New York Public Library Recommends Books for Black History Month

The NY Public Library is one of the city’s greatest resources.  During the pandemic, it has provided online events, author talks, book recommendations, and free downloadable books- saving me hundreds of dollars on kindle downloads each month.

This February, in its celebration of Black History Month, the NYPL has assembled a list of books about modern and past historical figures and events that figure prominently in Black history.  The following are just a small sample of their recommendations.  Make sure to register for a NYPL library card, so you can borrow (download for free) or reserve books on the NYPL’s SimplyE app.

Memoirs and Biographies

The Dead are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X by Les Payne and Tamara Payne. This new biography won the 2020 National Book Award for non-fiction. Drawing on new sources, the book presents a fuller profile of Malcolm X.

The Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr. by Martin Luther King Jr. and Clayborne Carson, editor. While not a typical autobiography, Carson assembles Dr. King’s previously unpublished writings to provide a new, first-person narrative of the life of the great civil rights leader.

Ida: A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign against Lynching by Paula Giddings. Ida B. Wells was an investigative journalist, teacher, and a leader of the early civil rights movement. She was an activist who led an anti-lynching crusade in the U.S. in the 1890s.  


Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America by Gilbert King.  Before he became Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall was a civil rights lawyer. This book details Marshalls’ efforts to save a citrus worker from the electric chair after he was accused of raping a white woman.

Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar.  George Washington was a Revolutionary War hero, the first President of the U.S., and a slave owner. This book tells the story of an escaped slave and his relentless search to capture her.

Black Women

A Life of Gwendolyn Brooks by George E. Kent.  As we recently witnessed with the performance of her poem “The Hill We Climb,” Amanda Gorman is just the most-recent entrant among the cadre of outstanding Black women poets.  Gwendolyn Brooks, a poet of more than 20 books of poetry, is the first African American recipient of a Pulitzer Prize for her volume of poems entitled “Annie Allen” about and ordinary black girl growing up in a neighborhood on Chicago’s south side.  Kent analyzes Brooks’ poems and discusses their influences.

Born to Win: The Authorized Biography of Althea Gibson by Frances Clayton Gray & Yanick Rice Lamb.  Althea Gibson grew up in Harlem and was one of the first to break the color barrier in women’s tennis. She won both Wimbledon and The U. S. Open in the 1950s. The authors discuss Gibson’s quest to cross the color line.

Make sure to check the NYPL website for live-streamed events with historians like Ibram X. Kendi and topics such as Exploring the Black Alternative Press.

Photo: Pexels-Pixabay