February is Black History Month, time when we look back and reflect on the mistreatment of African Americans over the last few decades, and celebrate the triumphs and beauty of Black culture, and black lives everywhere. Each of the three books this week highlights and focuses on a different aspect of Black history, and the way that it has shaped our country, and continues to affect the lives of Black Americans today.
The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson – Wilkerson’s first book is a detailed look at the Great Migration: a time when millions of African Americans left the South in search of a better life. Between 1915 and 1970, over 6 million African Americans moved to the North and the West, hoping for a better future for themselves and their families. Isabel Wilkerson meticulously researched official documents, and interviewed over 1200 people to help shape her historically accurate account. Instead of being a straightforward fact book, Wilkerson chooses the route of narrative nonfiction. Throughout her book, she chronicles the lives of three individuals, each of whom left the South in a different decade, to help illustrate this important, and lesser known piece of history. Because of this, her book is all the more engaging and fascinating.
Stamped from the Beginning, by Ibram X. Kendi – In this book, Kendi looks at the history of racist ideas in America, starting with their early roots. He examines how these thoughts led to slavery, Jim Crow, and the KKK, and how they continue to affect the lives of Black Americans today through overt racism, and racist policies, known as systemic racism. He uses five major historical figures – Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B DuBois, and Angela Davis – to frame how these thoughts, both racist and anti-racist, came about and changed the way people think. He also discusses the dual reality of racial progression happening alongside racist progression. This one is easy to read, absolutely fascinating, and essential reading for understanding our country today.
Overground Railroad, by Candacy Taylor – From 1936 to 1964, the Green Book, a travel guide for Black Americans, was published yearly. It listed businesses, restaurants, gas stations, and hotels that African Americans could safely patronize while traveling throughout America. It also listed places to avoid, places that were not “Black friendly.” Candacy Taylor interviewed many people, including her stepfather, as part of her research into this very important part of Black history. She traveled the country visiting the sites of Green Book businesses, only 5% of which are still in business today. The book is full of photographs, illustrations, and pictures from different editions of the Green Book, adding an extra layer of understanding to this already accessible book.
You can find a list of these three books, plus more nonfiction to celebrate Black History Month by clicking the link below.