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  • Writer's pictureNora Curry

Black History Month

Last week, Book Talk by the Sea opened the celebrated start of Black History Month with a poem by Clint Smith, and while there is more poetry to come, today a wider range of resources are up for sharing. Black History Month is recognized annually in February as a time to pay particular attention to the successes, struggles, and legacies of Black Americans, but in the words of Barack Obama at the 2016 Black History Month Reception, it shouldn't be viewed as a series of "greatest hits" but rather, "it's about the lived, shared experience of all African Americans, high and low, famous and obscure, and how those experiences have shaped and challenged and ultimately strengthened America." On that note, I seek not to share the greatest hits of the literary world but rather a diverse range of Black voices that convey a wide variety of experience, each part of a wider collective story and uniquely individual at the same time. This year's theme of Black Health and Wellness, which simultaneously recognizes both the hard work of Black medical care providers and the historic and continued ways in which Black communities have been underserved in this area, is particularly pertinent as the pandemic carries on. Every year, however, is a time to learn and to celebrate the full range of Black history and the current moment and the ways in which Black Americans express that range in varying ways, through publication, protestation, and personal quiet assertion.

Last year on the blog, I shared a somewhat extensive reading list across many genres, which I've linked to below. These books can all be requested through our catalog in Minerva and many of them found on our shelves and current display. Following the link to this post, you'll find a shorter list of nonfiction, poetry, fiction, and children's books, most of which were published in the last year, by Black authors. An astounding array of powerful books that truly speaks to the contributions of Black Americans not only to history and medicine but to the literary world as well—and certainly to the library's recent acquisitions. Most of these books can currently be found on display on our first floor if available, and all are requestable, again, through Minerva. We'd love to put some in curbside pickup for you! Keep scrolling to discover a set of unforgettable voices.

Black History Month: A Reading List (2021)

Follow these links to learn more about these newer titles:

Nonfiction and Poetry

Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement, Tamara Burke

Born in Blackness: Africa, Africans, and the Making of the Modern World, 1471 to the Second World War, Howard W. French

Call Us What We Carry: Poems, Amanda Gorman

The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, ed. Nikole Hannah-Jones

Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America, John McWhorter

Will, Will Smith & Mark Manson

All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley's Sack, a Black Family Keepsake, Tiya Miles

The Last Slave Ship: The True Story of How Clotilda Was Found, Her Descendants, and an Extraordinary Reckoning, Ben Raines

How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America, Clint Smith


Love in Color: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold, Bolu Babalola

Razorblade Tears, S.A. Cosby

What's Mine and Yours, Naima Coster

Libertie, Kaitlyn Greenidge

The Other Black Girl, Zakiya Dalila Harris

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

Palmares, Gayl Jones

Open Water, Caleb Azumah Nelson

The Deep, Rivers Solomon

Sorrowland, Rivers Solomon

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, Dawnie Walton

Harlem Shuffle, Colson Whitehead

Children's Books

Woke: A Young Poet's Call to Justice, Mahogany L. Browne

Stamped (For Kids): Racism, Antiracism, and You, Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi, adapted by Sonja Cherry-Paul, art by Rachelle Baker

Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance, Nikki Grimes

Black Boy Joy, ed. Kwame Mbalia

The 1619 Project: Born on the Water, Nikole Hannah-Jones & Renée Watson, illustrated by Nikkolas Smith

Nina: A Story of Nina Simone, Tracy N. Todd

Dream Street, Tricia Elam Walker, collages by Ekua Holmes

Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre, Carol Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

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