100 books like Self-Taught

By Heather Andrea Williams,

Here are 100 books that Self-Taught fans have personally recommended if you like Self-Taught. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880

Charlotte Hinger Author Of Nicodemus

From my list on African Americans in the West after the Civil War.

Who am I?

I’m a multi-award-winning novelist and Kansas historian. Through reading letters written by African Americans in Kansas, I realized that black people were a major political force. In fact, with the settlement of Nicodemus, for the first time in American history, enough black people had gathered in one place to dominate political decisions and prevail over the white community. No one had told the story of the three black powerhouses who shaped politics on a county, state, and national level. I was thrilled when University of Oklahoma Press published my academic book. It won second place in the Westerner’s International Best Book contest.

Charlotte's book list on African Americans in the West after the Civil War

Charlotte Hinger Why did Charlotte love this book?

W.E.B Du Bois’s magnificent contribution to Post-Reconstrucion history put a stop to the notion that blacks were lightweights when it came to academia. Du Bois is a careful historian but doesn’t hesitate to speak from a black agenda. I’m well aware that this book supports my own ideas that blacks were a force in settling the West, but still, the truth will come out. Black people exerted extraordinary political influence. Du Bois, was a serious scholar, with impeccable credentials, and the founder of the NAACP. This man can write! I’m envious of his matchless ability to present history. 

By W.E.B. Du Bois,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

W. E. B. Du Bois was a public intellectual, sociologist, and activist on behalf of the African American community. He profoundly shaped black political culture in the United States through his founding role in the NAACP, as well as internationally through the Pan-African movement. Du Bois's sociological and historical research on African-American communities and culture broke ground in many areas, including the history of the post-Civil War Reconstruction period. Du
Bois was also a prolific author of novels, autobiographical accounts, innumerable editorials and journalistic pieces, and several works of history.

Black Reconstruction in America tells and interprets the story of…


Book cover of The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935

Marybeth Gasman Author Of Making Black Scientists: A Call to Action

From my list on the history of African American education.

Who am I?

Marybeth Gasman has been writing about African American history – within the educational setting – since 1994 when she began research that led to on an intellectual biography of African American sociologist, Harlem Renaissance architect, and Fisk University president Charles Spurgeon Johnson. Over the years, her work has explored many topics, including the history of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Black medical schools, African American philanthropy, and the production of Black scientists. She is the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Endowed Professor in Education & a Distinguished Professor at Rutgers University and also serves as the Executive Director of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Leadership, Equity, & Justice.

Marybeth's book list on the history of African American education

Marybeth Gasman Why did Marybeth love 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.

By James D. Anderson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860-1935 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

James Anderson critically reinterprets the history of southern black education from Reconstruction to the Great Depression. By placing black schooling within a political, cultural, and economic context, he offers fresh insights into black commitment to education, the peculiar significance of Tuskegee Institute, and the conflicting goals of various philanthropic groups, among other matters. Initially, ex-slaves attempted to create an educational system that would support and extend their emancipation, but their children were pushed into a system of industrial education that presupposed black political and economic subordination. This conception of education and social order--supported by northern industrial philanthropists, some black educators,…


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

Marybeth Gasman Author Of Making Black Scientists: A Call to Action

From my list on the history of African American education.

Who am I?

Marybeth Gasman has been writing about African American history – within the educational setting – since 1994 when she began research that led to on an intellectual biography of African American sociologist, Harlem Renaissance architect, and Fisk University president Charles Spurgeon Johnson. Over the years, her work has explored many topics, including the history of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Black medical schools, African American philanthropy, and the production of Black scientists. She is the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Endowed Professor in Education & a Distinguished Professor at Rutgers University and also serves as the Executive Director of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Leadership, Equity, & Justice.

Marybeth's book list on the history of African American education

Marybeth Gasman Why did Marybeth love 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.

By Joy Ann Williamson-Lott,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Radicalizing the Ebony Tower as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is a profoundly moving story of Black colleges in Mississippi during a watershed moment in their history. It is also the story of young Americans trying to balance their pursuit of higher education with the parallel struggle for civil rights. ""Radicalizing the Ebony Tower"" examines colleges against the backdrop of the black freedom struggle of the middle twentieth century, a highly contentious conflict between state agents determined to protect the racial hierarchy and activists equally determined to cripple white supremacy. Activists demanded that colleges play a central role in the Civil Rights Movement (a distinct challenge to the notion…


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

Richard D. Kahlenberg Author Of Excluded: How Snob Zoning, NIMBYism, and Class Bias Build the Walls We Don't See

From my list on government housing rules in America.

Who am I?

After decades writing about how to improve the lives of low-income children through education, I concluded that I had to writing about housing policy too. Government housing laws essentially dictate where kids go to school in America. In addition, since writing in college about Robert Kennedy’s 1968 campaign for president, in which he brought together a multiracial coalition of working people, I’ve been obsessed with finding ways to bring those groups together again.  Reforms of housing policy in a number of states has done just that: united working people across racial lines who were sick of being excluded – by government fiat – from places that provide the best opportunities.

Richard's book list on government housing rules in America

Richard D. Kahlenberg Why did Richard love this book?

The Color of Law does a brilliant job of making clear that racial segregation in America is not merely the result of market forces or individual choices; it was manufactured by government through a series of twentieth-century policies: racial zoning, redlining, and enforcement of racially restrictive covenants.  The effects are still felt today.

I modeled my own book after Rothstein’s and updated his analysis to show that today, economically discriminatory zoning laws have replaced racially discriminatory practices, which helps explain why racial segregation has declined by 30 percent since 1970, but income segregation has doubled.

By Richard Rothstein,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Widely heralded as a "masterful" (The Washington Post) and "essential" (Slate) history of the modern American metropolis, Richard Rothstein's The Color of Law offers "the most forceful argument ever published on how federal, state, and local governments gave rise to and reinforced neighborhood segregation" (William Julius Wilson). Exploding the myth of de facto segregation arising from private prejudice or the unintended consequences of economic forces, Rothstein describes how the American government systematically imposed residential segregation: with undisguised racial zoning; public housing that purposefully segregated previously mixed communities; subsidies for builders to create whites-only suburbs; tax exemptions for institutions that enforced…


Book cover of Corregidora

Tracey Rose Peyton Author Of Night Wherever We Go

From my list on race and reproductive rights.

Who am I?

I’m a fiction writer interested in exploring big historical moments through the lives of ordinary people. The extensive fight for reproductive rights and bodily autonomy for women, specifically black women, has long been a concern, admittedly for selfish reasons. This ever-shifting terrain—from eugenics and sterilization to coerced birth control and the rise in maternal mortality rates—was initially perplexing to me and it took a great deal of reading to make sense of it. Such research not only informed my historical novel, Night Wherever We Go, but much of how I understand the world. I’d argue one can’t fully comprehend the current abortion rights moment without understanding how race and reproduction are so deeply intertwined.

Tracey's book list on race and reproductive rights

Tracey Rose Peyton Why did Tracey love this book?

No one writes like Gayl Jones.

Her language, voice, and narrative style make her a singular entity all unto herself. Her first novel, Corregidora, explores the tumultuous life of a blues singer haunted by a dastardly familial trauma. When the novel opens, the protagonist, Ursa Corregidora, has just suffered a horrible accident that renders her unable to have children. 

What happens afterwards is a complex and raw exploration of lineage, darkness, and sexuality. It’s a haunting, relentless book. And it’s not hyperbole to say that it changed the course of black women’s literature.

The rest of us, trying to grapple with the intricacies of race & sex, are simply writing in her wake.

By Gayl Jones,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of The New Yorker’s “The Best Books We Read in 2020” picks

“Jones’s great achievement is to reckon with both history and interiority, and to collapse the boundary between them.”—Anna Wiener, The New Yorker

The new edition of an American masterpiece, this is the harrowing story of Ursa Corregidora, a blues singer in the early 20th century forced to confront the inherited trauma of slavery.

A literary classic that remains vital to our understanding of the past, Corregidora is Gayl Jones’s powerful debut novel, examining womanhood, sexuality, and the psychological residue of slavery. Jones masterfully tells the story of…


Book cover of Captured

Shawna Barnett Author Of Windfall

From my list on adventure with women at sea.

Who am I?

From the beginning of my reading journey, I wished for more stories about women who were courageous, passionate, and in control of their own destiny. I wanted to write books for female readers who loved characters like Zorro, Robin Hood, and Jack Sparrow, but wanted to see themselves shining through them. In the process of researching, I discovered unforgettable characters like Captain Mabbot and Clare Sullivan. The Legends of Vioria series focuses on such women, who use their wit and strength to navigate the world. It is my hope to continue to write stories that will inspire others just as the books in this list inspired me. 

Shawna's book list on adventure with women at sea

Shawna Barnett Why did Shawna love this book?

Captive is another romance with pirates and passion. It’s part of a larger series featuring the LeVeq family. In this story, privateer Dominic LeVeq, frees and falls for slave Clare Sullivan. Soon they become desperate to have each other. I loved the relationship between these two characters and the devotion that develops between them.  

By Beverly Jenkins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is a high-stakes historical romance from award-winning romance author Beverly Jenkins.


Book cover of The 1619 Project: Born on the Water

John Micklos Jr. Author Of Raindrops to Rainbow

From my list on recent picture books with a message.

Who am I?

I have written 60 books over the past 20 years. My titles include picture books, poetry books, and dozens of nonfiction books covering a wide range of history and social studies topics. My picture books deal with concepts such as counting and colors. I enjoy rhyming and wordplay and conveying ideas in simple terms. 

John's book list on recent picture books with a message

John Micklos Jr. Why did John love this book?

An outgrowth of the 1619 project, this masterful picture book traces a family’s roots from Africa through generations of enslavement in the United States to today. A young girl’s grandmother tells stories in the form of poems that convey joy, terror, heartache, persecution, struggle, and triumph. Illustrations move from light during the times in Africa to dark during the decades of enslavement and back to light in the present. The book ends on a positive note with the girl drawing an American flag—the flag of the country that her ancestors helped build and “that I will help build, too.”

By Nikole Hannah-Jones, Renée Watson, Nikkolas Smith (illustrator)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The 1619 Project: Born on the Water as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

The 1619 Project's lyrical picture book in verse chronicles the consequences of slavery and the history of Black resistance in the United States, thoughtfully rendered by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and Newbery honor-winning author Renee Watson.

A young student receives a family tree assignment in school, but she can only trace back three generations. Grandma gathers the whole family, and the student learns that 400 years ago, in 1619, their ancestors were stolen and brought to America by white slave traders.
But before that, they had a home, a land, a language. She learns how the people said to…


Book cover of Love Twelve Miles Long

Nancy I. Sanders Author Of D Is for Drinking Gourd: An African American Alphabet

From my list on inspirational African American history.

Who am I?

As a bestselling and award-winning KidLit author of more than 100 books, I’ve been blessed to specialize in writing for kids about the amazing and inspiring legacy of African Americans. From an alphabet book for even the youngest readers to biographies with hands-on activities for middle graders and up, both nonfiction and fiction as well, these stories are my passion because many of these individuals are my personal heroes as well. I want kids to love and honor these men and women who have made a difference in our world as much as I do!

Nancy's book list on inspirational African American history

Nancy I. Sanders Why did Nancy love this book?

The author and I live near each other and we got to know each other at local writer events. So when I heard that her book won Lee and Low’s New Voices Award, I just had to get Glenda’s book. And I did! She autographed a copy for me which I treasure. This is a tender, powerful, and inspiring picture book. It tells the true story of how Frederick Douglass’s mother would visit him. He was a young child working on a plantation. His mother lived and worked six miles away. At night, she would walk six miles through the dark woods to come to visit Frederick, then head back home before dawn. He knew his mother loved him—it was a love that stretched 12 miles long.

Book cover of The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

Hamilton Nolan Author Of The Hammer: Power, Inequality, and the Struggle for the Soul of Labor

From my list on the power of the American labor movement.

Who am I?

I'm a labor journalist. I've spent the past 20 years writing widely about inequality, class war, unions, and the way that power works in America. My parents were civil rights and antiwar activists in the 1960s and 70s, and they instilled in me an appreciation for the fact that social movements are often the only thing standing between regular people and exploitation. My curiosity about power imbalances in America drew me inexorably towards the absence of worker power and led me to the conclusion that the labor movement is the tool that can solve America's most profound problems. I grew up in Florida, live in Brooklyn, and report all over.

Hamilton's book list on the power of the American labor movement

Hamilton Nolan Why did Hamilton love this book?

You can’t understand the role of labor in America unless you understand slavery, which set the original template for American labor exploitation that still echoes to this day.

This book is one of the best explorations of American slavery, its roots, and its integral connection to the capitalism that surrounds us all.

When you appreciate how long and completely slaves were oppressed and who got the gains of the work they did, you will develop a much sharper appreciation for the importance of maintaining worker power today.

By Edward E. Baptist,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Half Has Never Been Told as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Americans tend to cast slavery as a pre-modern institution,the nation's original sin, perhaps, but isolated in time and divorced from America's later success. But to do so robs the millions who suffered in bondage of their full legacy. As historian Edward E. Baptist reveals in The Half Has Never Been Told , the expansion of slavery in the first eight decades after American independence drove the evolution and modernization of the United States. In the span of a single lifetime, the South grew from a narrow coastal strip of worn-out tobacco plantations to a continental cotton empire, and the United…


Book cover of Suck on the Marrow

DeMisty D. Bellinger Author Of Peculiar Heritage

From my list on poetry inspired by history.

Who am I?

I care about social justice, equality, and history, as well as beauty and art. As an African-American woman who was raised working class and who understands how history informs the present, I have fallen in love with the depiction of history in poetry and prose. Not all of my writing has something to do with race or gender or class, but all of my writing is about justice in some way. I want to get to the good of people.

DeMisty's book list on poetry inspired by history

DeMisty D. Bellinger Why did DeMisty love this book?

It’s a beautiful book, from the cover to the notes. It’s a neo-slave narrative that follows various enslaved, then freed people. Through this book, I learned how poetry collections can be explorations of history based on fact.

Like any good collection, reading one poem compels you forward, but each poem can stand on its own. She is a master of form. For instance, her persona poetry is powerful. The first poem in the book, “The Trapper’s Boast,” devoid of empathy, shows the business of slavery from an undesirable point of view. 

But what is moving is the ability to fall in love and to care even in the worst conditions, as well as the will to live and strive towards freedom in spite of any threats.

I started writing neo-slave narrative poems about a woman escaping slavery. I imagined that the poems I was writing, like Suck on the Marrow…

By Camille T. Dungy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Suck on the Marrow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**Winner of the American Book Award

**Silver Medalist for the California Book Award

Suck on the Marrow is a historical narrative, revolving around six main characters and set in mid-19th century Virginia and Philadelphia. The book traces the experiences of fugitive slaves, kidnapped Northern-born blacks, and free people of color, exploring the interdependence between plantation life and life in Northern and Southern American towns and illuminating the connections between the successes and difficulties of a wide range of Americans, free and slave, black and white, Northern and Southern. This neo-slave narrative treats the truths of lives touched by slavery with…


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