Director’s Non-Fiction Book List: African American Historical and Contemporary Interpretations of Race & Place

Belonging: A Culture of Place (bell hooks): What does it mean to call a place home? Who is allowed to become a member of a community? When can we say that we truly belong?


Race and the Cosmos, Barbara A. Holmes

Race and the Cosmos: An Invitation to View the World Differently (Barbara A. Holmes): At the intersection of ethics, cosmology, and physics, a new view of human life is emerging—a view not neatly divided along lines of race, ethnicity, class, or sexual orientation.

What Lies Beneath: Katrina, Race, and the State of the Nation (South End Press Collective, afterword by Joy James): “As Katrina’s waters receded and the body count soared, an ugly truth (re)surfaced: The lives of those who are poor, who are vulnerable, and who are not white are not valued by the US government.”

The Covenant with Black America (Various contributors, introduction by Tavis Smiley): Six years’ worth of symposiums come together in this collection of essays that plot a course for African Americans, explaining how individuals and households can make changes that will immediately improve their circumstances.

Color by Fox: The Fox Network and the Network in Black Television (Kristal Brent Zook):  Locating a persistent black nationalist desire–a yearning for home and community–in shows produced by and for African Americans, this book shows how these productions revealed complex and contradictory politics of gender, sexuality, and class.


Super Black: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes, Adilfu Nama

Super Black: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes (Adilfu Nama): Placing the appearance of black superheroes alongside broad and sweeping cultural trends in American politics and pop culture reveals how black superheroes are not disposable pop products, but rather a racial phenomenon through which expressions and visions of black racial identity and symbolic political meaning are presented.

Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films (Donald Bogle): From The Birth of a Nation–the groundbreaking work of independent filmmaker Oscar Micheaux–and Gone with the Wind to the latest work by Spike Lee, John Singleton, Denzel Washington, Halle Berry and Will Smith, Bogle reveals the ways in which the depiction of blacks in American movies has changed and the way it has remained the same.

Blackberries and Redbones: Critical Articulations of Black Hair/Body Politics in Africana Communities (Regina Spellers and Kimberly Moffit): How are Black bodies and Black hair read and understood in life, art, popular culture, mass media, or cross-cultural interactions?

A Question of Manhood: A Reader in U.S. Black Men’s History and Masculinity (Darlene Clark Hine):

Black Europe and the African Diaspora (Darleen Clark Hine):  This collection penetrates the multifaceted Black presence in Europe, and complicates the notions of race, belonging, desire, and identities assumed and presumed in revealing portraits of Black experiences in a European context.


Shining Thread of Hope, Darlene Clark Hine

A Shining Thread of Hope (Darleen Clark Hine): Chronicling the lives of black women from indentured servitude in the early American colonies to the cruelty of antebellum plantations, from the reign of lynch law in the Jim Crow South to the triumphs of the Civil Rights era, Hine illustrates how the story of black women in America is as much a tale of courage and hope as it is a history of struggle.

Gender Talk: The Struggle For Women’s Equality in African American Communities (Johnetta B. Cole and Beverly Guy-Sheftall): In the Black community, rape, violence against women, and sexual harassment are as much the legacy of slavery as is racism. Cole and Guy-Sheftall argue powerfully that the only way to defeat this legacy is to focus on the intersection of race and gender.

Sexuality and the Black Church: A Womanist Perspective (Kelly Brown Douglas): This book tackles the “taboo” subject of sexuality that has long been avoided by the Black church and community.


The Cross and the Lynching Tree, James H. Cone

The Cross and the Lynching Tree (James H. Cone): The cross and the lynching tree are the two most emotionally charged symbols in the history of the African American community. Theologian James H. Cone explores these symbols and their interconnection in the history and souls of black folk.

Bridges of Memory (The Dusable Museum and Timuel Black)

From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans (John Hope Franklin and Evelyn Higginbotham):  The preeminent history of African Americans, this text charts the journey of African Americans from their origins in Africa, through slavery in the Western Hemisphere, struggles for freedom in the West Indies, Latin America, and the United States, various migrations, and the continuing quest for racial equality.

The End of God-Talk: An African-American Humanist Theology (Anthony Pinn): Rejecting the assumption of theism as the African American orientation, Pinn poses a crucial question: What is a non-theistic theology?

The African American Religious Experience in America: History of African-American Religions (Anthony Pinn): Too often, consideration of African American religious expression is limited to considerations of black churches or to aspects of Islamic thought and practice. This comprehensive overview reveals the tremendous diversity of the African American religious communities in America by examining black spiritual churches, Buddhism, humanism, Judaism, Nation of Islam, Protestant churches, the Roman Catholic Church, Santería, Sunni Islam, and voodoo.

A Voice from the South (Anna Julia Cooper): Considered one of the original texts foretelling the black feminist movement, this collection of essays criticizes black men for securing higher education for themselves through the ministry, while erecting roadblocks to deny women access to those same opportunities, and denounces the elitism and provinciality of the white women’s movement.

Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America (James Allen): These images refute the notion that photographs of charged historical subjects lose their power, softening and becoming increasingly aesthetic with time. They give one a deeper and far sadder understanding of what it has meant to be white and to be black in America. And what it still means.

The Greatest Taboo: Homosexuality in Black Communities (Delroy Constantine-Simms): 28 essays from academics and writers of all ethnic heritages, genders, and sexuality, including bell hooks, Eric Garber, Seth Clarke Silberman, Gregory Conerly, and Dr. Gloria Wekker-running from 19th-century slave quarters to postapartheid South Africa, from RuPaul to the Wu Tang Clan, from 1920s Harlem to 1995’s Million Man March on Washington-provide a clear-eyed societal, cultural, political, and historical view of both the transformation and continued repression of black lesbians and gay men.

Check out more MSC Book Lists here.

One thought on “Director’s Non-Fiction Book List: African American Historical and Contemporary Interpretations of Race & Place

  1. Pingback: Book Selections: Race & Place | Threads

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