TIME magazine asked me and eight people smarter than me to recommend a book (in one sentence) that we wanted people to read for Black History Month. I’m a little surprised that some of the titans didn’t make the list (for example, I avoided recommending Baldwin or Morrison because I figured someone else would), but so it goes. It’s not like I’d be the first person telling you to read The Fire Next Time or Beloved, I guess, anyway.
In any case, I used the occasion to recommend the incredible work of the late Stephanie Camp, whose Closer to Freedom transformed the ways we think about the resistances of enslaved people. Cancer claimed Camp’s life four years ago, at the age of 42. Closer to Freedom was the only book she published before she died. Her death at far too young an age was a blow to all of us seeking to better understand the world and the ways we get free.
My next few personal recommendations would be as follows, with a note that these are not necessarily my personal favorite Black History books, but ones that I a) am thinking about at this particular moment, b) think are reasonably accessible to non-experts and c) are crucial:
- Danielle McGuire, At the Dark End of the Street
- Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
- Robin D.G. Kelley, Race Rebels
The list of good reads in Black History beyond this is insurmountably long, and I throw these few out there with an assumption that readers have a basic understanding going in and thus don’t need survey texts. Happy to hear further suggestions in comments.