Black History Month is underway, and black people are getting all the feels that come with historical blackness. The month of February signifies a celebration of all things black. Together, we collectively acknowledge the African American experience—dating back to 1619 when the first enslaved African pressed his feet onto American soil. It is only right to pay homage to our ancestors’ malleability, black excellence, and those who have impacted our history as well as the culture. It is also a good time to soak up all the unknown stories and marvels of our heritage. Plenty is surfacing online via social media. However, black books are the ultimate source to immerse ourselves in the resilience and wonderment of blackness past and present.

18 Best Black Books for Black History Month 

 

1. Incidents in the Life Of A Slave Girl

This slave narrative by Harriet Ann Jacobs was originally published in 1861 just as the American Civil War began. Jacobs fictionalized her own story on the horrors of slave life as a young girl, specifically one having to deal with the sexual harassment projected by her slaveholder and the physical violence of his jealous wife.

Best Black Books

 Incidents in the Life Of A Slave Girl, Thayer & Eldridge

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2. The Marrow of Tradition

Charles W. Chesnutt was a prolific black writer who could very well pass for white but refused to. This historical text, published at the turn of the century, depicts the Wilmington Race Riots in 1898. It focuses on racial politics, violence, and blackface during Reconstruction, and sadly, echoes events happening today.

Best Black Books

The Marrow of Tradition, Haughton, Mifflin, and Company

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3.The Autobiography of An Ex-Colored Man

James Weldon Johnson, the creator of the black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice And Sing,” shares the story of being raised by a black mother, but also believing that he was as white as his school-age peers due to his biracial heritage. His loss of innocence comes as he is discriminated against by his teacher. Throughout the text, Johnson gives firsthand accounts and observations of occupying two racial spaces, fitting into neither, yet being forced to choose one.

Best Black Books

The Autobiography of An Ex-Colored Man, Sherman, French & Co.

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4. Mules and Men

Zora Neale Hurston flexes her anthropology chops in this book that published in 1935. She gathers and documents cultural information from her native Florida, and New Orleans, and brings forth the beauty of common folk; their voice, their diction, their living, their way.

Best Black Books

Mules and Men, Harper Collins

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5. Invisible Man

This existential text told the story of a lone, nameless black man navigating a white world and, eventually, we find him so isolated from society to align and protect himself from the powers that be. It is an allegory for the entire black race, which is mistreated, objectified, commodified, and cast aside in such a way that it may as well be invisible.

Best Black Books

The Invisible Man, Random House

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6. Go Tell It On The Mountain

Christianity has close ties to the black American experience, and in many instances it is inextricable. Baldwin puts the beauty and the problematic on the page by way of a young man attempting to negotiate being black, religious, unloved, and possibly gay. Go Tell It On The Mountain is an exploration of identity and migration.

Best Black Books

Go Tell It On The Mountain, Knopf

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7. The Autobiography of Malcolm X

We are blessed to have this book in the world. Alex Haley documented X’s life-changing story for two years prior to his assassination. The book posthumously was published in 1965.

Best Black Books

The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Ballantine Books

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8. Dopefiend

Long before the crack era of the 1980s, heroine wreaked havoc on black communities. Donald Goines, a brilliant writer of street literature captures the pain of addiction perfectly.

Best Black Books

Dopefiend, Holloway House

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9. Roots

Alex Haley’s family tree is the context for Roots. It tells the story of his matriarchal forefather’s journey from Africa, through the middle passage, and through chattel slavery and is carried on by his descendants. The text was integral to African Americans wanting to know their family roots, and sparking interest in genealogy.

 

Best Black Books

Roots, Doubleday

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10. For colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf

Ntozake Shange took the Black Arts movement by storm when her collection of choreopoems hit theaters. These monologues are rooted in black feminism and speak specifically to the intersectionality of race and sexism black women experience.

Best Black Books

For colored girls who have considered suicide/ when the rainbow is enuf, Bantam Books

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11. Song of Solomon

This Nobel Prize-winning book traces the history of a black family and shows the nuance and complexity of black community rarely highlighted in mainstream literature—through Morrison’s remarkable storytelling and beautiful words.

Best Black Books

Song of Solomon, Alfred Knopf

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12. The Color Purple

If there has ever been a story told about black trauma, toxic masculinity, and survival, The Color Purple by Alice Walker will likely come up. The Pulitzer Prize-winning book made it to the big screen three years after its 1982 publishing date.

Best Black Books

The Color Purple, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

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13. How to Succeed in Business Without Being White: Straight Talk on Making It in America 

This list would be remiss without this text from BLACK ENTERPRISE founder and publisher Earl G. Graves Sr. His shoot-from-the-hip commentary on what it takes to be a great, black entrepreneur in a white world is just the prescription the black business world needs.

Best Black Books

How to Succeed in Business Without Being White: Straight Talk on Making It in America, Harper Collins

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14. The Coldest Winter Ever

The cold, harsh reality of drug culture bleeds off these pages. It effectively captures the allure of the game while serving its consequences as well.

Best Black Books

The Coldest Winter Ever, Simon & Schuster

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15. The New Jim Crow

Mass incarceration has long plagued the black community. While representing just 13% of the nation’s population, black people make up 40% of the prison population. Michelle Alexander links this disparity to the war on drugs created to militarize police and fracture black communities, but also exposes its lasting effect as well as its ongoing nature.

Best Black Books

The New Jim Crow, The New Press

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16. The Underground Railroad

If you ever thought the Underground Railroad was an actual railroad when growing up, don’t feel ashamed. Colson Whitehead puts that perspective in play in this Pulitzer Prize-winning, historical text. It is a refreshing fictional look at slavery.

 

 

Best Black Books

The Underground Railroad, Doubleday

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17. The World According To Fannie Davis

Numbers playing is a part of the black culture that is common, yet elusive. The life of a black woman numbers runner is written alongside the historical events and the backdrop of black Detroit.

Best Black Books

The World According To Fannie Davis, St. Martin’s Press

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18. Heavy: An American Memoir

This is the story of a life filled with contradictions, tragedy, and resilience.  Kiese Laymon lays out parts of his life in intricate detail, taking the reader through observations of a range violence committed against black folk and a range of violence committed by them as well. This memoir is a reckoning of the internal and external conflict with, in and around blackness.

Best Black Books

Heavy: An American Memoir, Simon & Schuster

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Please note: Black Enterprise makes a small commission when you purchase one of these products via the embedded Amazon links. 

 

 

The post The 18 Best Black Books of All Time for Black History Month appeared first on Black Enterprise.

The 18 Best Black Books of All Time for Black History Month

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