Opinion February 27, 2023

Must-Reads about Black History

Inspiring and informative stories honoring Black History, recommended by members of Social Mission Alliance.

Black History Month book recommendation book covers

For Black History Month, we asked members of Social Mission Alliance to share some of their favorite books highlighting Black history. Here’s what they said.

 His Name is George Floyd by Robert Samuels + Toluse Olorunnipa

His Name is George Floyd

“This book is a great overview of how racism has impacted the many systems and structures – land loss, housing, healthcare, education, criminal justice, and more – that shape the American experience. It’s told through the life of George Floyd and those around him and does a nice job of interweaving personal narratives and historical facts.”

(Recommended by Sonal Batra)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

“It is the story of the HeLa cancer cells that were taken from a Black woman from outside Baltimore at Johns Hopkins University which were the first immortal cell line and used for testing across medicine. It makes you really consider research ethics, trust within the community, bodily autonomy, and so much more.” 

(Recommended by Leigh Anne Butler)

American Sirens: The Incredible Story of the Black Men Who Became America’s First Paramedics by Kevin Hazzard

American Sirens

“This book is a journalistic account of the 24 Black men from Pittsburgh whom we have to thank for modern life-saving EMS in the United States. Reading it made me very grateful to live in a world with emergency medicine as we have today, and, more importantly, for the people who shaped it.”

(Recommended by Katie Webster)

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Between the world and me

Recommended by SMA Director, Toyese Oyeyemi:

“A personal favorite of mine — this book is a relatable account of a parent relaying their fears and concerns of how the world will perceive and treat their child based on the color of their skin and the world around them.”

Additional recommendations:

  • The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson – “Stories of the Great Migration. The contrast in stories between the Black experience of moving west in the early 20th century and the westward settler expansion of 19th century “manifest destiny” is wildly interesting.”
  • Ebony and Ivy by Craig Steven Wilder- “A jargony, yet thoughtful, historical rundown of how universities in the US shaped society by their “relationship” with Black America.”
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – This book tells the story of the Nigerian-American experience of toggling between feeling too American to be received by Africa and too African to be embraced as American
Three book covers, The Warmth of Other Suns, Americanah, and Ebony & Ivy

The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee

The Sum of Us

“By breaking down the ways that structural racism harms all of us (but especially Black communities) using case studies from health care, education, housing, employment, and other sectors, author Heather McGhee expertly refutes the false narrative of ‘the zero sum game’ that has been fed to American society to perpetuate racism and oppression. Her writing is compelling and full of charge and deeply empathetic. Here is the NYTimes review and goodreads link. I ate this book up and wish it were required reading for every American.”

(Recommended by Meg Ziemann)

The President’s Daughter by Barbara Chase-Riboud

The President's daughter

“This book isn’t health focused, but is a fascinating description of the complexities experienced by Thomas Jefferson’s children with Sally Hemmings.” The President’s Daughter focuses on Harriet Hemmings, who, at the age of 21, was allowed to run away to the North and pass into white society. Read about the tumultuous events Harriet experiences leading up to the Civil War and Battle of Gettysburg.

(Recommended by Moira Secrest)

Appears In

Have A Question?

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA.