February 5, 2024

Black History Month Reading Recommendations

Author: Rachel Lawyer | rachel.lawyer@usu.edu

Celebrate Black History Month with USU Libraries by checking out these books by Black authors available online to all current USU students, staff, and faculty. For the full list as well as more Black History resources such as documentaries, podcasts, and databases, check out our virtual book display. There is also a physical display in the lobby of the Merrill-Cazier Library all month long where you can check out print books.

Black, Brilliant and Dyslexic book jacket

Black, Brilliant and Dyslexic: Neurodivergent Heroes Tell Their Stories by Marcia Brissett-Bailey

This is a raw, honest and enlightening collection of experiences, across the black and dyslexic community, giving an intersectional perspective on topics including the education system, the workplace, daily life and entrepreneurship. These stories highlight the challenges, progress, successes and contributions of the black and dyslexic community, helping others to find their voice, feel empowered and be proud of their differences.

E-book available through Overdrive/Libby

Unbroken and Unbowed book jacket

Unbroken and Unbowed: A History of Black Protest in America by Jimmie R. Hawkins

In this compelling and informative volume, Jimmie R. Hawkins walks the reader through the many forms of Black protest in American history, from pre-colonial times through the George Floyd protests of 2020. Hawkins breaks American history into five sections, with subsections highlighting how Black identity helped to shape protest during that period. These protests include slave ship mutinies, the abolitionist movement, the different approaches to protest from Frederick Douglas, W.E.B. Dubois, and Booker T. Washington, protest led by various Black institutions, Black Lives Matter movements, and protests of today’s Black athletes, musicians, and intellectuals, such as Lebron James, Beyonce, and Kendrick Lamar. Hawkins also covers the backlash to these protests, including the Jim Crow era, the Red Summer of 1919, and modern-day wars on the Black community in the form of the War on Drugs and voter suppression.

E-book available through Overdrive/Libby

The Black Period book jacket

The Black Period: On Personhood, Race and Origin by Hafizah Augustus Geter 

“I say, ‘the Black Period,’ and mean ‘home’ in all its shapeshifting ways.” A book of great hope, Hafizah Augustus Geter’s The Black Period creates a map for how to survive: a country, a closet, a mother’s death, and the terror of becoming who we are in a world not built to accommodate diverse identities. hrough a unique combination of gripping memoir, history, political analysis, cultural criticism, and Afrofuturist thought—alongside stunning original artwork created by her father, renowned artist Tyrone Geter—Hafizah leans into her parents’ lessons on the art of Black revision to create a space for the beauty of Blackness, Islam, disability, and queerness to flourish.

E-book available through Overdrive/Libby

Black Cinema book jacket

Black Cinema & Visual Culture: Art and Politics in the 21st Century edited by Artel Great & Ed Guerrero

This anthology tackles a wide range of topics from social justice, new media, and Afrofuturism, to race, gender, sexuality, mass incarceration, cultural memory, and Afrosurrealism, exploring the current climate of Black cinematic art that has proven wildly popular with domestic and global audiences, including hit films like Get Out and Marvel’s Black Panther. Together, these essays deepen understandings of Black visual culture, its creative image-makers, the political economy of Hollywood, and the cultural politics at the intersection of modern cinema, streaming platforms, and digital technologies.

E-book available through Overdrive/Libby

Ain't I A Woman book jacket

Ain't I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism by bell hooks

In this classic study, cultural critic bell hooks examines how black women, from the seventeenth century to the present day, were and are oppressed by both white men and black men and by white women.

Illustrating her analysis with moving personal accounts, Ain't I A Woman is deeply critical of the racism inherent in the thought of many middle-class white feminists who have failed to address issues of race and class. While acknowledging the conflict of loyalty to race or sex is still a dilemma, hooks challenges the view that race and gender are two separate phenomena, insisting that the struggles to end racism and sexism are inextricably intertwined.

E-book available through Overdrive/Libby

Four Hundred Souls book jacket

Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain

Four Hundred Souls is a unique one-volume “community” history of African Americans. The editors, Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain, have assembled ninety brilliant writers, eighty of whom takes on a five-year period of that four-hundred-year span with ten lyrical interludes from poets. The writers explore their periods through a variety of techniques: historical essays, short stories, personal vignettes, and fiery polemics. They approach history from various perspectives: through the eyes of towering historical icons or the untold stories of ordinary people; through places, laws, and objects. While themes of resistance and struggle, of hope and reinvention, course through the book, this collection of diverse pieces from ninety different minds, reflecting ninety different perspectives, fundamentally deconstructs the idea that Africans in America are a monolith—instead it unlocks the startling range of experiences and ideas that have always existed within the community of Blackness.

E-book available through Overdrive/Libby

Stamped from the Beginning book jacket

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. He uses the life stories of five major American intellectuals to drive this history: Puritan minister Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, and legendary activist Angela Davis. As Kendi shows, racist ideas did not arise from ignorance or hatred. They were created to justify and rationalize deeply entrenched racist policies and the nation’s racial inequities. In shedding light on this history, Stamped from the Beginning offers us the tools we need to expose racist thinking. In the process, he gives us reason to hope.

E-book available through Overdrive/Libby

Built from the Fire book jacket

Built from the Fire: The Epic Story of Tulsa's Greenwood District, America's Black Wall Street: One Hundred Years in the Neighborhood that Refused to be Erased by Victor Luckerson

When Ed Goodwin moved with his parents to the Greenwood neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, his family joined a community soon to become the center of black life in the West. But just a few years later, on May 31, 1921, the teenaged Ed hid in a bathtub as a white mob descended on his neighborhood, laying waste to thirty-five blocks and murdering as many as three hundred people in one of the worst acts of racist violence in U.S. history.

The Goodwins and their neighbors soon rebuilt the district into “a Mecca,” in Ed’s words, where nightlife thrived and small businesses flourished. Ed bought a newspaper to chronicle Greenwood’s resurgence and battles against white bigotry, and his son Jim, an attorney, embodied the family’s hopes for the civil rights movement. But by the 1970s urban renewal policies had nearly emptied the neighborhood. Today the newspaper remains, and Ed’s granddaughter Regina represents the neighborhood in the Oklahoma state legislature, working alongside a new generation of local activists to revive it once again.

In Built from the Fire, journalist Victor Luckerson tells the true story behind a potent national symbol of success and solidarity and weaves an epic tale about a neighborhood that refused, more than once, to be erased.

E-book available through Overdrive/Libby

Black Rodeo book jacket

Black Rodeo: A History of the African American Western by Mia Mask

African American westerns have a rich cinematic history and visual culture. Mia Mask examines the African American western hero within the larger context of film history by considering how Black westerns evolved and approached wide-ranging goals. Woody Strode’s 1950s transformation from football star to actor was the harbinger of hard-edged western heroes later played by Jim Brown and Fred Williamson. Sidney Poitier’s Buck and the Preacher provided a narrative helmed by a groundbreaking African American director and offered unconventionally rich roles for women. Mask moves from these discussions to consider blaxploitation westerns and an analysis of Jeff Kanew’s hard-to-find 1972 documentary about an all-Black rodeo. The book addresses how these movies set the stage for modern-day westploitation films like Django Unchained. 

A first-of-its kind survey, Black Rodeo illuminates the figure of the Black cowboy while examining the intersection of African American film history and the western.

E-book available through Overdrive/Libby

How it Feels to be Black in the USA: book jacket

How it Feels to be Black in the USA: Poetic Narratives for Racial Equity, Equality, Healing, and Freedom by Pierre W. Orelus

What does it mean to be Black in America? In this book, Pierre W. Orelus uses his poetry to unpack this question, unmasking racism, sexism, and oppression in America. The 59 poems in this collection deal with a wide range of topics, from immigration to xenophobia, from Black pride to Black rage, from parenting to female empowerment.

E-book available through Overdrive/Libby