From the big list of books our schools are teaching this year, we’re sharing titles that are great for celebrating black authors during Black History Month. Browse through our list to find great picks among fiction and nonfiction titles for literature, drama, creative writing, and history classes. 

1. Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead is about Cora, a young African American woman, who journeys to freedom on a fantastically imagined physical railroad. Whitehead’s Underground Railroad was awarded the National Book Award as well as the Pulitzer Prize.

Penguin Random House has a great guide for teachers.

2. Fences by August Wilson

Fences is a 1985 play by American playwright August Wilson. Fences is set in mid-century and centers on the family and relationships of Troy Maxson. The play was adapted for film and won several Tony Awards as well as the Pulitzer Prize.

3. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Ralph Ellison won the National Book Award in 1953 for Invisible Man. The book’s nameless narrator tells a vivid and complex story of race and identity. Invisible Man is frequently recommended for students preparing for the AP English Literature and Composition exam.

4. A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry was nominated for several Tony Awards and has had several revivals and international productions, as well as adaptations for screen. The play was named Best Play of 1959 by the New York Drama Critics’ Circle. Except for one role, the cast is comprised of all Black characters and focuses on the Younger family on the south side of Chicago. A Raisin in the Sun is frequently recommended for students preparing for the AP English Literature and Composition exam.

5. A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

Ernest J. Gaines’s eighth novel, A Lesson Before Dying, is loosely based on the true story of Willie Francis, a young Black man who was sentenced to death by electrocution in Louisiana in the 1940s. The novel won the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Penguin Random House has a great guide for teachers.

6. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Just Mercy is a memoir of Bryan Stevenson’s work as a lawyer working on behalf of his clients. The book has earned many accolades for nonfiction and has been adapted as a film, focusing on Stevenson’s endeavor to overturn the wrongful conviction of Walter McMillian.

7. Slave Narratives from the Underground Railroad from Dover Thrift Editions

During the 1850s and 1860s more than 100,000 people escaped slavery in the American South by following the Underground Railroad, a complex network of secret routes and safe houses. This compilation of firsthand accounts offers authentic insights into the Civil War era and African-American history with compelling narratives by Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and lesser-known refugees. (Publisher Description)

8. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Yaa Gyansi is a Ghanaian-American writer and her debut novel has earned critical acclaim, including the John Leonard Award for best debut book from the National Book Critics Circle. The story focuses on two half-sisters, separated by circumstance, and their families over generations. Historical themes include 19th-century wars in Ghana and slavery and segregation in America.

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