Black History Month Booklist

Black Butterfly book cover

This Black History Month, we’re celebrating authors writing at the intersection of Black studies and fields such as public health, history, literary studies, higher education, and more. Below are some of the featured books on our Black History Month booklist.

Cover image of We'll Fight It Out Here

We’ll Fight It Out Here by David Chanoff and Louis W. Sullivan

Racism in the US health care system has been deliberately undermining Black health care professionals and exacerbating health disparities among Black Americans for centuries. These health disparities only became a mainstream issue on the agenda of US health leaders and policy makers because a group of health professions schools at Historically Black Colleges and Universities banded together to fight for health equity. We'll Fight It Out Here tells the story of how the Association of Minority Health Professions Schools (AMHPS) was founded by this coalition and the hard-won influence it built in American politics and health care. David Chanoff and Louis W. Sullivan, former secretary of health & human services, detail how the struggle for equity has been fought in the field of health care, where bias and disparities continue to be volatile national issues.


Cover image of Black Health in the South

Black Health in the South
Edited By Steven S. Coughlin, Lovoria B. Williams, and Tabia Henry Akintobi

For African Americans in the southern United States, the social determinants of health are influenced by a unique history that encompasses hundreds of years of slavery, injustices during the Jim Crow era, the Great Migration, the civil rights era, and contemporary experiences like the Black Lives Matter movement. In Black Health in the South, editors Steven S. Coughlin, Lovoria B. Williams, and Tabia Henry Akintobi bring together essays on this important subject from top public health experts. With essays spanning topics from culturally appropriate health care to faith-based interventions and the role of research networks in addressing disparities, this collection is pivotal for understanding the health of African Americans in the South. Public health scholars have examined racial disparities in health in the United States broadly and in specific cities, but this is the first edited collection to focus on African Americans in the South both as a whole and as a distinct population.


Cover image of The Black Butterfly

The Black Butterfly by Lawrence Brown

In The Black Butterfly—a reference to the fact that Baltimore's majority-Black population spreads out like a butterfly's wings on both sides of the coveted strip of real estate running down the center of the city—Lawrence T. Brown reveals that ongoing historical trauma caused by a combination of policies, practices, systems, and budgets is at the root of uprisings and crises in hypersegregated cities around the country. Putting Baltimore under a microscope, Brown looks closely at the causes of segregation, many of which exist in current legislation and regulatory policy. Drawing on social science research, policy analysis, and archival materials, Brown reveals the long history of racial segregation's impact on health, from toxic pollution to police brutality. Throughout the book, Brown offers a clear five-step plan for activists, nonprofits, and public officials to achieve racial equity and a wide range of innovative solutions to help heal and restore redlined Black neighborhoods, including municipal reparations.

Cover image of The Black President

The Black President by Claude A. Clegg III

In The Black President, the first interpretative, grand-narrative history of Barack Obama's presidency in its entirety, Claude A. Clegg III situates the former president in his dynamic, inspirational, yet contentious political context. He captures the America that made Obama's White House years possible, while insightfully rendering the America that resolutely resisted the idea of a Black chief executive, thus making conceivable the ascent of the most unlikely of his successors. Clegg draws on an expansive archive of materials, including government records and reports, interviews, speeches, memoirs, and insider accounts, in order to examine Obama's complicated upbringing and early political ambitions, his delicate navigation of matters of race, the nature and impacts of his administration's policies and politics, the inspired but also carefully choreographed symbolism of his presidency (and Michelle Obama's role), and the spectrum of allies and enemies that he made along the way.


Cover image of Lean Semesters

Lean Semesters by Sekile M. Nzinga

In Lean Semesters, Sekile M. Nzinga argues that the corporatized university—long celebrated as a purveyor of progress and opportunity—systematically indebts and disposes of Black women's bodies, their intellectual contributions, and their potential en masse. Black women are less likely to be funded as graduate students, are disproportionately hired as contingent faculty, are trained and hired within undervalued disciplines, and incur the highest levels of educational debt. Insisting that "shifts" in higher education must recognize such unjust dynamics as intrinsic, not tangential, to the operation of the neoliberal university, Nzinga draws on candid interviews with thirty-one Black women at various stages of their academic careers. Their richly varied experiences reveal why underrepresented women of color are so vulnerable to the compounded forms of exploitation and inequity within the late capitalist terrain of this once-revered social institution.


Cover image of My Quest for Health Equity

My Quest for Health Equity by David Satcher, MD, PhD

A former four-star admiral in the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, Dr. David Satcher, MD, PhD, served as the assistant secretary for health, the surgeon general of the United States, and the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before founding the eponymous Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine. At the core of his impact on public health, he is also a lifelong leader for civil rights and health equity. In My Quest for Health Equity, Dr. Satcher takes an inspiring and instructive look inside his fifty-year career to shed light on the challenge and burden of leadership. Explaining that he has thought of each leadership role—whether in academia, community, or government—as an opportunity to move the needle toward health equity, he shares the hard-won lessons he has learned over a lifetime in the medical field. 


Cover image of Suspended

Suspended by Charles Bell

In their pursuit of a quality education, many Black families are burdened by challenging barriers to success, most notably the frequency and severity of school punishment. Such punishment is meant to be a disciplinary tool that makes schools safer, but it actually does the opposite—and is particularly harmful for Black students and their families. Focusing on schools in inner-city and suburban Detroit, Charles Bell draws on 160 in-depth interviews with Black high school students, their parents, and their teachers to illuminate the negative outcomes that are associated with out-of-school suspension. Bell also sheds light on the inherent shortcomings of school safety measures as he describes how schools fail to protect Black students, which leaves them vulnerable to bullying and victimization. A thought-provoking and urgent work, Suspended calls for an inclusive national dialogue on school punishment and safety reform. 


Cover image of The Black Skyscraper

The Black Skyscraper by Adrienne Brown

With the development of the first skyscrapers in the 1880s, urban built environments could expand vertically as well as horizontally. Tall buildings emerged in growing cities to house and manage the large and racially diverse populations of migrants and immigrants flocking to their centers following Reconstruction. Beginning with Chicago's early 10-story towers and concluding with the 1931 erection of the 102-story Empire State Building, Adrienne Brown's The Black Skyscraper provides a detailed account of how scale and proximity shape our understanding of race. In works of apocalyptic science fiction, light romance, and Jazz Age melodrama, as well as in more canonical works by W. E. B. Du Bois, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Aaron Douglas, and Nella Larsen, the skyscraper mediates the process of seeing and being seen as a racialized subject. A highly interdisciplinary work, The Black Skyscraper reclaims the influence of race on modern architectural design as well as the less-well-understood effects these designs had on the experience and perception of race.


Cover image of Black Power

Black Power by Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar

In the 1960s and 70s, the two most important black nationalist organizations, the Nation of Islam and the Black Panther Party, gave voice and agency to the most economically and politically isolated members of Black communities outside the South. Though vilified as fringe and extremist, these movements proved to be formidable agents of influence during the civil rights era, ultimately giving birth to the Black Power movement. Drawing on deep archival research and interviews with key participants, Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar reconsiders the stories of the Nation of Islam, Black Panthers, and mainstream civil rights leaders. This updated edition of Ogbar's classic work contains a new preface that describes the book's genesis and links the Black Power movement to the Black Lives Matter movement. A thoroughly updated essay on sources contains a comprehensive review of Black Power–related scholarship. Ultimately, Black Power reveals a Black freedom movement in which the ideals of desegregation through nonviolence and black nationalism marched side by side.

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Written by: Kristina Lykke
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