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 King’s previously unpublished writings to provide a new, first-person narrative of the life of the great civil rights leader.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.
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.
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.