Black History Month

There are far too many superb works of literature by African American writers to fit into a single display at Politics & Prose or to be confined to a single month of celebration. Nonetheless, we appreciate the opportunity afforded by Black History Month to pay special tribute to black writers – novelists, poets, journalists, intellectuals, politicians, performing artists, and social critics – whose ideas and creative imaginations enrich the cultural life of our communities and our country.

Among our timeless favorites are the iconic works of Zora Neale-Hurston, Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and Langston Hughes. Given that this year Black History Month is focused on women’s contributions to history and culture, we take this moment to salute a younger generation of extraordinarily talented African American women writers, including ZZ Packer, Tayari Jones, Danzy Senna, and Heidi Durrow.

We also call your attention to works of fiction and non-fiction that reflect the wide range of experiences and voices comprising the African American literary community today: Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration; Gil Scott Heron’s posthumously published memoir, The Last Holiday; Manning Marable’s seminal biography, Malcolm X; Donna Britt’s Brothers and Me; Henry Louis Gates, Jr’s Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513 – 2008; Randall Kennedy’s The Persistence of the Color Line: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency; Walter Mosley’s All I Did Was Shoot My Man, and the just published How To Be Black, a “satirical race manual” by social critic and editor at The Onion, Baratunde Thurston. These are but a handful of books and authors who deserve mention.


Coming up this month at Politics & Prose are several author events that reflect the continuing richness of African American literary talent. On Thursday, February 16, Jamal Joseph will read from his book, Panther Baby, a deep, unvarnished, and compelling tale of his own journey from Harlem to leadership of his local Black Panthers chapter to prison and then to the halls of academe. And on February 25, we will host Mark Long, Jim Demonakos, and Nate Powell, who have co-written and illustrated a new graphic novel, The Silence of Our Friends, a semi-autobiographical tale about the experiences of two families – one black and one white – in Texas during the struggle for civil rights in the 1960s.

As important as Black History Month is, there is no reason to limit to February one’s appreciation, or celebration, of the vast contributions by African Americans to our history and culture. Indeed, we hope you will enjoy the wonderful books we have noted here -- as well as many others by African American writers -- today, tomorrow, this year, and throughout your lives.


Happy reading.

Brad and Lissa