It’s Black History Month again and this year, we hope our coverage improves your mind or at least expands your reading choices. If you watch this space, you will see a weekly post with new recommendations for books that are classics you may already know or those that we think are well worth your time. Feel free to share, print out, add to your Amazon lists, or download a few to your Kindle. First up, here are out choices for the best Black biographies.
By Malcolm X with Alex Haley
This is a classic that has literally changed lives. It’s tale of redemption resonates across generations and is a must-read or even re-read.
Zora Neale Hurston
While many know Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, not as many know she wrote an autobiography about growing up in an all-Black town and her early years as a writer and folklorist.
Barack Obama’s pre-presidential memoir talks about how he felt as a man whose African father was largely absent in his life. It’s filled with the kind of honest observations that would seem to suggest he never thought he’d be the nation’s 44th president. For that reason alone, it’s a good read.
Jefferson tells the story of growing up Black and upper-middle-class, which only served to alienate her and her family from many other Blacks and most whites as well.
While not strictly a memoir, much of it recounts Baldwin’s upbringing in Harlem, and is a stinging rebuke of racism, which sadly has not lost any of its power given racism’s ongoing prevalence.
The biography of Fannie Lou Hamer, a central if lesser known figure in the civil rights movement. An ordinary Mississippian, Hamer became politicized and as an advocate of voting and women’s rights, ultimately led the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.
Acclaimed author Richard Wright details his life growing up in the Deep South and how it shaped him as a man and as a writer.
Moody’s story of growing up in Mississippi and how it shaped her life going forward.
Jackson was imprisoned over and sentenced to one-year-to-life for an armed robbery. While in jail he became politicized and ultimately became a close confidante to activist Angela Davis. Through his letters, he reveals how racism ultimately shaped his activism.
Joanne Chesimard was a young woman who become a Black Power activist but soon found herself part of one of the most infamous crimes of the era. Accused of murdering a N.J. state trooper, Chesimard would escape prison and flee to Cuba as Assata Shakur. This is her compelling story.
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