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Black History Month 2024: New Non Fiction Reads

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Black History Month 2024: New Non Fiction Reads

black history nf reads 2024

Black History Month is an annual celebration honoring the triumphs and struggles of African Americans throughout U.S. history and celebrating their rich cultural heritage.

The 2024 theme is “African Americans and the Arts” spanning the many impacts Black Americans have had on visual arts, music, cultural movements, and more. 

Discover more about African American history, heritage and culture with these new nonfiction reads all available to borrow with your Livingston Library card. 

afrofuturism

Afrofuturism : A History of Black Futures

In this fascinating, eye-popping collection of essays and imagery, the companion volume to an exhibition at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Strait, Conwill, and their collaborators display the range of art, literature, and music that defines the Afrofuturist aesthetic. Whether it’s the Mothership gracing the cover of a Parliament Funkadelic album, Jordan Peele’s mashup of alien horror and civil rights drama in Lovecraft Country, or Marvel’s Black Panther techno fantasy, Afrofuturism confronts the racist fiction of white superiority with the liberatory imagination of a world and universe where Black people thrive. 

An Amerikan Family : The Shakurs and the Nation They Created by Santi Elijah Holley

A history of the rise and lasting impact of Black liberation groups in America, as seen through the Shakurs, one of the movement’s most prominent and fiercely creative families, home to Tupac and Assata, and a powerful incubator for today’s activism, scholarship, and artistry.

The Art of Ruth E. Carter : Costuming Black History and the Afrofuture, From Do the Right Thing to Black Panther by Ruth E. Carter

Ruth E. Carter is a living legend of costume design. For three decades, she has shaped the story of the Black experience on screen–from the ’80s streetwear of Do the Right Thing to the royal regalia of Coming 2 America. Her work on Marvel’s Black Panther and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever not only brought Afrofuturism to the mainstream, but also made her the first Black winner of an Oscar in costume design and the first Black woman to win two Academy Awards in any category. In 2021, she became the second-ever costume designer to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  In this definitive book, Carter shares her origins–recalling a trip to the sporting goods store with Spike Lee to outfit the School Daze cast and a transformative moment stepping inside history on the set of Steven Spielberg’s Amistad. She recounts anecdotes from dressing the greats: Eddie Murphy, Samuel L. Jackson, Angela Bassett, Halle Berry, Chadwick Boseman, and many more. She describes the passion for history that inspired her period pieces–from Malcolm X to What’s Love Got to Do With It–and her journey into Afrofuturism.

Becoming Ella Fitzgerald : the Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song by Judith Tick

A landmark biography that reclaims Ella Fitzgerald as a major American artist and modernist innovator.

Black Ball : Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Spencer Haywood, and the Generation That Saved the Soul of the NBA by Theresa Runstedtler 

Against the backdrop of ongoing massive resistance to racial desegregation and increasingly strident calls for Black Power, the NBA in the 1970s embodied the nation’s imagined descent into disorder. The press and the public blamed young Black players for the chaos in the NBA, citing drugs, violence, greed, and criminality. The supposed decline of pro basketball became a metaphor for the first decades of integration in America: the rules of the game had changed, allowing more Black people onto a formerly white playing field, and now they were ruining everything. But Black Ball argues that this much-maligned period was pivotal to the rise of the NBA as the star-laden powerhouse we know today, thanks largely to the efforts of Black players in challenging the white basketball establishment of owners, coaches, and spectators. Spotlighting legendary players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bernard King, and Connie Hawkins, scholar Runstedtler expertly rewrites basketball’s “Dark Ages,” weaving together her deep knowledge of the game’s key icons and institutions with incisive social and political analysis of the era.

Black Earth Wisdom : Soulful Conversations with Black Environmentalists

A soulful collection of illuminating essays and interviews that explore Black people’s spiritual and scientific connection to the land, waters, and climate, curated by the acclaimed author of Farming While Black.

black rodeo

Black Rodeo : A History of the African American Western by Mia Mask

African American westerns have a rich cinematic history and visual culture. Mask examines the African American western hero within the larger context of film history by considering how Black westerns evolved and approached wide-ranging goals. Woody Strode’s 1950s transformation from football star to actor was the harbinger of hard-edged western heroes later played by Jim Brown and Fred Williamson. Sidney Poitier’s Buck and the Preacher provided a narrative helmed by a groundbreaking African American director and offered unconventionally rich roles for women. Mask moves from these discussions to consider blaxploitation westerns and an analysis of Jeff Kanew’s hard-to-find 1972 documentary about an all-Black rodeo. The book addresses how these movies set the stage for modern-day westploitation films like Django Unchained.

Black TV : Five Decades of Groundbreaking Television From Soul Train to Black-ish and Beyond by Bethonie Butler

The first of its kind, this illustrated gift book, written by veteran Washington Post TV reporter Butler, is a comprehensive look at the rich history of groundbreaking–and often underappreciated–television shows with leading Black characters from the last fifty years.

Black Women Taught Us by Jenn M. Jackson

A love letter to those who have been minimized and forgotten, this collection repositions Black women’s intellectual and political work at the center of today’s liberation movements. Across thirteen original essays that explore the legacy and work of Black women writers and leaders–from Harriet Jacobs and Ida B. Wells to the Combahee River Collective and Audre Lorde–Jackson sets the record straight about Black women’s longtime movement organizing, theorizing, and coalition building in the name of racial, gender, and sexual justice in the United States and abroad. These essays show, in both critical and deeply personal terms, how Black women have been at the center of modern liberation movements, despite the erasure and misrecognition of their efforts.

Black Writers of the Founding Era 1760-1800

For too long, African Americans have been left out of the story of the nation’s founding, their voices absent from the memory and celebration of the creation of the American republic. The writings gathered here reveal the complexity and dynamism of African American life and culture in the period and show how the principles of the American Revolution were seized upon and enlarged by Black Americans from the very beginning. Here are writers both enslaved and free, loyalist and patriot, women and men, Northern and Southern: soldiers, seamen, and veterans; painters, poets, and preachers; cooks, hairdressers, farmers, and many more. Alongside such better known works as Phillis Wheatley’s poems and Benjamin Banneker’s mathematical and scientific puzzles are dozens of first-person narratives offering a variety of Black perspectives on the political events of the times.

Blackbirds Singing : Inspiring Black Women’s Speeches From the Civil War to the Twenty-First Century by Janet Dewart Bell

An uplifting collection of speeches by African American women, curated by civil and human rights activist, scholar, and author Bell. These magnificent speakers explore ethics, morality, courage, authenticity, and leadership, and Bell’s substantive introductions provide rich new context for each woman’s speech, highlighting Black women speaking truth to power in service of freedom and justice.

Blk Art : the Audacious Legacy of Black Artists and Models in Western Art by Zaria Ware

A fun and fact-filled introduction to the dismissed Black art masters and models who shook up the world.  Quietly held within museum and private collections around the world are hundreds of faces of Black men and women, many of their stories unknown. From paintings of majestic kings to a portrait of a young girl named Isabella in Amsterdam, these models lived diverse lives while helping shape the art world along the way. Then, after hundreds of years of Black faces cast as only the subject of the white gaze, a small group of trailblazing Black American painters and sculptors reached national and international fame, setting the stage for the flourishing of Black art in the 1920s and beyond. Captivating and informative, this  is an essential work that elevates a globally dismissed legacy to its proper place in the mainstream art canon.

cracking up

Cracking Up : Black Feminist Comedy in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Century United States by Katelyn Hale Wood

Looking closely at the work of Jackie “Moms” Mabley, Mo’Nique, Wanda Sykes, Sasheer Zamata, Sam Jay, Phoebe Robinson, Jessica Williams, and Michelle Buteau, this book shows how Black feminist comedy and the laughter it ignites are vital components of feminist, queer, and anti-racist protest. Cracking Up frames theater and live performance as an important platform from which to examine citizenship in the United States, articulate Black feminist political thought, and subvert structures of power. Wood interprets these artists not as tokens in their white/male dominated field, but as part of a continuous history of Black feminist performance and presence in the United States.

For the Culture : Phenomenal Black Women and Femmes in Food : Interviews, Inspiration, and Recipes by Klancy Miller

Chef and writer Miller found her own way by trial and error-as a pastry chef, recipe developer, author, and founder of For the Culture magazine-but what if she had known then what she knows now? What if she had known the extraordinary women profiled within these pages-entrepreneurs, chefs, food stylists, mixologists, historians, influencers, hoteliers, and more-and learned from their stories? Like Leah Penniman, a farmer using Afro-Indigenous methods to restore the land and feed her community; Ashtin Berry, an activist, sommelier, and mixologist creating radical change in the hospitality industry and beyond; or Sophia Roe, a TV host and producer showcasing the inside stories behind today’s food systems. Toni Tipton-Martin, Mashama Bailey, Carla Hall, Nicole Taylor, Dr. Jessica B. Harris . . . In this gorgeous volume these luminaries and more share the vision that drives them, the mistakes they made along the way, advice for the next generation, and treasured recipes-all accompanied by stunning original illustrated portraits and vibrant food photography.

I Saw Death Coming : A History of Terror and Survival in the War Against Reconstruction by Kidada E. Williams

The story of Reconstruction is often told from the perspective of the politicians, generals, and journalists whose accounts claim an outsized place in collective memory. But this pivotal era looked very different to African Americans in the South transitioning from bondage to freedom after 1865. They were besieged by a campaign of white supremacist violence that persisted through the 1880s and beyond. For too long, their lived experiences have been sidelined, impoverishing our understanding of the obstacles post-Civil War Black families faced, their inspiring determination to survive, and the physical and emotional scars they bore because of it. Williams offers a breakthrough account of the much-debated Reconstruction period, transporting readers into the daily existence of formerly enslaved people building hope-filled new lives. Drawing on overlooked sources and bold new readings of the archives, she offers a revelatory and, in some cases, minute-by-minute record of nighttime raids and Ku Klux Klan strikes. 

Invisible Generals by Doug Melville

The amazing true story of America’s first Black generals, Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. and Jr., a father and son who helped integrate the American military and created the Tuskegee Airmen.

Legacy : A Black Physician Reckons With Racism in Medicine by Uche Blackstock

Part searing indictment of our healthcare system, part generational family memoir, part call to action, a physician and thought leader on bias and racism in healthcare recounts her journey to finally seizing her own power as a health equity advocate against the backdrop of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Madness : Race and Insanity in a Jim Crow Asylum by Antonia Hylton

Peabody and Emmy award-winning journalist Hylton tells the 93-year-old history of Crownsville Hospital, one of the last segregated asylums with surviving records and a campus that still stands to this day in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. She blends the intimate tales of patients and employees whose lives were shaped by Crownsville with a decade-worth of investigative research and archival documents. Madness chronicles the stories of Black families whose mental health suffered as they tried, and sometimes failed, to find safety and dignity. Hylton also grapples with her own family’s experiences with mental illness, and the secrecy and shame that it reproduced for generations. 

praisesong for the kitchen ghosts

Praisesong For the Kitchen Ghosts : Stories and Recipes from Five Generations of Black Country Cooks by Crystal Wilkinson

Part food memoir, part cookbook, this Wilkinson weaves fiction with historical records, memories, and interviews to present a unique culinary portrait of Black Appalachians. Forty recipes rooted deep in the past yet full of contemporary flavor are brought to vivid life through stunning photography and beautiful illustrations.

The Survivors of the Clotilda : The Lost Stories of the Last Captives of the American Slave Trade by Hannah Durkin

An immersive and revelatory history of the Clotilda, the last slave ship to land on US soil, told through the stories of its survivors-the last documented survivors of any slave ship-whose lives diverged and intersected in profound ways.

Twice as Hard : the Stories of Black Women who Fought to Become Physicians, from the Civil War to the 21st Century by Jasmine Brown

Brown pens the long-erased stories of nine pioneering black women physicians beginning in 1860, when a black woman first entered medical school. Brown tells the stories of these doctors from the perspective of a black woman in medicine. Her journey as a medical student already has parallels to those of black women who entered medicine generations before her. What she uncovers about these women’s struggles, their need to work twice as hard and be twice as good, and their ultimate success serves as instruction and inspiration for new generations considering a career in medicine or science.

Walk Through Fire by Sheila Johnson

The co-founder of BET and first African American woman billionaire shares her deeply personal journey through love and loss, tragedy and triumph—an inspiring story of overcoming toxic influences, discovering her true self, and at last finding happiness in her work and life.

-Archana Chiplunkar, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian

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