Black History Month – Read One of These Important Books!

February 1, 2018 — Leave a comment

 

Today is the first day of Black History Month… 

Although we should be reading more books by black authors, and about black history, throughout the year, February is a good reminder of this, and an opportunity to be more intentional in our efforts to read diversely.

Looking for a book on black history to read this month?

Here are 15 important ones that might be of interest. Although not all of these would be categorized by libraries / bookstores as history books, they are all saturated with the history of the black experience in the United States. All of these (with one noted exception) were written by black authors. We’ve tried to focus on stories from black history that may not be as familiar as the MLK and Malcolm X ones from the civil rights era.

 

    

The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race

Willie James Jennnings

 

Why has Christianity, a religion premised upon neighborly love, failed in its attempts to heal social divisions?  In this ambitious and wide-ranging work, Willie James Jennings delves deep into the late medieval soil in which the modern Christian imagination grew, to reveal how Christianity’s highly refined process of socialization has inadvertently created and maintained segregated societies.   A probing study of the cultural fragmentation—social, spatial, and racial—that took root in the Western mind, this book shows how Christianity has consistently forged Christian nations rather than encouraging genuine communion between disparate groups and individuals.

Weaving together the stories of Zurara, the royal chronicler of Prince Henry, the Jesuit theologian Jose de Acosta, the famed Anglican Bishop John William Colenso, and the former slave writer Olaudah Equiano, Jennings narrates a tale of loss, forgetfulness, and missed opportunities for the transformation of Christian communities.  Touching on issues of slavery, geography, Native American history, Jewish-Christian relations, literacy, and translation, he brilliantly exposes how the loss of land and the supersessionist ideas behind the Christian missionary movement are both deeply implicated in the invention of race.

Using his bold, creative, and courageous critique to imagine a truly cosmopolitan citizenship that transcends geopolitical, nationalist, ethnic, and racial boundaries, Jennings charts, with great vision, new ways of imagining ourselves, our communities, and the landscapes we inhabit.

 

 

Slave Narratives (Library of America) 

 

The ten works collected in this volume demonstrate how a diverse group of writers challenged the conscience of a nation and laid the foundations of the African American literary tradition by expressing their in anger, pain, sorrow, and courage.

Included in the volume: Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw GronniosawInteresting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah EquianoThe Confessions of Nat TurnerNarrative of the Life of Frederick DouglassNarrative of William W. BrownNarrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry BibbNarrative of Sojouner Truth; Ellen and William Craft’s Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom; Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and Narrative of the Life of J. D.Green.

 

 

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

Edward E. Baptist 

(not a black writer)
A sweeping, authoritative history of the expansion of slavery in America, showing how forced migrations radically altered the nation’s economic, political, and cultural landscape.

Americans tend to cast slavery as a pre-modern institution–the nation’s original sin, perhaps, but isolated in time and divorced from America’s later success. But to do so robs the millions who suffered in bondage of their full legacy. As historian Edward E. Baptist reveals in The Half Has Never Been Told, the expansion of slavery in the first eight decades after American independence drove the evolution and modernization of the United States. In the span of a single lifetime, the South grew from a narrow coastal strip of worn-out tobacco plantations to a continental cotton empire, and the United States grew into a modern, industrial, and capitalist economy.

Told through intimate slave narratives, plantation records, newspapers, and the words of politicians, entrepreneurs, and escaped slaves, The Half Has Never Been Told offers a radical new interpretation of American history.
 

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