books to read for black history month
Author of the Month

Top 5 Books to Read for Black History Month

books to read for black history month

I have very distinct memories of Black History Month in the primary grades: reading about Martin Luther King Jr., watching movies about Jackie Robinson, and painting a lot of clasped hands in different shades of paint. Now I know that, as a writer, the most significant way for me to celebrate this month is to revel in the rich words and reflections of African-American authors.

Celebrating Black History Month might be just the muse you need for your own writing. After all, Black history is a huge field that connects different time periods, perspectives, styles, continents, and topics; books written by Black authors cross all genres and encompass more than the topics that you were probably given to read about in elementary school every February.

From moving refrains that evolved the long-entrenched mindsets of their time, to descriptions dripping with transcendent language, these recommendations are guaranteed to get your own writing flowing from your mind to the page.

Please note that some of the books contain language and content that could be considered offensive, however it is always done to convey historical accuracy and to emphasize the need for God’s presence in all lives.

My Top 5 Books to Read for Black History Month

1. Kindred by Octavia Butler

Often cited as the first well-known science fiction written by a Black woman, this skillfully complex novel combines memoir, fantasy, and historical fiction. Look to this book for inspiration on how to play with time and setting, since it successfully takes a modern woman and transports her to antebellum Maryland.

2. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

I know this one is pretty popular and you may have already read this classic, but rereading this autobiographical fiction as a writer will do wonders for how you integrate your own life into your writing. Angelou was challenged to make her life story into great literature, and she shows that not only is it possible, but it is very impactful. This book can help you inject your own narratives, fiction or nonfiction, with round and realistic movement.

3. Songlines in Michaeltree: New and Collected Poems by Michael S. Harper

Yes, this is a book of poetry; don’t let that stop you from using it as your prose inspiration. Michael S. Harper is a master of infusing rhythm into his writing and painting an image with simple, impactful vocabulary. If your descriptions need a burst of vitality and emotion, use some of Harper’s poetry as a breathtaking guide.

4. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

For all of you nonfiction fans, this is an excellent example of how to build an inspiring book around a very simple concept. Rhimes takes her experience as a television producer and writes about her resolution to say yes. Sometimes poignant, sometimes hilarious, and always honest, this book will encourage you to take chances with your own writing.

5. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Many writers strive to impersonate realistic voices and language to add a new dimension to their characters, and no one does this better than Hurston. This classic uses colloquial language to transport the reader into the characters’ world. Study the poetic speech patterns and marvel at how they add an additional layer the meaning of characterization.



With experience as an English literature teacher and freelance writer, Elaine brings her knack for revision to the editorial team. She started at the University of Central Florida in 2005, and she holds degrees in English Literature and Language Arts Education with an additional minor in writing. As a parenting blogger, she enjoys writing about her adventures with her toddler daughter and husband as they take advantage of living where the rest of the world vacations.

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