There are tons of great ways to celebrate Black History Month — parades, movie marathons, trips to the museums — but for the book nerds it’s clearly another great excuse to break out the books. But even then, there are so many great books to choose from!
If you’re one of those history buff book nerds, then you’ve got double the reason to nerd out this month, and plenty of great new black history books to dive into. But maybe you passed your high school U.S. history class with a solid C+ and struggle to remember the difference between George Washington and George Washington Carver. Either way, with the right books, you can celebrate Black History Month this year by doing what you do best: reading.
Black history spans across continents, cultures, and centuries. It is so rich and interesting that there’s something for everyone, and there are tons of black history scholars uncovering new enthralling stories and truths about black history all the time. So, whether you’re into music or politics, social justice or gender studies, there are some seriously brilliant black history books that are so engrossing and accessible (even for those who can’t list all the American Presidents in perfect chronological order) that you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back in time, or else they’ll explode your whole worldview. These are some of them.
Originally posted at: https://www.bustle.com/articles/135966-15-brilliant-black-history-books-to-read-for-black-history-month
This one isn’t for the faint of heart. A brutal book, The Slave Ship gets into the gritty, unbearable details of what life and imprisonment was like on the slave ships that brought millions of Africans across the Atlantic in chains and vile conditions. We often hear about the brutality of slavery itself, but the horrors of slavery began long before the slave ships ever reached American and Caribbean shores.
As the French Revolution reached its heights, slaves in the French colony of Saint Domingue caught the revolutionary spirit themselves and revolted under the leadership of the famous Toussaint L’Ouverture. The story of the Haitian Slave Revolt that made Haiti the first independent nation in the Caribbean is a fascinating one, and C.L.R. James’ The Black Jacobins is one of the most classic histories of the rebellion out there.
The Black Panther Party is famous for its armed resistance against brutality against black Americans, but the party’s work for health education and health care in black communities is little known and less talked about. But with free clinics, awareness campaigns, and social services programs, the Black Panther Party was pretty radical in its fight for health justice.
If medical histories are more your thing, you can’t pass this one up. When we think of the many social injustices that black Americans faced throughout history, we think of segregated lunch counters and brutal plantations, but many of the most harrowing stories come from the medical field, in which black bodies were the subjects of unlawful experiments, eugenics, inferior care, unauthorized autopsies, and other horrors.
The Black Power movement is one of the most misunderstood movements in history. Decades of negative media coverage and stereotypes have contributed to that. Here Peniel Joseph dives in deep and shows where and how the Black Power movement diverged from and overlapped with other racial equality movements, from its inception with Stokely Carmichael at the helm to the rise of the Black Panther Party.
Many of the books you’ll find on black history will focus on a particular era or theme. Henry Louis Gates’ Life Upon These Shores is one of the few comprehensive texts of black history in America, particularly the U.S. And it’s a pretty good one too. Try this one if you’re looking for a general overview.
So music’s your thing? Amiri Baraka’s Blues People is one of the classics of black music history in America. Baraka traces black American music to its roots in Africa and American slavery and retraces his steps to take a look at the influence of it on American culture. Read it with the Blues Roots playlist on Spotify playing in the background and a glass of whiskey in your hand..
Angela Davis is basically a beast when it comes to shining a bright, brilliant light on the lives and politics of black women in history. In Women, Race, and Class she calls out the often overlooked ties and conflicts between the women’s movements and the black American movements in history, showing that movements for women’s rights have often been divided on lines of race and class, and that the only way forward is with a united front.
Part cultural criticism, part prosetry (it's so a thing), part history, The Grey Album is a beast of its own. It’s probably a bit controversial to include it on a list of pure history books, but the book is just too amazing NOT to include. This is the book to pick up if you’re not really sure what aspect of black culture/history/art you’d like to explore. Young looks at everything from literature to music to Black cultural traditions of “storying”. Young is a poet by trade and it shows in this lyrical take on all Black everything. It's a freaking celebration in itself!
Speaking of the marginalization LGTBQ people in black communities… Bayard Rustin was openly and controversially gay during the Civil Rights era, and was consequently often pushed to the margins and shamefully hidden away in the shadows even as an important leader of the movements and organizations of black liberation.
This isn’t the history of slavery as you heard it in a five-page summary in your high school textbook. This picture of American slavery is, if you can believe it, even more harrowing. Getting at the greed and commercial motivations that drove slavery, Baptist uncovers a surprisingly uglier picture of that horrid institution and it’s undeniable role in the economic development of the United States.