A Black History Month Reading List for White Guys by a White Guy

Hello, White Guy here. I was thinking about Black History Month this morning and decided that I’d share my favorite books relevant to exploring and celebrating black history. Because I am, as stated previously, an White Guy, this list isn’t exhaustive, but all of the books in this list expanded my perspective and taught me a lot about American history, the central role enslaved people played in it, and the ripples of slavery that crash into current events.

Do what you want with this list! Not all of these are easy reads. In fact, if you’ve never really thought about black history before, you might want to rage quit all of them in the first chapter. Please don’t.

American history, as we White Guys were taught it, put us right in center of it and made it as comfortable as possible for us. It glossed over the destruction inflicted on other people in order to gain that comfort. Embrace the discomfort. Lean into it. And then ponder it.

Enough preaching, on to the recommendations!

  • Understanding and Dismantling Racism by Joseph Barndt: This book is pretty short, accessible, and speaks directly to a white religious audience. If that was your upbringing, this is a good place to start learning about systemic racism!
  • The Cooking Gene by Michael W. Twitty: If you’re into food, this is a great way to get your history. It’s powerfully written and makes an impact.
  • Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin: Baldwin’s words are fire, and his queer perspective on blackness and whiteness is as important today as it was when he wrote it.
  • The Half Has Never Been Told by Edward E. Baptist: This one is dense, but if you like history, this is meticulously researched, beautifully and brutally told, and really brings home the impact slavery had on not just the South, but the whole development of the country. It’s a must read.
  • Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark: Let’s lighten things up with some fiction! Set in Macon, Georgia during segregation, this is a lot of fun and education.

There you go. Hope you enjoy at least one of them!

Who’s In Your Pantheon?

I haven’t finished the whole piece yet, but Pauli Murray lived an amazing life and blazed a lot of the trails people better-remembered walked.

Learning about Pauli, Susie King Taylor, Fannie Lou Hamer, Lucy Craft Laney and others… we need to expand our pantheon of heroes we learn about in school.

Think about the people in your history books from school. How many of them are men? How many are white? How many do we now know aren’t as heroic as we were taught?

It’s time to expand the pantheon to include people history tried to erase, the trailblazers who made the path others followed, and spoke truth to power when the consequences were life and death.

And maybe it’s time to retire some of those other statues that never belonged there in the first place.