The civil rights movement had seen another peak in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd sparked worldwide outrage and protests over the mistreatment of Black citizens under the hands of the law. This tragic event has inspired many of us to seek out more information on systematic oppression, racial inequality and perhaps address our own biases.
The study of Black history is vital in understanding race relations and working together towards a fairer future free from marginalisation, violence and prejudice. In this article, we have selected fifteen excellent Black history books available in the UK. Unsure where to start? We've included a buying guide to help you choose the best read for you and all of our books are available on Amazon and eBay.
There is no world history without Black history. Despite centuries of oppression, violence and hatred, Black communities worldwide have continued to thrive, struggling against systemic racism and internalised prejudice to produce some of today's most celebrated writers, thinkers and activists.
Many books aim to encourage the celebration of Black history through achievements, cultures and traditions, refusing to only show the sadness and suffering. Unfortunately, many authors have little choice but to talk about race, since racism in its various forms remains prevalent everywhere, as much today as ever.
There are so many fantastic books out there it can be tough to select just one. Perhaps you're well-versed in Black history, or are looking for a place to start. Either way, our guide is here to make the decision easier.
What type of Black history book should you choose? Some are collections of essays, others are autobiographical works and some focus on a longer narrative surrounding one particular area. In this section we'll discuss each type.
A great way to learn about the issues of a particular time period is to read the speeches and collected essays of activists and respected thinkers on the issues of racism and the fight for Black liberation. These are often emotionally stirring, encouraging the reader to think more deeply about the wider questions raised.
Collections of essays or compendiums of articles and pamphlets from a period of the Black rights movement allow you to hear from many voices on one particular issue, evoking the mood of a given era. Further, the concise format of essays means you can digest more information in shorter and more manageable chunks.
Another important element of learning about Black history is reading about the lived experiences of Black and mixed-race people in the UK and across the world. By choosing a book which blends Black history with autobiographical elements, you gain insight into an individual's personal journey through an inherently racist system.
This can be helpful in making issues of race and prejudice more tangible for readers, and deeply moving or relatable for those who have shared similar lived experiences.
Although they aren't 'history books' in the traditional sense, novels allow us to absorb the mood and sentiments of a particular time period, while also providing the thrill of a well-paced narrative.
If you find it hard to get enthusiastic about reading, a novel could be a good choice as the intrigue of a good book may mean you pick it up more often. Novels also provide an effective way of introducing teens to Black history.
If you find yourself particularly interested in a theme or topic raised by a novel, you might feel inspired to seek out non-fiction books for a more fact-based understanding of the event and era.
Some non-fiction Black History books take a more general approach, while still focusing on a certain issue, time period or part of the world.
These types of books are often filled with data and examples that underline their central message. They can be extremely informative for anyone looking to learn more in regards to how specific events, laws and socio-economic systems have impacted and shaped Black lives and experiences.
Sometimes a picture can say a thousand words. To help make information more memorable for children, consider a Black history book with illustrations.
Photo books are another appealing form of history book, as they invite the viewer to experience the zeitgeist of a particular time through vignettes and snapshots.
Suitable for readers of all ages, these can be a valuable way for visual learners to explore topics in an engaging way. They can also serve as a wonderful gift, mixing beautiful art with essential history.
Consider whether you'd like to read a book that focuses on a certain part of the world or gives a broader, global view of Black history. You may have a particular interest in the USA, hear stories from African countries or want to read about Black life closer to home.
The murder of George Floyd in Minnesota on May 25th 2020 has sparked the biggest wave of the civil rights movement in history, which has in turn inspired many readers to seek out books on the stories of Black lives in the USA.
Books focused on this part of the world range from tomes on slavery and its abolition, to the Jim Crow laws which encouraged racial segregation in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
You may even be interested to learn more about the civil rights movement of the 1960s or look to inspirational Black figures in American history from Nobel Prize Winners to Olympians and beloved celebrities.
The UK of course has a large and vibrant Black population, and there are many books by British authors which discuss racial and generational issues in communities closer to home.
Learning about British Black history can help you to gain a better understanding of the particular experiences and issues faced within the UK. Some books even provide information and resources on how to get involved in local initiatives and steps you can take in your day to day life to stamp out discrimination.
Some of the books on our list delve into the traditions and customs of pre-colonial Africa. These titles explore how certain traditions have evolved, been lost or changed over time, and their importance within the African diaspora.
These stories are valuable in gaining a greater knowledge of African ancestry. By learning about the vast cultures and accomplishments of African peoples throughout history, these books can help reaffirm a sense of Black joy and pride.
Before you buy, take a look at the date the book was published. Books tend to reflect the sensibilities of the era in which they are printed, capturing the energy and language of the time period. Although the information may not be up to date, older publications allow for comparison and perspective on how times have evolved.
Books published more recently will still address topics from the past, but will approach them from a viewpoint that feels more current and relevant to the racial issues we see across the world today.
Finally, consider whether you'd like to try an audiobook or a version for eReader. While some people love the feel of a book, others prefer an eBook to keep all their reads in one handy place.
For those with busy schedules looking to learn on the go, with an audiobook you can multi-task while you listen. Audiobooks will let you discover Black history while at the gym or on the daily commute, something that is especially enjoyable if the narrator has a passionate delivery!
For our ranking, we've tried to include a diverse range of books that explore the adversity Black communities have faced along with countless magnificent achievements. Here are our picks for the top 15 best Black history books in the UK.
|Topic||The role of Black people in Britain throughout history|
|Format||Photobook, standard non-fiction|
|Topic||The House Ballroom scene|
|Format||Collected essays, pamphlets and articles|
|Topic||The struggle for racial justice in Britain|
|Geographic Focus||Ghana and the USA|
|Topic||The impact of slavery|
|Geographic Focus||USA, global|
|Topic||Intersection of race with class and feminism|
|Topic||The Harlem Renaissance|
|Topic||Black life and marginalisation|
|Topic||Escape from slavery in pre-civil war North America|
|Topic||The Black Panther Party|
|Topic||Experience of the Windrush generation in post WW2 London|
|Format||Essays, writings and speeches|
|Geographic Focus||Ireland, UK, USA and Africa|
|Topic||Black hair styling and its connections to race, gender, politics, maths and philosophy|
|Geographical Focus||Global, USA|
|Topic||The African American experience|
|Topic||Systemic racism in the UK|
|Format||Non-fiction with an autobiographical element|
|Topic||Race and class in the UK|
Martin Luther King Junior
Bobby Seale and Stephen Shames
Nathan Irvin Huggins
Paul Field, Robin Bunce, Leila Hassan and Margaret Peacock
Chantal Regnault and Stuart Baker
Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire
Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About
Defining Moments in Black History: Reading Between the Lies
Don't Touch My Hair
Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings of Martin Luther King
Power to the People: The World of the Black Panthers
The Underground Railroad
Afropean: Notes from Black Europe
The Harlem Renaissance
Women, Race and Class
Here to Stay, Here to Fight: A Race Today Anthology
Voguing and the House Ballroom Scene of New York 1989 - 92
Black and British: A Forgotten History
A Historical and Political Tale from a UK Rapper and Poet
Systemic Racism in the UK From the Slave Trade to Today
Exploring the African American Experience With Humour and Wit
A Fascinating History Told Through Black Hair Styling
The Speeches, Writings and Interviews of MLK
The Novel Behind the Hit Play About UK Life for Caribbean Families
A Guide to the Controversial Black Panther Party
The Award-Winning Story of One Woman's Fight for Freedom
Collected Stories of Europeans of African Descent
A Lively History of One of Black Culture's Most Vibrant Eras
A Vital Exploration of the Crossover Between Racism, Gender and Class
A Warm and Enlightening Tale of Seven Generations
Black British History Told Through Pamphlets and Articles
Madonna Did Not Invent Voguing
An Unflinching Look into the Entwined History of Black and White Lives
|Format||Non-fiction with an autobiographical element||Standard non-fiction||Standard non-fiction||Non-fiction, autobiographical||Essays, writings and speeches||Fiction||Standard non-fiction||Fiction||Standard non-fiction||Standard non-fiction||Collected essays||Fiction||Collected essays, pamphlets and articles||Photobook, standard non-fiction||Standard non-fiction|
|Geographic Focus||UK||UK||Global, USA||Ireland, UK, USA and Africa||USA||UK||USA||USA||Europe||USA||USA, global||Ghana and the USA||UK||USA||UK|
|Topic||Race and class in the UK||Systemic racism in the UK||The African American experience||Black hair styling and its connections to race, gender, politics, maths and philosophy||Civil rights||Experience of the Windrush generation in post WW2 London||The Black Panther Party||Escape from slavery in pre-civil war North America||Black life and marginalisation||The Harlem Renaissance||Intersection of race with class and feminism||The impact of slavery||The struggle for racial justice in Britain||The House Ballroom scene||The role of Black people in Britain throughout history|
If your favourite way to learn is through reading, we have some other articles we think you're going to love. Whether it's reference books, language guides or books on important topics you can read with your kids, here are some great ideas to help you see the world from a new perspective!
Understanding the struggles Black people and communities have endured historically, and continue to face today, is a vital lesson regardless of race or background. We hope you will find these books valuable for expanding your perspective on racial inequality, as well as celebrating the sensational achievements of Black communities in all walks of life.
Author: Annie Hopkins
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