The best books about the realities of being Black in America

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Black man born in Jim Crow America to domestic servants so challenged by their circumstances that they had to place me in a kind of orphanage because they weren’t given permission to raise me in their employer’s home. I’ve known poverty, violence, racism, and law enforcement changing the rules to single me out. But I have also known the rarified success of Wall Street, my own thriving law practice, entertainment industry deals, and, of course, the privilege of a lifetime working side-by-side with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Therefore, I understand both the promise of the American Dream and the cruelty with which it’s mostly (and purposely) withheld from her citizens of color.


I wrote...

Last of the Lions: An African American Journey in Memoir

By Clarence B. Jones, Stuart Connelly,

Book cover of Last of the Lions: An African American Journey in Memoir

What is my book about?

Last of the Lions is two histories woven into one remarkable story. It's a personal history – the evocative life of Clarence B. Jones, from his depression- and segregation-era upbringing through to our current era (when America elected the first Black man and then followed it up by handing the office to a white supremacist). And all the amazing moments in between – his Ivy League years, his unprecedented dual role as simultaneous military draftee and protester, his work as an entertainment lawyer, financial and media entrepreneur, and more. He was also friends and/or colleagues with most of the authors on his Top 5 list.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?

Clarence B. Jones Why did I love this book?

Of all Dr. King’s books (many of which I helped assemble, edit, and/or find publishing for), his last seems to strike at the heart of what really got him killed: his non-violent fight against poverty (The Poor People’s Campaign).

Such a radical preacher was always considered dangerous to the status quo, but once he fully moved out of the minority interest of Black Americans and started speaking to poor Americans of every color (a vast majority), a line was crossed and his fate was sealed. Still, his vision of a future of fairness and opportunity lingers on in Where Do We Go from Here.

Book cover of To Be Young, Gifted and Black

Clarence B. Jones Why did I love this book?

Lorraine Hansberry and her husband Robert Nemiroff were college friends of mine.

Lorraine had a way with words, a sense of justice, and deep compassion. Her Raisin in the Sun made Broadway history. The collage approach to the material in To Be Young, Gifted and Black I’ve found is completely in keeping with the diamond-sharp artistic mind of the woman I knew.

By Lorraine Hansberry,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked To Be Young, Gifted and Black as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Anyone who has ever wondered what it really means to be Black will find the answer in this book.”—MINNEAPOLIS TRIBUNE

To Be Young, Gifted and Black is a special kind of autobiography, in a very special voice. Both the story and the voice belong to a young woman from Chicago who moved to New York, won fame with her first play, A Raisin in the Sun—and went on to new heights of artistry before her tragically early death.

In turns angry, loving, bitter, laughing, and defiantly proud, the story, voice, and message are all Lorraine Hansberry’s own, coming together in…


Book cover of The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates

Clarence B. Jones Why did I love this book?

There is something in the structure of this true story that aligns with my fundamental understanding of life as a Black American man.

Education saved me, plain and simple. Education is the answer out of the ghetto, out of street life, out of poverty. Two Black boys named Wes Moore grow up on the same streets, get into the same kind of trouble early, and start a friendship as adults – one is a governor-elect of his home state, the other serving life without parole.

Their names appeared in the newspaper on the same day: for one, the announcement of a Rhodes Scholarship win; for the other, a manhunt in a botched robbery. Little difference between the men, but a lot in terms of where they put their focus.

By Wes Moore,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The “compassionate” (People), “startling” (Baltimore Sun), “moving” (Chicago Tribune) true story of two kids with the same name from the city: One went on to be a Rhodes Scholar, decorated combat veteran, White House Fellow, and business leader. The other is serving a life sentence in prison.

In development as a feature film executive produced by Stephen Curry, who selected the book as his “Underrated” Book Club Pick with Literati

The chilling truth is that his story could have been mine. The tragedy is that my story could have been his.

In December 2000, the…


Book cover of The Fire Next Time

Clarence B. Jones Why did I love this book?

I was at that famous Jimmy Baldwin-Robert F. Kennedy meeting off Central Park. Jimmy gave the president’s brother both barrels.

See, he always told people the truth, no matter how hard it was to hear. I set up the publication of the first part of The Fire Next Time at The New Yorker – see, it started as a letter from Jimmy to his nephew. But thanks to the power of the published word, every Black boy and girl can – and should – take his familial wisdom about navigating America while Black to heart.

By James Baldwin,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Fire Next Time as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A seminal meditation on race by one of our greatest writers' Barack Obama

'We, the black and the white, deeply need each other here if we are really to become a nation'

James Baldwin's impassioned plea to 'end the racial nightmare' in America was a bestseller when it appeared in 1963, galvanising a nation and giving voice to the emerging civil rights movement. Told in the form of two intensely personal 'letters', The Fire Next Time is at once a powerful evocation of Baldwin's early life in Harlem and an excoriating condemnation of the terrible legacy of racial injustice.

'Sermon,…


Book cover of The Suspect: The Official Screenplay

Clarence B. Jones Why did I love this book?

This is perhaps a cheat, as it’s the script of a film. However, it’s published just like a book, you can read it just like a book, and it was written by my Last of the Lions co-author.

The less said about this thriller the better for the reader, but suffice it to say if Ferguson, or George Floyd, or Breonna Taylor… or Philando Castile…Freddie Gray… Eric Garner… Amadou Diallo… and so many more… mean anything to you, this twisty parable about racial profiling and policing will take your breath away, keep you on edge until the end, and leave you thinking.

By Stuart Connelly,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A small-town bank robbery leads to a brutal showdown between a sheriff and a mysterious stranger in this high-stakes game of shifting identities and hidden motives, starring Mekhi Phifer (ER), William Sadler (The Shawshank Redemption) and Sterling K. Brown (Army Wives).When the obvious suspect is apprehended not far from the crime scene, the police think that the case is solved, but they couldn’t be more wrong. The real crime hasn’t even happened yet. Before it’s over, two desperate men will be pushed over the line where innocent lives hang in the balance.


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A Last Survivor of the Orphan Trains: A Memoir

By Victoria Golden, William Walters,

Book cover of A Last Survivor of the Orphan Trains: A Memoir

Victoria Golden Author Of A Last Survivor of the Orphan Trains: A Memoir

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Story teller Book fav swapper Movie buff A writer’s daughter Escapee from Beverly Hills

Victoria's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Four years old and homeless, William Walters boarded one of the last American Orphan Trains in 1930 and embarked on an astonishing quest through nine decades of U.S. and world history.

For 75 years, the Orphan Trains had transported 250,000 children from the streets and orphanages of the East Coast into homes in the emerging West, sometimes providing loving new families, other times delivering kids into nightmares. Taken by a cruel New Mexico couple, William faced a terrible trial, but his strength and resilience carried him forward into unforgettable adventures.

Whether escaping his abusers, jumping freights as a preteen during the Great Depression, or infiltrating Japanese-held islands as a teenage Marine during WWII, William’s unique path paralleled the tumult of the twentieth century—and personified the American dream.

A Last Survivor of the Orphan Trains: A Memoir

By Victoria Golden, William Walters,

What is this book about?

SHORTLISTED, NORTHERN CALIFORNIA BOOK AWARDS

WINNER, DA VINCI EYE AWARD FOR COVER DESIGN, ERIC HOFFER BOOK AWARDS

HONORABLE MENTION, ERIC HOFFER BOOK AWARDS, E-BOOK NONFICTION

FINALIST, NEXT GENERATION INDIE BOOK AWARDS, E-BOOK NONFICTION

FINALIST, NEXT GENERATION INDIE BOOK AWARDS, MEMOIRS (Overcoming Adversity)

HONORABLE MENTION, READERS' FAVORITE BOOK AWARDS, GENERAL NONFICTION

From 1854 to the early 1930s, the American Orphan Trains transported 250,000 children from the streets and orphanages of the East Coast into homes in the emerging West. Unfortunately, families waiting for the trains weren’t always dreams come true—many times they were nightmares.

William Walters was little more than a…


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