1. “Annie Allen” by Gwendolyn Brooks
Brooks became the first African American to receive the Pulitzer Prize for this book. “Annie Allen” is a collection of poems that follows the life of the author from childhood to womanhood surrounded by poverty, racial discrimination, parental expectations, and unhappiness.
2. “Up From Slavery” by Booker T. Washington
“Up From Slavery” is an autobiography the shares Booker T. Washington’s experience of being a child slave during the Civil war to the obstacles he faced while trying to education as a young man.
3. “Assata: An Autobiography” by Assata Shakur
This autobiography explains what happened during the shooting and killing of a White police trooper on the New Jersey Turnpike in May of 1973. Officers questioned Shakur about the incident while she was handcuffed to a hospital bed after being seriously wounded in the incident.
4. “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston
This 1937 novel is about the life of Janie Crawford and her life from childhood to adulthood.
5. “Breath, Eyes, Memory” by Edwidge Danticat
Featured on Oprah’s Book Club this book is about 12-year-old Sophie Caco who leaves Haiti to go live with her mother whom she barely remembers. .While there she becomes exposed to things that no child should ever experience. All the while this book explores tradition, suffering, and wisdom of the people of Haiti.
6. “Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly
This is the amazing true story about three intelligent African American women who worked at NASA and were responsible for helping put a man on the moon. Although the movie was amazing, the book is where you can find the full story of these women.
7. “Beloved” By Toni Morrison
This is the story of an African American woman who escapes slavery in Kentucky to be free in Ohio. Even though she obtains her physical freedom emotionally she is not free.
8. “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison
The narrator of this book describes growing up in a black community in the south while attending an all Black University where he is expelled from. He then moved to New York where he became the leader of “the Brotherhood”.
9. “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou
Continuing on the poetry kick, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” was written by Maya Angelou. Published in 1969, it is an autobiography of her life and career.
10. “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” by Fredrick Douglas
This book tells the story of Fedrick Douglas who went from being a slave to an abolitionist, writer, news paper editor, and orator.
11. “Role Of Thunder Hear My Cry” by Mildred D. Taylor
This is a classic but definitely worth reading and rereading again. It’s about a family’s struggle to maintain their integrity, pride, and independence in the face of racism and social injustice. But it’s also about Cassie Logan, a girl who finds over the course of a year why having land of their own is important to her family.
12. “The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man” by James Weldon Johnson
James Weldon Johnson was a lawyer, educator, social reformer, songwriter, and critic. However, when he became a poet and novelist that is where he found his nitch.
13. “Kindred” by Octavia E. Butler
“Kindred” is about a woman named Dana who is kidnapped from her husband’s birthday party in the present in California in the present and taken to the antebellum south in the past. In this, she navigates the racially tensioned world of the South.
14. “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett
Written by Kathryn Stockett the book is about the perspective of African American housekeepers working in white homes.
15. “The Secret Life Of Bees” By Sue Monk Kidd
This book beautifully depicts the journey of a little girl, healing and the power of love that cuts through all hate and racism to bring an amazing story. Lily Owens mother dies and is raised by Roasleen who serves as her stand in mother who happens to be black. Lily Owens learns so much about herself and the people she’s come to love.
16. “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison
“The Bluest Eye”, by author Toni Morrison, is about a young African American girl who prays for blue eyes so that she can look like the blond hair and blue eyed kids in America. When tragedy strikes she learns to love herself through the all the pain.
17. “The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. ” by Martin Luther King Jr. Edited by Clayborne Carson
Clayborne Carson using published material, Standford University’s of archives, recordings, and interviews has put together a first person account of the life of Martin Luther King Jr.
18. “The Blacker The Berry” by Wallace Thurman
This is a story about Emma Lou Morgan isn’t a shamed of being Black but is ashamed of the darkness of her skin. None of her friends and family members could offer her any words of advice, consolation, or hope. Looking for hope else were Emma Lou leaves her home in Idaho and finds herself in the middle of the Harlem Renaissance that leads her on a soul finding journey to accepting herself as she is.