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To learn about events of the past and experiences unlike their own, people often turn to books. And with recent news about banning children’s books about racism and debating critical race theory, especially in education, some readers are interested in titles that explore different aspects of Black history in the U.S.
A plethora of books about these topics are published every year, which may make it hard to choose where to start the next time you’re looking for something to read. To help narrow down your options, we compiled recent books about Black history that were published within the last year, subjects ranging from women’s rights and systemic inequality to the Great Migration and anti-racism efforts led by advocates across the country. Some are more academic in nature, while others are histories interwoven with authors’ lived experiences. Some are written by first-time authors, and select options were inspired by or discuss recent events surrounding Black history in the U.S. The books are also all popular with Goodreads members, having earned high ratings from them.
‘South to America’ by Imani Perry
Goodreads: 4.1-star average rating from 81 ratings
Growing up in the South herself, author Imani Perry shares her personal experiences while leading readers through lessons about the region’s history, culture and landscapes.
‘How the Word Is Passed’ by Clint Smith
Goodreads: 4.77-star average rating from 11,970 ratings
By examining different monuments and landmarks across America, Clint Smith explains how slavery is central to shaping the nation’s history. The book also discusses the legacy of slavery across centuries.
‘Four Hundred Souls’ by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain
Goodreads: 4.61-star average rating from 6,263 ratings
As told by 90 of America’s leading Black writers, this book contains 80 chapters about the history of Black America. It goes back 400 years in time and tells the story chronologically, working toward the present day.
‘A Little Devil in America’ by Hanif Abdurraqib
Goodreads: 4.68-star average rating from 3,189 ratings
Hanif Abdurraqib researches and shares insights about Black performers and their impact on American culture. The author also personally reflects on Black performances in music, dance, movies and more.
‘The Three Mothers’ by Anna Malaika Tubbs
Goodreads: 4.12-star average rating from 2,671 ratings
"The Three Mothers" focuses on the women who raised Malcolm X, James Baldwin and Martin Luther King, Jr. It addresses Black motherhood and the discrimination Black women faced as they taught, cared for and supported their sons.
‘On Juneteenth’ by Annette Gordon-Reed
Goodreads: 4.22-star average rating from 4,254 ratings
Annette Gordon-Reed wrote a collection of essays about her family’s history and the end of legalized slavery in Texas. The book charts the United States’ road to Juneteenth through memoir-based portions and historical accounts.
‘The Black Church’ by Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Goodreads: 4.05-star average rating from 618 ratings
Through recounting his own time spent at church growing up, historical events and the Black community’s varying spiritual journies, the author reveals how the Black church is central to the American story. This book is a companion to the PBS series of the same name.
‘Buses Are a Comin'’ by Charles Person with Richard Rooker
Goodreads: 4.48-star average rating from 431 ratings
Charles Person details his experience as a Freedom Rider in the 1960s in this memoir. His commitment to the Civil Rights Movement began when he was a teenager, and he calls on young people today to create a more just and moral country through their own efforts.
‘America On Fire’ by Elizabeth Hinton
Goodreads: 4.28-star average rating from 397 ratings
Historian Elizabeth Hinton delves into the history of police violence and Black rebellion since the 1960s. She points to how events from the past may have been precursors to issues America is facing today, specifically after the killing of George Floyd and subsequent protests.
‘Wake’ by Rebecca Hall
Goodreads: 4.32-star average rating from 1,635 ratings
This book is part graphic novel and part memoir. It tells the story of women-led slave revolts and who was behind them. ‘Wake’ also documents the author’s journey to uncover the truth about these women, most of whom have been left out of historical records.