*African American History Month: Political Leaders

Updated: January 31, 2023

A selected list of books about African American history and individuals who were involved in politics, as elected officials or in activities linked with government.

All eyes are upon us : race and politics from Boston to Brooklyn
Sokol, Jason.
Call Number: 323.40974 S683

The Northeastern United States was a refuge for escaped slaves, and in later years promised the equality that was lacking in the Jim Crow South. Sokol examines attitudes and realities beneath the appearance of equality and fairness, and how this region came to terms with its own conflicts.

Barack Obama : the official inaugural book
Call Number: 394.4 B2235 folio

The official inaugural book of the first African American President. Essays and color photographs document the inaugural week.

Barbara Jordan : speaking the truth with eloquent thunder
Jordan, Barbara, 1936-1996.
Call Number: 92 J817-1
Speeches given by one of the most compelling orators of the U.S. Congress, Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan.

Bayard Rustin : troubles I've seen : a biography
Anderson, Jervis.
Call Number: 323.4092 R971An

Bayard Rustin was the quiet, diligent intellectual and strategical organizer behind the major civil rights political activities and events from the 1950s throught the 1970s. A Quaker and pacifist, he opposed militant black power advocates, and championed all forms of anti-discrimination and nuclear disarmament. As a homosexual, Rustin kept his private and public lives separate.

Black congressmen during Reconstruction : a documentary sourcebook
Call Number: 328.738 B6275-1

After the U.S. Civil War, the Reconstruction Acts and Civil War Amendments gave African Americans the right to vote, which resulted in two African Americans elected to the Senate and nineteen to the House of Representatives. There are brief autobiographies of these elected officials and documentation of their active fights for justice.

Black firsts : 4,000 ground-breaking and pioneering historical events
Call Number: 301.45096 B6275-13 2013

An in-depth resource about African American achievements.

The Black presidency : Barack Obama and the politics of race in America
Dyson, Michael Eric,
Call Number: 301.45096 D998-7

An incisive and provocative examination of the first African-American President, Barak Obama, and how race was a factor for the man, the country and his presidency.

Blackballed : the Black vote and US democracy
Pinckney, Darryl, 1953-
Call Number: 324.73 P647

Darryl Pinckney reflects on African Americans and democracy from Reconstruction to Barack Obama’s election while interspersing his own memories and thoughts on political participation.

Bridging the divide : my life
Brooke, Edward W. (Edward William), 1919-2015.
Call Number: 92 B8715

Edward Brooke was the first African American elected to the United States Senate since Reconstruction when Hiram Revels was elected. Prior to that he was elected Attorney General of Massachussets. In this autobiography, Brooke recalls the challenges, as a black man, of growing up, serving during World War II, and the fight for equal rights in post-World War II America. 

Civil rights and the promise of equality : photographs from the National Museum of African American History and Culture
Call Number: 323.4 C5826-11

Offers a historical look through photographs celebrating civil rights and equality for all Americans.


Dark days, bright nights : from Black power to Barack Obama
Joseph, Peniel E.
Call Number: 301.45096 J83
A narrative of African American activists, intellectuals, artists, and politicians from the past 50 years. This chronicle reassesses the successes and failures of African American leaders in the last half-century and their impact on American democracy and the world.

An Easy Burden: The Civil Rights Movement and the Transformation of America
Young, Andrew
Call Number: 92 Y675-1

Andrew Young has been an activist, diplomant, politician and elected official. His autobiography recounts is own life and the lives of others who were involved in the Civil Rights Movement.

Equal justice-- under law : an autobiography
Motley, Constance Baker, 1921-2005.
Call Number: 347.092 M919 1999

Constance Baker Motley :. . . was the first black women appointed to the federal bench." She was a lawyer, judge, state Senator, and civil rights' activist.

Fighting Shirley Chisholm.
Haskins, James, 1941-2005.
Call Number: 92 C5423Ha

Shirley Chisholm was the first African American Congresswoman and the first African American woman to run for President in 1972. Outspoken and candid, she was fearless in expressing her opinions and criticism regarding established politicians and activists alike.

Great African-American lawyers : raising the bar of freedom
Weatherford, Carole Boston, 1956-
Call Number: 347.09 W362

Ten brief biographies of eminent African-American lawyers, including those who were politically involved, either as public officials or through political activities.

The handy African American history answer book
Smith, Jessie Carney, 1930-
Call Number: 301.45096 S6513

An excellent resource covering “people, times, and events” that impacted African American history.

Jesse : the life and pilgrimage of Jesse Jackson
Frady, Marshall.
Call Number: 323.4092 J13Fr 2006

In 1984 Jesse Jackson was a candidate for President in the Democratic Party. A civil rights activist, Baptist minister and politician, who has been and remains outspoken on key domestic and world issues.

Julian Bond: Black rebel.
Neary, John, 1937-
Call Number: 326.973 B711Ne

In many ways Julian Bond was a true Renaissance man: poet, politician, activist, rebel and pacifist. There were many "firsts" in his life: first elected legislator to the Georgia State Legislature to be denied his rightful place because of his previous anti-war position; led the Georgia delegation, and challenged that group's conservative views to the 1968 Democratic Convention; at the 1968 Democratic Convention he became the first black person nominated to be Vice President. In 1974, he was elected to the Georgia Senate.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
Stevenson, Bryan
Call Number: 347.092 S847

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. The author straightforwardly tells of his experience as a lawyer defending, among others, those on death row, those too harshly punished for crimes committed when they were children, and those victimized by a system that rewards wealth. This book, makes the case in the process, for a reformation of our country’s way of dealing justice.

Kamala's way : an American life
Morain, Dan
Call Number: 92 H3146Mo

Morain, a former editor for The Sacramento Bee, chronicles the meteoric rise of the first female, African-Asian American Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris. This biography provides important background information on a political trailblazer, the daughter of immigrants, who went from the San Francisco District Attorney's Office to the second highest elected office in the country, and all of it accomplished in a decade's time.

Lay bare the heart : an autobiography of the civil rights movement
Farmer, James, 1920-1999.
Call Number: 323.4092 F233 1986

In 1942 James Farmer was the founder of the Congress for Racial Equality. His work in organizing sit-ins at all white restaurants in Chicago, the founding of CORE, and his influence on Martin Luther King, Jr. regarding Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence laid the foundation for the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

The loneliness of the Black Republican : pragmatic politics and the pursuit of power
Wright Rigueur, Leah, 1981-
Call Number: 301.45096 W9523

Covering the New Deal to Ronald Reagan's Presidency, Republican African Americans chose alternatives to their Democratic African American colleagues.

Lying down with the lions : a public life from the streets of Oakland to the halls of power
Dellums, Ronald V., 1935-
Call Number: 92 D358

Ron Dellums has been in politics for over 40 years: served in the United States House of Representatives for 27 years;  Mayor of Oakland from 2007 to 2011; and held other political offices during which he was always outspoken in his opinions and criticism.

Marshalling justice : the early civil rights letters of Thurgood Marshall
Marshall, Thurgood, 1908-1993.
Call Number: 347.092 M3686-1
This collection of letters written between 1935 and 1957 illustrate Marshall's legal work leading up to his appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ralph Bunche—An American Life
Urquhart, Brian
Call Number: 92 B9414Ur

Ralph Bunche was the first African American to receive The Nobel Peace Prize in 1950. Academic, political scientist, and diplomat, Ralph Bunche played a key role in the formation of the United Nations and was well known for his negotiation skills in mediating international conflicts.

The rebellious life of Mrs. Rosa Parks
Theoharis, Jeanne.
Call Number: 323.4092 P252Th

Mrs. Rosa Parks has become best known as the woman who refused to move to the back of a segregated public bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955. She was a life-long political activist who sought justice in all sectors of American life.

Roy Wilkins : the quiet revolutionary and the NAACP
Ryan, Yvonne, 1961-
Call Number: 323.4092 W685Ry

For forty-six years, starting in 1931, Roy Wilkins worked for the NAACP, championing the cause of civil rights through legal action and lobbying. All of this paved the way forward to the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, and for the election of African American officials in city, state and federal government.

The senator and the socialite : the true story of America's first black dynasty
Graham, Lawrence.
Call Number: 92 B8854Gr 2007

Blanche Kelso Bruce was born a slave and became the first black U.S. Senator. He married Josephine Wilson, who came from a well-educated family. In 19th century Washington D.C. they succeeded in overcoming racial stereotypes and barriers.

Showdown : Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court nomination that changed America
Haygood, Wil,
Call Number: 347.092 M3686Hay

This biography details the life and career of Thurgood Marshall through the lens of his contentious five-day Senate confirmation.

Silent covenants : Brown v. Board of Education and the unfulfilled hopes for racial reform
Bell, Derrick A.
Call Number: 371.974 B433
Derrick A. Bell, the first tenured black professor at Harvard, analyzes the continuing repercussions and negative impact of this landmark Supreme Court ruling on the educational needs of African American children.

Soldier : the life of Colin Powell
DeYoung, Karen, 1949-
Call Number: 92 P8817De

Four-Star General in the United States Army, National Security Advisor, and Secretary of State, Colin Powell always was a man who trusted his own judgment and values.

This little light of mine : the life of Fannie Lou Hamer
Mills, Kay.
Call Number: 323.4092 H214Mil 2007

Fannie Lou Hamer was a Mississippi cotton picker who shook up the 1964 Democratic Convention by leading the black Mississippi Freedom Party. For over fifteen years she was a leader in voter registration which led to the election of many African American politicians. Check for other editions of this book: 323.4092 H214Mil 1994323.4092 H214Mil.

Tom Bradley: The Impossible Dream: A Biography
Payne, J. Gregory (James Gregory).
Call Number: 92 B8119Pa

Tom Bradley served as Mayor of Los Angeles for twenty years and has been the city's only African American Mayor. The Bradley wing of Los Angeles Public Library's Cenral Library is named in his honor.

The voting rights war : the NAACP and the ongoing struggle for justice
Browne-Marshall, Gloria J,
Call Number: 323.40973 B884

For over 100 years, the NAACP has fought for voting equality, and the organization presently contuines the same fight.

Watch me fly : what I learned on the way to becoming the woman I was meant to be
Evers-Williams, Myrlie.
Call Number: 323.4092 E935

After the assassination of her husband, civil-rights activist Medgar Evers, Myrlie Evers completed her B.A. in sociology at Pomona College, worked in private business and went on to become Chairwoman of the NAACP.

A way out of no way : the spiritual memoirs of Andrew Young.
Young, Andrew, 1932-
Call Number: 92 Y675

Politician, activist and diplomat, Andrew Young's autobiography recounts what it was like to grow up in New Orleans prior to the Civil Rights Movement, his association with Martin Luther King Jr., his deep religious faith, and his achievements as Mayor of Atlanta Georgia, U.S. Congressman, and United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

Womanpower Unlimited and the Black freedom struggle in Mississippi
Morris, Tiyi Makeda,
Call Number: 323.40973 M877

Womanpower Unlimited was founded in 1961 to aid the Freedom Riders who were helping African Americans register to vote in the southern states. The organization grew and fought for voter registration and participated in the Women Strike for Peace.  Womanpower Unlimited encouraged and supported political and social activism for and by African American women.