Top Twenty-Eight Black History Reads

This February, I decided to take to Twitter with my favorite reads for Black History Month. The hashtag (#youthinkyouwokebutyousleeping) turned out to be the most fun I’ve had all year. I love reading. I particularly love African American literature and history. I love teaching. I particularly love teaching about my favorite reads. Some of my recommendations were novels, some were memoirs, some were poems, and a few were songs.

I promised that I would get the list on my blog by the end of March, and I almost made it. I’ve replaced the song recommendations here with more book recommendations. I started the hashtag on February 5, so I’m adding a few more. Black history is American history, which means it’s not just relegated to one month every year. So I challenge you to pick up a few of these throughout the rest of 2018!

The Disclaimer

This list is in no particular order, and I offer it without commentary. Some of the books on this list are more challenging than others. Some of them will make you blush. Some of them will make you angry. Some of them will make you amen. But I believe all of them will make you think. I have put an asterisk next to the shorter works that teachers, in particular, may find helpful for their classes (from the perspective of a high school teacher). Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Frederick Douglass, Richard Wright, and others on the list have written works besides the ones that I’ve listed that are well-worth reading. So have countless other black authors that didn’t make this particular list. These are just twenty-eight of my favorites.


The List 

  1. Their Eyes Were Watching God
  2. Every Day Use*
  3. Native Son 
  4. Harlem Sweeties*
  5. The Autobiography of Malcolm X
  6. When I Think About Myself*
  7. How It Feels To Be Colored Me*
  8. The Warmth of Other Suns
  9. Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry 
  10. The Road to Memphis 
  11. Go Tell It On The Mountain 
  12. The Negro Speaks of Rivers*
  13. The Narrative Of The Life of Frederick Douglass 
  14. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
  15. What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?*
  16. Free At Last
  17. Letter From A Birmingham Jail 
  18. Phenomenal Woman*
  19. Up From Slavery 
  20. The Souls of Black Folk
  21. I Am Not Your Negro* 
  22. At The Dark End Of The Street
  23. The Problem of Slavery in Christian America 
  24. My Dungeon Shook *
  25. Raisin In The Sun
  26. The Invisible Man 
  27. Monster
  28. Song For A Dark Girl*


Bonus Recommendations 

I just finished Americanah, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is unflinching in her approach to discussing (among other things) the state of being black in America. Also, you might save yourself some clicking on links if you just go ahead and buy Langston Hughes’ complete works.

Thanks to a new research project, I’m also reading:

Also, you might save yourself some clicking on links if you just go ahead and buy Langston Hughes’ complete works.

Everybody should.

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