Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, W. E. B. DuBois, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, and hundreds upon hundreds more. Throughout history, African American men and women have been pillars of both classic and contemporary literature, making us breathless and boundless with their revolutionary poetry and prose.
In a survey conducted by Publishers Weekly in 2014, it was revealed that 79% of those who work in the publishing industry were white. In 2012, Roxane Gay published an article disparaging the fact that 88% of books reviewed by the New York Times are written by white authors. In a world still reeling from police murders in Ferguson, New York City, and Minneapolis (among countless others), it becomes clear that we are very much still in the middle of a civil rights movement. It is crucial to amplify black voices and support black lives in the middle of this struggle.
In celebration and in solidarity, for Black History Month we offer a roundup of radical poetry, stunning prose, and crucial critical social theory by African American authors.
The Breakbeat Poets (Haymarket Books), edited by Kevin Coval, Quraysh A. Lansana, and Nate Marshall, is a first-of-its-kind anthology of hip-hop poetica written for and by the people. The book challenges the notion of what poetry is and who is allowed to access it, breaking down the Ivory Tower to discuss how hip-hop, an art form created by African Americans, revolutionized a genre.
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation (Haymarket Books), by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, analyzes the roots of the Black Lives Matter movement and its potential to reignite a broader struggle for Black liberation. Beginning with the mass protests of the police murders of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City, activist and scholar Taylor discusses how the Black Lives Matter movement has awakened a new generation of activists. This book is available starting tomorrow!
African American Women (GILES), a collection of photographs from the National Museum of African American History and Culture, with a foreword by Lonnie G Bunch, is the third book in the NMAAHC’s “Double Exposure” series. This volume contains stunning photographs which demonstrate the dignity, joy, heartbreak, commitment, and sacrifice of women of all ages and backgrounds, from midwives at work in the rural south to students jailed for civil rights protests.
But Some of Us Are Brave (The Feminist Press at CUNY), edited by Akasha (Gloria T.) Hull, Patricia Bell-Scott, and Barbara Smith, is the first comprehensive collection of black feminist scholarship, the call for an academic revolution. Audre Lorde praised this book as “Exciting! Affirmations and the beginning of a new era, where the ‘women’ in women’s studies will no longer mean ‘white.'”
Tales (Akashic Books) is a collection of short stories by Amiri Baraka. In the Philadelphia Tribune on February 5, noted American historian, literary critic, and filmmaker Henry Louis Gates Jr. said, “We owe profound thanks to Akashic Books for reissuing this important collection of Amiri Baraka’s short stories. . . . Baraka was, without question, the central figure of the Black Arts Movement. . . Tales is a critical volume in Amiri Baraka’s oeuvre, and an important testament to his remarkable literary legacy.”
The Book of Harlan (Akashic Books), by Bernice L. McFadden, is a novel detailing the stories of two African American musicians captured by the Nazis in Paris during WWII and imprisoned at the Buchenwald concentration camp. From an author praised by NPR and an editor’s choice at the New York Times Book Review, The Book of Harlan is a powerful meditation on the past, present, and future of civil rights. Stay tuned for this book, which releases this May!
Freedom is a Constant Struggle (Haymarket Books) is a collection of essays, interviews, and speeches by world-renowned activist and scholar Angela Y. Davis. Reflecting on the legacies of previous liberation struggles, from the Black Freedom Movement to the South African anti-Apartheid movements, Davis champions the importance of black feminism, intersectionality, and prison abolitionism for today’s struggles against state terror, from Ferguson to Palestine. Davis challenges all of us to imagine and build a new movement for human liberation.
Find out where to buy The Breakbeat Poets, From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, African American Women, But Some of Us Are Brave, Tales, The Book of Harlan, Freedom is a Constant Struggle, and many more books here at the Consortium website.