african american non fiction

The Hidden Cost of Being African American: How Wealth Perpetuates Inequality by Thomas M. Shapiro

Over the past three decades, racial prejudice in America has declined significantly and many African American families have seen a steady rise in employment and annual income. But alongside these encouraging signs, Thomas Shapiro argues in The Hidden Cost of Being African American, fundamental levels of racial inequality persist, particularly in the area of asset accumulation–inheritance, savings accounts, stocks, bonds, home equity, and other investments.

Shapiro reveals how the lack of these family assets along with continuing racial discrimination in crucial areas like homeownership dramatically impact the everyday lives of many black families, reversing gains earned in schools and on jobs, and perpetuating the cycle of poverty in which far too many find themselves trapped.

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The Kaiser’s Holocaust: Germany’s Forgotten Genocide and the Colonial Roots of Nazism

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by David Olusoga & Casper W. Erichsen

On 12 May 1883, the German flag was raised on the coast of South-West Africa, modern Namibia - the beginnings of Germany’s African Empire. As colonial forces moved in , their ruthless punitive raids became an open war of extermination. Thousands of the indigenous people were killed or driven out into the desert to die.

By 1905, the survivors were interned in concentration camps, and systematically starved and worked to death. Years later, the people and ideas that drove the ethnic cleansing of German South West Africa would influence the formation of the Nazi party. The Kaiser’s Holocaust uncovers extraordinary links between the two regimes: their ideologies, personnel, even symbols and uniform.

The Herero and Nama genocide was deliberately concealed for almost a century. Today, as the graves of the victims are uncovered, its re-emergence challenges the belief that Nazism was an aberration in European history. “The Kaiser’s Holocaust” passionately narrates this harrowing story and explores one of the defining episodes of the twentieth century from a new angle. Moving, powerful and unforgettable, it is a story that needs to be told. [book link

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The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America

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 by Gerald Horne 

The successful 1776 revolt against British rule in North America has been hailed almost universally as a great step forward for humanity. But the Africans then residing in the colonies overwhelmingly sided with London. In this trailblazing book, Gerald Horne complements his earlier celebrated Negro Comrades of the Crown

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, by showing that in the prelude to 1776, the abolition of slavery seemed all but inevitable in London, delighting Africans as much as it outraged slaveholders, and sparking the colonial revolt.  

The so-called Revolutionary War, Horne writes, was in large part a counter-revolution, a conservative movement that the founding fathers fought in order to preserve their liberty to enslave others—and which today takes the form of a racialized conservatism and a persistent racism targeting the descendants of the enslaved. The Counter-Revolution of 1776 drives us to a radical new understanding of the traditional heroic creation myth of the United States.

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Sisters in the Struggle : African-American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement edited by Bettye Collier-Thomas and V.P. Franklin

Women were at the forefront of the civil rights struggle, but their individual stories were rarely heard. Only recently have historians begun to recognize the central role women played in the battle for racial equality.

In Sisters in the Struggle, we hear about the unsung heroes of the civil rights movements such as Ella Baker, who helped found the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, Fannie Lou Hamer, a sharecropper who took on segregation in the Democratic party (and won), and Septima Clark, who created a network of “Citizenship Schools” to teach poor Black men and women to read and write and help them to register to vote. We learn of Black women’s activism in the Black Panther Party where they fought the police, as well as the entrenched male leadership, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, where the behind-the-scenes work of women kept the organization afloat when it was under siege.

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Soldiers of Freedom: An Illustrated History of African Americans in the Armed Forces by Kai Wright

Spanning from the American Revolution to the war in Afghanistan, this long-overdue, comprehensive history covers the full scope of African Americans’ involvement in the armed forces during war and peacetime. Accompanying the informative text are 300 photographs and illustrations, most of them rare, some never before published.  [BOOK LINK]

The New Negro : Voices of the Harlem Renaissance

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 by Alain Locke 

From the man known as the father of the Harlem Renaissance comes a powerful, provocative, and affecting anthology of writers who shaped the Harlem Renaissance movement and who help us to consider the evolution of the African American in society.

With stunning works by seminal black voices such as Zora Neale Hurston, Countee Cullen, and W.E.B. DuBois, Locke has constructed a vivid look at the new negro, the changing African American finding his place in the ever shifting sociocultural landscape that was 1920s America. With poetry, prose, and nonfiction essays, this collection is widely praised for its literary strength as well as its historical coverage of a monumental and fascinating time in the history of America.

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Conflict: African American Women and the New Dilemma of Race and Gender Politics

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 by Cindy Hooper

Conflict: African American Women and the New Dilemma of Race and Gender Politics offers a provocative examination of an increasingly important voting bloc, one that impacted the 2008 election and whose loyalties will have far-reaching implications for future contests. This fascinating study is three-pronged. It explores the conflicts African American women experience in prioritizing race over gender, offers data-backed analysis of the substantial power of this bloc to influence elections, and looks at the ways in which the very existence of that influence impacts the political and social empowerment of this dual-identity population.

As background to the present-day story, the book surveys the history of African American females in elective office in the United States, as well as their roles in the Women’s Suffrage and Civil Rights movements.

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Fear of a Black Nation

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 by David Austin

In the 1960s, for at least a brief moment, Montreal became what seemed an unlikely centre of Black Power and the Caribbean left. In October 1968, the Congress of Black Writers at McGill University brought together well-known Black thinkers and activists from Canada, the United States, Africa, and the Caribbean; people like C.L.R. James, Stokely Carmichael, Miriam Makeba, Rocky Jones, and Walter Rodney.

Within months of the Congress, a Black-led protest at Sir George Williams University (now Concordia) exploded on the front pages of newspapers across the country; raising state security fears about Montreal as the new hotbed of international Black radical politics.

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Hitler’s Black Victims: The Historical Experiences of European Blacks, Africans and African Americans During the Nazi Era (Crosscurrents in African American History)

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by Clarence Lusane

Drawing on interviews with the black survivors of Nazi concentration camps and archival research in North America, Europe, and Africa, this book documents and analyzes the meaning of Nazism’s racial policies towards people of African descent, specifically those born in Germany, England, France, the United States, and Africa, and the impact of that legacy on contemporary race relations in Germany, and more generally, in Europe. The book also specifically addresses the concerns of those surviving Afro-Germans who were victims of Nazism, but have not generally been included in or benefited from the compensation agreements that have been developed in recent years.

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Sometimes it feels like everything is against you; that you can never be who you’re supposed to be. 

One person who knows how that feels must have Maya Angelou (1928-2014). An author, poet and civil rights activist, Angelou was one of the most celebrated writers and thinkers of her time, but she did not have a great start in life.

Angelou had to endure many personal hardships and traumas, plus racism and sexism, which she wrote about eloquently in her memoir, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”. This book made literary history in 1969 when it became the first bestselling non fiction book by an African American woman. In 1971, she won The Pulitzer Prize and she went on to gain many more awards and accomplishments over her distinguished career.

Yet Maya Angelou never forgot who she was in her mission: she entertained millions, but she also left an important legacy, which was to remind people to pursue their dreams, yet never forget to consider the needs of others too. What will your legacy be?

Follow The Decision on Pinterest, or via @DecisionSeries on Twitter. Read The Decision books, Lizzie’s Story & Jasmine’s Story, FREE on Kindle Unlimited. Download them today, HERE.

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Slavery’s Exiles: The Story of the American Maroons
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 by Sylviane A. Diouf
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Over more than two centuries men, women, and children escaped from slavery to make the Southern wilderness their home. They hid in the mountains of Virginia and the low swamps of South Carolina; they stayed in the neighborhood or paddled their way to secluded places; they buried themselves underground or built comfortable settlements. Known as maroons, they lived on their own or set up communities in swamps or other areas where they were not likely to be discovered.   Although well-known, feared, celebrated or demonized at the time, the maroons whose stories are the subject of this book have been forgotten, overlooked by academic research that has focused on the Caribbean and Latin America. Who the American maroons were, what led them to choose this way of life over alternatives, what forms of marronage they created, what their individual and collective lives were like, how they organized themselves to survive, and how their particular story fits into the larger narrative of slave resistance are questions that this book seeks to answer. To survive, the American maroons reinvented themselves, defied slave society, enforced their own definition of freedom and dared create their own alternative to what the country had delineated as being black men and women’s proper place. Audacious, self-confident, autonomous, sometimes self-sufficient, always self-governing; their very existence was a repudiation of the basic tenets of slavery. [book link
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The Suffering Will Not Be Televised: African American Women and Sentimental Political Storytelling

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by Rebecca Wanzo

Explores how the suffering of African American women has been minimized and obscured in U.S. culture. Why do some stories of lost white girls garner national media headlines, while others missing remain unknown to the general public? What makes a suffering person legible as a legitimate victim in U.S. culture?

In The Suffering Will Not Be Televised, Rebecca Wanzo uses African American women as a case study to explore the conventions of sentimental political storytelling—the cultural practices that make the suffering of some legible while obscuring other kinds of suffering. Through an examination of memoirs, news media, film, and television, Wanzo’s analysis reveals historical and contemporary tendencies to conflate differences between different kinds of suffering, to construct suffering hierarchies, and to treat wounds inflicted by the state as best healed through therapeutic, interpersonal interaction. [book link

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An Army of Lions: The Civil Rights Struggle Before the NAACP (Politics and Culture in Modern America)

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 by Shawn Leigh Alexander
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In January 1890, journalist T. Thomas Fortune stood before a delegation of African American activists in Chicago and declared, “We know our rights and have the courage to defend them,” as together they formed the Afro-American League, the nation’s first national civil rights organization. Over the next two decades, Fortune and his fellow activists organized, agitated, and, in the process, created the foundation for the modern civil rights movement.

An Army of Lions: The Civil Rights Struggle Before the NAACP traces the history of this first generation of activists and the organizations they formed to give the most comprehensive account of black America’s struggle for civil rights from the end of Reconstruction to the formation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909. Here a host of leaders neglected by posterity—Bishop Alexander Walters, Mary Church Terrell, Jesse Lawson, Lewis G. Jordan, Kelly Miller, George H. White, Frederick McGhee, Archibald Grimké—worked alongside the more familiar figures of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Booker T. Washington, who are viewed through a fresh lens.

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Black Men Built the Capitol: Discovering African-American History In and Around Washington, D.C.

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by Jesse J. Holland

Millions of people visit the National Mall, the White House, and the U.S.
Capitol each year. If they only hear the standard story, a big question remains:  "Where is the black history?“

Packed with new information and archival photos, Black Men Built the Capitol answers this question. In this thoroughly researched yet completely accessible volume, Washington insider and political journalist Jesse J. Holland shines a light on the region’s African-American achievements, recounting little-known stories and verifying rumors, such as:

  • Enslaved black men and women built the Capitol, White House, and other important Washington structures.
  • Philip Reid, a thirty-nine-year-old slave from South Carolina, cast and helped save the model of the Statue of Freedom that sits atop the Capitol Dome.
  • The National Mall sits on the former site of the city’s most bustling slave market.
  • The grounds that are now Arlington National Cemetery were, from 1863 to 1888, a self-sustaining village for former slaves called the Freedmans Village.

Included are hundreds of places in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia that illuminate “the rest of the story€ for Washington residents and visitors alike.

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The Black History of the White House (City Lights Open Media)

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by Clarence Lusane

The Black History of the White House presents the untold history, racial politics, and shifting significance of the White House as experienced by African Americans, from the generations of enslaved people who helped to build it or were forced to work there to its first black First Family, the Obamas.

Clarence Lusane juxtaposes significant events in White House history with the ongoing struggle for democratic, civil, and human rights by black Americans and demonstrates that only during crises have presidents used their authority to advance racial justice. He describes how in 1901 the building was officially named the “White House” amidst a furious backlash against President Roosevelt for inviting Booker T. Washington to dinner, and how that same year that saw the consolidation of white power with the departure of the last black Congressmember elected after the Civil War.

Lusane explores how, from its construction in 1792 to its becoming the home of the first black president, the White House has been a prism through which to view the progress and struggles of black Americans seeking full citizenship and justice.

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Another America: The Story of Liberia and the Former Slaves Who Ruled It

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 by James Ciment 

In 1820, a group of about eighty African Americans reversed the course of history and sailed back to Africa, to a place they would name after liberty itself. They went under the banner of the American Colonization Society, a white philanthropic organization with a dual agenda: to rid America of its blacks, and to convert Africans to Christianity.

The settlers staked out a beachhead; their numbers grew as more boats arrived; and after breaking free from their white overseers, they founded Liberia—Africa’s first black republic—in 1847.

James Ciment’s Another America is the first full account of this dramatic experiment. With empathy and a sharp eye for human foibles, Ciment reveals that the Americo-Liberians struggled to live up to their high ideals. 

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The African American Experience: Black History and Culture Through Speeches, Letters, Editorials, Poems, Songs, and Stories by Kai Wright

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The African American Experience is a one-of-a-kind and absolutely riveting collection of more than 300 letters, speeches, articles, petitions, poems, songs, and works of fiction tracing the course of black history in America from the first slaves brought over in the 16th century to the events of the present day. All aspects of African American history and daily life are represented here, from the days of abolition and the Civil War to the Civil Rights movement and the current times.

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The Land Was Ours: African American Beaches from Jim Crow to the Sunbelt South by Andrew W. Kahrl

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Driving along the coasts of the American South, we see miles of luxury condominiums, timeshare resorts, and gated communities. Yet, a century ago, a surprising amount of beachfront property in the Chesapeake, along the Carolina shore, and around the Gulf of Mexico was owned and populated by African Americans. In a pathbreaking combination of social and environmental history, Andrew W. Kahrl shows how the rise and fall of Jim Crow and the growing prosperity of the Sunbelt have transformed both communities and ecosystems along the southern seaboard.

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Jean-Michel Basquiat

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 by Dieter BuchhartGlenn O'BrienJean-Louis Prat, and Jean-Michel Basquiat

The first African-American artist to attain art superstardom, Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) created a huge oeuvre of drawings and paintings (Julian Schnabel recalls him once accidentally leaving a portfolio of about 2,000 drawings on a subway car) in the space of just eight years. Through his street roots in graffiti, Basquiat helped to establish new possibilities for figurative and expressionistic painting, breaking the white male stranglehold of Conceptual and Minimal art, and foreshadowing, among other tendencies, Germany’s Junge Wilde movement.

It was not only Basquiat’s art but also the details of his biography that made his name legendary–his early years as “Samo” (his graffiti artist moniker), his friendships with Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Madonna and his tragically early death from a heroin overdose. This superbly produced retrospective publication assesses Basquiat’s luminous career with commentary by, among others, Glenn O'Brien, and 160 color reproductions of the work. [book link

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