Black History Month Recommended Reading - Clifton Library List for Adult Readers
Black History Month is an annual celebration of the achievements of African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. The event grew out of “Negro History Week,” which was created in 1926 by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). They chose the second week of February to coincide with the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Every year Black History Month has a different theme and the theme for 2023 is Black Resistance.
The Clifton Main Memorial Library has curated a Black History Month reading list for The Clifton Times, which features a wide range of books recommended for adult readers, selected by Supervising Librarian Pat John Ferro. These books serve as a reminder that Black history is the story of America. From how enslaved people brought African skills and cultures that shaped our nation, to how Black Americans fought for this country abroad while also fighting for civil rights at home to current struggles with law enforcement and Black voices like Reverend Warnock, Cornel West, and Ice -T, these books lift Black stories and are an important resource for all of us.
We have included a link to each book’s publisher with a brief summary from the publishers’ websites. You can stop by the Clifton Main Memorial Library between 10 am and 3 pm, Monday through Saturday, to see their display and pick up one of these titles. Patrons can also place holds on any of these books through PALS Plus.
1. Half American – Matthew F. Delmont: Matthew F. Delmont’s book is filled with compelling narratives that outline with nuance, rigor, and complexity how Black Americans fought for this country abroad in World War II, while simultaneously fighting for their rights here in the United States. Over one million Black men and women served in World War II. Black troops were at Normandy, Iwo Jima, and the Battle of the Bulge, serving in segregated units and performing unheralded but vital support jobs, only to be denied housing and educational opportunities on their return home. Without their crucial contributions to the war effort, the United States could not have won the war. And yet the stories of these Black veterans have long been ignored, cast aside in favor of the myth of the “Good War” fought by the “Greatest Generation.”
2. African Founders – David Hackett Fischer: African Founders explores the little-known history of how enslaved people from different regions of Africa interacted with colonists of European origins to create new regional cultures in the colonial United States. The Africans brought with them linguistic skills, novel techniques of animal husbandry and farming, and generations-old ethical principles, among other attributes. This startling history reveals how much our country was shaped by these African influences in its early years, producing a new, distinctly American culture.
3. My People – Charlayne Hunter-Gault: At just eighteen years old, Charlayne Hunter-Gault made national news when she mounted a successful legal challenge that culminated in her admission to the University of Georgia in January 1961—making her one of the first two Black students to integrate the institution. As an adult, Hunter-Gault switched from being the subject of news to covering it, becoming one of its most recognized and acclaimed interpreters.
4. Split Decision – Ice-T & Spike: Award-winning actor, rapper, and producer Ice-T unveils a compelling memoir of his early life robbing jewelry stores until he found fame and fortune—while a handful of bad choices sent his former crime partner down an incredibly different path. In this “poignant and powerful” (Library Journal, starred review) memoir, Ice-T and Spike, his former crime partner—collaborating with New York Times bestselling author Douglas Century—relate the shocking stories of their shared pasts, and how just a handful of decisions led to their incredibly different lives.
5. Agent Josephine – Damien Lewis: Prior to World War II, Josephine Baker was a music-hall diva renowned for her singing and dancing, her beauty and sexuality; she was the highest-paid female performer in Europe. When the Nazis seized her adopted city, Paris, she was banned from the stage, along with all “negroes and Jews.” Yet instead of returning to America, she vowed to stay and to fight the Nazi evil. Overnight, she went from performer to Resistance spy.
6. Illustrated Black History – George McCalman: A gorgeous collection of 145 original portraits that celebrates Black pioneers—famous and little-known--in politics, science, literature, music, and more—with biographical reflections, all created and curated by an award-winning graphic designer. Illustrated Black History is a breathtaking collection of original portraits depicting black heroes—both famous and unsung—who made their mark on activism, science, politics, business, medicine, technology, food, arts, entertainment, and more. Each entry includes a lush drawing or painting by artist George McCalman, along with an insightful essay summarizing the person’s life story.
7. Koshersoul – Michael W. Twitty: In Koshersoul, Michael W. Twitty considers the marriage of two of the most distinctive culinary cultures in the world today: the foods and traditions of the African Atlantic and the global Jewish diaspora. To Twitty, the creation of African-Jewish cooking is a conversation of migrations and a dialogue of diasporas offering a rich background for inventive recipes and the people who create them. Koshersoul was named the Jewish Book of 2022 by the Jewish Book Council.
8. A Way Out of No Way – Raphael G. Warnock: Senator Reverend Raphael G. Warnock occupies a singular place in American life. As senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, and now as a senator from Georgia, he is the rare voice who can call out the uncomfortable truths that shape contemporary American life and, at a time of division, summon us all to a higher moral ground.
9. Hope on a Tightrope – Cornel West: “You can’t lead the people if you don’t love the people. You can’t save the people if you don’t serve the people." The New York Times bestselling author of Race Matters and Democracy Matters offers provocative, open-hearted wisdom for our times. In a world that yearns for unarmed truth and unconditional love, in the midst of cold greed and blind hatred, Hope on a Tightrope offers a new compass. This courageous collection will challenge all those in search of new perspectives and provides deep wells of inspiration that marry the mind to the heart. Whether writing on race and identity, courage and faith, or music and philosophy, Dr. West reveals himself as a brilliant philosopher who loves us enough to make us think. He challenges us, stimulates us, and never, ever stops serving us.
10. Marked for Life – Isaac Wright Jr.: An empowering memoir of courage and hope in the face of injustice—and the basis for the ABC television show, For Life—Marked for Life is the true story of Isaac Wright Jr.’s battle to win his freedom after being wrongfully imprisoned for crimes he didn’t commit and is a critical indictment of America’s judicial system.