Black Voices Matter

10 essential books by African American authors

One of the most beautiful aspects of the publishing business is that the products we curate and sell can potentially lead the conversations that change the world.

 

Today’s publishing pros work in an era where America is visibly grappling with the ever-present effects of its slave history, playing out in police encounters and discriminatory housing policies. Where media portrayals of people of color still reek of caricature, and the zeitgeist cries out via hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter and #OscarsSoWhite. It seems that now, more than ever, we should cherish opportunities to be swept away by life-altering narratives like these literary treasures on our Random House list.

 

In this pivotal cultural moment, it is an honor to give students who are assigned I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings for the first time an added bonus: a foreword by Oprah Winfrey. To give grandparents who received The Warmth of Other Suns as a gift the opportunity to recount their own Great Migration experiences and share stories passed down from their parents. To encourage intergenerational dialogue about difficult subjects, with The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates. To offer new hope and perspective to marginalized members of our society via The Autobiography of Malcolm X. And to advocate for the rights of the underserved in publishing Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy.

 

Being publishers and editors—curators and distributors of stories—has always been a privilege. But we also take seriously the responsibility to continue presenting books that will uplift, inspire, and inform critical conversations—even as they entertain us and transport us into other worlds.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Malcolm X

The Autobiography of Malcolm X defines American culture and the African American struggle for social and economic equality that has now become a battle for survival. Malcolm’s fascinating perspective on the lies and limitations of the American Dream, and the inherent racism in a society that denies its nonwhite citizens the opportunity to dream, gives extraordinary insight into the most urgent issues of our own time.

The Black Book

Middleton A. Harris, with the assistance of Morris Levitt, Roger Furman, and Ernest Smith

Seventeenth-century sketches of Africa as it appeared to marauding European traders. Nineteenth-century slave auction notices. Twentieth-century sheet music for work songs and freedom chants. Photographs of war heroes, regal in uniform. Antebellum reward posters for capturing runaway slaves. An 1856 article titled “A Visit to the Slave Mother Who Killed Her Child.” In 1974, Middleton A. Harris and Toni Morrison led a team of gifted, passionate collectors in compiling these images and nearly 500 others into one sensational narrative of the black experience in America: The Black Book.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou

Here is a book as joyous and painful, as mysterious and memorable, as childhood itself. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right. Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic beloved worldwide.

The Warmth of Other Suns

Isabel Wilkerson

In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life.

The Souls of Black Folk

W.E.B. Du Bois

When first published in 1903, W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk struck like a thunderclap, quickly establishing itself as a work that wholly redefined the history of the black experience in America, introducing the now famous “problem of the color line.” In decades since, its stature has only grown, and today it ranks as one of the most influential and resonant works in the history of American thought.

The Beautiful Struggle

Ta-Nehisi Coates

An exceptional father-son story about the reality that tests us, the myths that sustain us, and the love that saves us. With a remarkable ability to reimagine both the lost world of his father’s generation and the terrors and wonders of his own youth, Coates offers readers a small and beautiful epic about boys trying to become men in black America and beyond.

The acclaimed author of The Other Wes Moore continues his inspirational quest for a meaningful life and shares the powerful lessons—about self-discovery, service, and risk-taking—that led him to a new definition of success for our times. An intimate narrative about finding meaning in a volatile age, The Work will inspire readers to see how we can each find our own path to purpose and help create a better world.

Just Mercy (Movie Tie-In Edition)

Bryan Stevenson

A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time. Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

The Complete Poetry

Maya Angelou

Timeless and prescient, this definitive compendium will warm the hearts of Maya Angelou’s most ardent admirers as it introduces new readers to the legendary poet, activist, and teacher—a phenomenal woman for the ages.

Between the World and Me

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Needing almost no introduction due to its widespread acclaim, Between the World and Me is a #1 New York Times Bestseller, National Book Award Winner, NAACP Image Award Winner, National Book Critics Award finalist, and one of the ten best books of 2015 according to The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, People, Entertainment Weekly, Vogue, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, Newsday, Vulture, Library Journal and Publishers Weekly.

Hailed by Toni Morrison as “required reading,” Between the World and Me is a bold and personal literary exploration of America’s racial history by “the single best writer on the subject of race in the United States” (The New York Observer)