KNOW THYSELF: 29 Books that are Essential Reading for Black Folk

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    Black History Month is by far, one of my favorite times of year.  Black History books are by far, one of my favorite sub-genres to read.  So, in the spirit of Black History Month, Black History Books and all things Black, I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you a few books that I consider to be essential reading for the black community. 

    Now, keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive.  Instead, it is based upon two things: books that I have in my personal library and my opinion.  As such, if you have recommendations that you feel should be added to the list, please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts and opinions in the comment section.  I would love to hear from you! 

    In the meantime, I’ve selected 29 books to represent the 29 days that are in Black History Month this year.  They’re not listed in any particular order, as it would be impossible for me to categorize these books in any order of importance.  Also, as you are perusing this list, you may well discover that most of the books I have listed here, you’ve already read.  However, if you haven’t read a majority, or any of these books for that matter, no worries or judgment!  Consider this list an informational tool that can be utilized by you as you work to expand your personal library.   

    “Know Thyself” is an instruction that was given to us by our ancestors.  It’s imperative that we learn Our-Story instead of continuously regurgitating Hi(s)-Story.  The books that I’ve listed here helped me along my journey of self-determination.  I feel confident that they will do the same for you.  Happy Black History Month Beautiful People! 

    The Mis-Education of the Negro – Dr. Carter G. Woodson    

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    Originally published in 1933, Dr. Woodson wrote this book to inform us that black children were being culturally indoctrinated as opposed to taught in the American school system.  After reading the book, you may find that this unsettling truth is still accurate today.



    Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass – Frederick Douglass

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    This book is an autobiography of the life of Frederick Douglass, detailing his experiences from the time he was born a slave until the time of his escape to freedom.  Amazingly enough, contingent upon the reader’s interpretation, many of the lessons he learned on his journey can be applied today as a roadmap on how to never become a slave again.  



    Stolen Legacy – Dr. George G.M. James

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    This book does a wonderful job debunking the myth that ancient civilization began in Greece.  It proves that the authors of Greek philosophy were not Greeks but were in fact, Black Egyptians. 



    The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors – Dr. Frances Cress Welsing

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    This book is a collection of essays written by Dr. Frances Cress Welsing that attempts to explain the psychosis behind white racism.  After reading it, you’ll never look at color the same again.



    The Destruction of Black Civilization – Chancellor Williams

    This book was written to offer an in depth study of the history of Africa, premised upon answering the following question: “If the Blacks were among the very first builders of civilization and their land the birthplace of civilization, what has happened to them that has left them since then, at the bottom of world society..?”.  Instead of accepting the traditional Caucasian notion that black folk have always been at the bottom, Brother Williams contends that many elements, to include imperialism have aided in the destruction of the black civilization. 



     The Autobiography of Malcolm X – As told to Alex Haley

    This book is one of the greatest redemption stories ever told.  Undeniably, Malcolm X is still one of the most influential figures of the 20th Century.  In this book he shares his transition from common street hoodlum to the Nation of Islam’s most powerful and admired minister.  He then outlines how he went from being the self-proclaimed “angriest Black man in America” to a man who was able to ultimately recognize brotherhood in all of mankind. 



     The Philosophy and Opinions of Marcus Garvey – Marcus Garvey

    Marcus Garvey was a Pan-Africanist, whose philosophy spawned a global mass movement known as Garveyism.  This book is a collection of his most celebrated speeches and essays, and has been touted by many as the Garveyites’ Bible!



     From the Browder File – Anthony T. Browder

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    This book is a collection of 22 essays that focus on the varying aspects of Black folk, to include our history, culture, food, politics, diet, religion and hair. It’s actually the book that I would recommend to someone if they were starting out on their journey to know Black History and/or Know Thyself. 



     Seize the Time: The Story of the Black Panther Party and Huey P. Newton

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    We should all know the story of the Black Panther Party as given to us by its founders.  Seize the Time was actually written by Bobby Seale, a founding member of the Black Panther Party, while he sat in the San Francisco County Jail as a political prisoner.  The Black Panther Party was one of the most beautifully radical resistance movements I’ve ever read about.  This book is indeed a 1960’s protest era classic.



    Christopher Columbus and the Afrikan Holocaust: Slavery and the Rise of European Capitalism  – Dr. John Henrik Clarke

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    In this book, Dr. Clarke examines a period of history that has been, for the most part, systematically falsified.  He challenges the Eurocentric point of view that Columbus was a “discoverer” and instead highlights how the Columbus Era set in motion those tyrannical and genocidal political forces that helped to establish what has been nothing short of European world domination.  



     Up From Slavery – Booker T. Washington

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    This book is the autobiography of Booker T. Washington.  It details the story of how he transitioned from being an uneducated slave in his childhood to being the founder of Tuskegee University and a master orator at the height of his career.  If you need a bit of inspiration from the ancestors on work ethic, this book right here will give you what you need.  This brother was unstoppable. 



    The Souls Of Black Folk – Dr. W.E.B. DuBois

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    This book is a collection of essays written by Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, the first black man to earn a doctorate degree by the way.  This book is considered not only to be a cornerstone of Black Literature, but it also holds an important place in social science as one of the early works of the field. 



    Powernomics: The National Plan to Empower Black America – Dr. Claud Anderson

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    I love this book because it focuses on securing the bag!  Powernomics offers a five-year plan to make Black America a prosperous and empowered race that is self-sufficient and competitive as a group.  It brings together data and information from many different sources to construct a framework for solutions to the dilemma of Black America.



    Black Labor White Wealth: The Search for Power and Economic Justice – Dr. Claud Anderson

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    This book, in my opinion is a classic.  It details how the United States used slavery and Jim Crow public policies to construct a superpower nation.  But it doesn’t stop there!  It also offers solutions to America’s race problem.



    The Fire Next Time – James Baldwin

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    This book is just a classic piece of literature.  It consists of two “letters,” one written to Baldwin’s nephew James and the other written to his readership.  The letters were written on the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, and they’re basically pleading to all Americans, both black and white, to attack the terrible legacy of racism.



    Slavery: The African-American Psychic Trauma – Naimah and Sultan Latif

    This book attempts to examine the psychological trauma that exists as a result of the brutality of slavery.  It even provides a test that you can take to find out if you too suffer from psychological trauma!



    Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys: Volumes I, II and III – Jawanza Kunjufu

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    This series serves as an awesome guide for parents and educators to assist in ensuring that Black boys grow up to be strong, committed, and responsible Black men. It challenges how black boys are educated, by whom they’re educated and also speaks to the significance of rites of passage activities, including mentoring, male bonding, and spirituality.



    Empower the People – Tony Brown

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    In this book, Tony Brown presents information about how the Ruling Class hijacked the world’s economy.  He then offers a practical and empowering seven-step plan on how to break free, once and for all, from their constricting control.   



    Return to the African Mother Principle of Male and Female Equality: Volume I – Oba T’shaka

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    This book is so phenomenal because it examines the complementary relationship between men and women in African culture.  It describes the ancient and traditional African family as “twin-lineal”, on occasion matrilineal and on occasion patriarchal.  This offers a beautifully balanced and just vision for black families and communities.    



    Ruminations – KRS-One

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    KRS-One is a grandmaster teacher and an elder statesman of hip hop.  In this collection of writings he speaks on his musical and spiritual roots, the evolution of hip-hop culture, and he puts forth brilliant ideas about self-empowerment through what he dubs as “Inner City Metaphysics”. 



    Black Women in Antiquity – Ivan Van Sertima

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    This unique book provides an awesome account of the role black women have played in the history and development of civilization.  It is an overview of the black queens, madonnas, and goddesses who dominated the history and imagination of ancient times.  The book is divided into three parts: Ethiopian and Egyptian Queens and Goddesses; Black Women in Ancient Art; and Conquerors and Courtesans.



    The Spook Who Sat By the Door – Sam Greenlee

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    This book is a classic in Black Literature.  It’s a beautiful tale of black militancy.  In the book, Dan Freeman, takes all of the skills he learned as a CIA agent and uses them to organize black teenagers into well-trained guerrilla bands bent on overthrowing the white establishment.  The audacity of this book is amazing!



    Success Runs in Our Race – George C. Fraser

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    In this book, Fraser manages to take information he’s been able to gather from successful black folk and share their lessons of self-determination and empowerment with those of us who are still climbing up the ladder of success.  He shows us how to network for the information, influence and resources needed to build and brand a successful business. 



    African-American Inventions that Changed the World – Michael Carson

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    This book highlights many of the Black inventors who have contributed to the American landscape.  It helps us to remember that without the genius of these brilliant minds, the innovativeness that America is known for would not be in existence. 



    100 Amazing Facts About the Negro – J.A. Rogers

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    Written in the spirit of Ripley’s Believe or Not, this book is priceless because it delivered enlightenment and pride to black folk, particularly during the Jim Crow era.  It was based on historical research and it reminded them of how amazing they were, even though they had been mentally starved on the lie that they were worth nothing.   



    Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe

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    This classic narrative does a wonderful job of capturing life in a pre-colonial African village.  It tells the story of Africa’s cataclysmic encounter with Europe as it established a colonial presence on the continent and it shares the story of a fearless warrior who refused to turn away from the traditions of his ancestors and accept the religious traditions of the British.   



    Slavery By Another Name – Douglas A. Blackmon

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    Through this book, the “Age of Neoslavery” is brought to light.  This age was the American time period following the Emancipation Proclamation where convicts, who were primarily black men, were caught up in the “convict leasing system”; forced labor camps operated by state and federal governments.   This was the pre-cursor to the prison industrial complex that many of our brothers and sisters suffer from today.



    The Iceman Inheritance: Prehistoric Sources of Western Man’s Racism, Sexism and Aggression  –   Michael Bradley

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    This book is the most glaring admission by a white person, about the European’s attempt to dominate the world through racism.  Furthermore, the book does this without the inference that in spite of the atrocities that European racism has brought to this world, the Caucasian has still brought order, technology, arts and other things of lasting benefit.  Nope, the author just admits that Europeans, in their attempt at world domination, has created a disastrous climate for the world’s people, and I’m here for it!



    Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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    In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., isolated himself from the demands of the civil rights movement, rented a house in Jamaica with no telephone, and wrote this book, which turned out to be his final manuscript. In this prophetic work, he laid out his thoughts, plans, and dreams for America’s future, including the need for better jobs, higher wages, decent housing, and quality education. He demanded an end to global suffering, asserting that humankind-for the first time-had the resources and technology to eradicate poverty. 

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