Taylor & Francis | The Best Black History Books You Should Read
The history of Black people worldwide is vast, stretching across continents and centuries, yet it has often been shrouded in misinformation and rooted in oppression. Great leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. have challenged these norms, catalyzing change through nonviolent resistance and inspirational leadership.
However, as the age-old saying goes, “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.” It’s crucial to explore Black History to shape a better future for the Black community and the world. Reading books penned by Black authors offers a richer understanding and a critical perspective often missing from mainstream accounts. In our commitment to addressing this imbalance, we have collated a list of suggested Black history books that we think you'll love and will enlighten, enrich, and educate you on the diverse stories of Black people.
Continuing in that vein, it is currently Black History Month in the UK. This month serves as an annual time to reflect on the past and present while commemorating the achievements and accolades of Black Britons throughout history. In the United States, every President since 1976 has designated February for this purpose — and so have other nations, such as Canada. However, in the UK, October has been allocated to celebrate the rich history and cultural contributions of Black individuals.
To celebrate Black History Month in the UK, we spoke with Shawn Sobers, Professor of Cultural Interdisciplinary Practice at the University of the West of England and author of the new book Black Everyday Lives, Material Culture and Narrative: Tings in de House, about why Black Britain needs this book.
The history of Black people in the UK is a rich and significant narrative that has evolved over centuries. One pivotal chapter in this story is the Windrush generation, which refers to the thousands of Caribbean immigrants who arrived in the United Kingdom between 1948 and 1971, primarily on the HMT Empire Windrush ship. These individuals were 'invited' to help rebuild post-war Britain and contribute to various sectors, including healthcare, transportation, and education.
However, their welcome by the British natives on arrival was less inviting. The Brixton riots in the 1980s were a significant turning point in the ongoing struggle for racial equality in the United Kingdom. These events were rooted in the mistreatment of Black people during the 1950s and1960s and the infamous New Cross fire of 1981. In the 1950s and 1960s, Black communities faced systemic discrimination, racial prejudice, and unequal treatment. This era witnessed the arrival of the Windrush generation, who, despite their vital contributions to the country, often endured institutional racism, housing discrimination, and limited employment opportunities.
The New Cross fire in 1981, which claimed the lives of 13 young Black individuals, intensified long-standing frustrations within the Black community. The subsequent Brixton riots were a visceral response to these injustices, prompting a reevaluation of race relations in the UK. Despite all this adversity, the African-Carribeans who migrated to Britain have an enduring presence in the UK that has left an indelible mark on British society, enriching its cultural fabric. The Windrush generation's struggles and achievements have played a crucial role in shaping the United Kingdom's multicultural identity and serve as a reminder of the ongoing fight for racial equality and social justice.
This compelling history not only underscores the resilience and determination of Black communities in the UK but also highlights the imperative of preserving and commemorating their legacy for future generations.
Black Everyday Lives, Material Culture and Narrative Tings in de House.
This book is a ground-breaking exploration of everyday life as experienced through the lens of Black British cultural history and creative practice through a multiplicity of voices and writing styles. The structure of Black Everyday Lives, Material Culture, and Narrative examines life through a personal study of the family home – room by room, object by object – as a portal through which to examine the intricacies and nuances of daily considerations of African heritage people living in Britain in the modern era (post-1950).
Imagining Home: Gender, Race and National Identity, 1945-1964 is a powerful examination of ideas and images of home in Britain during a period of national decline and loss of imperial power. Exploring the legacy of empire in imaginings of the nation during a period of decolonization after 1945, it is has become one of the outstanding books about the relationship between gender, race and national identity.
Invisible Voices: The Black Presence in Crime and Punishment in the UK, 1750–1900.
Silencing is an insidious way of suppressing and preventing the expression of truth. Unfortunately, black people have often been silenced, unheard, and left feeling invisible. Throughout history, the many injustices inflicted upon black men in the areas of crime and punishment have been staggering. Far too many black men have been wrongfully accused, imprisoned, or killed for crimes they did not commit.
The Routledge Companion to Black Women's Cultural Histories (Choice OAT Winner) offers an illuminating journey through the rich tapestry of Black women's cultural contributions. This groundbreaking book delves into the vibrant narratives, achievements, and experiences of Black women, shedding light on their pivotal role in shaping history and culture. Dive into a comprehensive exploration of the multifaceted aspects of Black women's cultural histories, from literature and art to politics and activism. Discover how this Choice OAT Winner serves as an essential resource for scholars, students, and enthusiasts, offering fresh insights and critical perspectives on a vital yet often overlooked aspect of our shared cultural heritage.
The Routledge Companion to Black Women's Cultural Histories (Choice OAT Winner).
An unscrupulous trend that isn't discussed enough is the ongoing and unfair practice of taking work, ideas, and creative genius from Black women without adequately crediting them. Although sadly, this is not a new practice, many black women have, throughout history, felt ignored and overlooked. The media, music, and art often depict black women in demeaning and unfair ways.
We spoke with S.R. Toliver, author, researcher and assistant professor of Literacy and Secondary Humanities, about the importance of Black representation in literature. Learn how her experiences as a young reader helped shape her passion for writing and discover why she believes speculative fiction can offer the bit of hope new generations of Black readers need and deserve.
When we talk about celebrating British black history, we immediately think of the important figures we know about from the past and present, from Mary Seacole and Frederick Douglass to Lewis Hamilton. Or we look to the cultural recognitions made, with popular events like Notting Hill Carnival now a central part of British tradition. Often the 'starting point' of black British history is considered the arrival of the Windrush generation in 1948 but of course, black people have been present for hundreds of years in British history.
We talk to British author, theater director, cultural activist, and criminologist Martin Glynn about his experiences. From being a mixed raced child in a white family and community and his work with black offenders in prisons, to the impact our mis-told history still has on us all today: The famous Marcus Garvey said 'an individual without knowledge of their history is like a tree without roots'. Well, Black Britons have no knowledge of the history that oppressed them really because they didn't write it. Because they were oppressed.
More people like me need to write, says Martin. For me, the politics of this is not just to represent diversity in terms of your published one or two black people. But in the way, it understands diverse narratives and the way they're presented. But you know what I realize is, many black people never get a legacy - all the people in my book died before they could bring their legacy through.
Let's look at the numbers. According to the most recent statistics on the matter, there were over 10,727 registered Black authors and writers in 2020. This marked the first time the number crossed the 10,000 threshold, a significant leap from the stagnant figures that hovered around 8,900 for several years before 2020. In fact, since 2014, the number of Black authors has increased by 21.88%, a rise that is predominantly attributable to the gains made during 2020 alone. This surge can likely be linked to the awakening caused by tragedies like George Floyd’s tragedy and the Black Lives Matter movement, propelling a conscious drive to amplify Black voices.
But why does this matter? Diverse narratives are integral to shaping a more inclusive cultural fabric. They foster empathy, broaden understanding and provide different lenses through which we view the world. These stories not only represent an underheard majority but also act as catalysts for societal change. And in a world that so often systemically overshadows Black voices, this increase, although a small step, calls for more sustained efforts to rebalance the scales.
There is momentum, but it's just the beginning. The number of Black authors may be rising, yet the journey toward truly equitable representation remains long and fraught. But with each added voice, each published book, we get closer to a publishing world that fully reflects the complexity and diversity of human experience.
Continue Exploring Black History With Routledge
The stories we tell, the histories we acknowledge, and the voices we amplify all shape our collective consciousness. By enriching our understanding of Black history, we are laying the groundwork for a more equitable future. So, what's your next step in this educational journey? We at Routledge are committed to being part of the solution by offering a well-curated list of reads designed to enlighten, enrich, and educate. Dive deeper into the stories that have influenced today's world.