A Celebration of African American History, Culture and Politics through 10 Unique Books

It’s Black History Month over in the States this February! Black authors deserve highlighting whatever the month, but we thought this would still be a good time to point to some books that cover a breadth of African American history, culture, and politics. From churches, to fashion, from biker gangs to anarchy; here are some Black history titles to pick up all year round.

Black Ivy by Jason Jules & Graham Marsh

9781909526822 / HB / Reel Art Press / £39.95 / Available now

Let’s start off with some fashion and culture, from style icon Jason Jules and Graham Marsh. A photographic feast for the eyes; this book tells the visual story of when Black men across the country adopted the clothing of a privileged elite and made it their own. From the most avant-garde jazz musicians, visual artists and poets to the most unassuming architects, philosophers and writers, Black Ivy looks at how a generation of men took the classic Ivy Look and made it cool, edgy and unpredictable.

The Secret History of Black Punk by Raeghan Buchanan

9798886200256 / PB / Silver Sprocket / £14.99 / Out Feb 2023

The Secret History of Black Punk by Raeghan Buchanan is an illustrated roll-call for punk, post-punk, hardcore, no-wave, and experimental bands from ground zero ’til now. Covering the early 1900s to the present-day, take a dive into the Black musicians who were elemental in the underground punk scene. Music lovers will adore this visual deep dive, and come to appreciate the previously overlooked footprint that Black Punks have had on the music scene.

Don’t Let it Get You Down by Savala Nolan

9781911648437 / PB / The Indigo Press / £12.99 / Available now

Nolan’s writing has appeared in Vogue, Time, Harper’s Magazine, and many more. Now, her essays are collected into one brilliant collection. Powerful and provocative, her work offers reflections on living between society’s most charged, politicised, and intractably polar spaces — between black and white, rich and poor, thin and fat. Nolan writes with humour and vulnerability — including unforgettable anecdotes — whilst tying in her provocative cultural analysis.

The Black Church by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

9781984880352 / PB / Penguin Press / £17.99 / Available now

From an award-winning storyteller and the NYT bestselling author behind The Stoney Road, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. takes us on a journey lasting over five centuries from the intersection of Christianity and the transatlantic slave trade to the modern political landscape. This book explores the Black Church in America with depth, care, and appreciation for its histories — both personally and politically.

Towards a Theology of Holy Black Rage Edited by Melinda Contreras-Byrd

9781569027202 / PB / Africa World Press / £24.99 / Available now

This book is a compilation of essays by prominent theologians and scholars analysing the experiences of Black people in the U.S. and the historic and ongoing impact of systemic racism. Taking in the complexities of rage in response to deep injustices and trauma, Towards a Theology of Holy Black Rage collects a range of leading voices to explore their impact on the community’s mental and physical health, as well as broader society.

The Nation On No Map by William C. Anderson

9781849354349 / PB / AK Press / £11.00 / Available now

Amid renewed interest in Black anarchism among the left, The Nation on No Map examines state power, abolition, and ideological tensions within the struggle for Black liberation. Anderson writes in the hopes that readers will utilise a Black anarchic lens, and view the potential of total transformation. This is a fascinating examination of reformism, favouring community-based growth and revolutionary abolition in its place. This is an essential read for those looking to understand the Black Anarchist lens in the States.

Half American by Matthew F. Delmont

9781984880390 / HB / Viking Press / £26.99 /Available now

Half American is the definitive look at the history of WW2 from the African American perspective, from distinguished civil rights expert and professor Matthew F. Delmont. Shedding some light on the lives of the over 1 million Black men and women who served in WW2, Delmont refuses to let them go ignored and unrecognised. Without their contributions, he argues, the United States could not have helped bring an end to a brutal world war.

We Refuse to Forget by Caleb Gayle

9780593329580 / HB / Riverhead / £24.99 / Available now

Written by award-winning journalist Caleb Gayle, We Refuse to Forget is a landmark work of both Black and Native American history, telling the true story of Black Creeks. The Creek Nation both owned slaves and accepted Black people as full members, entrenching their status in a treaty recognised by the U.S. government. But since the treaty’s shredding in the 1970s, Black Creeks have been fighting for their status and identity since. Gayle investigates the intricacies of this story, creating an eye-opening account that challenges our idea of identity, marginalization and white supremacy in America.

The Circuit by Bruce Gilden

9781911306917 / HB / Dewi Lewis / £40 / Available now

From Magnum Photographer Bruce Gilden, The Circuit takes us on an immersive photographic journey from the early 2020 lockdowns, to Bruce’s sudden discovery of the New York Black motorbike community, and his determination to understand their way of life. This book explores a fascinating community usually closed to outsiders, through the eyes of a now-insider Bruce, AKA ‘OG’ (Old Guard) to his Biker family.

The George Floyd Uprising by The Vortex Group

9781629639666 / PB / PM Press / £21.99 / Out Feb 2023

It is almost two years since the tragic murder of George Floyd, and the subsequent waves of some of America’s biggest uprisings for half a century. This compendium combines the most radical writing to come out of that summer, exploring many angles at play in the uprising, and painting a picture of abolition in practice; a thought-provoking anthology and essential reading to all those in and out of the BLM movement.

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