History Books We Love Or Would Love To Read

I started tweeting this list, but umm…I have a book problem. It’s possible I’ve never met a history book I wouldn’t at least skim. And many that found their way home with me. I blame used bookstores like Powells, Afterwords, O’Gara & Wilson’s, & whatever stores I might wander into when I’m on vacation. And libraries. And reading apps. And…it’s me isn’t it? It’s me. This is an incomplete list because well…I really do have a lot of books in various formats. I was a book dragon in a former life.

The Souls of Black Folk  by W.E.B. Du Bois

Black Metropolis: A Study of Negro Life in a Northern City by St. Clair Drake and Horace R. Cayton

Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago 1940-1960 by Arnold R. Hirsch

Creole New Orleans: Race and Americanization Paperback by Arnold R. Hirsch

Romanticism, Revolution, and the Afro-Creole Protest Tradition in Louisiana, 1718-1868 by Caryn Cosse Bell

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist


American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass by Douglas S. Massey

A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn

Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

At the Dark End of The Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance–A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power by Danielle McGuire

Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves by Adam Hochschild

King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa by Adam Hochschild

Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement by Barbara Ransby

For Freedom’s Sake: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer by Chana Kai Lee

Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday by Angela Y. Davis

Afro-Latin America, 1800-2000 by George Reid Andrews

The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

The White Scourge: Mexicans, Blacks, and Poor Whites in Texas Cotton Culture by Neil Foley

In my defense my focus in undergrad was Afro American history & it sparked an interest in other histories that has maybe led my wallet astray some times. Maybe. What books do you think I should be reading? What histories fascinate you?


  1. Shane Thomas · February 10, 2015

    In terms of potential recommendations, allow me to throw the following into the ring:

    – Claudia Jones: A Life in Exile
    – Blackamoores: Africans in Tudor England, Their Presence, Status and Origins
    – The Speech
    – They Called us Brigands: The Saga of St. Lucia’s Freedom Fighters
    – Germany’s Black Holocaust: 1890-1945: Details Never Before Revealed
    – How Europe Underdeveloped Africa

  2. Jane Lorraine · February 11, 2015

    My favorite books discuss feminism, hair, and skin color:
    – Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America, Byrd & Tharps
    – The Color Complex: The Politics of Skin Color in a New Millennium, Russell-Cole, Wilson, & Hall
    – Sister Citizen, Melissa Harris-Perry
    I love your list as well!

  3. nicolewillson · February 11, 2015

    If you like Hirsch and Bell, I strongly encourage you to check out some histories of the Haitian Revolution – CLR James’s The Black Jacobins is seminal, but I also love Laurent Dubois’s Haiti: The Aftershocks of History and Joan Dayan’s Haiti, History and the Gods.

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