This year, The Century Foundation—led by our very own Book Club aficionados—has curated a Black History Month reading list with a wide range of works recommended by our staff. As you read, we hope you’ll reflect not only on the oft-overlooked accomplishments of Black people in America; but also the physical, emotional, spiritual, and political labor that Black people continue to exert every day on behalf of our nation—often at great detriment to themselves. 

While not exhaustive, this list is intended as an entry point for readers of varying interests, genre types, and reading levels. Most of all, it serves as a reminder that Black history is the story of America. We hope to expose you to works by up-and-coming writers as well as experts and esteemed literary figures. And note, this list takes care to only include works by Black-identifying authors. 

Enjoy, and good reading! 

For History Buffs

  • The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, Nikole Hannah-Jones 
  • Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, Isabel Wilkerson
  • The History of White People, Nell Irvin Painter
  • Race, Reform, and Rebellion: The Second Reconstruction and Beyond in Black America, 1945–2006, Manning Marable
  • Bus Ride to Justice: The Life and Works of Fred Gray, Fred Gray
  • How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America, Clint Smith
  • Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own, Eddie S. Glaude Jr.
  • Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, John Lewis and Michael D’Orso
  • Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow, Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
  • Just As I Am: A Memoir, Cicely Tyson
  • Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619–2019, Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain

For True Crime Addicts

  • Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, Bryan Stevenson
  • No Place Safe: A Family Memoir, Kim Reid
  • Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America, Mamie Till-Mobley and Christopher Benson
  • Savage Portrayals: Race, Media and the Central Park Jogger Story, Natalie Byfield 
  • Lynched: The Power of Memory in a Culture of Terror, Angela D. Sims

Genre Benders for People Seeking an Escape

  • Kindred, Octavia Butler 
  • Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, Audre Lorde
  • Futureland, Walter Mosley
  • Fledgling, Octavia Butler
  • The Sacrifice of Darkness, Roxane Gay and Tracy Lynne Oliver
  • Cane, Jean Toomer

For Poetry Lovers

  • There Are More Beautiful Things than Beyoncé, Morgan Parker
  • Felon: Poems, Reginald Dwayne Betts
  • Citizen: An American Lyric, Claudia Rankine
  • Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing?, Maya Angelou 
  • The Complete Poems, Claude McKay

For Young Minds


  • Sulwe, Lupita Nyong’o and Vashti Harrison
  • Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race, Margot Lee Shetterly and Laura Freeman
  • Tar Beach, Faith Ringgold
  • Dream Big, Little One, Vashti Harrison 
  • Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters, Barack Obama

School Age and Young Adult

  • The People Remember, Ibi Zoboi
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Mildred D. Taylor
  • The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas 
  • Bud, Not Buddy, Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Brown Girl Dreaming, Jacqueline Woodson
  • Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library, Carole Boston Weatherford 

For Music Lovers

  • Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times, Robin D. G. Kelley 
  • Hip-Hop Revolution: The Culture and Politics of Rap, Jeffrey Ogbar 
  • The Hip Hop Wars: What We Talk About When We Talk About Hip Hop—and Why It Matters, Tricia Rose 
  • When Sunday Comes: Gospel Music in the Soul and Hip-Hop Eras, Claudrena N. Harold
  • Sweat the Technique: Revelations on Creativity from the Lyrical Genius, Rakim 

For Understanding the Matrix of Oppression

  • Heavy: An American Memoir, Kiese Laymon
  • Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love and So Much More, Janet Mock
  • The Women of Brewster Place, Gloria Naylor
  • Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin
  • Black Madness: A New Book About Blackness and Disability, Therí A. Pickens
  • Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism, bell hooks 
  • All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave, Akasha Gloria Hull, Patricia Bell-Scott, and Barbara Smith
  • Black Skin, White Masks, Frantz Fanon
  • The Other Black Girl, Zakiya Dalila Harris
  • The Black Agenda, Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman

For Fans of “New” Fiction

  • When No One Is Watching, Alyssa Cole 
  • Salvage the Bones, Jesmyn Ward
  • Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
  • The Water Dancer, Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • The Nickel Boys, Colson Whitehead 
  • The City We Became, N. K. Jemisin
  • Wildseed, Octavia Butler
  • Personal Librarian, Marie Benedict and Victoria Murray 
  • Gingerbread: A Novel, Helen Oyeyemi 
  • Red at the Bone, Jacqueline Woodson
  • Transcendent Kingdom, Yaa Gyasi
  • What’s Mine and Yours, Naima Coster

For People Contemplating Current Events

  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander 
  • Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America, Melissa V. Harris-Perry
  • Infectious Fear: Politics, Disease, and the Health Effects of Segregation, Samuel Roberts 
  • Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty, Dorothy Roberts
  • Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools, Monique Morris
  • Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America, Stacey Abrams
  • The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America, Carol Anderson 
  • Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing (Revised and Updated Edition), Joy DeGruy
  • Thick: And Other Essays, Tressie McMillan Cottom
  • White Space, Black Hood: Opportunity Hoarding and Segregation in the Age of Inequality, Sheryll Cashin
  • We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom, Bettina L. Love
  • Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates