Let our society tell it, Black women have never had an impact on history. Black women have no stories to tell. Black women’s roles are to support – but never overshadow – their husbands, sons, brothers and white counterparts. History tends to leave Black women’s stories untold or flatten their stories into a bite-sized, one-dimensional tales of piety, sacrifice, or perfection.
The truth is that Black women have always been innovators, strategist, radical thinkers, and pillars of every community. Yet, somehow, so many amazing stories of Black women have been lost to time.
Here’s a short list of compelling books about Black women for your Black History Month reading list that aren’t Michelle Obama’s Becoming (which I assume is on all our “to read” or “read” lists).
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics by Donna Brazile, Yolanda Caraway, Leah Daughtry, and Minyon Moore with Veronica Chambers
This book tells the stories of four women who have been major players in American political systems. These women met early in their careers and have helped each other navigate work dynamics, personal tragedies, career mistakes and more by creating a support system for themselves and the other black women around them. They, individually and collectively, have been driving forces in some of the major Democratic campaigns and political moments, including both Jesse Jackson’s and Hilary Clinton’s historic presidential campaigns and the Clinton Administration. In addition to recapping their biographies and careers, the women provide thoughts on the importance of building and nurturing your networks and finding mentors and allies who can push you forward and keep you sane.
Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry by Imani Perry
Most are familiar with Lorraine Hansberry’s play “A Raisin in the Sun”, the first Broadway play written and produced by a Black woman. This book chronicles Hansberry’s short life before she died from cancer when she was 34 years old and proves that her famous play is just the tip of the iceberg. Hansberry was dedicated to living a life true to her ideals. Hansberry grew up the daughter of a prominent Black businessman in a middle-class Black family in Chicago. She was an outspoken lesbian, feminist and Black rights activist who never shied from expressing her thoughts. Her crew included the who’s who of the day, including James Baldwin, Nina Simone, and Paul Robeson. Hansberry was revolutionary.
When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele
In the relatively few years since the Black Lives Matter movement started, it has forever changed our language around the systemic abuse and deaths of black people by police officers. The casual BLM fan may not realize that that the organization was started by women who wanted to make a change in their communities. This book serves as the author’s biography and to the events that lead to the start of the BLM and how the movement changed the lives the author and her family.
The World According to Fannie Davis by Bridgett M. Davis
This book is at the top of my personal list, so – full disclosure- I haven’t read it but am extremely excited for my copy to reach my doorstep. The author tells the story of how her mother made ends meet, bought a house and paid for her college education by running the Numbers. The Numbers was something like a lottery system that was prominent in black communities. Though this is a story of one woman, the greater story displays examples of Black entrepreneurship and black people creating wealth and investing in their communities through underground economies.
This list is just a flake on the tip of the iceberg and there are so many black female experiences not represented in this extremely short list. What books would you add to the list?