Black History Month Reads

Every February since its inception in 1976, Black History Month has reminded us about the importance of the struggles, contributions, and achievements of African Americans throughout history. In celebration of Black History Month, here is a selection of novels about African Americans – both real and fictional – written by African American authors:

Dear Martin by Nic Stone – Profiled by a racist police officer in spite of his excellent academic achievements, a disgruntled college youth navigates the prejudices of new classmates and his crush on a white girl by writing a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the hopes that his role model’s teachings will be applicable half a century later.

Black Water Rising by Attica Locke – When African-American lawyer Jay Porter jumps into the bayou to save a drowning white woman in Houston, Texas, in 1981, he finds his practice and life in danger when he becomes embroiled in a murder investigation involving Houston’s elite.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – After Cora, a slave in pre-Civil War Georgia, escapes with another slave, Caesar, they seek the help of the Underground Railroad as they flee from state to state and try to evade a slave catcher, Ridgeway, who is determined to return them to the South.

The Sellout by Paul Beatty – After his down-trodden hometown is removed from the map of California to save the state further embarrassment, a young man undertakes a course of action to draw attention to the town, resulting in a racially charged trial that sends him to the Supreme Court.

Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay – Centers on the efforts by Harlem intelligentsia to organize support for the liberation of fascist-controlled Ethiopia.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler – In 2025 California, an 18-year-old African American woman, suffering from a hereditary trait that causes her to feel others’ pain as well as her own, flees northward from her small community and its desperate savages.

Negroland by Margo Jefferson – A highly personal meditation on race, sex, and American culture traces the author’s upbringing and education in upper-class African-American circles against a backdrop of the Civil Rights era and its aftermath.

What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi – A collection of stories features entries about literal and metaphorical keys that open or shut the fates of lovers, the heart of a puppeteering student, and the doors of a house of locks that holds unobservable developments.

About Abby Harris

Abby is the Public Communications Specialist for JMRL.

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