10 Reads by Black Authors that Shape the Conversation About Race

Chokehold: Policing Black Men by Paul Butler

An account of what it’s like to be a Black man in America, held under the unlawful scope of the United States justice system, narrated by former prosecutor and Georgetown University law professor Paul Butler. Chokehold details how Black men are systemically held in the “chokehold” of society by way of police, lawyers, and politicians.

Assata: an Autobiography by Assata Shakur

Assata is an extremely candid account of one woman’s fight for of Black liberation. Told through the militant lens of JoAnn Chesimard herself, soon infamously known as Assata Shakur—readers are taken through Shakur’s journey from adolescence to adulthood, as she finds herself, her voice, and ultimately her Blackness. Assata is a moving story about the inception of the Black resistance movement of the 1970s, and one woman’s fight for abolition, that continually influences Black activists today.

Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown

A poignant coming-of-age story about Brown’s upbringing amidst poverty, violence and race relations in Harlem during the 1940s and 1950s.

Angela Davis: An Autobiography:

One of the most brilliantly written autobiographies from a member of the Black liberation movement of the 1960s and 1970s chronicles the life and times of Angela Davis from childhood to adulthood. Davis reflects on growing up in the racist south and reflects on the influences from those around her who shaped her presence as a prominent Black revolutionary of her generation.

Barracoon: the Story of the Last “Black Cargo” by Zora Neale Hurston

One of the last historic accounts of the Atlantic Slave trade, Barracoon is told by way of interview from Hurston who travels to Africa in 1927 to speak to Cudjo Lewis, who was the last living survivor of the Atlantic slave trade between the Middle Passage. Barracoon would not be released until 2018.

A Tase of Power: a Black Woman’s Story: by Elaine Brown

Another hailing account of a Black revolutionary coming of age in America. Elaine Brown recounts her contributions to Black American history by rising to power in the Black Panther Party. A Taste of Power is a moving read about the truth behind one of the most “feared” and reveled resistance organizations in America.

The Spook Who Sat by the Door by Sam Greenlee

A chaotic fictional story of Dan Freeman, the first black CIA officer, and of the CIA’s history of training persons and political groups who later used their specialized training in gathering intelligence, political subversion, and guerrilla warfare against the CIA.

Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin

A fictional account inspired by the life of James Baldwin himself, Go Tell it on the Mountain is an emotional, riveting story about fourteen-year-old boy growing up in poverty in Harlem, New York. Go Tell It touches on many themes such as coming-of-age, race, homosexuality, religion and how all of these factors intersect.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Homegoing is a fictional, heart-wrenching read about the creation of systemic racism starting from the Atlantic slave trade. Gyasi tells the story of two sisters from the same African village, separated as infants after American colonists invade to their home and enslave each member of their tribe. Each chapter chronicles a descendant from each woman and illustrates how the global African Diaspora has effected generations of Black families to this day.

Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver

A read that is not for the faint of heart, Soul on Ice is a raw, riveting memoir of the late Eldridge Cleaver, political activist and leader of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense.

Further reading about influential black authors:

– The controversial life of Alex Haley

– Must-read Thomas Sowell books

Alice Hughes‘ varied bibliography

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