Add These Books to Your Black History Month Reading List

As we continue honoring the lives and contributions of African Americans during Black History Month and throughout the year, Working at Chapman brings you a list of must-reads pertaining to Black history curated by Assistant Professor of Africana Studies and co-director of the new Africana Studies minor Angelica Allen. This reading list reflects just a small sample of the breadth and depth of Black history. If you’re interested in additional reading options, Allen adds you can’t go wrong with anything by Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou and James Baldwin.

1. “A Black Women’s History of the United States” by Daina Berry and Kali Nicole Gross

Berry and Gross offer an examination of the rich and dynamic history of Black women in America and the innumerable ways they have shaped and continue to shape American history.

2. “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi

This riveting novel follows the paths of two Ghanaian half-sisters born into different tribes and vastly different circumstances. One sister remains in Ghana, marries an Englishman and lives a life of comfort; the other is captured and sold into slavery. Rich in its scope of history, Gyasi’s novel depicts the harsh realities of slavery and the aftereffects that linger on. 

3. “Caste” by Isabel Wilkerson

Pulitzer Prize–winning and bestselling author Isabel Wilkerson examines the rarely talked about caste system that has shaped America and continues to influence lives today.

4. “Lose Your Mother” by Saidiya V. Hartman

In this part memoir, part travelogue, Hartman retraces the routes of the Atlantic slave trade by recounting a journey she took along a slave route in Ghana. As she meditates on the journey, the insidious legacy of slavery becomes much more poignant and personal to her.

5. “Sister Outsider” by Audre Lorde

In this collection of essays and speeches, Lorde is bold in her coverage of a range of essential topics including, sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia and class.

6. “When they Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir ” by Patrisse Khan-Cullors   

Written by one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, this memoir chronicles the events that led Khan-Cullors to co-found Black Lives Matter and what it means to be a Black woman in America.  

7. “Slavery by Another Name” by Douglas A. Blackmon

This Pulitzer Prize-winning account brings to light the lost stories of enslaved persons and their descendants, challenging the notion that slavery in America ended with the Civil War.  

8. “Freedom’s Prophet: Bishop Richard Allen, the AME Church, and the Black Founding Fathers” by Richard S. Newman.

In this biography, historian Newman offers a vivid portrait of Bishop Richard Allen, founder of the first major African American church and Civil Rights leader committed to ending slavery and fostering equality for African Americans. Here’s an interesting fact: Angelica Allen is one of the descendants of Bishop Richard Allen.