Black History: Black Lives Matter Books You Need to Read Now
Black History Month is more than a time to reflect on the horrors that Black people faced throughout American history as they fought for freedom and equality in the United States. It’s more than a month to remember the trials, tribulations, and triumphs that many incredible Black individuals went through and contributed while reshaping our country for the better over time. Black History Month is also a time for all Americans to recognize how little they know about “real” Black history in the United States, not the white-washed version that is taught throughout the public school systems. And with that recognition, this month is an opportunity to plan your year-round Black History education, so that you can be part of the solution to racism and inequality in this country moving forward.
After the death of George Floyd and more recently Tyre Nichols and the subsequent protests that followed, I felt helpless. What can I do? What should I do? And then I saw a series of social media posts from people I respect that caught my attention. These posts suggested white people get some education on race in America. I then found a recommended Black Lives Matter reading list online compiled by my library. Since libraries in my area are still closed audiobooks provided a quick and affordable solution. This reading list is also perfect for Black History month…and of course…all the months to come.
I threw myself into learning. I immersed myself in reading and listening to black voices. My thoughts raced. How did we get here? What is happening in this country? Why are racial tensions so high? I knew I needed to learn, understand, get context, study history, and be a better advocate. I wanted to educate myself. I consumed nearly 100 hours of content from the Black Lives Matter recommended reading list. I’ve watched movies about the civil rights movement and activists and learned more than I expected about Black History.
Black Lives Matter Reading List for Black History Month & Beyond
Here is a brief synopsis of the books I read from the Black Lives Matter list. I feel confident you too, will find how much you learn about Black History surprising.
- White Fragility by Robin DeAngelo: enlightening, in-depth diversity workshop. Written by a white author who led diversity workshops for corporations and organizations. This book was written specifically for a white audience. A 6-hour audiobook narrated by Amy Landon.
- How to Be an Antiracist by Ibrahim X. Kendi: helped me understand more about what systemic racism, as it has occurred throughout black history is, and how to be a better advocate. Kendi shared personal stories from his life and his family’s lives. I appreciated the blend of facts with story. An 11-hour audiobook narrated by the author.
- The Fire This Time by Jesymne Ward: inspired by James Baldwin’s writing, this book takes a hard look at race in America. It made me want to read James Baldwin to understand more. The book contains essays by multiple people which is helpful for getting multiple perspectives. 6-hour-long audiobook with multiple narrators.
- The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander: understanding the relationship between mass incarceration and racist policies and why it’s such a big problem. I felt overwhelmed by the stats. I still feel overwhelmed by the stats weeks after reading it. 17-hour-long audiobook narrated by Karen Chilton.
- So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oleuon: one of my favorites in the #BLM reading list. I found the writing approachable, and helpful for understanding racial relations. The author covers questions I’ve had but been afraid to ask. She also writes about situations I have tried to avoid because I didn’t know what to say or do. I found her writing to contain examples of what to say and what not to say when talking about racism. An 8-hour audiobook narrated by Bahni Turpin who has a lovely voice.
- The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin: eloquent writing made me cry because why am I nearly 50 years old and just now discovering his writing? I don’t always agree with his thoughts about religion but I appreciate his writing. A short 2-hour audiobook narrated by Jesse Martin. I want to read more of James Baldwin.
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: was fun to read a novel after so many consecutive nonfiction books. A 12-hour audiobook narrated by Bahni Turpin who has a great voice. I enjoyed hearing her voice again, she reads well.
- Stamped From the Beginning by Ibrahim X. Kendi: one of the most difficult books to get through. It took me a long time to get through this one. A deep dive into the history of racism, types of racist ideas, how it plays out in culture, and why it’s so systemic. 19-hour audiobook narrated by Christopher Dontrell Piper. I liked his voice.
- Between Me and the World by Tah-Nehisi Coates: powerful, thought-provoking. The author talks about his body and his relationship with the world. Made me think about privilege and how I take for granted my relationship between my body and the world. Made me think about the headlines connected to racial tensions differently. 4-hour long audiobook narrated by the author. I liked his voice and I liked this book.
- What Truth Sounds Like by Michael Eric Dyson: a look at select public figures and their impact (or lack thereof) on racism and equal rights. Spotlight shines on former President Obama, and other political figures like Hillary Clinton, and Robert Kennedy along with author James Baldwin, entertainer Harry Belafonte and many more. The author referred to James Baldwin as Jimmy Baldwin which felt disrespectful to me for some reason. 7-hour long audiobook narrated by the author.
I don’t know where all this education is leading me, but I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn. I have dozens more books on my Black Lives Matter and Black History to-read list. I hope I am a better advocate, ally, friend, and more compassionate human. Here’s to all the good people out there who diligently learn, and do what they can to move equal rights forward. Here’s to the good people who will bravely take time to think objectively and carefully examine their beliefs, ideas, and the systems around us. May there be enough good people doing what they can to change things and I mean really change things because our country needs change. May we be good people, raise good people, and be kind to each other because we need more of that too.
Wishing you good reads this Black History Month & Beyond.