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Student Services Librarian Nancy Wallace (center) and students Ayana (left) and Shaquille (right) with their Black History Month book recommendations, at the Center for African Diaspora Student Success.

Read On: Book Recs for Black History Month

A collaboration with the Center for African Disapora Student Success

This year for Black History Month, I’m excited to be joined by UC Davis undergraduates Ayana Bailey-Gaines, a third year Art History major, and Shaquille Fisher, a fifth year Biological Science major. Our recommendations include fiction and nonfiction books that reflect different perspectives on the multifaceted Black experience in America. These titles are available at Shields Library and/or through our Interlibrary Loan service.

I’d also like to give a special thanks to Assistant Director Maya Bell and Office Coordinator Barbara Rogers of the Center for African Disapora Student Success for their support and assistance; this project would not have been possible without them!

A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story, Elaine Brown, 1992

From Nancy: From 1974 through 1977, Elaine Brown was the Chair of the Black Panther Party, the only woman to hold that title. A Taste of Power is a searing memoir detailing Brown’s life from growing up in South Philadelphia in the 1950’s to her political awakening as a student in Los Angeles during the 1960’s. Following the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968, she joined the Black Panther Party, where she and the other women in the party established community schools and food pantries in Oakland. Her travels to Algeria, China, and Cuba helped her gain a global perspective on political activism, and her involvement with the women’s movement of the 1970’s—and the entrenched sexism and misogony she encountered in the Panthers—helped her realize importance of intersectionality, lessons that still resonate for activists today.

Hidden Figures, Margot Lee Shetterly, 2016

From Nancy: Like most people, my introduction to Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughan was through the movie adaptation of Margot Lee Shetterly’s book about the Black women mathematicians whose work at NASA was instrumental to American success in the Space Race. The book version of Hidden Figures focuses exclusively on the women and their work; I was especially interested in the way they found strength and support in their families and the Black communities in Northern Virginia, rather than the enlightened white male supervisors portrayed in the movie. Jackson, Johnson, and Vaughn are true inspirations and role models for Black women in the sciences.

American Street, Ibi Zoboi, 2017

Concrete Rose, Angie Thomas, 2021

From Ayana: I chose American Street because It was an endearing story and felt relatable in certain aspects because I come from a family of immigrants and have struggled with navigating American blackness at times just like the main protagonist in the story. Regarding my further understanding of Blackness in America, Concrete Rose also proved to be an amazing read because it highlighted the life experiences of black men and boys in our country. Overall, I think these books are great stories that show the fluidity of Blackness in America and are definitely worth reading!

Black Fortunes, Shomari Willis, 2018

From Shaquille: In Black Fortunes, stories of resilience, ambition, and triumph echo through the corridors of history. Shomari Wills meticulously details the extraordinary lives of six African American entrepreneurs who defied the oppressive constraints of slavery, Jim Crow, and discrimination. Against all odds, each overcame adversities to emerge as some of the first Black millionaires in America. This narrative unfolds against the backdrop of a tumultuous era, revealing the triumphs and tribulations of individuals who shattered barriers and paved the way for future generations. Black Fortunes is more than a historical account; it’s an inspiring testament to the indomitable spirit that fueled a generation of pioneers.

All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes, Maya Angelou, 1986

From Shaquille: The third volume of the autobiography that began in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings follows Maya Angelou’s transformative voyage to Africa, where she struggles with identity, belonging, and the universal quest for home. Angelou invites readers to share in the profound experiences that shaped her understanding of heritage and the human spirit. This memoir resonates with the universal theme of seeking one’s place in the world, making it a compelling and enriching read for all.

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