The best books about Black History and the reasons behind the enormous racial wealth gap

Who am I?

Steven Rogers is a retired professor from Harvard Business School (HBS) where he created a new course titled, “Black Business Leaders and Entrepreneurship.” He has written more HBS case studies with Black protagonists than anyone in the world. He is an HBS and Williams College alum. He majored in Black history. He has taught at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, and West Point U.S. Military Academy. He has published 3 books including Entrepreneurial Finance (4 editions), Successful Black Entrepreneurs, and A Letter to my White Friends and Colleagues: What You Can Do Now to Help the Black Community.

I wrote...

A Letter to My White Friends and Colleagues: What You Can Do Right Now to Help the Black Community

By Steven Rogers,

Book cover of A Letter to My White Friends and Colleagues: What You Can Do Right Now to Help the Black Community

What is my book about?

The wealth disparity was created by 3 major government policies that were designed to enrich Whites while simultaneously impoverishing Blacks. My thesis is that White wealth creation was subsidized by Federal and State public policy including 246 years of Black enslavement, followed by 60 years of Black Codes and Vagrancy laws, followed by 40 years of real estate redlining. The result is that one-third of Blacks have negative net worth, and the average White high school drop-out has a greater net worth than the average Black person with a college degree. 

My book is chockful of data, facts, anecdotes, and research designed to educate and inform the reader. After George Floyd was murdered in 2020, many Whites asked “what can I do?” This book gives distinctive and clear answers.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration

Why did I love this book?

On November 6, 2011, I went to see an interview of Isabel Wilkerson. I had never heard of her before, but I loved the publicized summary of her new book that told the story of the great migration of 6 million Black people from the South to the North and West. I loved the fact that she told this amazing historical story through the experiences of 3 different people from 3 different states, who migrated to 3 unique regions of the country. 

During the interview, I learned that this brilliant Black female scholar devoted 15 years of research to this book. I was so impressed by her, that after the interview, I stood in line for over an hour to get her to autograph 3 books; one for each of my daughters, Ariel and Akilah, and one for me. 

That was over a decade ago. I finally read the book this summer after my 84-year-old Aunt Lottie in Minnesota sent me an email lauding the book and encouraged me to read it. She said, “it was our family’s story.” Once I began reading, I could not stop. It was so beautifully written and filled with facts, data, and wonderful anecdotes. When I stopped reading at night, I dreamt about awakening quickly so that I could continue reading. 

Isabel’s autograph read: “To Steve, the grandson of Jimmie and Babe Grant, who journeyed from Mississippi and Louisiana! This is your story!”

By Isabel Wilkerson,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked The Warmth of Other Suns as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD WINNER • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • In this beautifully written masterwork, the Pulitzer Prize–winnner and bestselling author of Caste chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life.

From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official…

Book cover of The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap

Why did I love this book?

This is one of my all-time favorite books! It was given to me by my nephew Kareem, in 2018. I have read it cover to cover, twice. My handwritten notes are on over 50% of the pages. 

The research that Baradarian put into this book is unparalleled. The book is chockful of facts and data that I never knew about Black history. For example, her research uncovered the fact that the forty acres of land that were to go to the 4 million formerly enslaved Black people after the Civil War was to be sold, not given to Blacks at $1.25 per acre. 

This book is filled with an abundance of typically unknown data, as she admirably tells the history of Blacks in America, through the Black banking industry’s chronicles. 

In the spirit of full transparency, my love for this book preceded the 2019 interview that I did of Baradarian at Harvard University. It also existed before she wrote an endorsement that is on the back cover of my recent book.

By Mehrsa Baradaran,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Color of Money as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Read this book. It explains so much about the moment...Beautiful, heartbreaking work."
-Ta-Nehisi Coates

"A deep accounting of how America got to a point where a median white family has 13 times more wealth than the median black family."
-The Atlantic

"Extraordinary...Baradaran focuses on a part of the American story that's often ignored: the way African Americans were locked out of the financial engines that create wealth in America."
-Ezra Klein

When the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1863, the black community owned less than 1 percent of the total wealth in America. More than 150 years later, that number…

Book cover of The Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States

Why did I love this book?

After interviewing me for my new book in May 2021, the editor of a suburban newspaper in Chicago asked me to write an Op Ed piece about the new federal holiday, Juneteenth. It is the day of recognition and celebration of the ending of slavery in the last confederate state of Texas in 1865. My Op Ed piece titled, “My Bittersweet Feelings About Juneteenth,” was written to inform and educate adult readers about June 19, 1865. That was the day Union Troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, and began informing Black enslaved people that they were officially emancipated. 

The Juneteenth Story is a well-researched and beautifully written historical depiction of the same event. But the targeted audience of readers are children. It is the size of a large typical children’s coloring book filled with pretty colors and appealing graphic art. My 40-year-old daughter, Akilah, gave it to me as a Father’s Day gift, which was the same day as Juneteenth this year!

By Alliah L. Agostini,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Juneteenth Story as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With colorful illustrations and a timeline, this introductory history of Juneteenth for kids details the evolution of the holiday commemorating the date the enslaved people of Texas first learned of their freedom​.

On June 19, 1865—more than two years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation—the enslaved people of Texas first learned of their freedom. That day became a day of remembrance and celebration that changed and grew from year to year.

Learn about the events that led to emancipation and why it took so long for the enslaved people in Texas to hear the news. The first Juneteenth began as “Jubilee…

Book cover of Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America

Why did I love this book?

After reading Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston, I wanted to learn more. This book, about the last Black person captured in Africa and enslaved in America, was astounding, but short. 

My thirst for more about the protagonist, Kossolo Lewis, led me to Dreams of Africa in Alabama. This book gives excellent riveting details about slavery, the crime against humanity. It also fascinatingly tells the detailed story, supported by research of facts and data about a crime against Federal U.S. laws, how Mr. Lewis was taken from Africa in the 1850’s, more than 4 decades after the U.S. prohibited the importation of people to be enslaved in 1808. 

By reading this book, I was exposed to real life stories about a White family, who broke laws, so they could enrich themselves off of the suffering of other humans. But even more importantly, the book chronicles Mr. Lewis’ life after slavery. On several occasions, I had to pause reading because the stories were so horrendously heartbreaking. 

This marvelous book brings the reader as close as possible to the realities of slavery and its aftermath. It’s a must read for everyone.

By Sylviane A. Diouf,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dreams of Africa in Alabama as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the summer of 1860, more than fifty years after the United States legally abolished the international slave trade, 110 men, women, and children from Benin and Nigeria were brought ashore in Alabama under cover of night. They were the last recorded group of Africans deported to the United States as slaves. Timothy Meaher, an established Mobile businessman, sent the slave ship, the Clotilda , to Africa, on a bet that he could "bring a shipful of niggers
right into Mobile Bay under the officers' noses." He won the bet.

This book reconstructs the lives of the people in West…

Book cover of Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II

Why did I love this book?

The wealth gap between Blacks and Whites in the U.S. is enormous! Whites have 10 times the wealth as Blacks. The disparity is not because Whites are smarter or have worked harder. This book does a masterful job of clearly explaining one of the reasons behind the wide wealth gap. 

Most people are aware of the fact that 246 years of slavery was a successful government policy that intentionally enriched Whites while simultaneously impoverishing Blacks. But most people are not aware that a new system with the same dual objectives, followed the abolition of slavery in 1865. This book tells the story of Black Codes, Vagrancy Laws, and convict leasing that occurred for 60 years after the passage of the 13th Amendment, emancipating Black enslaved people. These government supported policies replaced slavery as the new program to subsidize White wealth creation at the expense of millions of Blacks. 

Douglas Blackman aptly named this 60-year period as Slavery by Another Name.

By Douglas A. Blackmon,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Slavery by Another Name as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This groundbreaking historical expose unearths the lost stories of enslaved persons and their descendants who journeyed into freedom after the Emancipation Proclamation and then back into the shadow of involuntary servitude shortly thereafter in “The Age of Neoslavery.”

By turns moving, sobering, and shocking, this unprecedented Pulitzer Prize-winning account reveals the stories of those who fought unsuccessfully against the re-emergence of human labor trafficking, the companies that profited most from neoslavery, and the insidious legacy of racism that reverberates today.

Following the Emancipation Proclamation, convicts—mostly black men—were “leased” through forced labor camps operated by state and federal governments. Using a…

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Interested in slaves, the Great Migration, and the economy?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about slaves, the Great Migration, and the economy.

Slaves Explore 89 books about slaves
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The Economy Explore 185 books about the economy