Black History Month Reads

Black History Month gives us an opportunity to highlight writing by Black authors that can be read and reread throughout the year. It is a reminder to engage in stories, essays, and poems that celebrate Black excellence and joy and provide historical context and perspectives that were likely left out of many of our classroom lessons growing up.

Check out our recommended reads for Black History Month and help us keep the conversation and reading going all year long by sharing your favorite books and authors on social media: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Zong! by M. NourbeSe Philip

Zong! is a haunting, book-length experimental poem about the horrific legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the 18th century. This work of art offers harrowing testimony about the massacre of 130 enslaved Africans on an ill-fated slave ship. This book was recommended to me by the poet Roger Reeves (I would read anything by Roger and any books he recommends). – Dalia Azim, Deputy Director

Americanah: A Novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I’m about halfway through Americanah, and I recommend it to anyone looking for a masterpiece of cultural exploration. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie tells the story of Ifemelu and Obinze as they grow up and fall in love in Nigeria, and how their lives and relationships change when they move west. Adichie’s characters are constantly redefining their definitions of what it means to be Black as the cultures and people they are surrounded by alter their perceptions of the world, and themselves. Just as you start settling in with the characters in one setting, they’re pushed in another direction, adding another lens to the Black experience. – Olivia Hesse, Event Production & Logistics Coordinator

We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds

Jas Hammonds’ debut novel is a captivating story of family drama, trauma, and healing. It’s a story of young love and belonging. It’s a story of a small town and its racist history. Hammonds weaves and layers all of this together so beautifully. And, for my fellow audiobook fans, this is one of the best I’ve ever listened to. – Michelle Hernandez, School & Community Programs Manager

Sankofa: A Novel by Chibundu Onuzo

A mid-life discovery that her biological father is the retired dictator of a small African Nation sets Anna Graham searching for who she is. After a life lived as a biracial woman in predominantly suburban white communities, much has been missing. This evocative novel spans 1970s London to the modern-day fictional country of Bamana where Anna comes to face the man and the inheritance. – Susannah Auby, Development Director

Shuri Vol. 1: The Search For Black Panther

written by Nnedi Okorafor
illustrated by Samuel Spratt (cover), Leonardo Romero

After seeing Black Panther: Wakanda Forever in theaters last year, I wanted to dive deeper into Shuri’s story and spend more time in Wakanda. Shuri, the genius younger sister of T’Challa, the Black Panther and King of Wakanda, leads the film in his absence. Without spoiling the film, it is an introduction to a more introspective Shuri who begins her journey in healing and leveling up. After the end credits (and end credits scenes – because we’re talking about Marvel here), the idea of having to wait until the next sequel to see where her journey leads did not sound like fun.

My eagerness and curiosity led me to the Shuri comic book series by award-winning author Nnedi Okorafor. I recommend that you start with the first volume, but make room on your shelves as you will find yourself wanting to continue to traverse across Africa with Shuri and co. Okorafor’s writing is imaginative and quick-witted and the art is vibrant and elegant, from volume to volume. – Ke’ara Hunt, Communications & Marketing Coordinator

The Lesson by Cadwell Turnbull

For fans of Octavia E. Butler and other literary sci-fi authors, The Lesson is a thought-provoking story addressing the impact of colonialism through the arrival of an alien ship in the U.S. Virgin Islands. In keeping with Turnbull’s other work, The Lesson presents a cast of complex characters, vibrant worldbuilding, and a spellbinding story that keeps you hooked until the final page. While most of the story is set five years after the arrival of the Ynaa, flashbacks bring the reader back into Caribbean colonial history, presenting haunting parallels from the past to the present. – Anna Dolliver, Operations Coordinator

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin &
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

During his recent conversation at the Long Center on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Ta-Nehisi Coates reflected on the personal importance to him of James Baldwin, calling out The Fire Next Time as having an especially profound effect on him. Indeed, Coates’ multiple-award-winning book, Between the World and Me, constructed as a letter to his son, is very much in conversation with Baldwin’s essay to his nephew in The Fire Next Time. As Americans continue to grapple with the impact of slavery and systemic racism, Baldwin and Coates provide insightful, intimate, and intellectually rigorous perspectives and context for conversations around race in America today. – Lois Kim, Executive Director