2024 is a leap year—while 29 days are hardly enough to fully honor the vast influence and sacrifices of Black Americans who have helped shape the United States, it’s a starting point for deeper reflection and appreciation. This Black History Month, let’s immerse ourselves in Black Americans’ profound contributions to literature, both within the US and globally.
Our journey begins with Carter G. Woodson, often hailed as the father of Black history. Woodson began his mission to educate society about Black history and culture in 1926. He understood the power of knowledge and the importance of representation in history. To spread this awareness, Woodson initiated the celebration of Negro History Week during the second week of February, aligning with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. This initiative, embraced by several colleges and universities, laid the groundwork for what would eventually evolve into Black History Month, officially recognized in 1976 during the country’s bicentennial.
In recognition of Woodson and his vision of an informed nation, we’re honored to share a curated list of must-read books by Black authors as suggested by our colleagues here at Fíonta. These works not only enrich our understanding but also allow us to continue our journey of learning and discovery beyond the confines of February.
- A Promised Land, by Barack Obama
- A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry
- Becoming, by Michelle Obama
- Beloved, by Toni Morrison
- Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, by Isabel Wilkerson
- Congratulations, the Best Is Over, by R. Eric Thomas
- Dear Martin, by Nic Stone
- Dreams from My Father, by Barack Obama
- Faith in the Valley, by Iyanla Vanzant
- Felon: Poems, by Reginal Dwayne Betts
- Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi
- How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
- Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
- Nightcrawling, by Leila Mottley
- Parable of the Sower, by Octavia E. Butler
- Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid
- The 1619 Project, by Nikole Hannah-Jones
- The Broken Earth Trilogy, by N.K. Jemisin
- The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
- The Mis-education of the Negro, by Carter G. Woodson
- The Piano Lesson, by August Wilson
- The Prophets, by Robert Jones, Jr.
- Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
- The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe
- Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, by John Lewis and Michael D’Orso
- We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
In a bittersweet twist, many of the books listed above have been embroiled in controversy, deemed as ‘banned books’ in various school districts and sometimes even across entire states. These bans often target works by Black authors, echoing a distressing pattern of censorship that attempts to silence diverse voices and perspectives.
In response, we invite you to join us in declaring 2024 the year of reading banned books. By choosing to read these works, you’re enriching your understanding of the Black experience and taking a stand against the erasure of necessary voices. We encourage you to learn more about this issue through resources like the ACLU, which highlights how censorship disproportionately affects Black literature. Additionally, consider taking action by signing petitions and joining movements that advocate against book bans.
Let’s celebrate Black History Month by embracing these powerful stories, acknowledging their importance in our shared history, and standing against efforts to silence them. Happy reading!
If you would like to expand your support, consider donating to a nonprofit below
- ACLU: Strives to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States
- Freedom to Read Foundation: Legal and educational organization affiliated with the American Library Association that protects and defends the First Amendment.
- National Society of Black Engineers: Works to increase the number of culturally responsible black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community
- Southern Poverty Law Center: Combats white supremacy by monitoring hate groups and exposing extremists.
- The Innocence Project: Works to free the innocent, prevent wrongful convictions, and create fair, compassionate, and equitable systems of justice for everyone.
- The Marsha P. Johnson Institute: Protects and defends the human rights of BLACK transgender people.
- We are Amplify: Amplify historically excluded voices in technology.