25 Of The Most Important Books About Racism & Being Black In America

25 Of The Most Important Books About Racism & Being Black In America

by Ashley McCann

Because of the complex and often ugly history of slavery and racism in the United States, discussions in and around race are, to put it lightly, difficult. Race is always a sensitive subject, and this is particularly true in the current climate of identity politics, social activism, police brutality, and the renewed discussion around civil rights in America.

In the last decade, we’ve seen both the progress of having our first black president with Barack Obama juxtaposed with Frederick Douglass’s present tense ‘reappearance’ in the news during a speech by Donald Trump, causing many to question our collective cultural knowledge of black history and its leaders, and thus our broader historical awareness overall.

It can be challenging to explore the matter with the depth it deserves within the time constraints of the classroom, but the following books about being black in America can help students of every color begin to try to understand race relations and how culture and history have helped shape current events. It is a gift of literature to examine and explore complicated human and social issues through the off-setting lens of an author’s perspective, a narrator’s eye, and the voice of a variety of characters.

See also: 30 Of The Best Books To Teach Children Empathy

But perhaps more crucially, novels, short stories, plays, poems, and even non-fiction works of memoir, essay, and related forms allow discussion to extend past the work itself, which is an indicator of the best examples of literature we know.

For non-fiction, we suggest starting with Wendell Berry’s ‘The Hidden Wound,’ and ‘The Invisible Man’ by Ralph Ellison, while Faulkner’s ‘Barn Burning’ is a brutal look at the tangled relationship between family, race, and the concept of a familial legacy of racism.

25 Of The Most Important Books About Racism & Being Black In America

  1. A Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes
  2. The Hidden Wound by Wendell Berry
  3. We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks
  4. The Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
  5. Why We Can’t Wait by Martin Luther King, Jr.
  6. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  7. The Mis-Education Of The Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
  8. Barn Burning by William Faulkner
  9. I, Too, Sing America by Langston Hughes
  10. Eyes On The Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years
  11. Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy B. Tyson
  12. Go Tell It On The Mountain by James Baldwin
  13. Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  14. Bound For the Promised Land by Kate Clifford Larson
  15. The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley
  16. Death of Innocence by Mamie Till-Mobley
  17. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
  18. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs
  19. Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism by Bell Hooks
  20. Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
  21. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  22. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In The Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
  23. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  24. Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria by Beverly Daniel Tatum
  25. Free At Last: A History Of The Civil Rights Movement And Those Who Died In The Struggle by Sara Bullard.

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