February is Black History Month. Learn more about the the ongoing struggle for equal rights throughout the nation’s history from our curated selection of books and films.
You may also want to check out Behind the Veil Oral History Project. Hear stories from a selection of recorded oral history interviews chronicling African-American life during the age of legal segregation in the Jim Crow South, from the 1890s to the 1950s, recorded by Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies.
The Sum of Us: What Racism Cost Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together, by Heather McGhee
Heather McGhee’s specialty is the American economy—and the mystery of why it so often fails the American public. From the financial crisis of 2008 to rising student debt to collapsing public infrastructure, she found a root problem: racism in our politics and policymaking. But not just in the most obvious indignities for people of color. Racism has costs for white people, too. It is the common denominator of our most vexing public problems, the core dysfunction of our democracy and constitutive of the spiritual and moral crises that grip us all. But how did this happen? And is there a way out? Long-listed for the National Book Award.
The 1619 Project, by Nikole Hannah-Jones
The 1619 Project is The New York Times Magazine’s award-winning reframing of American history that placed slavery and its continuing legacy at the center of our national narrative. The project, which was initially launched in August of 2019, offered a revealing new origin story for the United States, one that helped explain not only the persistence of anti-Black racism and inequality in American life today, but also the roots of so much of what makes the country unique. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize
Four Hundred Souls, edited by Ibram X. Kendi
The story begins in 1619—a year before the Mayflower—when the White Lion disgorges “some 20-and-odd Negroes” onto the shores of Virginia, inaugurating the African presence in what would become the United States. It takes us to the present, when African Americans, descendants of those on the White Lion and a thousand other routes to this country, continue a journey defined by inhuman oppression, visionary struggles, stunning achievements, and millions of ordinary lives passing through extraordinary history.
The Three Mothers : How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation, by Anna Malaika Tubbs
Berdis Baldwin, Alberta King, and Louise Little were all born at the beginning of the 20th century and forced to contend with the prejudices of Jim Crow as Black women. These three extraordinary women passed their knowledge to their children with the hope of helping them to survive in a society that would deny their humanity from the very beginning—from Louise teaching her children about their activist roots, to Berdis encouraging James to express himself through writing, to Alberta basing all of her lessons in faith and social justice. These women used their strength and motherhood to push their children toward greatness, all with a conviction that every human being deserves dignity and respect despite the rampant discrimination they faced.
A More Beautiful and Terrible History : the Uses and Misuses of Civil Rights History, by Jeanne Theoharis
Moving from “the histories we get” to “the histories we need,” Theoharis challenges nine key aspects of the fable to reveal the diversity of people, especially women and young people, who led the movement; the work and disruption it took; the role of the media and “polite racism” in maintaining injustice; and the immense barriers and repression activists faced.
Begin Again : James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own, by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.
In these brilliant and stirring pages, Glaude finds hope and guidance in Baldwin as he mixes biography—drawn partially from newly uncovered Baldwin interviews—with history, memoir, and poignant analysis of our current moment to reveal the painful cycle of Black resistance and white retrenchment. As Glaude bears witness to the difficult truth of racism’s continued grip on the national soul, Begin Again is a searing exploration of the tangled web of race, trauma, and memory, and a powerful interrogation of what we must ask of ourselves in order to call forth a new America.
One Night In Miami
A fictional account of one amazing night where icons Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown gathered discussing their roles in the Civil Rights Movement and cultural turmoil of the ’60s.
John Lewis: Get In The Way
Follow the courageous journey of John Lewis, a civil rights hero, congressional leader, and human rights champion whose unwavering fight for justice spans the past 50 years. The son of sharecroppers, Lewis grew up in the segregated South and rose from Alabama’s Black Belt to the corridors of power on Capitol Hill. His humble origins forever linked him to those whose voices often go unheard.
MLK/FBI (coming soon)
From the March on Washington in 1963 up until his assassination in 1968, the FBI engaged in an intense campaign to discredit Martin Luther King Jr. and his work. Film director Sam Pollard chronicles those efforts in the new documentary. Pollard’s documentary is based on newly declassified files obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, along with restored archival footage. It shows the government’s extensive targeting of King and his associates in the 1960s.
I Am Not Your Negro
In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project, “Remember This House.” The book was to be a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and assassinations of three of his close friends: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time of Baldwin’s death in 1987, he left behind only 30 completed pages of this manuscript. Filmmaker Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished.
Mighty Times: The Children’s March
A short documentary film about the Birmingham, Alabama civil rights marches in the 1960s, highlighting the bravery of young activists involved in the Children’s Crusade.
Eyes on the prize : America’s civil rights years,1954-1965
The story of the Civil Rights era from the point of view of the ordinary men and women whose extraordinary actions launched a movement that changed the fabric of American life, and embodied a struggle whose reverberations are felt today.