What’s on the shelf for Black History Month


Credit: @reynabiddy on Instagram

Gia Sparacino and Britni Dunn

In celebration of Black History Month, The Pace Press has compiled a list of books to celebrate Black authors and creators. There are so many amazing pieces of literature that students can add to their reading list not only for the month, but to expand the literature they read throughout the year. 



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Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman 

Amanda Gorman made history as the youngest inaugural poet in U.S history when President Joe Biden took office in January 2021. In Gorman’s December 2021 collection of poetry, “Call Us What We Carry,” she spends time unpacking COVID-19 and its effects not only on herself, but the world as a whole. The collection of poetry displays Gorman’s unbelievable growth within the past year as she experiments with unique structure forms, writing in the form of text messages, checklists, and more.

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

Jesmyn Ward’s novel, “Salvage the Bones,” although fictional, is a modern look into an environmental disaster wreaking havoc on an impoverished community. Hurricane Katrina is a disaster imprinted on the minds of many Americans, and Ward takes a look into the tragedy through the eyes of a young, poor girl in Mississippi. Ward won the 2011 National Book Award with “Salvage the Bones” and again in 2017 for her novel “Sing, Unburied, Sing.” The novelist is known for her evocative writing in which she pours her soul onto the page. 

I Love My Love by Reyna Biddy

Though Biddy has released three collections of poetry, her first published book at just 22 years old remains one of her most effective pieces of art. This collection focuses on love in all forms; self-love, familial love, and romantic love. Through the lens of her parent’s relationship as a child and the effect it had on her as an adult, Biddy conveys a depth of emotional awareness that feels timeless and deeply personal. Her most painful poems even have a feeling of triumph and leave you with the feeling of having a long, late-night talk with your best friend about life and love.

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Angelou is a Black poet, writer, actress, singer, dancer, civil rights activist, and is now featured on the U.S. quarter for the Federal Reserves’ new line of American Women quarters for 2022. Published in 1969 “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” is an extremely raw coming-of-age autobiography that explores the turmoils of racism, literacy, sexual abuse, and womanhood in a male-dominated society. In 2013, the National Book Foundation awarded the book and its author the Literarian Award. To learn more about Maya Angelou and her impact on the civil rights movement, check out page blah blah.

Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools by Dr. Monique Morris

This book opens by introducing Dejerria Becton, a 14-year old girl who was a victim of police brutality in the summer of 2015 at a pool party, an innocent young lady who fell victim to the criminalization and dehumanization of young Black girls. Dr. Monique Morris explores the disproportionately high rates of young Black girls coming in contact with the juvenile justice system and the sociological and psychological reasoning behind it. Since their emergence in 2013, the Black Lives Matter movement has focused on providing justice for victims of police aggression, and “Pushout” is an exploration into another layer of issues the Black community faces with the criminal justice system.


Another Country by James Baldwin

In this Black Lit classic, Baldwin challenges the New York City “melting pot” narrative by exploring the innate racism found throughout Manhattan, from Harlem all the way down to Greenwich Village in 1962. Other taboos such as bisexuality, interracial couples, and adultery are also examined. Baldwin often volleys perspectives shifting from the point of view of the oppressed to their oppressors, driving the point that no one lives unbothered in racist climates. Topics of race and sexuality are also explored in his other best-selling novels such as “The Fire Next Time” and “Giovanni’s Room.”


The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

This groundbreaking novel follows two slaves, Cora and Ceaser, escaping the antebellum South through the Underground Railroad, exploring themes of family, Black heritage, resistance and freedom all within the literary realm of magical realism. In 2021 the novel was turned into a live-action T.V. series now available to be watched on Prime Video and Whitehead was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, National Book Award for Fiction, and the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Historical Fiction for this work. You can find a copy of “The Underground Railroad” in the Birnbaum Library at the University, as well as other published works by Whitehead.

This list is certainly not non-exhaustive and there are an extensive number of Black authors creating important and necessary work right now. The Pace Press hopes you find inspiration for your own reading from this list!