9 Books to Read During Black History Month

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Black History Month is a time to celebrate Black voices and stories, while committing to furthering one’s education on Anti-Racism. While this is an ongoing journey, and not one that should end when February does, we gathered 9 must reads for book lovers looking to engage with Black authors and experiences. Whether you enjoy novels, non-fiction, or celebrity memoirs, we’ve got you covered. 

If you’re looking to buy any of the books below, consider supporting black-owned bookstores, either local to your community or online!

 

# 1 – Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

You may have seen the Award-Winning movie, but trust us the book has so much more to offer. An inspiring true story about the African-American women who proved critical in America’s race to space. A #1 New York Times Bestseller, this book details the disheartening reality of workplace segregation even amongst the brightest minds at NASA.

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# 2 –
Just as I am by Cicely Tyson

Cicely Tyson had a long and extraordinary career as an actor who championed stories of strong and dynamic black women. She passed away only recently at the age of 96, just after releasing this long awaited memoir. And it’s a must-read. Cicely was proud to be choosy when it came to roles, and would only inhabit characters she felt were “of substance”. In this book she describes her amazing life with raw emotion and vulnerability. 

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# 3 – Becoming by Michelle Obama

A celebrated memoir by former First Lady and icon, Michelle Obama. A deeply personal account of her life, she talks all things White House, motherhood, and finding her voice. The #1 Bestseller has been adapted for Young Readers (and as a Netflix documentary) but we still love the original.

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# 4 – The Three Mothers by Anna Malaika Tubbs

How often do we celebrate the women behind the men who defined a nation? Not often enough! The Three Mothers tells the story of the incredible women who raised Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin. Named one of Fortune Magazine’s 21 Books to Look Forward to in 2021. We’re reading it because “these women represent a piece of history left untold and a celebration of Black motherhood long overdue.”

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# 5 – The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

You can’t have a list on Black literature without including text by James Baldwin, a key voice of the Civil Rights Movement and acclaimed writer and essayist. Often considered a seminal text, The Fire Next Time is a must read for understanding race in America today. 

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# 6 – Redefining Realness by Janet Mock

Another New York Times Bestseller by trans writer and activist Janet Mock. In this memoir, she talks about growing up poor, biracial, and trans in America and her journey to love and acceptance. Janet Mock has also written and directed for popular television shows Pose, The Politician, and Hollywood and is passionate about telling stories that represent the transgender community. 

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# 7 – Sing, Unburied, Sing by by Jesmyn Ward

For the fiction lovers, this novel has it all: it is a New York Times Bestseller, winner of the National Book Award, Finalist for the Kirkus Prize, and an Andrew Carnegie Medal recipient. The complicated and beautifully written book tells the story of three generations living in Mississippi dealing with hope and struggle. Oprah calls it “a tour de force” – and if that doesn’t convince you, the countless other glowing reviews will.

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# 8 – How we Fight For our Lives by Saeed Jones

This Award-Winning memoir from poet Saeed Jones has been selected as the best book of the year by NPR, Time, The New Yorker, O, The Oprah Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, BuzzFeed, Goodreads, and many more. This is a striking coming-of-age story about growing up as a Black gay man in the South, and is powerful, beautiful, and essential reading for any lover of literature. 

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# 9 – Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Saving the best for last – you simply must read this book. Toni Morrison calls this New York Times Bestseller “required reading”, as it explores our racial history while viscerally detailing what it’s like to be Black in America. “Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.”

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If you (like most) can’t read nine books in one calendar month, consider this list a jumping off point in your ongoing commitment to diversifying your reading list. Want more? Shondaland put out an expanded list of this month’s essential reading, the NAACP published a list of ways you can thoughtfully celebrate Black History Month, and CNN shared 5 organizations you can consider donating to this month (or every month).

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