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 (2009) [a memoir of boyhood] 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 Scribner), 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 Random House), Jon Mecham
  18. My Brother Moochie (2018 Other Press) Isaac J. Bailey [NYT memoir about large, Black South Carolina family dealing with brother’s imprisonment for murder]
  19. "The Heritage: Black Athletes, A Divided America, And The Politics Of Patriotism." (2018) Howard Bryant
  20. Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880, W.E.B. Du Bois
  21. The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois
  22. Frederick Douglas (2018) Simon & Shuster, David Blight
    [Blight’s detailed, cinematic biography a result of a lifetime of engagement with his subject]
  23. Ali: A Life (2018 Mifflin Harcourt) Jonathan Eig
    [First full bio of Ali since his death, Eig’s sympathetic yet unsparing portrait of a controversial figure for whom personal and the political dramatically fused, is very timely]
  24. Arthur Ashe: A Life (2018 Simon & Shuster) Raymond Arsenault
    [1st major bio of a tennis champion, written by a civil rights historian, shows Ashe’s activism as important as his athletic skill]
  25. Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry (2018 Beacon) Imani Perry
  26. No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America (2018 Nation Books) Darnell Moore
  27. The Field of Blood (2018 Farrar) Joanne Freeman
    [brawls, stabbings, and duel threats in Congress 1830-1860. The mayhem was part of ever-escalating tensions over slavery]
  28. The Blood of Emmett Till (2017 Simon & Shuster), Timothy B. Tyson
  29. The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels (Random House 2018) Jon Meacham
    [authoritarian politics is absolutist, oligarchic, anti-egalitarian, and almost always racist. If the Confederacy lost Civil War, in important ways it won the peace after white South’s overthrow of Reconstruction.]
  30. An Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World (1829) David Walker [Seminal work that told slaveholders give us our freedom and rights or “curse the day that you were ever born.” Black sailors smuggled it to their brothers and sisters in chains]
  31. “The Narrative of the Life,” of Frederick Douglas (1845)
  32. The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke (2108) Jeffrey C. Stewart
  33. Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All its Phases (1892) Ida B. Wells
  34. Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance (2018) Mark Whitaker
  35. The Original Black Elite: Daniel Murray and the Story of a Forgotten Era (2107) Elizabeth Dowling Taylor
  36. The Education of a Black Radical (2009) D’Army Baily
  37. The Warmth of Other Suns (2010) Isabel Wilkerson [from 15 years of research about the Great Migration]
  38. Fire Shut up in My Bones, A Memoir (2014) Charles Blow
  39. Sister Outsider (1984) Audre Lorde
  40. When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir (2018) Patrisse Khan-Cullors & Asha Bandele
  41. Survival Math: Notes on An All-American Family (2019) Mitchell Jackson
  42. 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 (Bloomsbury 2011) Jesmyn Ward
    [2011 National Book Award winner for fiction]
  5. The Changeling (2017 Spiegel & Grau) Victor LaValle
    [haunting tale weaves a mesmerizing web around fatherhood, racism, horrific anxieties and To Kill a Mockingbird]
  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, Alfred A. Knoph) Kevin Young
  12. Wade in the Water (2018 Graywolf Press) Tracy K. Smith
    [scorching in both its steady cognizance of America’s original racial sins and apprehension about history’s direction];
  13. Stone Butch Blues (1993) Leslie Feinberg
    [like “all forms of prejudice, bigotry against transgendered people is a deadly carcinogen. We are pitted against each other in order to keep us from seeing each other as allies.”]
  14. The Wind Done Gone (2001), Alice Randall
  15. Washington Black (2018) Knopf, Esi Edugyan
    [2018 winner Canada’s Giller Prize, in waning days of slavery against backdrop of unconscionable brutality, tips into new world of possibility in which people fly in hot-air balloons, dive to ocean depths, cross the Arctic on foot, and in which a white slave master’s brother and a young black slave forge indelible bond.]
  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 One World) 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