Our Collection

Black History Month 2024 - Books on History, the Arts, Literature & More

To commemorate Black History Month 2024 we present a selection of titles hat have landed on our shelves since last year's list. These books explore the depth and breadth of the immeasurable contributions made by Black people to the history and culture of the United States. The books below cover literature, art, politics, activism and protest, the performing arts, and more. Children's and Young Adult books selected by our children's librarians are featured below. Be sure to click subject links in our catalog records to explore other relevant books, and talk with a librarian at circulation or reference for more informaiton about the LIbrary's collection. Check out the NYSL Staff Book Recommendations for Black History Month 2024. 

Also check this bibliography of books in our stacks related to the Library's 2021-2022 exhibition, Black Literature Matters.

Black AF History : The Un-Whitewashed Story of America I Michael Harriot 

Kirkus - A vibrant retelling of American history that explodes “the whitewashed mythology enshrined in our collective memory.” In his simultaneously humorous and heartbreaking debut book, journalist and cultural critic Harriot offers an impressively researched and thoughtful exploration of the African diaspora over the past 500 years. The author weaves humor and wit with history and advocacy, and he takes readers on countless edifying twists and turns that debunk myths or clarify accepted terms and conditions. 

A Most Tolerant Little Town : the Explosive Beginning of School Desegregation I Rachel Louise Martin.

In A Most Tolerant Little Town, Rachel Martin weaves together over a dozen perspectives in an intimate, kaleidoscopic portrait of a small town living through a turbulent turning point for America. The result is at once a "gripping" (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution) mystery and a moving piece of forgotten civil rights history, rendered "with precision, lucidity and, most of all, a heart inured to false hope" (The New York Times).

Kerry James Marshall I Charles Gaines, Greg Tate and Laurence Rassel

The most comprehensive book yet on this inspired, inventive chronicler of the African-American experience. Alabama-born, Chicago-based Kerry James Marshall is one of the most exciting artists working today. Critically and commercially acclaimed, the painter is known for his representation of the history of African-American identity in Western art. Conversant with a wide typology of styles, subjects, and techniques, from abstraction to realism and comics, Marshall synthesizes different traditions and genres in his work while seeking to counter stereotypical depictions of black people in society. This is the most comprehensive overview available of his remarkable career 

Jamel Shabazz : Albums I Jamel Shabazz 

The influential New York photographer Jamel Shabazz has created portraits of the city’s communities for over 40 years. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Shabazz began photographing people he encountered on New York streets in the late 1970s, creating an archive of cultural shifts and struggles across the city. A documentary, fashion, and street photographer, his photographs have been exhibited worldwide and his work is housed within the permanent collections of The Whitney Museum, The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, The Fashion Institute of Technology, The Art Institute of Chicago and the Getty Museum.

Black Panther : The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas I Emory Douglas 

 The Black Panther newspaper was founded to articulate the party’s message, and artist Emory Douglas became the paper’s art director and later the party’s minister of culture. Douglas’s artistic talents and experience proved a powerful combination: his striking collages of photographs and his own drawings combined to create some of the era’s most iconic images. This landmark book brings together a remarkable lineup of party insiders who detail the crafting of the party’s visual identity.

King : A Life Jonathan Eig

Booklist Online -  In the most comprehensive MLK biography to date, enhanced with newly released FBI records and unpublished memoirs, Eig digs deep into King’s family history, revealing the fortitude and racial trauma experienced by his grandparents and the indomitable church culture which forged his father. Eig notes the influence of Morehouse College in strengthening King’s sense of Black self-worth and identity and of colleagues (and rivals) like Ralph Abernathy in developing King’s own theology of antiracism. Eig insightfully and forthrightly addresses critiques of King as a plagiarist and his relationships with women before and after his marriage to Coretta Scott. Most important, Eig refuses to “defang” King, instead pushing Americans to recognize the radical nature of his demands for justice and his resistance to not only racism but also militarism and capitalism.

In Search Of A Beautiful Freedom : New and Selected Essays I Farah Jasmine Griffin

Books in Print - In Search of a Beautiful Freedom brings together the best work from Farah Jasmine Griffin's rich forays on music, Black feminism, literature, the crises of Hurricane Katrina and COVID-19, and the Black artists she esteems. She moves from evoking the haunting strength of Odetta and the rise of soprano popular singers in the 1970s to the forging of a Black women's literary renaissance and the politics of Malcolm X through the lens of Black feminism. She reflects on pivotal moments in recent American history--including the banning of Toni Morrison's Beloved--and celebrates the intellectuals, artists, and personal relationships that have shaped her identity and her work.

Spectral Evidence : Poems I Gregory Pardlo

NYSL member Gregory Pardlo’s first major collection of poetry after winning the Pulitzer Prize for Digest, moves fluidly among considerations of the pro-wrestler Owen Hart; Tituba, the only Black woman to be accused of witchcraft during the Salem witch trials; MOVE, the movement and militant separatist group famous for its violent stand-offs with the Philadelphia Police Department (“flames rose like orchids . . . / blocks lay open like egg cartons”); and more.

Every Man A King I Walter Mosley.

In this highly anticipated sequel from Edgar Award-winning "master of craft and narrative," Walter Mosley, Joe King Oliver is entangled in a dangerous case when he's asked to investigate whether a white nationalist is being unjustly set up (National Book Foundation).

New York Times - All this is classic Mosley, a master of the hard-boiled style that Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett pioneered in the 1930s. The byzantine plot, the suave private eye, all the uncanny similes; it’s a cocktail that skilled authors will serve as long as bartenders are still pouring Negronis. 

Beyond the Shores: A History of African Americans Abroad I Tamara J. Walker

Books in Print: Beyond the Shores is not just about where African Americans stayed or where they ate when they traveled but also about why they left in the first place and how they were treated once they reached their destinations. Drawing on years of research, Dr. Tamara J. Walker chronicles their experiences in atmospheric detail, taking readers from well-known capital cities to more unusual destinations like Yangiyul, Uzbekistan, and Kabondo, Kenya. She follows Florence Mills, the would-be Josephine Baker of her day, in Paris, and Richard Wright, the author turned actor and filmmaker, in Buenos Aires. 

I Saw Death Coming: A History of Terror and Survival in the War Against Reconstruction I Kidada E. Williams

The story of Reconstruction is often told from the perspective of the politicians, generals, and journalists whose accounts claim an outsized place in collective memory. But this pivotal era looked very different to African Americans in the South transitioning from bondage to freedom after 1865. They were besieged by a campaign of white supremacist violence that persisted through the 1880s and beyond. For too long, their lived experiences have been sidelined, impoverishing our understanding of the obstacles post-Civil War Black families faced, their inspiring determination to survive, and the physical and emotional scars they bore because of it.

Children's and Young Adult: 

An American Story I Kwame Alexander

#1 New York Times Bestselling and award-winning author, Kwame Alexander, pens a powerful picture book that tells the story of American slavery through the voice of a teacher struggling to help her students understand its harrowing history. From the fireside tales in an African village, through the unspeakable passage across the Atlantic, to the backbreaking work in the fields of the South, this is a story of a people’s struggle and strength, horror and hope.

School Trip : A Graphic Novel I Jerry Craft 

The Riverdale Academy Day School crew is back and ready for an adventure to the City of Lights. This newest installment in Craft’s groundbreaking middle-grade graphic novel series finds eighth grade African American boy Jordan facing a milestone all too familiar to many teenagers: the arrival of a school admissions letter. Attending art school is Jordan’s dream come true, but getting one’s heart’s desire comes with a fresh set of worries.

We Are Here I Tami Charles 

Full of assurance, tenderness, and triumph, this much-anticipated follow-up to the New York Times bestselling picture book All Because You Matter offers an equally inspirational and arresting ode to all of the Black women and men throughout history who have made momentous contributions from the beginning of time. Tami Charles shares the beauty and excellence in the history of the Black community, assuring Black and brown children of the extraordinary legacy from which they come. Charles's powerful and empowering text is accompanied with illustrations by renowned artist Bryan Collier, a four-time Caldecott Honor recipient and a nine-time Coretta Scott King Award winner or honoree