These 15 African American History Books Are Timeless

african american man reading a book

February is Black history month! What better time to look at African American History Books than now. A time to celebrate and appreciate the true heritage of the African-American Spirit.

As we look forward to honoring every black hero’s accomplishments and fostering stronger relationships, it is only wise to delve deep into history. Consequently, from the cultural and literary richness of the past, we may find light for a better future through African American-authored books.

In celebration of black history month, here is the African Vibes list of 15 African American History Books that are timeless. Additionally, many of these books have won awards. They serve as proof that with drive and motivation African Americans can earn these notable just as much as any other American. 

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African American History Books

These books evoke different emotions. Some will make you cry, others will make you smile, while there is another group that will make you think. However, no matter what you are feeling, never take your focus off the message. Without further chitchat, here is our list.

#1. Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America 1619-2019

Four hundred Souls walks through African-American history through the eyes of different black writers and poets. Demystifying long-held assumptions about Black history, the book shines a light on the more salient nature of instituted racism across America’s history.

The stage opens with the arrival of the first African slaves on American soil in 1619 and weaves its way to 2019 with the 45th U.S. president’s appointment.

African American History Books
Photo credit: Four Hundred Souls via Amazon

#2. The Hate You Give

Written by Angie Thomas, The Hate You Give is one of those African American history books that you should read more than once. It depicts the life of a typical young African-American girl caught in the web of police brutality, political activism, and racial discrimination. T.H.U.G. conveys a strong message that expands on the Black Lives Matter Movement.

African American History Books
Photo credit: The Hate You Give (T.H.U.G) via Amazon

#3. Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation

In this truly sensational read, Anna Malaika recreates the life of the mothers of three prominent icons in African-American History. The book gives a fresh perspective on social justice, racial inequality, and how the relentless tenacity of three mothers set the pace against systemic discrimination.

It also brings to the limelight previously unknown or ignored details about these women’s roles in what would set the stage for modern social activism.

African American History Books
Photo credit: Three Mothers via Amazon

#4. The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Named by Time as one of the “10 Required Reading Books” in the non-fiction category, this gripping autobiography is authored by Malcolm X himself, alongside Alex Haley.

It describes the life, challenges, and philosophy of one of the most active Black-America history voices until his assassination. It was published after Malcolm X’s death in 1965 with Alex Haley providing useful insights into the last days of this human rights activism.

African American History Books
Photo credit: The Autobiography of Malcolm X via Amazon

#5. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

In 1983, The Color Purple emerged as the Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction. More than 30 years later, this book continues to invoke strong emotions about the challenges African-American women grappled with in the early nineties.

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It presents a direct, often painful reflection of domestic violence and gender prejudice, issues of which some undercurrents can still be felt in our modern world. It was adapted into a movie directed by Steven Spielberg in 1985, three years after publication.

African American History Books
Photo credit: The Color Purple via Amazon

Books That Motivate Their Readers

#6. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

Sing Unburied Sing explores the challenges of a family trying to survive the aftermath of slavery in America. Using strong characters and spiritual elements, Jesmyn brings issues like racism, African traditions, and white supremacism to the foreground.

In a Facebook post in 2017, Barack Obama revealed: “Sing, Unburied, Sing” was included in his best read-list for the year.

African American History Books
Photo credit: Sing Unburied, Sing via Amazon

#7. Assata: An autobiography

Assata was a former member of Black Panther and the Black Liberation Army, instrumental in the revolution against repeated police brutality cases and social injustice.

She eventually fled to political asylum in Cuba after being placed on the F.B.I.’s most wanted terrorists list. Her book, published in 1988, documents her encounter with political activism, racism, and social oppression.

African American History Books
Photo credit: Assata via Amazon

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#8. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

This explosive book takes a hard look at the idea of a “racial-caste” system in America. Using the Prison statistics of Black Americans, the author Michelle Alexander offers her readers a second look at the hydra-headed racial control system.

A civil rights litigator herself, she argues that Mass incarceration be addressed as an issue bordering on societal justice and civil rights.

African American History Books
Photo credit: New Jim Crow via Amazon

Books That Make Readers Think 

#9. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

Isabel got the inspiration for this book’s title from “Black-boy”, a poem written by Richard Wright in 1945. It weaves around the flow of African-Americans from the Southern parts of the United States.

This book documents the shift in the location responsible for the current distribution of Blacks in America. It has won different awards since it was published in 2010. In addition, this book is a national bestseller. 

Photo credit: Warmth of Other Suns via Amazon

#10. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

Many of James Baldwin’s books and essays explored some controversial themes and avoided racial discrimination and civil rights. The Fire Next Time was no different. A combination of two essays, its narrative delivered in a letter form, parallels many of the underlying issues affecting the black community today.

Photo credit: The Fire Next Time via Amazon

#11. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

While it was originally written as a children’s book, the issues raised in this book make it worth reading for any African-American willing to find out more about their history. It won the Newberry Medal award in 1977.

Photo credit: Role of Thunder, Hear my cry via Amazon

African American History Books That Inspired Change

#12. The Marrow of Tradition by Charles Waddell Chesnutt

Set against the backdrop of the race-riots in North Carolina, Chestnutt weaves a storyline that sheds light on the racial segregation and white supremacist movement of 1898. The effects contributed to the death of many African-Americans during the Wilmington insurrection.
 ALSO READ: Two Black Writers Make History At British Book Awards

Photo credit: Marrow of Tradition via Amazon

#13. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Using her autobiography, Angelou revisits some of the sensitive issues that plague every young African-American girl’s life. This includes growing up in a racially prejudiced environment, rape and self-identity. Once a victim, she also shares honest and practical tips to thrive as a black woman in America.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings -African American History Books
Photo credit: I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings via Amazon

#14. Roots: The Saga of an American Family

This book traces the story of Alex Haley back to his African roots. It documents the search of an African-American character for his origin. While Alex Haley released this book as fiction, it resonates with many blacks today on a quest to discover their real history.

Roots-African American History Books
Photo credit: Roots via Amazon

#15. Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era by Ashley D. Farmer

Ashley Farmer in this book uncovers the impact of African-American women in political movements and activism. Using artwork and political manifestos by black women, “Remaking Black Power” redefines black women’s true significance in shaping modern African-American history.

African American History Books-Remaking Black History
Photo credit: Remaking Black History via Amazon


A wise person learns from the experiences of others. Although some of these books are experiences or imaginations of other people, the stories are mostly relatable among African Americans.

The reason is simply that some of the issues raised in these books still plague American society to date. So, which of the books is your favorite? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below. 


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