The origin of the Black History Month dates back to 1926. Historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be ‘Negro History Week’. It coincided with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas. According to Woodson, the teaching of black history was essential to ensure the physical and intellectual survival of the race. Thus, he inspired schools and communities to organize local celebrations, establish history clubs and host performances and lectures. The week soon evolved into a month and every US President has celebrated it ever since 1976. Read more about Black History Month Here.
If a race has no history, it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.
1. How To Be An Anti-Racist – Ibram X. Kendi
American activist Ibram X. Kendi informs readers about the most basic and complex racist ideas, answering questions like what it is, where it is hidden, how to identify it and what to do about it. He also discusses anti-racist individual actions and systemic changes. This book is for anyone who wants to take their awareness to the next level and channel it into contributing to the society. Readers can also check out Kendi’s other books – Stamped From The Beginning, Antiracist Baby and Four Hundred Souls.
2. Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi
If you loved Black Panther and are eagerly waiting for the Netflix release of Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, I highly recommend you read the Legacy of Orïsha trilogy in the meantime. Nigerian-American author Tomi Adeyemi sets up a fresh West-African inspired magical universe with an all-black cast of characters and the heroine, Zélie Adebola, fighting against a ruthless monarchy. Children of Virtue and Vengeance is the second installment in the series. The third is yet to arrive.
3. Beloved – Toni Morrison
I don’t think the readers of Toni Morrison’s Beloved will ever get tired of recommending this book over and over again. If you have a knack for classics and haven’t read this one yet, Black History Month 2021 is the perfect time to do so. Even if you have, you can still go for Sula, The Bluest Eye, Jazz, etc. Beloved is set after the American Civil War and tells the story of an escaped slave. She killed her own daughter to save her from the horrors of slavery.
4. The Autobiography of Malcolm X
Malcolm X articulated the anger, the struggle, and the beliefs of African Americans in the 1960s. Originally published in 1964, this classic autobiography narrates the story of Malcolm X and the growth of the Black Muslim Movement. He urged his fellow Black Americans to protect themselves against white aggression ‘by any means necessary.’ This often puts him at odds with the nonviolent teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr. Read this to understand America and the limits of the American Dream.
5. All Boys Aren’t Blue – George M. Johnson
In this stunning young-adult memoir, journalist and LGBTQIA activist George M. Johnson explores the lives of Black queer boys. He does so, all the while reflecting on his own childhood, adolescent and college years, covering topics like gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. The book brings together the BLM and the LGBTQIA movement with sheer perfection. All the representation you need on your TBR!
6. The Death of Vivek Oji – Akwaeke Emezi
7. The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
Beloved is to classics, what The Hate U Give is to YA. Starr witnesses the murder of her unarmed friend Khalid at the hands of a police officer. This is an image I still can’t get out of my head. Reading this book was my first experience of feeling ‘woke’ to the atrocities committed against disadvantaged groups in our society. It’s a must-read for everyone! Angie Thomas has two other books which you can dive into – On The Come Up and Concrete Rose.