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African-American History: Research & Reading

A guide to reading and research on African-American history.

Books on African American History

At Canaan's Edge : America in the King years, 1965-68

'At Canaan's Edge' chronicles dramatic campaigns in Mississippi and Alabama, King's tormented alliance with Lyndon Johnson, his painful break with Stokey Carmichael over black power, and persecution by Hoover's FBI. This book brings the decades of the Civil Rights struggle alive and preserves the integrity of those who marched and died.

Bending Toward Justice : the Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy

Historian Gary May describes how black voters overcame centuries of bigotry to secure and preserve one of their most important rights as American citizens.

Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour

Drawing on original archival research and more than sixty original oral histories, Peniel E. Joseph vividly invokes the way in which Black Power redefined black identity and culture and in the process redrew the landscape of American race relations.

Eyes on the Prize : America's civil rights years, 1954-1965

A well-illustrated account of 11 very important years in the history of civil rights in this country.

Blues People

From the music of African slaves in the United States through the music scene of the 1960's, Baraka traces the influence of what he calls "negro music" on white America -- not only in the context of music and pop culture but also in terms of the values and perspectives passed on through the music. In tracing the music, he brilliantly illuminates the influence of African Americans on American culture and history.

April 4, 1968 : Martin Luther King, Jr.'s death and how it changed America

Author Michael Eric Dyson uses the fortieth anniversary of King's assassination as the occasion for a provocative and fresh examination of how King fought, and faced, his own death, and we should use his death and legacy.

Bearing the Cross : Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference

Based on more than 700 interviews with all of King's surviving associates, as well as with those who opposed him, and enhanced by the author's access to King's personal papers and tens of thousands of pages of FBI documents.

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

Wilkerson examines the unspoken caste system that has shaped America and shows how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions.

The Warmth of Other Suns

"Ms. Wilkerson does for the Great Migration what John Steinbeck did for the Okies in his fiction masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath; she humanizes history, giving it emotional and psychological depth."--John Stauffer, The Wall Street Journal

An African American and Latinx History of the United States

An intersectional history of the shared struggle for African American and Latinx civil rights. Spanning more than two hundred years, An African American and Latinx History of the United States is a revolutionary, politically charged narrative history arguing that the "Global South" was crucial to the development of America as we know it.

A Black Women's History of the United States

In centering Black women's stories, two award-winning historians seek both to empower African American women and to show their allies that Black women's unique ability to make their own communities while combatting centuries of oppression is an essential component in our continued resistance to systemic racism and sexism.

Autobiographical Books by African American Authors

Autobiographies : Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave ; My bondage and my freedom ; Life and times of Frederick Douglass

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. presents the only authoritative edition of all three autobiographies by the escaped slave who became a great American leader.

The Souls of Black Folk

One of the most influential and widely read texts in all of African American letters and history, The Souls of Black Folk combines some of the most enduring reflections on black identity, the meaning of emancipation,and Afican American culture. 

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Originally published by Grove Press in 1965.

The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr

Clayborne Carson is the director and editor of the Martin Luther King Papers Project. With thousands of King's essays, notes, letters, speeches, and sermons at his disposal, Carson has organized King's writings into a posthumous autobiography.

African-American Literature: Selected Readings


Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Toni Morrison's Beloved is a spellbinding and dazzlingly innovative portrait of a woman haunted by the past. More books by Toni Morrison here.

Between the World and Me

In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation's history and current crisis.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Initially published in 1937, this novel about a proud, independent black woman has, since its reissue in trade paper in 1978, been the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature. More books by Zora Neale Hurston here.

Home to Harlem

With sensual, often brutal accuracy, Claude McKay traces the parallel paths of two very different young men struggling to find their way through the suspicion and prejudice of American society.

The Color Purple

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Winner of the National Book Award; Published to unprecedented acclaim,The Color Purple established Alice Walker as a major voice in modern fiction. More books by Alice Walker here.

Invisible Man

Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time, Invisible Man is a milestone in American literature, a book that has continued to engage readers since its appearance in 1952. More books by Ralph Ellison here.

Selected Poems

A selection of this poet's work dealing principally with the place of Black America in society. More books by Gwendolyn Brooks here.

The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou

The complete collection of Maya Angelou's published poems. More books by Maya Angelou here.

The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes

A complete anthology of the poetry of Langston Hughes presents 860 poems that capture the rhythms, emotions, cultural significance, and political awareness of African-American life, from his earliest works to his final collection. More books by Langston Hughes here.

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