Black History Is Our History - Recommended Reading for Adults


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. For President Biden’s full Proclamation, please see HERE. Every year Black History Month has a different theme and the theme for 2024 is African Americans and the Arts.

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.

We have included a link to each book’s publisher with a brief summary from the publishers’ websites. Cliftonites can stop by the Clifton Main Memorial Library or the Allwood Branch to pick up a copy of any of these books. Patrons can also place holds on any of these books through PALS Plus. For the Clifton Public Library hours of operation and more information please see HERE.

Black Birds In The Sky: The Story And Legacy Of The 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre – Brandy Colbert A searing new work of nonfiction about the history and legacy of one of the most deadly and destructive acts of racial violence in American history: the Tulsa Race Massacre. Winner, Boston Globe-Horn Book Award.

In Living Color: A Cultural History – Bernadette Giacomazzo When the pilot for In Living Color aired for the first time on April 15, 1990, America had never seen anything like it. And they loved it. Over five seasons, the show broke racial, cultural, and comedy boundaries, creating unforgettable sketches that dealt almost exclusively with Black subject matter. In Living Color was one of the few sketch shows of the 1990s that effectively tackled racial and social issues with humor. It did so more because it had a largely Black writer’s room. This cultural history gives the influential show and its creators the recognition they deserve for their role in changing the face of television.

Black AF History: The Unwhitewashed Story Of America – Michael Harriot Combining provocative storytelling with meticulous research based on primary sources as well as the work of pioneering Black historians, scholars, and journalists, Harriot places Black people squarely at the center, speaking hilarious truth to oppressive power, subverting conventional historical narratives with little-known stories about the experiences of Black Americans. From the African Americans who arrived before 1619 to the bandit who inspired America’s first police force, this long overdue corrective provides a revealing look into our past that is as urgent as it is necessary.

Sixty-One: Life Lessons From Papa On And Off The Court – Chris Paul The day after future NBA superstar Chris Paul signed his letter of intent to play college basketball for Wake Forest, he received a world-shattering phone call. His grandfather, Nathaniel “Papa” Jones, was mugged and ultimately died from a heart attack resulting from the assault. He was sixty-one years old. Paul opens up about life beyond basketball and the role his grandfather played in molding him into the man and father he is today.

Lucky Me: A Memoir Of Changing The Odds – Rich Paul A memoir of will, success, and the luck we make—from the founder and CEO of Klutch Sports Group and one of the most influential figures in the multibillion-dollar sports industry.

An Inconvenient Cop: My Fight To Change Policing In America – Edwin Raymond with Jon Sternfeld Over his decade and a half with the New York Police Department, Edwin Raymond consistently exposed the dark underbelly of modern policing, becoming the highest-ranking whistleblower in the history of the force and one of the country’s leading voices against police injustice. At once revelatory and galvanizing, An Inconvenient Cop courageously bears witness to and exposes institutional violence. It presents a vision of radical hope and makes the case for a world in which the police’s responsibility is not to arrest numbers but to the people.

Economy Hall: The Hidden History Of A Free Black Brotherhood - Fatima Shaik The story begins when the author’s father rescues a century’s worth of journals, handwritten in French, from a trash hauler’s pickup truck. From the journals’ pages emerges one of the most important multi-ethnic, intellectual communities in the US South: educators, world-traveling merchants, soldiers, tradesmen, and poets. Though Louisiana law classified them as men of color, Negroes, and Blacks, the Economie brothers rejected racism and colorism to fight for suffrage and education rights for all. A descendant of the Economie community, author Fatima Shaik has spent decades reading and translating the journals, which begin with the society’s founding in 1836.

Shine Bright: A Very Personal History Of Black Women In Pop – Danyel Smith Black women have been writing hits that shape American and international culture for generations. Smith, an author, award-winning journalist, and producer, celebrates the histories of women who made our worlds brighter and more meaningful with their songs. Smith is also the creator and host of the Spotify-exclusive Black Girl Songbook, a music and talk show that centers Black women in music

Brooding Over Bloody Revenge: Enslaved Women’s Lethal Resistance – Nikki M. Taylor From the colonial through the antebellum era, enslaved women in the US used lethal force as the ultimate form of resistance. By amplifying their voices and experiences, this book challenges assumptions that enslaved women only participated in covert, non-violent forms of resistance, when in fact they consistently seized justice for themselves and organized toward revolt. Original and compelling, Brooding Over Bloody Revenge presents a window into the lives and philosophies of enslaved women who had their own ideas about justice and how to achieve it.

African American Poetry: 250 years of struggle and song – Kevin Young ed. The biggest, most ambitious anthology of Black poetry ever published, this anthology gathers 250 poets from the colonial period to the present. Across a turbulent history, from such vital centers as Harlem, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and the Bay Area, Black poets created a rich and multifaceted tradition that has been both a reckoning with American realities and an imaginative response to them. Capturing the power and beauty of this diverse tradition in a single indispensable volume, African American Poetry reveals as never before its centrality and its challenge to American poetry and culture.

If you know of other wonderful books that celebrate Black contributions, spotlight African Americans, or share pieces of Black culture, please leave their titles and authors as a comment here for others to see.

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