February is Black History Month, ‘a celebration and a powerful reminder that Black history is American history, Black culture is American culture, and Black stories are essential to the ongoing story of America — our faults, our struggles, our progress, and our aspirations’, as President Joe Biden’s proclamation for 2022 affirms. The Biden/Harris administration became part of that history in 2021, with Kamala Harris serving as the first Black female Vice President.
The American Library also recognizes the contributions of Black Americans in WWII, with over 2.5 million Black men registering for the draft, many going on to serve in the Army, Army Air Forces, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, despite continuing racial discrimination and segregation. Black women also served as nurses and in the Women’s Army Corps, as well as contributing to the war effort in large numbers as volunteers.
Below are some selections from our collection as well as links to online resources to learn more about Black American history and culture. Visit the American Library to check out these books, get more recommendations and browse additional titles! You can also check out ebooks from our online collection of titles by African American authors.
The Warmth of Other Suns : the Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
An award-winning account of the mass exodus, from 1915-1970, of Black Americans from the Southern United States, seen through the eyes of three individuals who made the journey in search of opportunity and a better life.
Beneath a Ruthless Sun : a True Story of Violence, Race, and Justice Lost and Found by Gilbert King
A gripping true story of unequal justice in small town Florida by the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Devil in the Grove.
When They Call You a Terrorist : a Black Lives Matter memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele, foreword by Angela Davis
A memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement that reignited the American civil rights struggle in the 21st century.
A Black Women’s History of the United States by Daina Ramey Berry
‘A vibrant and empowering history that emphasizes the perspectives and stories of African American women to show how they are—and have always been—instrumental in shaping our country.’
Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists and Progressive Politics During World War II by Farah Jasmine Griffin
The stories of Black women artists in the WWII era, spotlighting choreographer and dancer Pearl Primus, composer and pianist Mary Lou Williams and novelist Ann Petry.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
An ‘African American feminist classic’ from one of the celebrated authors of the Harlem Renaissance.
Traveling Black: A Story of Race and Resistance by Mia Bay
A history of segregated travel that ‘helps explain why the long, unfinished journey to racial equality so often takes place on the road.’
Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou
Essays on American life and letters from the celebrated poet and writer.
Passing by Nella Larsen
Two Black women, childhood friends, one of whom has chosen to pass as white, are reunited, upending both their lives, in this groundbreaking 1929 novel, now a critically acclaimed film adaptation.
The National Archives has extensive material documenting the Black experience: https://www.archives.gov/research/african-americans
This database has resources on the Black freedom struggle in the United States: https://blackfreedom.proquest.com/
— post by Suzanne Solomon