Black History Month Reading List

Black History Month originates from the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH)’s national Negro History Week initially founded in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson. The celebration was later officially proclaimed by President Gerald Ford as Black History Month in 1976 and urges us to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

The ASALH has declared “Black Resistance” as this year’s Black History Month theme—a tribute to African Americans resistance of historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms, and police killings. These efforts have been to advocate for a dignified self-determined life in a just democratic society in the United States and beyond. In this reading list, we are highlighting untold stories of black resistance as well as recent and enduring scholarship on black spaces, communities, history, and influential figures.

This is Where I Came In by Gerald L. Early

The fascinating and turbulent black America of the 1960s emerges in these essays, through the lenses of dissent and its contradictions. Gerald L. Early revisits this volatile time in American history, when class, culture, and race ignited conflagrations of bitterness and hatred across the nation.

Black Print with a White Carnation by Amy Helene Forss

Within the context of African American and women’s history studies, Amy Helene Forss’s Black Print with a White Carnation examines the impact of the black press through the narrative of Mildred Dee Brown’s life and work. Recently posthumously inducted into the Nebraska Business Hall of Fame, Mildred Dee Brown (1905–89) was the cofounder of Nebraska’s Omaha Star, the longest running black newspaper founded by an African American woman in the United States. 

Black Gun, Silver Star: New Edition by Art T. Burton

Black Gun, Silver Star sifts through fact and legend to discover the truth about one of the most outstanding peace officers in late nineteenth-century America—and perhaps the greatest lawman of the Wild West era.

The Struggle in Black and Brown edited by Brian D. Behnken

This volume, which considers relations between blacks and browns during the civil rights era, carefully examines the complex and multifaceted realities that complicate such assumptions—and that revise our view of both the civil rights struggle and black-brown relations in recent history. Unique in its focus, innovative in its methods, and broad in its approach to various locales and time periods, the book provides key perspectives to understanding the development of America’s ethnic and sociopolitical landscape.

Stolen Dreams by Chris Lamb

Stolen Dreams is the story of the Cannon Street YMCA All-Stars and of the early civil rights movement. It’s also the story of centuries of bigotry in Charleston, South Carolina—where millions of enslaved people were brought to this country and where the Civil War began, where segregation remained for a century after the war ended and anyone who challenged it did so at their own risk.

Living the California Dream by Alison Rose Jefferson

In Living the California Dream Alison Rose Jefferson examines how African Americans pioneered America’s “frontier of leisure” by creating communities and business projects in conjunction with their growing population in Southern California during the nation’s Jim Crow era.

Race Work by Matthew C. Whitaker

An absorbing biography that provides insight into African Americans’ quest for freedom, Race Work reveals the lives of the Ragsdales as powerful symbols of black leadership who illuminate the problems and progress in African American history, American Western history, and American history during the post–World War II era.

Black Montana by Anthony W. Wood

Black Montana depicts the history of Montana’s Black community from 1877 until the 1930s, a period in western American history that represents a significant moment and unique geography in the life of the U.S. settler-colonial project.

Black Cowboys of Rodeo by Keith Ryan Cartwright

Black Cowboys of Rodeo is a collection of one hundred years of stories, told by these revolutionary Black pioneers themselves and set against the backdrop of Reconstruction, Jim Crow, segregation, the civil rights movement, and eventually the integration of a racially divided country.

Oscar Charleston by Jeremy Beer

Charleston’s combined record as a player, manager, and scout makes him the most accomplished figure in Black baseball history. Oscar Charleston introduces readers to one of America’s greatest and most fascinating athletes. 

Buffalo Soldiers in Alaska by Brian G. Shellum

Buffalo Soldiers in Alaska tells the story of these African American soldiers who kept the peace during a volatile period in America’s resource-rich North. 

Put Your Hands on Your Hips and Act Like a Woman by Gale P. Jackson

In a gathering of griot traditions fusing storytelling, cultural history, and social and literary criticism, Put Your Hands on Your Hips and Act Like a Woman “re-members” and represents how women of the African diaspora have drawn on ancient traditions to record memory, history, and experience in performance. 

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