A good book ensures that one’s story is never erased.
In honor of our triumphant story, celebrating 50 years as a magazine, we’ve chosen 50 remarkable books from the last 50 years.
These titles have captivated and moved us, searing themselves into memory with their fierce truth-telling and leaving us so much richer than before.
From first-person narratives that tell a singular story to inspirational picture books for your little ones, these 50 books celebrate the full humanity of Blackness.
AND STILL I RISE by Maya Angelou
This classic 1978 collection of poetry contains some of Angelou’s most memorable verses, including her lauded “Phenomenal Woman.”
LOVE POEMS by Nikki Giovanni
The renowned poet offers new and previously published works, including “Seduction” and an homage to Tupac Shakur in this
ASSATA: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY by Assata Shakur
Accused of murdering a White state trooper, the political activist wrote her 1988 tome from Cuba, where she’s in asylum.
ROOTS: THE SAGA OF AN AMERICAN FAMILY by Alex Haley
In his 1976 memoir, the author details his family lineage, starting with Kunta Kinte, enslaved in the eighteenth century.
AIN’T I A WOMAN: BLACK WOMEN AND FEMINISM by bell hooks
Named after Sojourner Truth’s iconic speech, this 1981 masterpiece is a favorite from the cultural critic.
SONG OF SOLOMON by Toni Morrison
Despite being banned in schools for sex and profanity, this 1977 smash hit, which gives voice to a Michigan Black man, has stood the test of time.
THE FIFTH SEASON by N.K. Jemisin
This imaginative 2015 novel focuses on a woman’s dire mission to find her husband after
he kills their son and runs off with their daughter.
From Page to the Stage
These stories went from the page to the stage and screen: August Wilson takes us inside a 1927 recording studio, where blues singer Ma Rainey is set to record in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
; his 1985 stage play is now being adapted for Netflix.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah features a woman who left Nigeria for America only to return to her true love; the 2013 novel is being turned into an HBO Max miniseries.
Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf began as a stage play in 1974 and got the big screen treatment in 2010
WOMEN, RACE & CLASS by Angela Y. Davis
In this 1981 must- read, the activist covers the women’s liberation movement in the U.S.—from abolitionists to the twentieth century.
THE SALT EATERS by Toni Cade Bambara
Bambara’s 1980 debut features a southern town where the women are desperate to recover from an unthinkable event.
UNBOUGHT AND UNBOSSED by Shirley Chisholm
America’s first Black congresswoman recounts her difficult rise from Brooklyn to Washington, D.C., in this 1970 memoir.
THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS by Rebecca Skloot
With her 2010 effort, Skloot wouldn’t let the world forget Lacks’s contributions to the annals of science.
THE WOMEN OF BREWSTER PLACE by Gloria Naylor
The 1982 novel introduces readers to seven ladies who deal with love, life and work while living in the same housing development.
HUNGER: A MEMOIR OF (MY) BODY by Roxane Gay
The best-selling memoir, released in 2017, chronicles Gay’s torrid relationship with food and search for self-love.
ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY by Mildred D. Taylor
The author’s 1976 sequel to Song of the Trees follows a little girl growing up in the Jim Crow era and learning why land is so valuable.
CONFESSIONS OF A VIDEO VIXEN by Karrine Steffans
Written as a warning for women, the former video model’s 2005 tell- all name-checks some of hip-hop’s biggest acts.
KINDRED by Octavia Butler
In this 1979 science fiction novel, a woman gets pulled back into slavery in order to save a plantation owner’s son from drowning.
BLACK MACHO AND THE MYTH OF THE SUPERWOMAN by Michele Wallace
The cultural critic refuses to let Black women be pushed to the margins in this 1978 book about hypermasculinity.
Black Men Dealing with Loss
These best-selling works put Black men front and center as they deal with loss.
In his 2015 National Book Award–winning memoir, Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates writes a letter to his son about what it means to be Black.
Jason Reynolds’s Long Way Down is written entirely in free verse. The author’s standout 2017 young adult book zooms in on a young man grappling with losing his brother.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas captures the pain and rage of a community that has lost a teen to racist police violence.
THE NEW JIM CROW by Michelle Alexander
This piercing 2010 offering explains how many Black people still live with the remnants of slavery due to mass incarceration.
A LESSON BEFORE DYING by Ernest J. Gaines
This eye-opening 1993 tome is based on the real-life story of Willie Francis, a Black man twice sentenced to death in the 1940s.
DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS by Walter Mosley
In the illustrious author’s 1990 debut, events turn blue collar worker Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins into a detective.
INVISIBLE LIFE by E. Lynn Harris
This 1991 compelling tale depicts the struggles of a Black
man grappling with the realization that he’s actually in love with another man.
FLYY GIRL by Omar Tyree
In this addictive 1993 novel, the popular wordsmith intro- duces Tracy Ellison, a woman who discovers that all things glamorous come with a price.
WAITING TO EXHALE by Terry McMillan
This 1992 tale by the famed writer captures the essence of four friends who support one another through divorce and heartbreak.
REVOLUTIONARY SUICIDE by Huey P. Newton
In his 1973 memoir, the Black Panther Party cofounder shares his story—from growing up in Oakland to creating a political power group.
BARRACOON: THE STORY OF THE LAST “BLACK CARGO” by Zora Neale Hurston and edited by Deborah G. Plant
The life of the last known man to survive the Middle Passage is preserved in this 2018 book.
RACE MATTERS by Cornel West
With his signature elevated prose, the professor and thought leader speaks about
the state of Black culture in this 1993 tour de force.
BELOVED by Toni Morrison
The 1987 Pulitzer Prize–winning novel focuses on the family of a woman who has escaped slavery, but her past bondage still binds them all.
SISTER, SISTER by Eric Jerome Dickey
This 1996 effort delivers a fun and flirty look at the life and loves of three Los Angeles siblings.
WHITE TEETH by Zadie Smith
This British scribe’s 2000 novel, featuring two unlikely friends in London who met during World War II, is a perennial favorite.
HOMEGOING by Yaa Gyasi
The masterful 2016 work by the Ghanaian-American author details the Black struggle, from African enslavement to modern-day America.
DREAMS FROM MY FATHER by Barack Obama
In his 1995 memoir, the former president explores his early years as the son of a Black Kenyan father and a White American mother.
BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson
The Greenville, South Carolina and Brooklyn-raised author draws from her childhood in this 2014 middle- grade novel.
CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE by Tomi Adeyemi
In her 2018 tome, the Nigerian- American writer creates a magical world in which a princess finds her rightful throne.
THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Colson Whitehead
This 2016 Pulitzer Prize–winning novel reimagines the real-life Underground Railroad that rescued many Americans from slavery.
HAIR LOVE by Matthew A. Cherry and illustrated by Vashti Harrison
This 2019 tale, which gained fans through crowdsourcing, showcases a Black dad loving on his girl’s crown. The animated adaptation earned an Oscar.
PLEASE, BABY, PLEASE by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee
In this 2002 picture book, illustrated by Kadir Nelson, the Oscar-winning director and his wife talk about babies—from the messes to the hugs.
TAR BEACH by Faith Ringgold
Adapting her story quilt, which
boasts the same name, the mixed media artist wrote and illustrated this 1991 offering about an 8-year-old girl and her “tar beach,” or Harlem rooftop.
THE PEOPLE COULD FLY: AMERICAN BLACK FOLKTALES by Virginia Hamilton
Released in 1985, this collection of folktales, perfectly illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon, houses 24 stories that blend history with delight.
AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE by Tayari Jones
When newlywed bliss is stolen by prison time, a couple tries to love again in Tayari Jones’s 2018 novel, An American Marriage.
BECOMING by Michelle Obama
Our Forever First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2018 memoir, Becoming, details her journey from Chicago’s South Side to the White House.
SISTER OUTSIDER by Audre Lorde
Audre Lorde’s seminal 1984 collection, Sister Outsider, is a generations’ worth of realism.
IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK by James Baldwin
In James Baldwin’s 1974 novel, If Beale Street Could Talk, the narrative centers on a couple expecting a child as they’re torn apart.
THE COLDEST WINTER EVER by Sister Souljah
In 1999 Sister Souljah’s The Coldest Winter Ever made readers fall in love with a teen dealing with her drug-dealing father.
THE COLOR PURPLE by Alice Walker
The Color Purple, Alice Walker’s 1982 Pulitzer Prize– winning novel, touched readers and lifted up a sisterhood.