chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
February 25, 2019 MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIR

2018-2019 Chair Year Theme Reading List

Wilson A. Schooley

Creation of the 'List'

You may know my focus this Section year is on the generational repercussions of slavery and four centuries of racism and oppression, and our country’s continuing failure to face either that history or its enduring effects.

Part of that failure is educational—our failure to explore, share, and teach both the true history and the deep, rich contributions of African Americans.

February, of course, is Black History Month—a conceptual conceit I’m not alone in having problems with. As old as the practice is the joke: why do we celebrate Black History Month in February? Because it’s the shortest month of the year. What is evident every month of every year is the predominance of WASP values in our national consciousness, education, and culture.

Black History Month was launched with good intentions, as “Negro History Week,” by Carter G. Woodson, to encompass the birthdays of two Americans instrumental in relevant history, Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln. Woodson never intended it to be a one-week focus, but spoke of an evolution from “Negro History Week” to “Negro History Year.” In our white-dominant culture, however, Black History Month has become an opportunity to demonstrate we are tolerant enough to allow other ethnicities their moment in the spotlight, and another excuse to continue to largely overlook African American History and contributions the other 11 months of the year. Although brief Black History celebrations have now been happening for decades, our national disgrace of race prejudice and oppression continues painfully un-ameliorated.

But I am taking advantage of the perhaps presently problematic Black History Month platform to circulate below a “Reading List” relevant to our Section year focus, about which it’s vital to first state a few caveats:

  1. Very far from being a complete compendium, this selection is intentionally incomplete and intended to be an INVITATION to each of you to add to it relevant books you know of that should be included;
  2. There are thousands of marvelous, relevant books in similar veins not on this list;
  3. The books I included are by design:
    1. a diverse and eclectic variety;
    2. mostly at least somewhat lesser known, as distinguished from, e.g., Michelle Obama’s “Becoming,” or “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.”

Please receive the list in the spirit it is sent—an instigator of conversation, a door cracked open to a big room of discovery—and seize the moment to join that conversation with books of your own relevant to our Section’s focus this year. 


  1. Between the World and Me (2015), Ta-Nehisi Coates
  2. White Rage (2017), Carol Anderson [history of oppression of Black Americans since the Civil War]
  3. The Half That Has Never Been Told (2014), Edward Baptist
  4. Black Over White: Negro Political Leadership in South Carolina During Reconstruction (1979), Thomas Holt
  5. Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (2017), Ibram X. Kendi
  6. Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880, W.E.B. DuBois
  7. Blood at the Root, A Racial Cleansing in America (2017), Patrick Phillips
  8. The Beautiful Struggle: A Memoir (2009),  Ta-Nehisi Coates
  9. The History of White People (2011), Nell Irvin Painter
  10. American Slavery, American Freedom (2003), Edmund Morgan
  11. Bring the War Home: the White Power Movement and Paramilitary America (2018), Kathleen Belew
  12. The Fire This Time A New Generation Speaks About Race (2016), Edited and with an introduction by Jesmyn Ward
  13. The Fire Next Time (1963), James Baldwin
  14. I Am Not Your Negro (2017), James Baldwin
  15. Malcolm X: A life of Reinvention (2011), Manning Marable
  16. The New Jim Crow (2010), Michelle Alexander
  17. The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels (2018), Jon Mecham
  18. My Brother Moochie (2018), Isaac J. Bailey 
  19. The Heritage: Black Athletes, A Divided America, And The Politics Of Patriotism (2018), Howard Bryant
  20. The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois
  21. Frederick Douglas (2018), Simon & Shuster, David Blight
  22. Ali: A Life (2018), Jonathan Eig
  23. Arthur Ashe: A Life (2018), Raymond Arsenault
  24. Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry (2018), Imani Perry
  25. No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America (2018), Darnell Moore
  26. The Field of Blood (2018 Farrar), Joanne Freeman
  27. The Blood of Emmett Till (2017), Timothy B. Tyson
  28. The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels (2018), Jon Meacham
  29. An Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World (1829), David Walker
  30. The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845), Frederick Douglass
  31. The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke (2018), Jeffrey C. Stewart
  32. Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All its Phases (1892), Ida B. Wells
  33. Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance (2018), Mark Whitaker
  34. The Original Black Elite: Daniel Murray and the Story of a Forgotten Era (2017), Elizabeth Dowling Taylor
  35. The Education of a Black Radical (2009), D’Army Baily
  36. The Warmth of Other Suns (2010), Isabel Wilkerson 
  37. Fire Shut up in My Bones: A Memoir (2014), Charles Blow
  38. Sister Outsider (1984), Audre Lorde
  39. When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir (2018), Patrisse Khan-Cullors & Asha Bandele
  40. Survival Math: Notes on An All-American Family (2019), Mitchell Jackson
  41. Zora and Langston: A Story of Friendship and Betrayal (2019), Yurval Taylor


  1. Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937), Zora Neale Hurston
  2. Homegoing (2017), Yaa Gyasi
  3. Sing, Unburied, Sing (2017), Jesmyn Ward
  4. Salvage the Bones (2011), Jesmyn Ward
  5. The Changeling (2017), Victor LaValle
  6. Open City: a Novel (2012), Teju Cole
  7. Just Above My Head (1978), James Baldwin
  8. Green: A Novel (2018), Sam Graham-Felsen
  9. Annie Allen (1949), Gwendolyn Brooks
  10. Barracoon: The Story of the Last Black Cargo (2018), Zora Neale Hurston
  11. Brown: Poems (2018), Kevin Young
  12. Wade in the Water (2018), Tracy K. Smith
  13. Stone Butch Blues (1993), Leslie Feinberg
  14. The Wind Done Gone (2001), Alice Randall
  15. Washington Black (2018), Knopf, Esi Edugyan
  16. Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773), Phillis Wheatley
  17. The Hate U Give (2017), Angie Thomas
  18. The Weary Blues (1926), Langston Hughes
  19. Beloved (1987), Toni Morrison
  20. An American Marriage (2018), Tayari Jones
  21. We Cast a Shadow (2019), Maurice Carlos Ruffin
  22. The Underground Railroad (2016), Colson Whitehead
  23. Devil in a Blue Dress (1990), Walter Mosley
  24. Not Without Laughter (1930), Langston Hughes
  25. Invisible Man (1952), Ralph Ellison
  26. The Poet X (2018), Elizabeth Acevedo
  27. Parable of the Sower (1993), Octavia Butler
  28. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), Maya Angelou
  29. Splay Anthem (2006), Nathaniel Mackey
  30. The Blacker the Berry (1929), Wallace Thurman 
  31. American Spy (2019,) Lauren Wilkinson
  32. Black Leopard, Red Wolf (The Dark Star Trilogy)(2019,) Marlon James