The most recommended books about African Americans

Who picked these books? Meet our 804 experts.

804 authors created a book list connected to African Americans, and here are their favorite African Americans books.
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Book cover of Black Software: The Internet & Racial Justice, from the Afronet to Black Lives Matter

Joanne McNeil Author Of Lurking: How a Person Became a User

From my list on the origins of the tech industry.

Who am I?

Joanne McNeil has written about internet culture for over fifteen years. Her book considers the development of the internet from a user's perspective since the launch of the World Wide Web. Her interest in digital technology spans from the culture that enabled the founding of major companies in Silicon Valley to their reception in broader culture.

Joanne's book list on the origins of the tech industry

Joanne McNeil Why did Joanne love this book?

Black software, McIlwain writes, “refers to the programs we desire and design computers to run. It refers to who designs the program, for what purposes, and what or who becomes its object and data.” The book is a much needed examination of the role that Black entrepreneurs, engineers, designers, and users contributed in building the internet.

By Charlton D. McIlwain,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Activists, pundits, politicians, and the press frequently proclaim today's digitally mediated racial justice activism the new civil rights movement. As Charlton D. McIlwain shows in this book, the story of racial justice movement organizing online is much longer and varied than most people know. In fact, it spans nearly five decades and involves a varied group of engineers, entrepreneurs, hobbyists, journalists, and activists. But this is a history that is virtually
unknown even in our current age of Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Black Lives Matter.

Beginning with the simultaneous rise of civil rights and computer revolutions in the 1960s, McIlwain,…


Book cover of Miss Ophelia

Suzette Harrison Author Of My Name Is Ona Judge

From my list on portraying African-American historical heroines.

Who am I?

I have a youthful spirit, but an old soul. Perhaps, that’s why I love African American history and gravitated to Black Studies as my undergraduate degree. My reverence for my ancestors sends me time and again to African-American historical fiction in an effort to connect with our past. Growing up, I was that kid who liked being around my elders and eavesdropping on grown-ups' conversations. Now, I listen to my ancestors as they guide my creativity. I’m an award-winning hybrid author writing contemporary and historical novels, and I value each. Still, it’s those historical characters and tales that snatch me by the hand and passionately urge me to do their bidding. 

Suzette's book list on portraying African-American historical heroines

Suzette Harrison Why did Suzette love this book?

Part coming-of-age story, part slice of adult drama and misbehavior, this book impressed itself on my memory with its deceptive sweetness and heart-wrenching likability. It touches on teenaged pregnancy while examining infidelity stemming from a faulty marriage between a likable man and a bitter woman. I loved its honest examination of problematic, complex relationships—husband to wife, and child to adult. It is beautifully drawn, complex, and definitely on my "Books I can Re-Read Endlessly” list.

By Mary Burnett Smith,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Part coming-of-age story and part slice of life, this is a literary novel about African-Americans in the rural South.

Set in rural Virginia during 1948, Miss Ophelia is a remarkable debut novel that explores the issues of abortion, illegitimacy, adultery, and skin color. Belly Anderson now in the autumn of her life, reminisces about the last summer of her childhood. A strong-willed and free-spirited eleven-year-old, she reluctantly leaves her home in rural Pharaoh and goes to Jamison to help her mean Aunt Rachel recover from surgery. Belly has two reasons for deciding to go to Jamison: She's left alone when…


Book cover of Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice

Colin D. Heaton Author Of The Star of Africa: The Story of Hans Marseille, the Rogue Luftwaffe Ace Who Dominated the WWII Skies

From my list on true stories of survival.

Who am I?

I began reading about history as a child and fell in love with the WW II aviation stories. Later in life I was able to meet many of the men I read about, interview them, and then write my books with their first person accounts. The greatest satisfaction was putting former enemies together who I could prove had fought each other. The reunions were amazing.

Colin's book list on true stories of survival

Colin D. Heaton Why did Colin love this book?

The true story of two men (one I knew), a son of a poor Mississippi sharecropper Jessie Brown and Thomas Hudner. Brown was the Navy’s first black pilot, and Hudner was a Medal of Honor recipient in his squadron who tried to rescue him when he was shot down at the Chosin Reservoir in Korea.

By Adam Makos,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

THE NATIONAL BESTSELLER • NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE • From America’s “forgotten war” in Korea comes an unforgettable tale of courage by the author of A Higher Call.

“In the spirit of Unbroken and The Boys in the Boat comes Devotion.”—Associated Press • “Aerial drama at its best—fast, powerful, and moving.”—Erik Larson

Devotion tells the inspirational story of the U.S. Navy’s most famous aviation duo, Lieutenant Tom Hudner and Ensign Jesse Brown, and the Marines they fought to defend. A white New Englander from the country-club scene, Tom passed up Harvard to fly fighters for his country. An African…


Book cover of Felon: Poems

Keri Blakinger Author Of Corrections in Ink: A Memoir

From my list on to read in prison.

Who am I?

Now, I’m a journalist who covers prisons—but a decade ago I was in prison myself. I’d landed there on a heroin charge after years of struggling with addiction as I bumbled my way through college. Behind bars, I read voraciously, almost as if making up for all the assignments I’d left half-done during my drug years. As I slowly learned to rebuild and reinvent myself, I also learned about recovery and hope, and the reality of our nation’s carceral system really is. Hopefully, these books might help you learn those things, too.

Keri's book list on to read in prison

Keri Blakinger Why did Keri love this book?

I read so much poetry in prison—words about survival, and loss, and absence. But one thing I did not read was poetry about people who’d been in prison like me, and wish I had. This poetry collection wasn’t out then, but I think I would have loved it if it were. 

By Reginald Dwayne Betts,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In fierce, agile poems, Felon tells the story of the effects of incarceration-canvassing a wide range of emotions and experiences through homelessness, underemployment, love, drug abuse, domestic violence, fatherhood and grace-and, in doing so, creates a travelogue for an imagined life. Reginald Dwayne Betts confronts the funk of post-incarceration existence in traditional and newfound forms, from revolutionary found poems created by redacting court documents to the astonishing crown of sonnets that serves as the volume's radiant conclusion.


Book cover of I Think I Need Speech Therapy

Cynthia Sanders Author Of Mia, the Monster of Fear and the Fairy of Courage

From my list on Black education, dreams, and self-love.

Who am I?

I have always been passionate about Black authors and Black children being writers and writing about their experiences or their children’s experiences since I was a young adult. Ever since the Trayvon Martin incident years ago, these Black history stories and books have been so meaningful to the Black community. I used to read just Urban fiction AA books back in high school, but ever since I became a writer/author I have taken a liking to reading children's books about self-love, fear, and going to college, especially for young black children. I read these books to remind me that we are strong-minded people. That no one can take our light from us.

Cynthia's book list on Black education, dreams, and self-love

Cynthia Sanders Why did Cynthia love this book?

This book is about her daughter's personal experience with her speech, and this was a way to help other parents with children how to help their children feel confident about their condition and let other children know that they are beautiful just the way they are. It shows them that nothing is wrong with them, even though they are a little different from the other children, they are still perfect in every way.

By Nina M. Southern,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Think I Need Speech Therapy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Meet Niya, a seven-year-old with a problem that many kids face. Her struggle with speech makes her feel out of place. Read a story so short and so true. See if Niya will know what to do.


Book cover of Fallen Prince: William James Edwards, Black Education, and the Quest for Afro-American Nationality

Jillian Hishaw Author Of Systematic Land Theft

From my list on the history of land dispossession.

Who am I?

My family’s farm was lost due to a dishonest lawyer that my great-grandmother entrusted. Because of that, I have devoted the past 20 years of my career to providing low-cost legal services to aging rural farmers around estate planning and civil rights. As an attorney, I have worked for the US Department of Agriculture and the Office of Civil Rights in Washington DC. I also founded the non-profit organization F.A.R.M.S., which provides services to aging rural farmers such as preventing farm foreclosures, executing wills, and securing purchase contracts. After drafting Systematic Land Theft over the span of several years, I am happy to release this historic synopsis documenting the land theft of Indigenous and Black communities. I have written extensively on the topics of agriculture, environmental, and land injustice in a variety of legal, trade, and other publications.

Jillian's book list on the history of land dispossession

Jillian Hishaw Why did Jillian love this book?

William James Edward is the grandfather of the author Donald Stone. The author does a great job of highlighting the importance that William J. Edward placed on lineage at the beginning of the book. The author shows the forgotten legacy of Edwards as one of Tuskegee’s first graduates. Edwards goes on to start a secondary school in Wilcox county Alabama, following the legacy of Booker T. Washington. The school was called the Snow Hill Institute and in its prime employed over 20 teachers and had over a dozen buildings on the campus. The curriculum was like Tuskegee, where the students learned trades and received a formal education. Under the leadership of William James Edwards, the school thrived until it was forced to close in the 1960s. Donald Stone mostly uses primary sources to paint a picture of the opposition that Edwards faced in trying to operate a school outside of…

By Donald P. Stone,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Book by Stone, Donald P.


Book cover of Songs in Black and Lavender: Race, Sexual Politics, and Women's Music

Bonnie Morris Author Of The Disappearing L: Erasure of Lesbian Spaces and Culture

From my list on the women’s music movement.

Who am I?

My expertise as a scholar of the women’s music movement spans 40 years--ever since I attended my first concert and music festival in 1981. A lecturer at UC-Berkeley, I’m the author of 19 books on women’s history, and published the first book on women’s music festivals, Eden Built By Eves, in 1999 (now out of print.) More recently I’ve organized exhibits on the women’s music movement for the Library of Congress, co-authored The Feminist Revolution (which made Oprah’s list), and I’m now the archivist and historian for Olivia Records.

Bonnie's book list on the women’s music movement

Bonnie Morris Why did Bonnie love this book?

Featuring an Introduction by artist Linda Tillery, the book offers a timely critique of white-centered women’s music events and the possibility of Black women’s music festivals. The author looks at the different experiences of Black audiences in primarily white feminist festival spaces and the role of Black lesbian artists across several generations.

By Eileen M. Hayes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Songs in Black and Lavender as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Drawing on fieldwork conducted at eight women's music festivals, Eileen M. Hayes shows how studying these festivals--attended by predominately white lesbians--provides critical insight into the role of music and lesbian community formation. She argues that the women's music festival is a significant institutional site for the emergence of black feminist consciousness in the contemporary period. Hayes also offers sage perspectives on black women's involvement in the women's music festival scene, the ramifications of their performances as drag kings in those environments, and the challenges and joys of a black lesbian retreat based on the feminist festival model. With acuity and…


Book cover of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations about Race

Christia Spears Brown Author Of Unraveling Bias: How Prejudice Has Shaped Children for Generations and Why It's Time to Break the Cycle

From my list on raising bias-free kids.

Who am I?

Christia Spears Brown is an author, researcher, and professor of Developmental Psychology. She is also the Director of the Center for Equality and Social Justice at the University of Kentucky. She earned her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at The University of Texas at Austin. Brown began her academic career on the faculty of the University of California at Los Angeles. Her research focuses on how children develop gender and ethnic stereotypes, how children understand gender and ethnic discrimination, and how discrimination and stereotypes affect children and teens’ lives. As part of her research on discrimination, she also examines the perpetration and acceptance of sexual harassment and how children understand politics, public policies, and societal inequalities.

Christia's book list on raising bias-free kids

Christia Spears Brown Why did Christia love this book?

This classic book, which has been recently updated, is a must-read for all parents or people who work with children. Tatum does an excellent job of describing how children think about race and the role race plays in their lives. She describes how racial identity develops for Black children, for White children, and for mixed-race children and clearly identifies why it is important for all children. By using lots of quotes and conversations with children and teens, this accessible read leads to “Aha!” moments in every chapter. 

By Beverly Daniel Tatum,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This well-balanced book, written in lively prose, brings new insights and a fresh perspective to this frequent query and the issue of racial identity development.. There is a moment when every child leaves color-blindness behind and enters the world of race consciousness. At that moment, there are two roads parents, educators, and therapists can take: they can follow the status quo, internalizing racial expectations, and becomeconsciously or unconsciouslypart of the problem. Or, they can question stereotypes, and, actively work against racism to become part of the solution. This book provides the tools we all need to become part of the…


Book cover of Big Black Bear

Margaret Read MacDonald Author Of Pickin' Peas

From my list on singing picture books.

Who am I?

As a Children’s Librarian for over 30 years, my passion has been for the sound of language. I want children to hear rhythmic, joyful language that will make them fall in love with words. My own career as a storyteller and author continues this same love of language. I try to write my own picture books in such a way that any adult who picks them up will read them out with the same kind of verve and joy that I put into them.  


Margaret's book list on singing picture books

Margaret Read MacDonald Why did Margaret love this book?

This tale is one long, rousty chant. “Big Black Bear came out of the woods. Stuck his nose in the air and smelled something good!” Just keep that chanting going as Big Black Bear threatens Little Girl and creates havoc in her house, then is caught by Momma Bear and made to apologize. “I’m very sorry, please excuse me. I’m a little black bear, who just turned three.”  

By Wong Herbert Yee,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Big Black Bear learns his manners after he barges in on Little Girl at the Brown Brick House on Sycamore Street. By the author of Eek! There's a Mouse in the House.


Book cover of Lakewood

Alex Jennings Author Of The Ballad of Perilous Graves

From my list on boundary-pushing fantasy.

Who am I?

All of these books inspired me to become a better writer and to push my imagination to the limit by getting The Ballad of Perilous Graves onto the page. These books made me want to polish the contents of my own imagination and tell the biggest most heartfelt story I could. Ballad is in good company on library and bookstore shelves, so I wanted it to connect as hard as possible.

Alex's book list on boundary-pushing fantasy

Alex Jennings Why did Alex love this book?

Giddings takes the stories of Henrietta Lacks and the Tuskegee experiments and extrapolates them into the present day. A young woman dealing with crushing medical debt agrees to participate in medical trials with strange and debilitating side effects. This book is horrific, lyrically written, and brimming with emotion.

By Megan Giddings,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Lakewood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NPR Book of the Year 2020

Electric Literature: One of 55 Books by Women and Nonbinary Writers of Color to Read in 2020 | Lit Hub & The Millions: Most Anticipated Books of 2020 | Ms. Magazine: Anticipated 2020 Feminist Books | Refinery29: Books by Black Women We are Looking Forward To Reading | One of The Millions' Most Anticipated Reads of 2020 | Amazon Book of the Month Pick | Audible Editor's Pick | Essence's Pick| Glamour's Must Read | Ms. Magazine's Anticipated Read of 2020

A startling debut about class and race, Lakewood evokes a terrifying world of…