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Celebrating Black History 

Join us in celebrating Black History Month with a reading list curated by our Executive Director, Toni Smith! This collection features ten powerful books, each chosen for their exploration of Black experiences, perspectives, and voices. Whether written by Black authors or delving into themes that impact Black communities, these narratives offer a wealth of knowledge, inspiration, and reflection.

For each book, Toni (TAS) shares her thoughts and takeaways, inviting you to journey alongside her as you discover these diverse and thought-provoking reads. Grab a copy of one or more titles you plan to read by purchasing through our affiliate program at bookshop.org. 15% discount on select titles through February 29th.


What Toni is Reading Right Now 


  • The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride, 2023
    The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride, 2023

    In 1972, when workers in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, were digging the foundations for a new development, the last thing they expected to find was a skeleton at the bottom of a well. Who the skeleton was and how it got there were two of the long-held secrets kept by the residents of Chicken Hill, the dilapidated neighborhood where immigrant Jews and African Americans lived side by side and shared ambitions and sorrows. Chicken Hill was where Moshe and Chona Ludlow lived when Moshe integrated his theater and where Chona ran the Heaven & Earth Grocery Store. When the state came looking for a deaf boy to institutionalize him, it was Chona and Nate Timblin, the Black janitor at Moshe's theater and the unofficial leader of the Black community on Chicken Hill, who worked together to keep the boy safe.
    ~
    “Before I read a synopsis of this publication, there was something about the title and book cover that interested me and then I kept seeing it on list after list and so, here I am reading it.” TAS


5 of Toni's Historical Favorites 


  • A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your African American Ancestors by Franklin Carter Smith & Emily Anne Croom, 2009
    A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your African American Ancestors by Franklin Carter Smith & Emily Anne Croom, 2009

    How do you approach the unique challenges of African American genealogy? How can you make the most of your research time and effort? Join expert genealogists Franklin Carter Smith and Emily Anne Croom to explore successful strategies for getting started and moving beyond the basics.
    ~
    “This book is a staple resource and reference in my ancestry research.” TAS

  • The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist, 2016
    The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism by Edward E. Baptist, 2016

    Historian Edward E. Baptist reveals in The Half Has Never Been Told, the expansion of slavery in the first eight decades after American independence drove the evolution and modernization of the United States. In the span of a single lifetime, the South grew from a narrow coastal strip of worn-out tobacco plantations to a continental cotton empire, and the United States grew into a modern, industrial, and capitalist economy.
    ~
    “I listened to this entire 498 page book on audio then purchased the book, that’s how much of an impact it had on me. So many nuances weaved into the facts about our Black and American history. A definite must read and reference resource.” TAS

  • Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Hariett A. Washington, 2008
    Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Hariett A. Washington, 2008

    From the era of slavery to the present day, starting with the earliest encounters between Black Americans and Western medical researchers and the racist pseudoscience that resulted, Medical Apartheid details the ways both slaves and freedmen were used in hospitals for experiments conducted without their knowledge--a tradition that continues today within some black populations.
    ~
    “Reading this resource broke my heart. Most of the time, I felt physical pain as some of the experiments were described, in detail, on black women especially. We know more about female anatomy because of these experiments but wow so little regard for black and female life. A must read to better understand today’s still anti-black medical practices.” TAS

  • Brotherman The Odyssey of Black Men in America – An Anthology edited by Herb Boyd and Robert L. Allen, 1995
    Brotherman The Odyssey of Black Men in America – An Anthology edited by Herb Boyd and Robert L. Allen, 1995

    A passage to the world that Black men experience as adolescents, lovers, husbands, fathers, workers, warriors, and elders. On this journey they encounter pain, confusion, anger, and love while confronting the life-threatening issues of race, sex, and politics--often as strangers in a strange land. The first collection of its kind, Brotherman gathers together a multitude of voices that add a new, unforgettable chapter to American cultural identity.
    ~
    “This is the first publication, in memory, that invited me into the rich, diverse and brilliant minds of the black man’s existence.” TAS

  • A Question of Freedom: The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War by William G. Thomas III, 2022
    A Question of Freedom: The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War by William G. Thomas III, 2022

    For over seventy years and five generations, the enslaved families of Prince George's County, Maryland, filed hundreds of suits for their freedom against a powerful circle of slaveholders, taking their cause all the way to the Supreme Court. Between 1787 and 1861, these lawsuits challenged the legitimacy of slavery in American law and put slavery on trial in the nation's capital.
    ~
    “I had the opportunity to review and discuss this important work with other readers in an eight week discussion series hosted by the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System which included the author, who is a native of the area. This was helpful in collecting historical information for my ancestry journey.” TAS


Books on Toni's 2024 "To Read" List 


  • Legacy: A Black Physician Reckons with Racism in Medicine by Uché Blackstock, 2024
    Legacy: A Black Physician Reckons with Racism in Medicine by Uché Blackstock, 2024

    The rousing, captivating story of a Black physician, her career in medicine, and the deep inequities that still exist in the U.S. healthcare system. Legacy is a journey through the critical intersection of racism and healthcare. At once a searing indictment of our healthcare system, a generational family memoir, and a call to action, Legacy is Dr. Blackstock's odyssey from child to medical student to practicing physician--to finally seizing her own power as a health equity advocate against the backdrop of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement.
    ~
    “I have always held an interest and fascination in medical history and the field. I am amazed by how few medical Black professionals there are even in 2024. I am committed to working with others to implement real solutions.” TAS

  • The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story by Tiya Miles, 2012
    The House on Diamond Hill: A Cherokee Plantation Story by Tiya Miles, 2012

    At the turn of the nineteenth century, James Vann, a Cherokee chief, and entrepreneur, established Diamond Hill in Georgia, the most famous plantation in the southeastern Cherokee Nation. In this first full-length study to reconstruct the history of the plantation, Tiya Miles tells the story of Diamond Hill's founding, its flourishing, its takeover by white land-lottery winners on the eve of the Cherokee Removal, its decay, and ultimately its renovation in the 1950s.
    ~
    “Everyone was in on it. That’s all I have to write about this. For now.” TAS

  • Be a Revolution: How Everyday People Are Fighting Oppression and Changing the World--And How You Can, Too by Ijeoma Oluo, 2024
    Be a Revolution: How Everyday People Are Fighting Oppression and Changing the World--And How You Can, Too by Ijeoma Oluo, 2024

    Oluo aims to show how people across America are working to create real positive change in our structures. Looking at many of our most powerful systems--like education, media, labor, health, housing, policing, and more--she highlights what people are doing to create change for intersectional racial equity. She also illustrates various ways in which the reader can find entryways into change in these same areas or can bring some of this important work being done elsewhere to where they live.
    ~
    “I am always interested in reading something positive, and this seems positive and inspirational. Right up my alley.” TAS

  • In Every Mirror She Is Black by Lolá Ákínmádé Åkerström, 2021
    In Every Mirror She Is Black by Lolá Ákínmádé Åkerström, 2021

    Three Black women are linked in unexpected ways to the same influential white man in Stockholm as they build their new lives in the most open society run by the most private people. Told through the perspectives of each of the three women, In Every Mirror She's Black is a fast-paced, richly nuanced yet accessible contemporary novel that touches on important social issues of racism, classism, fetishization, and tokenism, and what it means to be a Black woman navigating a white-dominated society.
    ~
    “I read very little fiction, but something about this story seems interesting.” TAS


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