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10 Essential Reads for Black History Month

We’ve put together a list of 10 essential books that discuss the Black experience across genres from autobiographies, to fiction, to poetry. We hope this list is just the start and encourages you to continue to diversify your reads year round!

9780593318607What Have We Here? by Billy Dee Williams

A film legend recalls his remarkable life of nearly eight decades—a heralded actor who’s played the roles he wanted, from Brian’s Song to Lando in the Star Wars universe—unchecked by the racism and typecasting so rife in the mostly all-white industry in which he triumphed.

The story of a legend, written by the legend himself! Impressive, inspiring, entertaining and endearing.” —J. J. Abrams

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9780679732761Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

In this deeply compelling novel and epic milestone of American literature, a nameless narrator tells his story from the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be.

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9780679744726The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin’s early life in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, the book is an intensely personal and provocative document from the iconic author of If Beale Street Could Talk and Go Tell It on the Mountain. It consists of two “letters,” written on the occasion of the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, that exhort Americans, both black and white, to attack the terrible legacy of racism.

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9781400033430Sula by Toni Morrison

From the acclaimed Nobel Prize winner: Two girls who grow up to become women. Two friends who become something worse than enemies. This brilliantly imagined novel brings us the story of Nel Wright and Sula Peace, who meet as children in the small town of Medallion, Ohio.

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 9780394713519Women, Race & Class by Angela Y. Davis

From one of our most important scholars and civil rights activist icon, a powerful study of the women’s liberation movement and the tangled knot of oppression facing Black women.

Angela Davis provides a powerful history of the social and political influence of whiteness and elitism in feminism, from abolitionist days to the present, and demonstrates how the racist and classist biases of its leaders inevitably hampered any collective ambitions.

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9780679763888The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

In this beautifully written masterwork, the Pulitzer Prize–winnner and bestselling author of Caste chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life.

Profound, necessary and an absolute delight to read.” —Toni Morrison

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9780593469316Chain Gang All Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

A New York Times Top Ten Book of the Year

Two top women gladiators fight for their freedom within a depraved private prison system not so far-removed from America’s own in this explosive, hotly-anticipated debut novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Friday Black.

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9780593316535An Autobiography of Skin by Lakiesha Carr

This magisterial, intimate look at Black womanhood “follows three women whose various traumas haunt them literally and metaphorically, as it explores what it means to be a Black woman in America today” (The New York Times Book Review, Editor’s Choice).

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9780525436102Civil Rights Queen by Tomiko Brown-Nagin

The first major biography of one of our most influential judges—an activist lawyer who became the first Black woman appointed to the federal judiciary—that provides an eye-opening account of the twin struggles for gender equality and civil rights in the 20th Century.

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9780525657019Spoken Word by Joshua Bennett

A “rich hybrid of memoir and history” (The New Yorker) of the literary art form that has transformed the cultural landscape, by one of its influential practitioners, an award-winning poet, professor, and slam champion.

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