There's a Book for That: Black History Month
— Tracy K. Smith
Since 1976, Black History Month has been observed every February. The commemoration grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. To further educate and inspire, we present the following award-winning and acclaimed nonfiction for adults, including books about black history in the medical field. Please also visit Penguin Random House’s initiatives, All Ways Black and Amplify Black Stories. Check back next week for Black History titles for young readers.
THE MIS-EDUCATION OF THE NEGRO by Carter G. Woodson; Introduction by Jarvis R. Givens; Series edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
The most influential work by “the father of Black history”, reflecting the long-standing tradition of antiracist teaching pioneered by Black educators. As both student and teacher, Woodson witnessed distortions of Black life in the history and literature taught in schools and universities. Woodson’s primary focus was the impact dominant modes of schooling had on Black youth. This systematic process of mis-education undermined Black people’s struggles for freedom and justice, and it was an experience that scholars before and after Woodson recognized and worked to challenge. Woodson argued that students, teachers, and leaders needed to be educated in a manner that was accountable to Black experiences and lived realities, both past and present. This edition includes an appendix of selected letters and articles by Woodson, and Suggestions for Further Reading.
LEGACY: A BLACK PHYSICIAN RECKONS WITH RACISM IN MEDICINE by Uché Blackstock, MD
The rousing, captivating story of a Black physician, her career in medicine, and the deep inequities that still exist in the U.S. healthcare system. Legacy is a journey through the critical intersection of racism and healthcare. At once a searing indictment of our healthcare system, a generational family memoir, and a call to action, Legacy is Dr. Blackstock’s odyssey from child to medical student to practicing physician—to finally seizing her own power as a health equity advocate against the backdrop of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement.
A lyrical culinary journey that explores the hidden legacy of Black Appalachians, through powerful storytelling alongside nearly forty comforting recipes.Years ago, when O. Henry Prize-winning writer Crystal Wilkinson (former Poet Laureate of Kentucky) was baking a jam cake, she felt her late grandmother’s presence. She soon realized that she was not the only cook in her kitchen; there were her ancestors, too, stirring, measuring, and braising alongside her. These are her kitchen ghosts, five generations of Black women who settled in Appalachia and made a life, a legacy, and a cuisine.
WINNER OF THE 2023 ANISFIELD-WOLF BOOK AWARD IN NONFICTION
Half-American is the definitive history of World War II from the African American perspective, by award-winning historian and civil rights expert Matthew F. Delmont. In these pages are stories of Black military heroes and civil rights icons …Their bravery and patriotism in the face of unfathomable racism is both inspiring and galvanizing. An essential and meticulously researched retelling of the war, Half American honors the men and women who dared to fight not just for democracy abroad but for their dreams of a freer and more equal America.
NAACP IMAGE AWARD NOMINEE FOR OUTSTANDING LITERARY WORK – NONFICTION
With journalistic skill, heart, and hope, Requiem for the Massacre reckons with the tension in Tulsa, Oklahoma, one hundred years after the most infamous act of racial violence in American history. RJ Young has written a cultural excavation of Tulsa one hundred years after one of the worst acts of domestic terrorism in U.S. history. Young focuses on unearthing the narrative surrounding previously all-Black Greenwood district while challenging an apocryphal narrative that includes so-called Black Wall Street, Booker T. Washington, and Black exceptionalism. Young also provides a firsthand account of the centennial events commemorating Tulsa’s darkest day as the city attempts to reckon with its self-image, commercialization of its atrocity, and the aftermath of the massacre that shows how things have changed and how they have stayed woefully the same.
TO FREE THE CAPTIVES: A PLEA FOR THE AMERICAN SOUL by Tracy K. Smith
With lyricism and urgency, former U.S. Poet Laureate Smith draws on several avenues of thinking—personal, documentary, and spiritual—to understand who we are as a nation and what we might hope to mean to one another.To Free the Captives touches down in Sunflower, Alabama, the red-dirt town where Smith’s father’s family comes from, and where her grandfather returned after World War I with a hero’s record but difficult prospects as a Black man. Smith considers his life and the life of her father through the lens of history. Hoping to connect with their strength and continuance, she assembles a new terminology of American life. Bearing courageous witness to the terms of Freedom afforded her as a Black woman, a mother, and an educator in the twenty-first century, Smith etches a portrait of where we find ourselves four hundred years into the American experiment.
THE BLACK PERIOD: ON PERSONHOOD, RACE, AND ORIGIN by Hafizah Augustus Geter
WINNER OF THE PEN/OPEN BOOK AWARD
An acclaimed poet reclaims her origin story as the queer daughter of a Muslim Nigerian immigrant and a Black American visual artist in this groundbreaking memoir, combining lyrical prose, biting criticism, and haunting visuals. A unique combination of gripping memoir and Afrofuturist thought, in The Black Period, Hafizah manages to sidestep shame, confront disability, and embrace forgiveness: to emerge from the erasures America imposes to exist proudly and unabashedly as herself.
UNDER THE SKIN: THE HIDDEN TOLL OF RACISM ON AMERICAN LIVES by Linda Villarosa
From an award-winning writer at the New York Times Magazine and a contributor to the 1619 Project comes a landmark book that tells the full story of racial health disparities in America, revealing the toll racism takes on individuals and the health of our nation.
AFROFUTURISM: A HISTORY OF BLACK FUTURES from Nat’l Mus Afr Am Hist Culture: edited by Kevin M. Strait, Kinshasha Holman Conwill, Vernon Reid; Foreword by Kevin Young,
This timely and gorgeously illustrated companion book to an exciting Smithsonian exhibition explores the power of Afrofuturism to reclaim the past and reimagine Black futures. Afrofuturism: A History of Black Futures explores the evolving and exhilarating concept of Afrofuturism, a lens used to imagine a more empowering future for the Black community through music, art, and speculative fiction. Sumptuous, beautifully designed spreads feature 100 gorgeous illustrations of objects and images that reflect Black identity, agency, creativity, and hope, including: T’Challa’s suit from Black Panther, Octavia Butler’s typewriter, Uhura’s outfit from Star Trek, Sun Ra’s space harp, costumes from Broadway’s The Wiz, handwritten lyrics by Jimi Hendrix, and Janelle Monae’s ArchAndroid dress.
SHINE BRIGHT: A VERY PERSONAL HISTORY OF BLACK WOMEN IN POP by Danyel Smith
American pop music is arguably this country’s greatest cultural contribution to the world, and its singular voice and virtuosity were created by a shining thread of Black women geniuses stretching back to the country’s founding. Smith’s detailed narrative begins with Phillis Wheatley, an enslaved woman who sang her poems, and continues through the stories of Mahalia Jackson, Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, and Mariah Carey, as well as the under-considered careers of Marilyn McCoo, Deniece Williams, and Jody Watley.
A LITTLE DEVIL IN AMERICA: IN PRAISE OF BLACK PERFORMANCE by Hanif Abdurraqib
WINNER OF THE ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL AND THE GORDON BURN PRIZE
Touching on Michael Jackson, Patti LaBelle, Billy Dee Williams, the Wu-Tan Clan, Dave Chappelle, and more, Abdurraqib writes prose brimming with jubilation and pain. With care and generosity, he explains the poignancy of performances big and small, each one feeling intensely familiar and vital, both timeless and desperately urgent. Filled with sharp insight, humor, and heart, A Little Devil in America exalts the Black performance that unfolds in specific moments in time and space—from midcentury Paris to the moon, and back down again to a cramped living room in Columbus, Ohio.
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER
In 1850s South Carolina, an enslaved woman named Rose faced a crisis: the imminent sale of her daughter Ashley. Thinking quickly, she packed a cotton bag for her with a few items, and, soon after, the nine-year-old girl was separated from her mother and sold. Decades later, Ashley’s granddaughter Ruth embroidered this family history on the sack in spare, haunting language. Historian Tiya Miles carefully traces these women’s faint presence in archival records, and, where archives fall short, she turns to objects, art, and the environment to write a singular history of the experience of slavery, and the uncertain freedom afterward, in the United States. All That She Carried is a poignant story of resilience and love passed down against steep odds
FOUR HUNDRED SOULS: A COMMUNITY HISTORY OF AFRICAN AMERICA, 1619-2019 by Ibram X. Kendi, Keisha N. Blain
A chorus of extraordinary voices tells the epic story of the four-hundred-year journey of African Americans from 1619 to the present—edited by Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist, and Keisha N. Blain, author of Set the World on Fire. The story begins in 1619—a year before the Mayflower—when the White Lion disgorges “some 20-and-odd Negroes” onto the shores of Virginia, inaugurating the African presence in what would become the United States. It takes us to the present, when African Americans, descendants of those on the White Lion and a thousand other routes to this country, continue a journey defined by inhuman oppression, visionary struggles, stunning achievements, and millions of ordinary lives passing through extraordinary history.
Black women physicians’ stories have gone untold for far too long, leaving gaping holes in American medical history, in women’s history, and in black history. It’s time to set the record straight. In this work of extensive research, Jasmine Brown offers a rich new perspective, penning the long-erased stories of nine pioneering black women physicians beginning in 1860, when a black woman first entered medical school.
Spanning the Great Depression and moving through World War II and beyond, this remarkable true story follows the intrepid young women known by their patients as the “Black Angels.” For twenty years, they risked their lives working under appalling conditions while caring for New York’s poorest residents, who languished in wards, waiting to die, or became guinea pigs for experimental surgeries and often deadly drugs. But despite their major role in desegregating the New York City hospital system—and their vital work in helping to find the cure for tuberculosis at Sea View—these nurses were completely erased from history. The Black Angels recovers the voices of these extraordinary women and puts them at the center of this riveting story, celebrating their legacy and spirit of survival.
For more on these titles visit Black History
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