13 Black History Books That Will Keep You Informed During Black History Month

black history books
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Black History Month is here again. It’s the annual event where Americans join together to celebrate Black Americans’ cultural contributions and stories, and it’s also when we ponder the complicated history and struggles Black Americans have faced. There are many ways to learn about and honor Black history, and reading is one of the most crucial.

Whether you’re interested in learning more about the leaders who led enslaved people to freedom or the heroes who navigated Black Americans through the civil rights movement, there are many incredible books to add to your reading list. Of course, Black history is about more than struggle. Many Black authors have also written poignant history books about a diverse range of topics, including politics, medicine, jazz, education and cuisine. Because there are many widespread myths about Black history in the United States, it’s vital to seek out Black history books that set the record straight. Often, this means finding books written by Black authors such as Isabel Wilkerson, W. E. B. Du Bois, Alex Haley and Martin Luther King Jr.

Below, we’ve gathered 13 Black history books that we feel encompass a significant amount of this country’s history and culture. Some of the books highlight specific leaders, while others highlight particular historical moments that need remembering.

Keep reading to see our selection of Black history books below.

  

The Burning: The Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921

One of America’s most eerie and unsettling stories would be that of the Tulsa riots. Not only was the event itself horrifying, but many Americans are still completely unaware that it happened in the first place. The riots centered around Tulsa’s “Negro Wall Street,” where a white mob that numbered in the thousands obliterated a Black community that was one of America’s most prosperous. This book tells the story of this community and the racial turmoil Black Americans faced during that time. With searing details, The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 is a chilling piece of historical reporting that seeks to tell the truth about one of America’s most heinous acts of mob violence.

The Burning: The Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 by Tim Madigan, best black history book Amazon

  

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

Redlining was a racist practice most know to have affected Black want-to-be homeowners. In the 1930s, the federal government began the practice of “redlining” real estate by marking what were deemed to be risky neighborhoods for federal mortgage loans. These were based on race populations and made it nearly impossible for a Black family to buy a home. The practice extended from home mortgages into a variety of financial services, including student loans, credit cards and insurance. This has had a cascading and lasting effect on generational wealth growth that continues to perpetuate the racial wealth gap in America. In The Color of Law, Richard Rothstein helps us understand those New Deal-era housing policies that mandated segregation on a local, state and federal level. This book will shed light on why the act of overturning a law doesn’t automatically undo its intended devastation.

color of the law by Richard Rothstein Courtesy of Amazon
  

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration

Moving from the south to the north and achieving the unimaginable was the dream of so many Black Americans. Too often, these dreams could only come to fruition through great sacrifice. In telling the stories of three individuals who achieved the unimaginable, Isabel Wilkerson explores how these journeys impacted our cities, country and ourselves. The publisher writes, “Wilkerson brilliantly captures their first treacherous and exhausting cross-country trips by car and train and their new lives in colonies that grew into ghettos, as well as how they changed these cities with southern food, faith, and culture and improved them with discipline, drive, and hard work.”

warmth of other suns book cover, black history month books Amazon
  

The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X 

Most people know about the legacy of Malcolm X, but some may not know the man behind the legacy. This book, written by Les Payne and his daughter Tamara Payne, seeks to tell his biography. The book follows his Nebraska birth in 1925 to his untimely Harlem assassination in 1965. Hearing from people close to Malcolm X, Payne strives to tell his story accurately and with heart. Essentially, this book is a work that affirms the position of Malcolm X in the African-American freedom, equality and justice struggle.

the dead are arising book cover, best black history books Amazon
  

Roots: The Saga of an American Family

One of the most required and most talked about books about Black history is Roots. Written by Alex Haley, Roots tells the story of a young enslaved person named Kunta Kinte, and it chronicles his life going through the turmoil of slavery. The book won a Pulitzer Prize and was a #1 New York Times bestseller for 22 weeks. A year after its release, a miniseries was adapted from the book — more than 130 million Americans watched some or all of the series.

Roots: The Saga of an American Family book cover, best black history books Amazon
  

A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story 

In a stunning story about a Black woman’s battle to define herself, A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story, is Elaine Brown’s story of acquiring the power and weaponry of one of the most powerful Black power groups of the 60s and 70s — the Black Panther Party. A woman gaining control of the male-dominated Black Panther Party was a big deal back in the day, and it is a testimony to her wits and character. This book explores her backstory and shares information about what happened in the Black Panther Party behind the scenes, which is perfect as a jumping point to learn more about the Black Panthers as a part of Black history.

a taste of power book cover, black history books Amazon
  

The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.

As a visionary leader of the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr. is considered a national hero. Thanks mainly to his tireless efforts, the American government passed critical civil rights legislation that ended legal segregation and southern Jim Crow laws. His nonviolent approach to activism helped reveal the violence and brutality of Black Americans’ oppressors. He has become one of the most admired figures in American history, and he helped prove that love can overcome hate. King tells his own story in this autobiography, highlighting what he stood for and why he stood so strongly for his people.

autobiography of martin luther king jr cover, black history month books Amazon
  

Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America

During the Jim Crow south and on the cusp of the civil rights movement, traveling in the United States as a Black American was treacherous. This book is the first of its kind to analyze the history of a famous travel guide for Black motorists, the Green Book. The Green Book listed hotels, restaurants and gas stations safe for Black people. It was a courageous feat to be featured in the Green Book, and Overground Railroad seeks to celebrate the stories of those who put their names in the book and stood up to the ugly beast of segregation.

overground railroad green book cover, black history month books Amazon
  

Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019

This New York Times Bestseller details the four-hundred-year journey of African Americans from 1619 to current times, exploring the past’s effects on the present and future. This retelling of the vicious history of American culture explores a multitude of topics through historical essays, short stories, and personal vignettes.

 

  

Notes of a Native Son, By James Baldwin

Written by a young James Baldwin in the 40s and 50s, Notes of a Native Son features a series of essays detailing what it meant to be Black in America in the years leading up to the civil rights movement. Listed at #26 on The Guardian’s list of 100 best nonfiction books of all time, an Amazon description for this must-read memoir details, “With a keen eye, he examines everything from the significance of the protest novel to the motives and circumstances of the many black expatriates of the time, from his home in ‘The Harlem Ghetto’ to a sobering ‘Journey to Atlanta.'”

Notes of a Native Son Courtesy of Amazon

  

His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope

The recent passing of civil rights hero and Congressman John Lewis sparked solidarity with his slogan, “Cause good trouble,” and what it meant to be a force for positive change. Lewis was most known for his efforts during the Selma march when he and dozens of other Black civilians were beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge when they protested for the right to vote. Through many years of activism and nonviolent protests, Lewis has become an inspiration and mentor for other notable leaders such as the recently elected Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. This book tells Lewis’s life story, and how he became the great leader he was.

his truth is marching on book cover, black history month books Amazon
  

Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880

In this crucial tale, W.E.B. Du Bois chronicles the fate of Black Americans after the Civil War ended and the emancipation of the enslaved people, and what reconstruction was honestly like for those Americans. This book is hailed as a classic, as Du Bois is one of the greatest intellects of the time. This analytical tale is a crucial part of Black history because it tells the story of the people who helped create America as we know it today. If you’re looking for Black history books that bust myths and tell hard truths, this is a crucial entry for your reading list.

w.e.b. du bois black reconstruction book cover, black history month books Amazon
  

African American Medicine in Washington, D.C.: Healing the Capital During the Civil War Era

Some of the most forgotten characters of the Civil War are the medical staff of Black Americans that took care of fallen soldiers and other important war participants. Written by Heather M. Butts JD MPH MA, this riveting tale dissects the service of the medical staff that helped defend the Union during the Civil War. These brave staffers created a foundation for African Americans by African Americans through the Washington’s Freemen’s Hospital, which eventually became the Howard University Medical Center. These physicians formed the National Medical Association — the largest and oldest organization representing African American doctors and patients. This book has become one of the most inspiring Black history books by highlighting the medical staff that took care of people during one of the most chaotic times in American history.

African American Medicine in Washington, D.C. book cover, black history books Amazon