A selected list of nonfiction books about African American history and the African American experience.
Three exhibits (200 works) by African American artists (125) were shown between 2004 and 2005. All of the artists lived in LA, were trained in LA, or educated in LA between 1945 to 2003. As each artist struggled to gain recognition by established institutions, they generated interest in their art that never before existed.
Exposes many of the myths plaguing African American families.
Susan Burton's life took a dive into hell when her five-year-old son was killed by a van driving down her street. She began self-medicating, taking increasingly stronger illegal drugs, and for over fifteen years Burton was in and out of prison. By chance she found a private drug rehab facility and turned her life around. Through her organization, A New Way of Life, Ms. Burton is now an advocate for formerly incarcerated women.
Considered by none other than Toni Morrison to be “required reading,” Coates' collection of essays delves into what it means to be black in American society. Intimate and personal, yet far reaching in its criticisms, this book’s unflinching honesty takes the status quo to task.
An in-depth resource about African American achievements.
This is a long overdue appreciation and history about a blues guitar great. Based on numerous hours of interviews with family members and musicians, and in-depth research that includes information about Chess Records and other musicians of the day.
Offers a historical look through photographs celebrating civil rights and equality for all Americans.
Food historian Michael Twitty examines his own culinary roots, traditions and recipes and of Southern food, and critiques how these reflect our views on race, provenance and many social issues.
Meet the war correspondents, Red Cross workers, activists, entertainers, and others who did extraordinary things to help their country during World War II.
Historian Jacqueline Jones traces the lives of six African Americans to illustrate that the idea of "race" in America is purely a myth.
With the goal of becoming a lawyer, fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Eckford was selected as one of nine black students to integrate the all-white Little Rock Central High School in 1957. On the first day of classes the eight other students were advised to arrive at school as a group escorted by local ministers, but without a telephone Elizabeth never received word about this plan. As she stoically approached the campus by herself, she was mobbed by adult segregationists who hurled the most hateful and violent racial epithets at her. An iconic photograph captured white student Hazel Bryan, also fifteen, spewing venom at Elizabeth. Years later Hazel contacted Elizabeth to apologize, and for a time, the two women formed a friendship.
Dr, Mae Jemison is an engineer, physician, and was a member of the Peace Corps and a NASA astronaut. In 1992 she was the first African American woman astronaut to travel in space. She is the principal of The 100 Year Starship organization, and has written a book for children about the program.
Dunbar, which was an academically elite public school that produced highly educated and high-achieving Black Americans in the first half of the twentieth century, now struggles like many other urban schools. Journalist Alison Stewart recounts Dunbar’s rise, fall and current revival.
The untold story of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion of African-American soldiers, whose contributions to the D-Day landing is documented through interviews and military records.
Leovoy outlines a “ghettoside” killing (slaying of a young black man by another) in South Los Angeles, and the dedicated detective who pursues the assailant. This book follows the case and uses it to explore larger sociological questions about crime and policing.
An excellent resource covering “people, times, and events” that impacted African American history.
Madam C. J. Walker was the first African American woman millionaire. She developed a line of hair products specifically created for African American women. Born in 1867 on a plantation, her rags to riches story is filled with her ability to overcome personal and racial obstacles.
During and after World War II among the female human computers, who were subsumed within aeronautics, there was another group of female human computers who were submerged because they were African Americans. This is their story, at long last revealed.
Jim Grimsley was only eleven years old when federally mandated integration of schools went into effect. In this coming-of-age memoir, he reflects on his own childhood prejudices and what he learned about race from his family and community.
Roxane Gay subconsciously dealt with an unspeakable sexual assault in her youth by eating, rendering herself invisible behind her own flesh. Now, decades later, Gay is morbidly obese and learning the myriad ways this world is not made for fat people. Written with her characteristic candor, this memoir devastates and unsettles with every turned page.
Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, recounts one of his first cases, Walter McMillian, a young man sentenced to die for a murder he insisted he didn’t commit.
Marian Wright Edelman is the founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund. She has long been an advocate for the rights of children, in particular those who cannot speak for themselves because of poverty, abuse and discrimination. Her memoir is a celebratory homage to those who mentored her throughout her life.
Misty Copeland overcame the odds of a dysfunctional home, racism, and a late start with ballet lessons to became a star and soloist with American Ballet Theatre. No matter what the odds, obstacles or pain, in life and in ballet, her autobiography conveys her indomitable spirit and passion for dance.
Essence is a successful monthly magazine for African American women. Cofounder Edward Lewis' inspirational autobiography recounts his struggles from a poor childhood to his achievement as a major businessman. He does not gloss over the problems in running a large corporation.
Paul R. Williams was the first African American member and Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. He designed all types of buildings in a variety of styles, from conservative to modern. He lived and practiced in Los Angeles for 50 years.
The conclusion of Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Brion Davis’ trilogy on slavery in Western culture that covers the period from the Haitian Revolution to the Thirteenth Amendment.
Black girls account for more than one in every three girls arrested in schools, and just under one in every three girls referred to law enforcement. This despite the fact that only about one in every seven female students is black. Monique W. Morris explores the myriad ways that black girls are being unfairly criminalized in schools and allowed to fail and/or fall through the cracks.
Bessie Coleman was the first African American woman aviatrix in. Her biography is as exciting and daring as her flying stunts at airshows.
Artist Kara Walker has used silhouettes in a pioneering and innovative form to express social and political commentary about sex, race, violence and injustice. Initially some images appear to be recognizable, and others may look like Rorschach tests, but all of the silhouettes demand closer inspection. Viewers are never unmoved by Walker's art, with favorable and unfavorable criticism which crosses race, class, gender and age.
The story of Simeon Booker, the Washington Bureau chief of Jet, and his coverage of every major event that helped galvanize the civil rights revolution.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe is well-known as the godmother of rock 'n roll who mixed religious and secular styles which angered gospel singers in more conservative churches. In the 1920s she sang at The Cotton Club and Café Society. Despite the efforts of singers like Eric Clapton, B. B. King, and Johnny Cash, she has yet to be inducted into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame. Here are some examples of her style from YouTube:
This biography details the life and career of Thurgood Marshall through the lens of his contentious five-day Senate confirmation.
In 2011 Ryan Speedo Green won the New York Metropolitan Opera's national competition. How he got there is a celebratory story of how a young African American man overcame violence and hopelessness. Check out his website.
After the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling, Virginia’s Prince Edward County refused to desegregate, choosing to lock and chain its doors and remain closed for five years instead. Author Kristen Green recounts stories of families divided by the school closures and in the process, learns of her own family’s role.
In 1939, Marian Anderson was to perform at Howard University, which did not have space to accomodate a large event. Constitution Hall was a possible venue, owned by the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution), but their contract had a "white-artist-only clause" with segregated seating in the concert hall. They refused to book the singer. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, a member of the DAR, sent a letter of resignation and wrote about it in her weekly column. Raymond Arsenault documents where internationally acclaimed opera singer Marian Anderson's concert was performed, in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
A true diva is a distinguished female opera singer who strives for the best in her own work and expects the same from everyone with whom she works in order to create a marvelous experience for an audience. Jessye Norman is the full embodiment of a diva on stage and off, always striving for the best in life and art.
On May 15, 2014, Jessye Norman was a guest at Aloud, and you can hear the podcast.
Professor and author Bert Ashe chronicles his decision to dreadlock his hair and through the process, discovers the nuances of black identity and the complexities of race and politics
A report of the various threats America's historic black colleges and universities are facing and how various stakeholders, including administrators, celebrities and alumni, are fighting to keep the schools alive.
One of the big takeaways from the controversy over the Black Lives Matter movement is how little the average non-black person understands the daily, lived realities of African-Americans. Enter Phoebe Robinson. With disarming and often knee-slapping humor, the actress-writer-comedian offers a glimpse into the myriad unseen ways that blacks and other POCs (people of color) are othered, marginalized, or discriminated against on a daily basis, from being followed around in stores, to being expected to field intrusive questions and speak for the entirety of the black race, to the titular invasion of personal space when a white person wants to know if natural black hair feels like steel wool (spoiler alert: it doesn’t).