The 95 books on the Schomburg Center’s Black Liberation Reading List

The 95 books on the Schomburg Center’s Black Liberation Reading List

The New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center culled together a list of 95 books focused on Black liberation and anti-racism

As protests against racism and police brutality continue across the country, books about race and politics have risen to the top of best-seller lists.

To further help readers in their search, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture — part of the New York Public Library system — released a list of 95 books with the aim of celebrating and fostering a “better understanding of the Black experience.” Curated by the Harlem institution’s curators, archivists and store staff, the Black Liberation Reading List centers Black writers, paying particularly close attention to those authors who have papers held in the library’s archives.

The list coincides with the institution’s 95th anniversary and represents titles the staff regularly reference.

“The Schomburg Center is the world’s premier cultural institution dedicated to the Black experience,” Kevin Young, director of the research institution, said. “We have a responsibility, in a world divided by pervasive injustice to connect people with books, resources and knowledge that can help them foster a better understanding of Black history and culture, and celebrate that culture.”

Spanning genres, the reading guide includes nonfiction, poetry, photography, memoir, fiction, scholarly works and essays. Among the titles are Michelle Alexander’s examination of the United States prison system, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” and poet Claudia Rankine’s 2014 publication, “Citizen: An American Lyric.” Classics — such as James Baldwin’s “The Fire Next Time,” Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye,” Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” and Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” — are featured alongside contemporary publications, including Colson Whitehead’s “The Nickel Boys,” Zadie Smith’s “Feel Free,” Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me” and Jericho Brown’s book of poetry “The Tradition.”

“While no list can be complete, we wanted to include not just anti-racist books, but those that describe Black Liberation in terms of history, poetry and even joy,” Young said. “In difficult times, and times of transformation, joy is an act of resistance.”

The announcement notes that over the past two weeks, New Yorkers have turned to the library as a resource for learning about the history of racial injustice after the death of George Floyd in police custody. The top 10 e-books that saw an increase in holds during the time period between May 26 to June 2 all deal with race, the library reported.

A vast majority of the titles can be found on the New York Public Library’s free digital lending program and can be accessed via the institution’s e-collections by anyone with a library card. Those wishing to purchase the books are encouraged to do so through the Schomburg Shop.

“We love that people have shown us how much they want these books in their lives,” Rio Cortez, manager of the Schomburg Shop, said. “These are the titles we offer year-round in our Harlem store, and not having access to that space during the pandemic has been tough for our community, and for us. We are so grateful for the support we have seen in our online shop and grateful to continue to connect books and readers.”

Founded in 1925, the Schomburg Center holds over 11 million items, including manuscripts, photographs, rare books, films and the collections of authors such as Baldwin, Angelou, Ann Petry and Harry Belafonte. Those interested in accessing more resources through the center can check out the library’s Black heritage resources, Black book store guide, “Black Power” exhibition and Emmett Till Project, among others.

“We know people want and need these resources, whether new to the struggle or just seeking to learn,” Young said. “This Black Liberation List is just the beginning, but it’s an important step in a lifelong and global journey toward equity.”

A full list of the titles on the Schomburg Center’s Black Liberation Reading List is below.

  • “All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women’s Studies” by Akasha Gloria Hull, Patricia Bell-Scott & Barbara Smith, eds.
  • “American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin” by Terrance Hayes
  • “The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story” by Edwidge Danticat
  • “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” by Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley
  • “Bad Feminist: Essays” by Roxane Gay
  • “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • “Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do” by Jennifer L. Eberhardt
  • “The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution” by C.L.R. James
  • “A Black Women’s History of the United States” by Daina Ramey Berry & Kali Nicole Gross
  • “The Bluest Eye: A Novel” by Toni Morrison
  • “Breathe: A Letter to My Sons” by Imani Perry
  • “A Brief History of Seven Killings: A Novel” by Marlon James
  • “Brown: Poems” by Kevin Young
  • “Brutal Imagination” by Cornelius Eady
  • “Citizen: An American Lyric” by Claudia Rankine
  • “The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965–2010” by Kevin Young and Michael S. Glaser, eds.
  • “The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America” by Khalil Gibran Muhammad
  • “The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South” by Michael W. Twitty
  • “Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul” by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.
  • “Diasporic Blackness: The Life and Times of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg” by Vanessa K. Valdés
  • “Don’t Call Us Dead: Poems” by Danez Smith
  • “Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower” by Brittney Cooper
  • “Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land” by Leah Penniman
  • “Feel Free: Essays” by Zadie Smith
  • “Fences” by August Wilson
  • “The Fifth Season” by N.K. Jemisin
  • “The Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin
  • “The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race” by Jesmyn Ward, ed.
  • “Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement” by Angela Y. Davis
  • “From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation” by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
  • “Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists and Progressive Politics During World War II” by Farah Jasmine Griffin
  • “Heavy: An American Memoir” by Kiese Laymon
  • “High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America” by Jessica B. Harris
  • “The History of White People” by Nell Irvin Painter
  • “Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot” by Mikki Kendall
  • “How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi
  • “How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir” by Saeed Jones
  • “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou
  • “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose” by Alice Walker
  • “Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking” by Toni Tipton-Martin
  • “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson
  • “Kindred” by Octavia E. Butler
  • “Kwame Brathwaite: Black Is Beautiful” by Kwame Brathwaite
  • “The Light of the World: A Memoir” by Elizabeth Alexander
  • “Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America” by James Forman, Jr.
  • “Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention” by Manning Marable
  • “Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good
  • “Ancestor” by Layla F. Saad
  • “Men We Reaped: A Memoir” by Jesmyn Ward
  • “Monument: Poems: New and Selected” by Natasha Trethewey
  • “My Song: A Memoir” by Harry Belafonte
  • “Negroland: A Memoir” by Margo Jefferson
  • “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander
  • “The Nickel Boys” by Colson Whitehead
  • “Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America” by Candacy Taylor
  • “Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, adapted by John Jennings, art” by Damian Duffy
  • “Parenting for Liberation: A Guide for Raising Black Children” by Trina Greene Brown
  • “Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination” by Toni Morrison
  • “Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good” by adrienne maree brown
  • “Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter” by Jordan T. Camp & Christina Heatherton
  • “Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present” by Deborah Willis
  • “Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools” by Monique W. Morris
  • “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry
  • “Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More” by Janet Mock
  • “S O S: Poems 1961–2013” by Amiri Baraka
  • “Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems” by Sonia Sanchez
  • “Sister Outsider” by Audre Lorde
  • “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo
  • “The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation After the Genome” by Alondra Nelson
  • “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi
  • “Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow” by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
  • “The Street” by Ann Petry
  • “Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family” by Mitchell S. Jackson
  • “Sweat” by Lynn Nottage
  • “Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black” by bell hooks
  • “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston
  • “Thick: And Other Essays” by Tressie McMillan Cottom
  • “The Tradition” by Jericho Brown
  • “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead
  • “Vibration Cooking: or, The Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl” by Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor
  • “Voyage of the Sable Venus: And Other Poems” by Robin Coste Lewis
  • “Wade in the Water: Poems” by Tracy K. Smith
  • “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration” by Isabel Wilkerson
  • “The Ways of White Folks” by Langston Hughes
  • “Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval” by Saidiya Hartman
  • “We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • “We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of
  • “Educational Freedom” by Bettina L. Love
  • “We’re On: A June Jordan Reade”r by June Jordan
  • “Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves” by Glory Edim, ed.
  • “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays” by Damon Young
  • “Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?: Stories” by Kathleen Collins
  • “When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir” by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele
  • “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” by Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • “White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide” by Carol Anderson
  • “Who Fears Death” by Nnedi Okorafor
  • “The Wretched of the Earth” by Frantz Fanon