Black Literature Matters


A great piece of advice I learned early in my college career was that “every –ism is not a noun but a verb, and we are either constantly doing or undoing that action.” Feminism is an active verb. Classism is too. Most of all, so is racism. In this way, the beliefs and thoughts that compromise a systemic superiority can be undone by actively engaging, interrogating, and exploring where and how those beliefs came to be. As a reader, many of my conversations occur with the authors of various works who have shaped and changed my views over the years. It is my hope that, in this time, others might find what they are looking for in any number of these books, even if it is only to support Black writers.

This is not an exhaustive list, but I hope it’s a start. Obviously my own tastes, horror and food, are reflected in some of the selections. I’ll be honest in that I haven’t read all of the works on this list but those that I haven’t come highly recommended from others and/or are ones I’ve put on my To Be Read list. Not all of the works are focused on race specifically because, like other authors, Black writers are allowed to write about any damn thing they want and do it well.

Classics – Begin at the Beginning

  • Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl – Harriet Jacobs
  • The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man – James Weldon Johnson
  • The Souls of Black Folk – W. E. B Du Bois
  • The Conjure Woman – Charles Waddell Chestnutt
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
  • Native Son – Richard Wright
  • Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison

Kids & Young Adult

  • The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
  • Dear Martin – Nic Stone
  • Monday’s Not Coming – Tiffany D. Jackson
  • Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi
  • Dread Nation – Justina Ireland
  • The Belles – Dhonielle Clayton
  • The Boy in the Black Suit – Jason Reynolds
  • The Poet X – Elizabeth Acevedo
  • Pointe – Brandy Colbert
  • My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich – Ibi Zoboi
  • Triston Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky – Kwame Mbalia
  • American Girl: Addy – Connie Porter
  • Bud, Not Buddy – Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry – Mildred D. Taylor
  • Hair Love – Matthew A. Cherry with Vashti Harrison
  • Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library – Carole Boston Weatherford with Eric Velasquez
  • Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History – Vashti Harrison
  • Firebird – Misty Copeland with Christopher Myers
  • Sulwe – Lupita Nyong’o with Vashti Harrison
  • Don’t Touch My Hair – Sharee Miller


  • Kindred – Octavia Butler
  • Beloved – Toni Morrison
  • Salvage the Bones – Jesmyn Ward
  • The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
  • Who Fears Death – Nnedi Okorafor
  • Ghost Summer: Stories – Tananarive Due
  • White is for Witching – Helen Oyeyemi
  • The Changeling – Victor LaValle
  • Sycorax’s Daughters – Kinitra Brooks, Linda D. Addison, Susana Morris
  • Let’s Play White – Chesya Burke
  • Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • The Twelve Tribes of Hattie – Ayana Mathis
  • Swing Time – Zadie Smith
  • The Fifth Season – N.K. Jemisin
  • Brown Girl in the Ring – Nalo Hopkinson
  • A Lucky Man – Jamel Brinkley

Comics & Graphic Novels

  • Kindred – Octavia Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy and John Jennings
  • Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet – Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze
  • Destroyer – Victor LaValle with Dietrich Smith and Joana Lafuente
  • March – John Lewis with Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell
  • Static Shock: Rebirth of the Cool – Dwayne McDuffie with Robert L. Washington III and John Paul Leon


  • Langston Hughes
  • Danez Smith
  • Morgan Parker
  • Jericho Brown
  • Patricia Smith
  • Linda Addison
  • Tiana Clark
  • Audre Lorde
  • Lucille Clifton
  • Saeed Jones
  • Terrance Hayes
  • Phillis Wheatley
  • Maya Angelou


  • Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America – Ibram X Kendi
  • Notes of a Native Son – James Baldwin
  • The Wretched of the Earth – Frantz Fanon
  • Pimp – Iceberg Slim
  • Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror Films from the 1890s to Present – Robin R. Means Coleman
  • Searching for Sycorax: Black Women’s Hauntings of Contemporary Horror – Kinitra D. Brooks
  • We Are Never Meeting in Real Life: Essays – Samantha Irby
  • Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body – Roxane Gay
  • From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home – Tembi Locke
  • Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir by Kwame Onwuachi with Joshua David Stein
  • High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America – Jessica B. Harris
  • Soul Food: The Surprising Story of An American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time – Adrian Miller
  • The Cooking Gene – Michael W. Twitty
  • The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks – Toni-Tipton Martin
  • Hog and Hominy: Soul Food from Africa to America – Fredrick Douglass Opie
  • Building Houses Out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, and Power – Psyche Williams-Forson
  • Black Women in Sequence: Re-inking Comics, Graphic Novels, and Anime – Deborah Elizabeth Whaley
  • When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America – Paula Giddings
  • Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism – bell hooks
  • Playing in the Dark – Toni Morrison


  • Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine – Bryant Terry
  • A Real Southern Cook: In Her Savannah Kitchen – Dora Charles
  • Carla Hall’s Soul Food – Carla Hall with Genevieve Ko
  • Soul – Todd Richards
  • Black Girl Baking – Jerrelle Guy
  • Cooking Solo: The Fun of Cooking for Yourself – Klancy Miller
  • Jubilee – Toni-Tipton Martin
  • The Taste of Country Cooking – Edna Lewis

Many of the authors on this list are fairly prolific and have quite a few books, and many write in more than one genre. While it’s important to know the classics and canon of Black literature, it’s also important to support the Black authors living and writing today.

Black literature matters; Black Lives Matter.