The Best Books On The History of African American Education

The Books I Picked & Why

The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935

By James D. Anderson

The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935

Why this book?

In all honesty, Anderson’s book changed my life and put me on the road to becoming a historian and a professor back in 1994 when I read it while pursuing a Ph.D. Before I read it, I didn’t like history. I didn’t realize that history could come alive and that the stories of average people as well as luminaries were equally compelling. I realized after reading his work that I had been starved of African American history by my educational institutions; reading this book made me want to read more and understand American history more fully and completely. And, Anderson’s craft made me want to become a professor.


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Radicalizing the Ebony Tower: Black Colleges and the Black Freedom Struggle in Mississippi

By Joy Ann Williamson-Lott

Radicalizing the Ebony Tower: Black Colleges and the Black Freedom Struggle in Mississippi

Why this book?

Joy Williamson-Lott has a powerful voice and perspective the permeates every sentence in this book. She doesn’t waste a word. And, her research skills are superb. For anyone wanting to learn how to write beautiful history, this book is a model. She is also particularly good at showcasing the voices of African American students who were instrumental to the Black freedom struggle. You can feel their energy and frustration in her passages, and their commitment to freedom and justice comes alive.


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Self-Taught: African American Education in Slavery and Freedom

By Heather Andrea Williams

Self-Taught: African American Education in Slavery and Freedom

Why this book?

Williams is another beautiful writer and what I love most about this book is it dispels the very harmful myths about Black intelligence during and after slavery. The author shares the many ways that enslaved Africans taught each other to read even though reading or teaching a Black person to read was illegal in all of the southern states. Reading, storytelling, and passing on knowledge across generations is part of the African American tradition and Williams captures all of this and more in this beautiful book.


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Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880

By W. E. B. Du Bois

Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880

Why this book?

This book is a masterpiece. Du Bois’s research, voice, and powerful arguments are essential reading for anyone interested in understanding slavery, race, class, education, and American society. His use of sources makes evident, and doesn’t allow anyone to deny, the full-scale support of White supremacy in the United States, despite the fall of slavery. Du Bois’s analysis continues to be an essential read today in that he truly understands the way that Whites have benefited and held tightly to their privilege. Given the current racial dynamics in the nation in 2021, reading Black Reconstruction will help provide a rich and complex understanding of the power structures that maintain White privilege and supremacy.


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The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

By Richard Rothstein

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

Why this book?

Rothstein’s work is exact in its understanding of how pervasive and purposeful our nation has been in its effort to segregate communities, schools, and social interactions according to racial lines. He demonstrates how the local, state, and the federal governments worked side-by-side to foster discriminatory laws and practices to ensure that African Americans (and others) were denied opportunities to live in residential neighborhoods that gave them access to good jobs, schools and equitable resources and services. In order to understand racism, classism, and educational disparities, this book is essential reading – without it, decision makers, as well as citizens, are operating in the dark and continuing to foster inequitable policies.


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