involvement and of how targeting by federal agencies eventually weakened groups like the Black Panthers. (Find it here.)
A now-classic history of the Haitian Revolution of 1794-1803, The Black Jacobins tracks and analyzes the massive, sustained slave revolt, led by Toussaint L'Ouverture, that led to the formation of the free state of Haiti. (Find it here.)
The Souls of Black Folk is a groundbreaking early work of sociology, published in 1903, and advocates for black education, voting rights and other civil rights while capturing the state of affairs and of debate at the time. (Fid it here.)
An expansive, lavishly illustrated history of the variegated black experience in America, Life Upon These Shores has a wide scope but is rooted in specificity through hundreds of photos and careful scholarship. (Find it here.)
Little Brown and Company
You can call it current events or history in the making, but Wesley Lowery, a Washington Post reporter who has been covering police brutality and Black Lives Matter, brings together the results of his reporting -- both political and personal. (Find it here.)

What other books about black history should everyone be adding to their must-read lists? Add your own recommendation in the comments.

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