16 books to read during Black History Month, recommended by KCC English professor Ron Davis

A collage of all the book covers for the books recommended in the post.

By Ron Davis
KCC English Professor

These resources were selected to show African American women and men in diverse situations within the American experience.

Black Americans’ experiences in the United States have not all been poor, bad nor negative. Within the struggle to receive the full benefits of being a human in the United States have been many wonderful stories and experiences for men, women, children, families and whole communities most often told through the pain of the American social landscape. This collection of suggested reading attempts to achieve balance from that perspective.

More than a good learning experience, this could also be realized as engaging and enjoyable entertainment. This is NOT the “ideal” list for understanding the African American experience, but it is a good one for learning about much of it. Comments, reactions, critiques or conversations on any of these are welcome. Thank you for reading whichever of these for which you are able to make time.

(Note: An asterisk * indicates material I have not personally read.)

American Classics

  • “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker
  • “If Beal Street Could Talk” by James Baldwin
  • “Go Tell It on the Mountain” by James Baldwin
  • “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison
  • “The Souls of Black Folk” by W.E.B. Du Bois


  • “Kindred” by Octavia Butler (sci-fi)

Social Justice

  • “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson


  • “Black American Money” by Dr. Boyce Watkins*
  • “Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys” by Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu


  • “The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children” by Gloria Ladson-Billings*


  • “If I Believe: A Promises of God Novel” fiction by Kim Cash Tate*


  • “Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend” by Larry Tye*


  • “Bicycles: Love Poems” by Nikki Giovanni


  • “Devil in a Blue Dress” by Walter Mosely
  • “Mycroft Holmes” by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse*


  • “Friends and Lovers” by Eric Jerome Dickey

English professor Ron Davis teaches English, literature and writing classes at KCC, including classes in Freshman Composition and Film Interpretation this semester. He can be reached at davisr@kellogg.edu.