Black History Month Reading List Series (P2): Autobiography and Non-Fiction

What’s the word Squares!? One of our followers suggested that we create a Black History Month Reading List for our fan base. Due to the large volume of literature about or written by people of African Descent, we have broken down the list into the three major parts: Classics, Autobiography/Non Fiction, and Fiction/Entertainment. This post is the second installment of the BHMRL Series! Below are the book name and general descriptions (taken from Amazon.com). So without further ado…

1. Born to Rebel: Benjamin E. Mays
“Born the son of a sharecropper in 1894 near Ninety Six, South Carolina, Benjamin E. Mays went on to serve as president of Morehouse College for twenty-seven years and as the first president of the Atlanta School Board. His earliest memory, of a lynching party storming through his county, taunting but not killing his father, became for Mays an enduring image of black-white relations in the South. Born to Rebel is the moving chronicle of his life, a story that interlaces achievement with the rebuke he continually confronted.”


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2. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustavus Vassa, The African by Olaudah Equiano
“An exciting and often terrifying adventure story, as well as an important precursor to such famous nineteenth-century slave narratives as Frederick Douglass’s autobiographies, Olaudah Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative recounts his kidnapping in Africa at the age of ten, his service as the slave of an officer in the British Navy, his ten years of labor on slave ships until he was able to purchase his freedom in 1766, and his life afterward as a leading and respected figure in the antislavery movement in England. A spirited autobiography, a tale of spiritual quest and fulfillment, and a sophisticated treatise on religion, politics, and economics, The Interesting Narrative is a work of enduring literary and historical value.”

3. Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama 

“Dreams from My Father tells the story of Obama’s struggle to understand the forces that shaped him as the son of a black African father and white American mother—a struggle that takes him from the American heartland to the ancestral home of his great-aunt in the tiny African village of Alego.” 


4.Five Black Lives: The Autobiographies of Venture Smith, James Mars, William Grimes, The Rev. G. W. Offley, and James L. Smith Contributed/Edited by Arna Botemps
“Five Black Lives is a collection of ex-slave narratives which spans 150 years in time, from 1729 to 1870, and some thousands of miles in geographical area from Africa to Connecticut. The autobiographies include the lives of Venture Smith, a native of Africa who ended his days as a resident of East Haddam, Connecticut; James Mars, born a slave near Norfolk, Connecticut in 1790, and freed at twenty-five by state law; William Grimes, a native of Virginia, who became Connecticut’s first known runway when he arrived in New Haven about 1808; G.W. Offley, from Maryland, who was bought free by his father and later settled in Hartford; and James L. Smith, of Virginia birth, who escaped from slavery and settled in Norwich, Connecticut.”–Victor B. Howard, The New England Quarterly”

5. I Wonder as I Wander: An Autobiographical Journey by Langston Hughes
“In I Wonder as I Wander, Langston Hughes vividly recalls the most dramatic and intimate moments of his life in the turbulent 1930s. His wanderlust leads him to Cuba, Haiti, Russia, Soviet Central Asia, Japan, Spain (during its Civil War), through dictatorships, wars, revolutions. He meets and brings to life the famous and the humble, from Arthur Koestler to Emma, the Black Mammy of Moscow. It is the continuously amusing, wise revelation of an American writer journeying around the often strange and always exciting world he loves.”


6. Fleeing for Freedom: Stories of the Underground Railroad as Told by Levi Coffin and William Still Edited by Willene Hendrick and George Hendrick

“Published to coincide with Black History Month and the opening of the new Underground Railroad Museum in Cincinnati, Fleeing for Freedomincludes selected narratives from the two most important contemporary chroniclers of the Underground Railroad, Levi Coffin and William Still. Here are firsthand descriptions of the experiences of escaped slaves making their way to freedom in the North and in Canada in the years before the Civil War. George and Willene Hendrick have chosen a broad range of stories to reflect the strategies, tactics, heartbreak, and dangers—for both the slaves and the “conductors”—of the secret network.”

7. Frederick Douglass : Autobiographies : Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave / My Bondage and My Freedom / Life and Times of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
“Frederick Douglass, born a slave, educated himself, escaped, and made himself one of the greatest leaders in American history. His brilliant anti-slavery speeches were so fiercely intelligent, and so startlingly eloquent, that many people didn’t believe he had been a slave. To prove them wrong, Douglass decided to write his own story. His autobiographical narratives stunned the world, and have shocked, moved, and inspired readers ever since. Here, complete for the first time in one authoritative volume, are the three powerful and gripping stories, now recognized as classics of American writing. Fascinating firsthand accounts of slavery and abolitionism, John Brown and Abraham Lincoln, Civil War, Reconstruction, and the emerging struggle for civil rights, they are above all the inspiring story of a self-made American: a slave who became adviser to the President, minister to Haiti, and the most influential black American of the nineteenth century.”


8. Black Boy by Richard Wright 
“Richard Wright grew up in the woods of Mississippi, with poverty, hunger, fear, and hatred. He lied, stole, and raged at those around him; at six he was a “drunkard,” hanging about taverns. Surly, brutal, cold, suspicious, and self-pitying, he was surrounded on one side by whites who were either indifferent to him, pitying, or cruel, and on the other by blacks who resented anyone trying to rise above the common lot. Black Boy is Richard Wright’s powerful account of his journey from innocence to experience in the Jim Crow South. It is at once an unashamed confession and a profound indictment—a poignant and disturbing record of social injustice and human suffering.”

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9. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

“Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age–and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns about love for herself and the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.”

Go to AMAZON for more
                                                                                                                                                  

We bet some you might be thinking…reading? Ain’t nobody got time for that! (LOL) BUT it’s important that we educate ourselves about our history. We cannot appreciate where we come from, where we are, and where we are going without educating ourselves in and OUTSIDE of the classroom. And for our Squares on the broker side of life, don’t be put off by the thought of having to purchase books, remember…the local library ain’t never hurt a soul.

Feel free to share classic novels not listed in the comments section!  

HAPPY READING EVERYONE!


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