A sampling of suggestions from our readers and staff.
“Like One of the Family — Conversations From a Domestic’s Life,” by Alice Childress
Both humorous and deep, this work of fiction, originally published in the 1950s, is a series of monologues by an African American domestic worker in the 1950s, ahead of its time in revealing the bitter and the sweet of the lives of so many Black working class women of that time, an important part of our history.
“Jackie Ormes: The First African American Woman Cartoonist,” by Nancy Goldstein
This 2008 biography of the great Pittsburgh Courier cartoonist is a delight for the mind and eye, showing how a progressive woman overcame male chauvinism and McCarthyism in developing a powerful group of African American comic strips from the 1930s to the ‘50s.
“Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King’s Last Campaign,” by Michael K. Honey
Published in 2007, this book tells the gripping story of the complex struggles for civil rights, labor rights, equality and peace that melded together in Memphis 40 years ago to win union rights and a foothold toward a better life for workers forced to the very fringes by racism and economic oppression.
Two of many outstanding works by historian Gerald Horne:
“Fire This Time: The Watts Uprising and the 1960s” (1995, University Press of Virginia)
“Red Seas: Ferdinand Smith and Radical Black Sailors in the United States and Jamaica” (2005, New York University Press)
“One-Way Ticket,” by Langston Hughes
Read anything and everything (poetry and prose) by Langston Hughes. “One-Way Ticket” (published in 1949 with six woodcut illustrations by Jacob Lawrence) is a compilation of poetry starting with the wonderful “Madam, to you” series, where Alberta K. Johnson tells about her life. That’s Madam Alberta K. Johnson.
“Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression,” by Robin D.G. Kelly
A good account of the Communist Party’s work in the South.
“The Omni-Americans: Black Experience and American Culture,” by Albert Murray
Murray’s take on African American culture is creative and complicated; he’s a great debunker of social-science approaches that abstract the life out of human experience, and his commentary anticipates the forces that have formed today’s “Obama America.”
Two by the first African American president of the United States:
“Dreams From My Father”
Barack Obama’s personal experiences growing up in his unique family and circumstances. A great book that delves into a lot of questions about being Black in America.
“Audacity of Hope”
A rich discussion of the political outlook and need for basic change from the first African American president of the USA.
“Red River,” by Lalita Tademy
You are transported in time and place to Louisiana just after the betrayal of Reconstruction. Tademy recreates with an edge-of-your-seat, heart-pumping, adrenaline-rushing description the notorious 1873 massacre at Colfax, La., where 150 blacks, gathered in defense of local Republican officials — and their own citizenship, were killed by white supremacists. But she also tells a longer story over generations and places you as part of this freed Black community, their triumphs, trials and resiliency, with such honesty and force of language that “Red River” should be a part of all American literature classes. Tademy is also the author of New York Times bestseller and Oprah pick “Cane River.”
International Publishers has for decades provided important books on Black history. Here are a few suggested by readers:
“American Negro Slave Revolts,” by Herbert Aptheker
Published in 1943, this pioneering book shows how the slaves did indeed fight back.
“John Brown: The Cost of Freedom,” by Louis A. DeCaro Jr.
A new look at the extraordinary life and thinking of the great abolitionist.
“Communist Councilman from Harlem,” by Benjamin J. Davis
A moving account of Councilman Davis’s history. Ben Davis was both the second African American and the second Communist elected to the New York City Council.
Several by W.E.B.Dubois:
“The Souls of Black Folk”
The granddaddy of Black history, and America’s story, originally published in 1903, a beautifully written consideration of what he famously identified as “the problem of the 20th century: the color line.”
“The World and Africa”
Africa’s role in world history.
“An A.B.C. of Color”
A series of important writings on the impact of race and racism on the world.
“Paul Robeson: The Great Forerunner,” by the editors of Freedomways magazine
— Teresa Albano, Marilyn Bechtel, Bea Lumpkin, Dan Margolis, Barbara Russum, Jarvis Tyner, Susan Webb, John Woodford