ADULT AFRICAN AMERICAN BOOK LIST FOR 2021
AFRICAN AMERICAN AVIATORS
Eugene Bullard, Black Expatriate in Jazz-Age Paris by Lloyd, Craig
Although he was the first African American fighter pilot, Eugene Bullard is still a relative stranger in his homeland. An accomplished professional boxer, musician, club manager and impresario of Parisian nightlife between the world wars, Bullard found in Europe a degree of respect and freedom unknown to blacks in America. There, for 25 years, he helped define the expatriate experience for countless other African American artists, writers, performers and athletes.
Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.
This book brings to life the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, who lived through the Civil Rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the movement for gender equality, and whose work forever changed the face of NASA and the country.
QUEEN BESS DAREDEVIL AVIATOR by Doris L. Rich
Here is the brief but intense life of Bessie Coleman, America’s first African American woman aviator. Born in 1892 in Atlanta, Texas, she became known as “Queen Bess,” a barnstormer and flying-circus performer who defied the strictures of race, sex, and society in pursuit of a dream.
Red Tail Captured, Red Tail Free: Memoirs of a Tuskegee Airman and POW by Jefferson, Alexander & Lewis H. Carlson
This book is a rare gift detailing the experience of Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson, who was one of 32 Tuskegee Airmen from the 332nd Fighter Group to be shot down defending a country that considered them to be second-class citizens. In this vividly detailed, deeply personal story, Jefferson writes as a genuine American hero about what it meant to be an African-American pilot in enemy hands, fighting to protect the promise of freedom. The book features the sketches, drawings, and other illustrations Jefferson created during his nine months as a POW and Lewis Carlson’s authoritative background to the man, his unit, and the fight Alexander Jefferson fought so well.
The Tuskegee Airmen: The Men Who Changed a Nation by Francis, Charles E
The history of the United States is steeped in contribution of the Air Force, formerly the Army Air Corps, in preserving and maintaining freedom. The American airmen have been victorious in all of our nation’s conflicts. It is important that we continue to acknowledge the sacrifices and service of these men who perform so admirably. I know the accomplishments of the brave and dedicated Tuskegee Airmen will never be forgotten.
AFRICAN AMERICAN SOLDIERS
Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace by Bryan, Ashley
He endured the terrible lies white officers told about the black soldiers to isolate them from anyone who showed kindness–including each other. He received worse treatment than even Nazi POWs. He was assigned the grimmest, most horrific tasks, like burying fallen soldiers…but was told to remove the black soldiers first because the media didn’t want them in their newsreels. And he waited and wanted so desperately to go home, watching every white soldier get safe passage back to the United States before black soldiers were even a thought.
For the next forty years, Ashley Bryan would keep his time in the war a secret. But now, he tells his story.
Strength for the Fight: A History of Black Americans in the Military by Nalty, Bernard C.
Nalty tells of the heroic deeds and humiliating obstacles confronting black fighting forces and shows how black protest, civil unrest, military manpower needs, war, and peace have interacted over 200 years to create an integrated, yet racially troubled, American military establishment. 25 black-and-white photos.
AFRICAN AMERICAN BIOGRAPHIES, AUTOBIOGRAPHIES & HISTORIES
The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream by Obama, Barack
Rising US politician Barack Obama calls for a different brand of politics – politics free from the fear of losing, raising money and the media. A politics for the future.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X by X, Malcolm
In the searing pages of this classic autobiography, originally published in 1964, Malcolm X, the Muslim leader, firebrand, and anti-integrationist, tells the extraordinary story of his life and the growth of the Black Muslim movement. His fascinating perspective on the lies and limitations of the American Dream, and the inherent racism in a society that denies its nonwhite citizens the opportunity to dream, gives extraordinary insight into the most urgent issues of our own time. The Autobiography of Malcolm X stands as the definitive statement of a movement and a man whose work was never completed but whose message is timeless. It is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand America.
The Autobiographies by Douglass, Frederick
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845), published seven years after his escape, was written in part as a response to skeptics who refused to believe that so articulate an orator could ever have been a slave. A powerfully compressed account of the cruelty and oppression of the Maryland plantation culture into which Douglass was born, it brought him to the forefront of the anti-slavery movement and drew thousands, black and white, to the cause.
In My Bondage and My Freedom (1855), Douglass expands the account of his slave years. With astonishing psychological penetration, he probes the painful ambiguities and subtly corrosive effects of black-white relations under slavery, and recounts his determined resistance to segregation in the North. The book also incorporates extracts from Douglass’s speeches, including the searing “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”
Life and Times, first published in 1881, records Douglass’s efforts to keep alive the struggle for racial equality during Reconstruction. John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, William Lloyd Garrison, and Harriet Beecher Stowe all feature prominently in this chronicle of a crucial epoch in American history. The revised edition of 1893, presented here, includes an account of his controversial diplomatic mission to Haiti.
Becoming by Obama, Michelle
In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America–the first African American to serve in that role–she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.
The Black History of the White House by Lusane, Clarence
The Black History of the White House presents the untold history, racial politics, and shifting significance of the White House as experienced by African Americans, from the generations of enslaved people who helped to build it or were forced to work there to its first black First Family, the Obamas.
The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X by Payne, Les
An epic biography of Malcolm X finally emerges, drawing on hundreds of hours of the author’s interviews, rewriting much of the known narrative. Les Payne, the renowned Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist, embarked in 1990 on a nearly thirty-year-long quest to interview anyone he could find who had actually known Malcolm X-all living siblings of the Malcolm Little family, classmates, street friends, cellmates, Nation of Islam figures, FBI moles and cops, and political leaders around the world. His goal was ambitious: to transform what would become over a hundred hours of interviews into an unprecedented portrait of Malcolm X, one that would separate fact from fiction. The result is this historic biography that conjures a never-before-seen world of its protagonist, a work whose title is inspired by a phrase Malcolm X used when he saw his Hartford followers stir with purpose, as if the dead were truly arising, to overcome the obstacles of racism.
Dreams from my Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Obama, Barack
Dreams from My Father is a masterpiece: a refreshing, revealing portrait of a young man asking the big questions about identity and belonging. The son of a black African father and a white American mother, Obama recounts an emotional odyssey. He tells the stories of his parents’ lives and finally reconciles his divided inheritance.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Angelou, Maya
Here is a book as joyous and painful, as mysterious and memorable, as childhood itself. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right. Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic beloved worldwide.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Skloot, Rebecca
Henrietta Lacks, a poor Southern tobacco farmer, was buried in an unmarked grave sixty years ago. Yet her cells — taken without her knowledge, grown in culture and bought and sold by the billions — became one of the most important tools in medical research. Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to East Baltimore today, where Henrietta’s family struggles with her legacy.
Martin Luther King, Jr: a Life by Frady, Marshall
“As a young journalist in the South in the 1960s, Marshall Frady walked the hot sidewalks, sat in crowded churches and courtrooms, and interviewed prominent civil rights leaders. Now the critically acclaimed biographer profiles a man whose spiritual and political leadership gained him an indelible place in twentieth-century history. In his masterly and riveting Martin Luther King, Jr., Frady draws on his twenty-five years of award-winning commentary on American race relations to give an inspiring portrait of this amazing leader and the turbulent era in which he lived.”
Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong by Teachout, Terry
Teachout draws on a cache of sources unavailable to previous Louis Armstrong biographers to craft a sweeping new narrative biography of the greatest jazz musician of the twentieth century.
A Promised Land by Obama, Barak
In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency—a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.
Respect: The Life of Aretha Franklin by Ritz, David
Aretha Franklin began life as the golden daughter of a progressive and promiscuous Baptist preacher. Raised without her mother, she was a gospel prodigy who gave birth to two sons in her teens and left them–and her native Detroit–for New York, where she struggled to find her true voice. After fame and fortune finally came via “Respect,” and a rapid-fire string of hits, she has evolved ever since, amidst personal tragedy, surprise Grammy performances, and career reinventions.
Revolutionary Suicide by Newton, Huey P.
Tracing the birth of a revolutionary, Huey P. Newton’s famous and oft-quoted autobiography is as much a manifesto as a portrait of the inner circle of America’s Black Panther Party. From Newton’s impoverished childhood on the streets of Oakland to his adolescence and struggles with the system, from his role in the Black Panthers to his solitary confinement in the Alameda County Jail, Revolutionary Suicide is unrepentant and thought-provoking in its portrayal of inspired radicalism.
Seize the Time; the story of the Black Panthers by Seale, Bobby
Seize the Time was first published 50 years ago. I [Bobby Seale] tape-recorded and wrote most of this book under the strain of being a political prisoner in the San Francisco County Jail in 1969 and 1970. At that time, most protest organizations, particularly anti-war and civil rights groups, were targeted for attacks by all levels of government. Seize The Time was published while I was incarcerated and a defendant in two major political trials-consecutive, racist, political trials that I eventually won.
The Souls of Black Folk by Du Bois, W. E. B.
This landmark in the literature of black protest eloquently affirms that it is beneath the dignity of a human being to beg for those rights that belong inherently to all mankind.
W.E.B. Du Bois–Biography of a Race, 1868-1919 by Lewis, David L.
A definitive biography of the African-American author and scholar describes Du Bois’s formative years, the evolution of his philosophy, and his roles as a founder of the NAACP and architect of the American civil rights movement.
Tupac Shakur Legacy by Joseph, Jamal
An illustrated & interactive biography of the remarkable Tupac Shakur, this book features rare family photos, reproductions of song lyrics, poems, memorabilia, & personal papers. It includes approximately 20 removable facsimiles & an hour-long CD.
With Billie by Blackburn, Julia
The voices of piano players and dancers, pimps and junkies, producers and critics, narcotics agents, friends, lovers, and fellow musicians provide a complete and complex picture of Billie Holiday.
MARCH BOOKS 1-3 by Lewis, John
March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.
Book One spans John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.
IMPORTANT WORKS OF LITERARY ART & POETRY
Beloved by Morrison,Toni
Morrison’s magnificent Pulitzer Prize-winning novel–first published in 1987–brings the unimaginable experience of slavery into the literature of today and into the reader’s comprehension.
The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes by Hughes, Langston
A complete anthology of the poetry of Langston Hughes presents 860 poems that capture the rhythms, emotions, cultural significance, and political awareness of African-American life, from his earliest works to his final collection.
The Color Purple by Walker, Alice
This is the story of two sisters–one a missionary in Africa and the other a child wife living in the South–who sustain their loyalty to and trust in each other across time, distance, and silence. Beautifully imagined and deeply compassionate, this classic novel of American literature is rich with passion, pain, inspiration, and an indomitable love of life.
Invisible Man by Ellison, Ralph
Originally published in 1952 as the first novel by a then unknown author, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century. The book is a passionate and witty tour de force of style, strongly influenced by T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, Joyce, and Dostoevsky.
Kindred by Butler, Octavia E
The visionary author’s masterpiece pulls us–along with her Black female hero–through time to face the horrors of slavery and explore the impacts of racism, sexism, and white supremacy then and now.
Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.
Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel by Hurston, Zora Neale
One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston. Out of print for almost thirty years—due largely to initial audiences’ rejection of its strong black female protagonist—Hurston’s classic has since its 1978 reissue become perhaps the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature.