Celebrating Black History Month in 2024
It’s 2024 and Chester Fritz Library’s fourth anniversary of reading recommendation posts! We kicked off #CFLReads with black history themed books in 2021 and returned to the theme in 2022 and 2023. Join us once again in celebrating Black History Month by checking out our new favorites!
By Lolá Ákínmádé Åkerström
Three Black women are linked in unexpected ways to the same influential white man in Stockholm as they build their new lives in the most open society run by the most private people.
Successful marketing executive Kemi Adeyemi is lured from the U.S. to Sweden by Jonny von Lundin, CEO of the nation’s largest marketing firm, to help fix a PR fiasco involving a racially tone-deaf campaign. A killer at work but a failure in love, Kemi’s move is a last-ditch effort to reclaim her social life.
A chance meeting with Jonny in business class en route to the U.S. propels former model-turned-flight-attendant Brittany-Rae Johnson into a life of wealth, luxury, and privilege—a life she’s not sure she wants—as the object of his unhealthy obsession.
And refugee Muna Saheed, who lost her entire family, finds a job cleaning the toilets at Jonny’s office as she works to establish her residency in Sweden and, more importantly, seeks connection and a place she can call home.
Told through the perspectives of each of the three women, In Every Mirror She’s Black is a fast-paced, richly nuanced yet accessible contemporary novel that touches on important social issues of racism, classism, fetishization, and tokenism, and what it means to be a Black woman navigating a white-dominated society.
Please note: This is an e-audiobook
By Octavia Butler, Damian Duffy, and John Jennings
In this graphic novel adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower by Damian Duffy and John Jennings, the award-winning team behind Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, the author portrays a searing vision of America’s future. In the year 2024, the country is marred by unattended environmental and economic crises that lead to social chaos. Lauren Olamina, a preacher’s daughter living in Los Angeles, is protected from danger by the walls of her gated community. However, in a night of fire and death, what begins as a fight for survival soon leads to something much more: a startling vision of human destiny . . . and the birth of a new faith.
By Ralph Ellison
In this deeply compelling novel and epic milestone of American literature, a nameless narrator tells his story from the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be.
He describes growing up in a Black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of “the Brotherhood,” before retreating amid violence and confusion.
Originally published in 1952 as the first novel by a then unknown author, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century. The book is a passionate and witty tour de force of style, strongly influenced by T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, James Joyce, and Dostoevsky.
By Maya Angelou
The beauty and spirit of Maya Angelou’s words live on in this complete collection of poetry, including her inaugural poem “On the Pulse of Morning”
Throughout her illustrious career in letters, Maya Angelou gifted, healed, and inspired the world with her words. Now the beauty and spirit of those words live on in this new and complete collection of poetry that reflects and honors the writer’s remarkable life.
Timeless and prescient, this definitive compendium will warm the hearts of Maya Angelou’s most ardent admirers as it introduces new readers to the legendary poet, activist, and teacher—a phenomenal woman for the ages.
Please note: This is an e-book
By Langston Hughes
This volume includes the complete texts of four books of verse by Hughes, including his first book, The Weary Blues (1926), and his second, Fine Clothes to the Jew (1927), as well as other poems published by him during and after the Harlem Renaissance. The Weary Blues announced the arrival of a rare voice in American poetry. A literary descendant of Walt Whitman (“I, too, sing America,” Hughes wrote), he chanted the joys and sorrows of black America in unprecedented language. A gifted lyricist, he offered rhythms and cadences that epitomized the particularities of African American creativity, especially jazz and the blues. His second volume, steeped in the blues and controversial because of its frankness, confirmed Hughes as a poet of uncompromising integrity. Then in the 1930s came Dear Lovely Death (1931) and the radical A New Song (1938). Poems such as “Good Morning Revolution” and “Let America Be America Again” made his pen one of the most forceful in America during the Great Depression.
By Katie N. Johnson
The early drama of Eugene O’Neill, with its emphasis on racial themes and conflicts, opened up extraordinary opportunities for Black performers to challenge racist structures in modern theater and cinema. By adapting O’Neill’s dramatic writing—changing scripts to omit offensive epithets, inserting African American music and dance, or including citations of Black internationalism–theater artists of color have used O’Neill’s texts to raze barriers in American and transatlantic theater.
Challenging the widely accepted idea that Broadway was the white-hot creative engine of U.S. theater during the early 20th century, author Katie N. Johnson reveals a far more complex system of exchanges between the Broadway establishment and a vibrant Black theater scene in New York and beyond to chart a new history of American and transnational theater. In spite of their dichotomous (and at times problematic) representation of Blackness, O’Neill’s plays such as The Emperor Jones and All God’s Chillun Got Wings make ideal case studies because of the way these works stimulated traffic between Broadway and Harlem—and between white and Black America. These investigations of O’Neill and Broadway productions are enriched by the vibrant transnational exchange found in early to mid-20th century artistic production. Anchored in archival research, Racing the Great White Way recovers not only vital lost performance histories, but also the layered contexts for performing bodies across the Black Atlantic and the Circum-Atlantic.
Please note: This is an ebook
By Michelle Alexander
“Jarvious Cotton’s great-great-grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Klu Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation; his father was barred by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole.”
As the United States celebrates the nation’s “triumph over race” with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of young black men in major American cities are locked behind bars or have been labeled felons for life. Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books, an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status–much like their grandparents before them.
In this incisive critique, former litigator-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander provocatively argues that we have not ended racial caste in America: we have simply redesigned it. Alexander shows that, by targeting black men and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness. The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community–and all of us–to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.
By Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele
A poetic and powerful memoir about what it means to be a Black woman in America—and the co-founding of a movement that demands justice for all in the land of the free.
Raised by a single mother in an impoverished neighborhood in Los Angeles, Patrisse Khan-Cullors experienced firsthand the prejudice and persecution Black Americans endure at the hands of law enforcement. For Patrisse, the most vulnerable people in the country are Black people. Deliberately and ruthlessly targeted by a criminal justice system serving a white privilege agenda, Black people are subjected to unjustifiable racial profiling and police brutality. In 2013, when Trayvon Martin’s killer went free, Patrisse’s outrage led her to co-found Black Lives Matter with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi.
Condemned as terrorists and as a threat to America, these loving women founded a hashtag that birthed the movement to demand accountability from the authorities who continually turn a blind eye to the injustices inflicted upon people of Black and Brown skin.
Championing human rights in the face of violent racism, Patrisse is a survivor. She transformed her personal pain into political power, giving voice to a people suffering in equality and a movement fueled by her strength and love to tell the country—and the world—that Black Lives Matter.
When They Call You a Terrorist is Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele’s reflection on humanity. It is an empowering account of survival, strength and resilience and a call to action to change the culture that declares innocent Black life expendable.
Children’s and Young Adult
By Nikki Giovanni and Bryan Collier
Fifty years after her refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus, Mrs. Rosa Parks is still one of the most important figures in the American civil rights movement. This tribute to Mrs. Parks is a celebration of her courageous action and the events that followed.
Award-winning poet, writer, and activist Nikki Giovanni’s evocative text combines with Bryan Collier’s striking cut-paper images to retell the story of this historic event from a wholly unique and original perspective.
By Julia Finley Mosca and Daniel Rieley
If you like to think big, but some say you’re too small, or they say you’re too young or too slow or too tall… Meet Dr. Bath―the scientist who never lost sight of her dreams!
As a girl coming of age during the Civil Rights Movement, Patricia Bath made it her mission to become a doctor. When obstacles like racism, poverty, and sexism threatened this goal, she persevered―brightening the world with a game-changing treatment for blindness!
The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath is the second book in a brand new educational series about the inspirational lives of amazing scientists! In addition to the illustrated rhyming tale, you’ll find a complete biography, fun facts, a colorful timeline of events, and even a note from Dr. Bath herself!
By Charles R. Smith Jr. and Shane W. Evans
Each day features a different influential figure in African-American history, from Crispus Attucks, the first man shot in the Boston Massacre, sparking the Revolutionary War, to Madame C. J. Walker, who after years of adversity became the wealthiest black woman in the country, as well as one of the wealthiest black Americans, to Barack Obama, the country’s first African-American president.
With powerful illustrations by Shane Evans, this is a completely unique look at the importance and influence of African Americans on the history of this country.
By Don Tate and R. Gregory Christie
Growing up as an enslaved boy on an Alabama cotton farm, Bill Traylor worked all day in the hot fields. When slavery ended, Bill’s family stayed on the farm as sharecroppers. There Bill grew to manhood, raised his own family, and cared for the land and his animals.
By 1935 Bill was eighty-one and all alone on his farm. So he packed his bag and moved to Montgomery, the capital of Alabama. Lonely and poor, he wandered the busy downtown streets. But deep within himself Bill had a reservoir of memories of working and living on the land, and soon those memories blossomed into pictures. Bill began to draw people, places, and animals from his earlier life, as well as scenes of the city around him.
Today Bill Traylor is considered to be one of the most important self-taught American folk artists. Winner of Lee & Low’s New Voices Award Honor, It Jes’ Happened is a lively tribute to this man who has enriched the world with more than twelve hundred warm, energetic, and often humorous pictures.