Books About African Americans That Aren't Just for Black History Month

shelved under Americana

Although February is the designated month for acknowledging and honoring African American contributions to the U.S., African Americans live, achieve and succeed all twelve months of the year. I chose the books below to reveal the vibrancy of these lives — that they have the added appeal of highlighting the diversity within African America is a bonus.


The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfill a Dream

by Rameck Hunt, Lisa Frazier Page, Sampson Davis, George Jenkins

Not generally viewed as a bastion of doctors and the like, the inner city of Newark, New Jersey is nonetheless the birthplace of the doctors who authored this book and is the repository for their dreams. Having made a pact to support one another in striving to achieve their goals — hence, the title of the book — these three young men do exactly that, despite the fact that they do not always walk the straight and narrow route. They then return to nurture the dreams of those coming behind them. Uplifting for anyone, this is a must-read for young men.


Children of the Dream

by Dr. Craig K. Polite, Audrey Edwards

Educated, successful and highly accomplished, the people profiled in this book are the embodiment of that which Dr. King hoped for his own children when he uttered the famous words of the "I Have a Dream" speech so many years ago. Yet, these achievements have come at a price. Emotionally, mentally and socially, the achievers have sustained a barrage of attacks meant to impede their progress. This book shines light on what they endured and analyzes the effects of these experiences. Instructive for a younger generation and wince-inducing for those of the same era, this book is significant of the unanticipated aspects inherent to attaining that long ago dream.


Colored People: A Memoir

by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

The incomparable Dr. Henry Louis Gates is the scribe of this eloquent memoir that is piercing in its depiction of his early life in West Virginia. Born before African Americans were "Black" or even Negro, Gates reminisces with warmth and integrity about the "colored people" of his town and in his family, giving voice and character to their hopes, fears and triumphs. Every African-American "knows" someone in this book and everyone will enjoy meeting them.


A Song Flung Up to Heaven

by Maya Angelou

A book noteworthy because its author is who she is, Maya Angelou's voice is almost audible as she narrates her life in her inimitable style. Befriending household names of the era, from Malcolm X to Martin Luther King to James Baldwin, she chronicles the impact that each man and the major events of the 1960s had on her life. Whether the reader is familiar with her previous autobiographies doesn't influence one’s appreciation of this slice of history.


Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance

by Barack Obama

Raised in a white family, against the backdrop of the Asian cultures of Hawaii and Indonesia, Barack Obama struggled to define himself without assistance from the man whose name and race he represented. It's his victory over this struggle, emerging intact and very well defined, that ultimately shapes this book, written many years before his presidency.


The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood

by Helene Cooper

Descended from two families of the Liberian ruling class, Helene Cooper knew only wealth and luxury. Then, life as she knew it began to unravel as the government falls, family members and close friends are assassinated and everything she knows and loves must be left behind in her journey to the United States. A gripping memoir, a mixture of emotions combines with a relentless pursuit of life to make this an unforgettable read.


Brother, I'm Dying

by Edwidge Danticat

This riveting memoir takes the Haitian immigrant experience to a personal level far beyond that spotlighted in recent media attention. At once confronting both new life and death within her family, the author takes the reader on an eloquent voyage to Haiti and back, revealing the choices people make to survive.


Jump Up and Say: A Collection of Black Storytelling

by Linda Goss

In the tradition of the African griot, Linda Goss and Clay Goss have woven together a collection of stories passed down generation after generation. Alternately humorous and thought-provoking, these delightfully engrossing stories do what the best storytellers always do: leave the listener (reader) wanting more.


Famous Black Quotations

by Janet Cheatham Bell

"If there is no struggle, there is no progress." "When I discover who I am, I’ll be free." "Man cannot live by profit alone." Spoken by Frederick Douglass, Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin, respectively, these quotations are among 400 pearls of wisdom collated and categorized in this book. If you like to conclude a speech or open an essay with a quote rich in meaning, or if you simply enjoy a good quip, you want this book in your collection.