I remember the first time I read NegroLand by Margo Jefferson. It was transformative. Paradigm shifting. Transportive even, allowing me to briefly exist in 1950s American where blacks were making substantial gains, while still struggling within a system that was intent on tempering their achievements and robbing them of their dignity. I read it three times in a month, and loved it so much that it gave me the idea for this blog. What better way to mark Black History Month (as well as the birthdays of two of the most prominent black authors, Alice Walker [February 9th] and Toni Morrison [February 18th]) than to educate yourself on the experiences of a people who embody immense perseverance, creativity and an unwavering spirituality.
As such, I've compiled a list of books that every African American should have in their library. These books are meant to be savored, read repeatedly and then shared with others, especially younger readers. They're just that spectacular. And star worthy. Their histories and perspectives deserve to hold a special place in the cannon of great American literature.
1. NEGROLAND by Margo Jefferson.
2. SISTER CITIZEN: SHAME, STEREOTYPES, AND BLACK WOMEN IN AMERICA by Melissa V. Harris-Perry.
3. AMERICANAH by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
4. THE ORIGINAL BLACK ELITE: DANIEL MURRAY AND THE STORY OF A FORGOTTEN ERA by Elizabeth Dowling Taylor
5. THE INTUITIONIST by Colson Whitehead
6. THE BEAUTIFUL STRUGGLE by Ta-Nehisi Coates
7. THE SELLOUT by Paul Beatty
8. I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO by James Baldwin
9. RACE by Toni Morrison
10. BEFORE YOU SUFFOCATE YOUR OWN FOOL SELF by Danielle Evans
11. FEMINISM IS FOR EVERYBODY: PASSIONATE POLITICS by bell hooks
12. BAD FEMINIST; ESSAYS by Roxane Gay
13. THE HALF HAS NEVER BEEN TOLD, SLAVERY AND THE MAKING OF AMERICAN CAPITALISM by Edward E. Baptist
14. NERVOUS CONDITIONS by Tsitsi Dangarembga
15. THE WEARY BLUES by Langston Hughes
16. THE WRETCHED OF THE EARTH by Frantz Fanon
17. THINGS FALL APART by Chinua Achebe
18. AMIABLE WITH BIG TEETH by Claude McKay
19. THE RACE BEAT, THE PRESS, THE CIVIL RIGHTS STRUGGLE, AND THE AWAKENING OF A NATION by Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff
20. TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE by Solomon Northup
What's on your bookshelf? Share your favorite tomes in the comment section below!