The best 32 Black History books

Black History is a crucial part of understanding our collective past, providing insights into struggles, triumphs, and pivotal moments in history. Our carefully curated book list delves into a wide range of perspectives and narratives, shedding light on significant events and individuals that have shaped the course of history.

Explore these eye-opening books to gain a deeper appreciation for the rich tapestry of Black History. Start your journey today and discover the compelling stories that deserve to be heard and remembered.

The best 32 Black History books
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1
Black History Books: The Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James

The Black Jacobins

C.L.R. James
Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution
4.6 (89 ratings)
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What's The Black Jacobins about?

The Black Jacobins (1938) traces the remarkable history of the revolution in the French colony of San Domingo (modern day Haiti). It describes the events that helped the revolution become the first successful slave rebellion in history.

In particular, The Black Jacobins views the events through the prism of the revolution’s greatest figure, Toussaint L’Ouverture. It shows how he, a former slave who was inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution, successfully defeated the European empires and helped to destroy the brutal practice of slavery in San Domingo.

Who should read The Black Jacobins?

  • Students of history and postcolonial studies
  • Anyone who wants to understand why people revolt
  • Anyone interested in how political ideas can change the world

2
Black History Books: Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

Long Walk to Freedom

Nelson Mandela
The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela
4.5 (195 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
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What's Long Walk to Freedom about?

Nelson Mandela's A Long Walk to Freedom (1994) is one of the most famous autobiographies of recent times. It tells the story of his life, from his humble beginnings in the South African countryside to his work as an iconic anti-apartheid freedom fighter, and ends, after chronicling his twenty-year prison sentence, with his final victory and release.

Who should read Long Walk to Freedom?

  • People interested in Nelson Mandela
  • Anyone curious about South African history
  • Proponents of social justice

3
Black History Books: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Just Mercy

Bryan Stevenson
A Story of Justice and Redemption
4.2 (39 ratings)
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00:00

What's Just Mercy about?

Just Mercy (2014) is a walk through the American criminal justice system of the 1980s. These blinks explain how a system that is supposed to safeguard the rights of the nation’s citizens became an unjust tool to mistreat and abuse the most vulnerable members of society through mass incarceration and excessive sentencing.

Who should read Just Mercy?

  • Lawyers, judges and legal scholars
  • Anybody interested in the legal history of America
  • People wanting to understand the unjust nature of America’s criminal justice system

4
Black History Books: A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

A People’s History of the United States

Howard Zinn
4.0 (251 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
00:00

What's A People’s History of the United States about?

A People’s History of the United States (2015, first edition 1980) walks you through the United States’ past from the perspective of the marginalized, the disenfranchised and the oppressed. These blinks describe a history of uprisings, protests and activism in the face of a government built for the rich.

Who should read A People’s History of the United States?

  • Activists and advocates of social change
  • Students of political science and US history
  • Readers looking for a fresh perspective on the US government

5
Black History Books: Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi

Stamped from the Beginning

Ibram X. Kendi
The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
4.3 (118 ratings)
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00:00

What's Stamped from the Beginning about?

Stamped from the Beginning (2016) offers a powerful examination of the modern history of racism in the United States, including where racist ideas originate and how they spread. In particular, the author looks closely at how the presidential campaigns and administrations of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton have helped propagate racist thought and had a detrimental impact on America’s black communities.

Who should read Stamped from the Beginning?

  • Activists interested in civil rights and race relations
  • Readers fascinated by American history
  • Students of politics and public administration

6
Black History Books: Fantasyland by Kurt Andersen

Fantasyland

Kurt Andersen
How America Went Haywire
3.2 (102 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
00:00

What's Fantasyland about?

Fantasyland (2017) takes readers on a journey through the past 500 years of American history to show just how often this land has been home to people with a bewildering take on reality. Through a wealth of examples, Andersen tells us how Americans have indulged in some far-fetched fantasies in their excuses for gun ownership, slavery and new religions.

Who should read Fantasyland?

  • Students of American history
  • Readers interested in politics or current affairs
  • Anyone skeptical of American culture

7
Black History Books: The Soul of America by Jon Meacham

The Soul of America

Jon Meacham
The Battle for Our Better Angels
4.2 (66 ratings)
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What's The Soul of America about?

The Soul of America (2018) takes readers on an enlightening tour of America’s tumultuous past. From the final moments of the Civil War to the long overdue civil rights and voting legislation of the 1960s, the book reveals the United States for what it has always been: a nation of deep and lasting conflict. By looking to America’s past, we can see both where today’s political divides stem from and why the nation will likely be able to persevere.

Who should read The Soul of America?

  • Readers eager for perspective on current events
  • Students of history and politics
  • Fans of historical insight

8
Black History Books: Songs of America by Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw

Songs of America

Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw
Patriotism, Protest, and the Music That Made a Nation
4.0 (28 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
00:00

What's Songs of America about?

Songs of America (2019) explores the music that has shaped American History. From African American spirituals to Elvis Presley’s rock and roll, these blinks shine a light on the music that has defined the progress, defeats and protests of Americans from all walks of life, over the last three centuries. 

Who should read Songs of America?

  • History buffs looking for a fresh perspective
  • Music geeks seeking a deeper understanding of song in America’s political struggles
  • Social justice warriors hoping for inspiration

9
Black History Books: A History of Nigeria by Toyin Falola

A History of Nigeria

Toyin Falola
4.5 (117 ratings)
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What's A History of Nigeria about?

A History of Nigeria (2008) documents the millennia-long history of the areas that make up the modern nation of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country. Going on an epic journey from the region’s precolonial past right up to the country’s recent transition toward democracy, the authors document the riveting history of a nation and, of course, its people – whose future looks bright.

Who should read A History of Nigeria?

  • Students of history, international relations or politics
  • Curious individuals wanting to discover the riveting story of Africa’s most populous nation
  • Nigerians – or people of Nigerian descent – who would like to learn more about the country’s history

10
Black History Books: Black and British by David Olusoga

Black and British

David Olusoga
A Forgotten History
4.4 (154 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
00:00

What's Black and British about?

Black and British (2016) traces Britain’s long and complex relationship with the people of Africa and the Caribbean. Reaching all the way back to Roman Britain, when the first Africans arrived in England, the book reveals that Black people have been at the heart of British history from the very start. A major player in the transatlantic slave trade, Britain further entwined its destiny with that of the Africans it enslaved. Ultimately, David Olusoga illustrates how the story of Black Britain is the story of all of Britain. 

Who should read Black and British?

  • History buffs interested in a deeper insight into British history
  • Cultural enthusiasts eager to learn more about the African diaspora
  • Scholars interested in uncovering marginalized histories and stories

11
Black History Books: Four Hundred Souls by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain

Four Hundred Souls

Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain
A COMMUNITY HISTORY OF AFRICAN AMERICA, 1619–2019
4.3 (69 ratings)
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What's Four Hundred Souls about?

Four Hundred Souls (2021) is an innovative and insightful recounting of African American history. This collection brings together ninety different authors to reflect on four-hundred years of struggle, oppression, and hope.

Who should read Four Hundred Souls?

  • Americans curious to explore their country’s layered history
  • Politically engaged thinkers wishing to understand the roots of current issues
  • Anyone who wants more insight into the Black experience

12
Black History Books: The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois

The Souls of Black Folk

W.E.B. Du Bois
4.4 (93 ratings)
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What's The Souls of Black Folk about?

The Souls of Black Folk (1903) details the conditions of African Americans in the years after the end of slavery. By examining issues such as education, economic opportunities, and the interaction between Black and White Americans, Du Bois highlights the challenging legacy of slavery and the disempowering effects of the racism and segregation that followed.

Who should read The Souls of Black Folk?

  • People interested in African American history
  • Those who want to better understand race relations in America
  • People interested in sociology

13
Black History Books: The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

The Warmth of Other Suns

Isabel Wilkerson
The Epic Story of America's Great Migration
4.4 (99 ratings)
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What's The Warmth of Other Suns about?

The Warmth of Other Suns (2010) tells the story of the Great Migration – the biggest inner-border mass migration in US history. From 1915 to 1970, millions of Black Americans left the Jim Crow South in search of a better life in Northern cities. Focusing on the lives of three of those migrants, these blinks paint a vivid picture of the fears, hopes, and dreams that shaped the movement.

Who should read The Warmth of Other Suns?

  • Curious minds who want to learn about an underexplored chapter of US history
  • Fans of biographical and eyewitness accounts of the past
  • Anyone interested in the social and demographic forces that shaped America

14
Black History Books: Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

Caste

Isabel Wilkerson
The Origins of Our Discontents
4.5 (279 ratings)
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What's Caste about?

Caste (2020) takes a revealing look at the caste system that continues to exist in American society, and its disturbing similarities to caste systems in India and WWII-era Germany. It explains how the attitudes of the dominant castes have become ingrained, on conscious and subconscious levels, through generations of subjugation. You’ll find out what it takes to maintain a caste system as well as what can be done to break free from it.

Who should read Caste?

  • People interested in American politics
  • History buffs
  • Those curious about how inequality can persist in a society

15
Black History Books: Begin Again by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.

Begin Again

Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.
James Baldwin's America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own
4.5 (46 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
00:00

What's Begin Again about?

Begin Again (2020) looks back at the incomparable work of the writer James Baldwin, who spent decades dissecting America’s fundamental racism problem. His ideas may provide insights for us today, so Begin Again seeks to answer the question: What advice would Baldwin have on issues like Trumpism or Black Lives Matter?

Who should read Begin Again?

  • Supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement
  • People longing for a less hypocritical America
  • Anyone seeking an end to Trumpism

16
Black History Books: Vanguard by Martha S. Jones

Vanguard

Martha S. Jones
How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All
4.3 (21 ratings)
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What's Vanguard about?

Vanguard (2020) is a history of the struggle for justice in the United States, told from the perspective of the African American women who were so often at its cutting edge. In these blinks, we’ll see how these women defied racism and sexism in their quest to create a society that lived up to the ideals of the American Revolution. Along the way, we’ll explore the complicated alliances, heroic grassroots organizations, and remarkable individuals who won Black women the vote and forged a biracial democracy.

Who should read Vanguard?

  • Activists and campaigners
  • History buffs
  • Scholars and students

17
Black History Books: Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man

Emmanuel Acho
4.4 (54 ratings)
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What's Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man about?

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man (2020) is an introduction to race and race-related issues in America. Talking about these issues can be uncomfortable, but by being unafraid of dialogue, we can learn that the difficulties Black people in America face today are best understood through US history.

Who should read Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man?

  • White people looking to understand the conversation around racism
  • Concerned citizens who want to make a difference
  • American history enthusiasts

18
Black History Books: The Black Church by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

The Black Church

Henry Louis Gates Jr.
This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song
4.3 (66 ratings)
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What's The Black Church about?

The Black Church (2021) tells the story of Christianity in the Black community, from the conversion of enslaved people in the 1600s to the founding of Black denominations and today’s COVID-19 pandemic. The book highlights how the Black church evolved over centuries, and the various social and political roles it has played. 

Who should read The Black Church?

  • People interested in the culture and history of African American people
  • Those curious about religious history
  • Anyone interested in sociology

19
Black History Books: How the Word Is Passed by Clint Smith

How the Word Is Passed

Clint Smith
A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America
4.5 (163 ratings)
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What's How the Word Is Passed about?

How the Word Is Passed (2021) is a travelogue that underscores how slavery has shaped America’s collective history and its reality today. Nine locations serve as gateways to important stories that are hidden in plain sight. They exemplify how communities have reckoned, or not, with their roles in the history of slavery and invite us all to dig deeper into what we believe – and why.

Who should read How the Word Is Passed?

  • Anyone who wants to better understand America’s relationship with slavery
  • Community members seeking historical context on Black Lives Matter
  • Activists and history buffs interested in how the past informs the present

20
Black History Books: The 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones

The 1619 Project

Nikole Hannah-Jones
A New Origin Story
4.1 (648 ratings)
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What's The 1619 Project about?

The 1619 Project (2021) is an anthology of essays investigating the origins of the slave trade in America, and how it has shaped what the country would become. It’s also an exploration of how we create history, and how these stories shape our political present. The essays are accompanied by fictional excerpts and poetry, bringing to life the experiences of enslaved people in America.

Who should read The 1619 Project?

  • History-lovers interested in learning more about cutting-edge research from the 1619 Project. 
  • Americans wanting to learn about how the slave trade has shaped their country.
  • Anyone wanting to understand the roots of institutional racism, and how to fight white supremacy.

21
Black History Books: Forget the Alamo by Bryan Burrough, Chris Tomlinson and Jason Stanford

Forget the Alamo

Bryan Burrough, Chris Tomlinson and Jason Stanford
The Rise and Fall of an American Myth
4.0 (123 ratings)
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What's Forget the Alamo about?

Forget the Alamo (2021) charts the history of the Alamo, both real and imagined. It looks at how a popular, heroic mythology sprung from the events of 1836 and came to represent both a noble version of Texas independence and a metaphor for American valor. Find out how the Alamo became a touchstone in American culture wars, and discover how the real story paints a not-so-virtuous picture of American history.

Who should read Forget the Alamo?

  • History buffs
  • People who enjoy Wild West stories 
  • Anyone who thinks they’re familiar with the story of the Alamo

22
Black History Books: Women, Race & Class by Angela Y. Davis

Women, Race & Class

Angela Y. Davis
4.5 (146 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
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What's Women, Race & Class about?

Women, Race and Class (1981) is a collection of essays that expose how racism, sexism, and classism intertwined in the struggle for women’s suffrage in the United States. With special emphasis on the historical missteps of the mainstream feminist movement, it charts a path for an anti-racist and anti-classist feminism. 

Who should read Women, Race & Class?

  • Feminists looking to understand intersectionality more deeply
  • History buffs
  • Anyone invested in the ongoing struggle for justice

23
Black History Books: And There Was Light by Jon Meacham

And There Was Light

Jon Meacham
Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle
4.6 (76 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
00:00

What's And There Was Light about?

And There Was Light (2022) is a biography of Abraham Lincoln that takes a nuanced look at a complex leader. Focusing especially on Lincoln’s evolving views on and actions around slavery, it’s a picture of a man who wrestled with his moral convictions while attempting to hold together a divided nation. Echoes of that struggle still ring out today, making it essential to keep Lincoln’s story at the forefront of American consciousness.

Who should read And There Was Light?

  • American history enthusiasts
  • People interested in controversial historical figures
  • Budding political pundits looking to add to their historical knowledge

24
Black History Books: The Making of Modern South Africa by Nigel Worden

The Making of Modern South Africa

Nigel Worden
The Making of Modern South Africa
4.7 (188 ratings)
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What's The Making of Modern South Africa about?

The Making of Modern South Africa (2012) traces the history of South Africa from the colonial conquests of the eighteenth century to the birth of an inclusive democracy in 1994. Along the way, it unpacks how struggles over land, natural resources, and belonging shaped the country’s development. 

Who should read The Making of Modern South Africa?

  • Historians 
  • Politics buffs
  • Anyone interested in race and equality

25
Black History Books: Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King

Devil in the Grove

Gilbert King
Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America
4.6 (10 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
00:00

What's Devil in the Grove about?

Devil in the Grove (2012) tells the true story of four young Black men falsely accused of rape in 1949 Florida. It follows lawyer Thurgood Marshall’s tireless efforts to save their lives in the face of racial hatred, obstruction, violence, and injustice at every turn. Ultimately, Marshall exposed devastating flaws in the case, achieving some semblance of justice despite a system aligned against the defendants. 

Who should read Devil in the Grove?

  • People interested in the Groveland case
  • Those curious about Thurgood Marshall’s legal career
  • Anyone who wants to learn more about the history of racial injustice in the US

26
Black History Books: King by Jonathan Eig

King

Jonathan Eig
A Life
4.6 (154 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
00:00

What's King about?

King (2023) is a compelling biography of Martin Luther King. It tells the story of a man, not a saint, who had a remarkable career. His life was cut short at the age of 39, but in his 13-year career King’s vision of a United States based on equality and justice for all, lives on.

Who should read King?

  • History lovers particularly interested in the history of social justice movements
  • Civil rights activists and advocates inspired by King’s life and strategies
  • Inspiration seekers wanting to learn from a story of struggle, resilience, and monumental impact

27
Black History Books: 12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

12 Years a Slave

Solomon Northup
4.7 (9 ratings)
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What's 12 Years a Slave about?

12 Years a Slave (1853) is a harrowing tale of Northup's abduction into slavery and his fight for freedom. It's a raw account of the brutalities of slave life and an insightful documentation of the American slave trade's inhumane practices.

Who should read 12 Years a Slave?

  • History enthusiasts
  • Abolitionist supporters
  • Human rights advocates

28
Black History Books: What Napoleon Could Not Do by DK Nnuro

What Napoleon Could Not Do

DK Nnuro
3.9 (65 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
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What's What Napoleon Could Not Do about?

What Napoleon Could Not Do (2023) explores the contrasting experiences of two Ghanaians, Jacob and Belinda, and their aspirations in the United States. Jacob, an awkward computer programmer who still lives with his father, wants to join his wife in America but is foiled by visa denials. His sister, Belinda, meanwhile, has studied in the US and married an American – Wilder, a prosperous Black Texan businessman. But she, too, contends with disappointment: as she waits for her green card, her perception of America is soured by racism. Their journeys reflect the allure and letdowns of life in a foreign land, and the narrative insightfully captures how each grapples with dreams both realized and thwarted.

Who should read What Napoleon Could Not Do?

  • Readers interested in immigrant experiences
  • Fans of emotional family dramas
  • Anyone who loves character-driven stories

29
Black History Books: All the Sinners Bleed by S. A. Cosby

All the Sinners Bleed

S. A. Cosby
A Novel
4.2 (14 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
00:00

What's All the Sinners Bleed about?

All the Sinners Bleed (2023) is a work of crime fiction, focused on main character Titus Crown’s efforts to investigate several recent killings in his hometown. To solve the crime, Crown must contend with the town’s racist history, a far-right group, and a long-undiscovered serial killer.

Who should read All the Sinners Bleed?

  • Anyone interested in an action-filled crime novel
  • Readers looking to explore the lingering effects of racism in the American South 
  • Fans of modern-day noir fiction

30
Black History Books: Native Son by Richard Wright

Native Son

Richard Wright
3.8 (5 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
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What's Native Son about?

First released in 1940, Native Son tackles the brutal realities of living in a racially prejudiced society. Through its protagonist's story, it illustrates the devastating and tragic effects that systemic oppression can have on an individual.

Who should read Native Son?

  •  Fans of social realism
  •  Readers interested in racial themes
  •  Followers of American literature

31
Black History Books: Sula by Toni Morrison

Sula

Toni Morrison
A Novel
4.0 (76 ratings)
Listen to the Intro
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What's Sula about?

Sula (1973) invites you into the lives of Sula Peace and Nel Wright, childhood friends whose lives take sharply different paths. Their story explores friendship, betrayal, and identity, as well as examining life in a quiet African American town in the 1920s.

Who should read Sula?

  • Avid readers of literary masterpieces
  • Anyone interested in themes of race, gender, or identity
  • Enthusiasts of African American history and culture

32
Black History Books: Malcolm X by Manning Marable

Malcolm X

Manning Marable
A Life of Reinvention

What's Malcolm X about?

This biography offers a comprehensive and insightful look into the life of Malcolm X, a prominent figure in the civil rights movement. Drawing on extensive research and interviews, Marable delves into Malcolm X's transformation from a troubled youth to a powerful advocate for black empowerment, while also examining the complexities of his beliefs and the impact of his legacy. It provides a thought-provoking analysis of a man who continues to inspire and challenge societal norms.

Who should read Malcolm X?

  • Individuals interested in the life and legacy of Malcolm X
  • Readers seeking a comprehensive understanding of the Civil Rights Movement
  • Those looking to explore the complexities of racial identity and social justice

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Black History Books
 FAQs 

What's the best Black History book to read?

While choosing just one book about a topic is always tough, many people regard The Black Jacobins as the ultimate read on Black History.

What are the Top 10 Black History books?

Blinkist curators have picked the following:
  • The Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James
  • Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
  • A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
  • Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi
  • Fantasyland by Kurt Andersen
  • The Soul of America by Jon Meacham
  • Songs of America by Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw
  • A History of Nigeria by Toyin Falola
  • Black and British by David Olusoga

Who are the top Black History book authors?

When it comes to Black History, these are the authors who stand out as some of the most influential:
  • C.L.R. James
  • Nelson Mandela
  • Bryan Stevenson
  • Howard Zinn
  • Ibram X. Kendi