Schomburg Center Black Liberation Reading List

By NYPL Staff
June 9, 2020
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Reading List covers

For 95 years, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture has preserved, protected, and fostered a greater understanding of the Black experience through its collections, exhibitions, programs, and scholarship. In response to the uprisings across the globe demanding justice for Black lives, the Schomburg Center has created a Black Liberation Reading List. The 95 titles on the list represent books we and the public turn to regularly as activists, students, archivists, and curators, with a particular focus on books by Black authors and those whose papers we steward.

Most of the #Schomburg95 books are available digitally for free via The New York Public Library’s SimplyE e-reader app on iOS and Android. Many are also available from the Schomburg Shop, along with a dedicated array of books and materials chronicling global Black culture. From James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time to The Fire This Time, edited by Jesmyn Ward, these books speak to our time and are destined to be classics, addressing liberty across history, fiction, poetry, and nonfiction.

Use our book finder tool to browse the books on the list, find the books on SimplyE (available on the App Store or Google Play), or find at the Schomburg Shop. We have also created a downloadable version of the list that you can print yourself. Have a young person in your life? Share the Schomburg's Black Liberation List for Young Readers with them.

All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women's Studies by Akasha Gloria Hull, Patricia Bell-Scott & Barbara Smith, eds.

American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes

The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story by Edwidge Danticat

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley

Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do by Jennifer L. Eberhardt

The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution by C.L.R. James

A Black Women's History of the United States by Daina Ramey Berry & Kali Nicole Gross

The Bluest Eye: A Novel by Toni Morrison

Breathe: A Letter to My Sons by Imani Perry

A Brief History of Seven Killings: A Novel by Marlon James

Brown: Poems by Kevin Young

Brutal Imagination by Cornelius Eady

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965–2010 by Kevin Young and Michael S. Glaser, eds.

The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America by Khalil Gibran Muhammad

The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael W. Twitty

Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.

Diasporic Blackness: The Life and Times of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg by Vanessa K. Valdés

Don't Call Us Dead: Poems by Danez Smith

Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper

Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm's Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land by Leah Penniman

Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith

Fences by August Wilson

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race by Jesmyn Ward, ed.

Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Y. Davis

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

Harlem Nocturne: Women Artists and Progressive Politics During World War II by Farah Jasmine Griffin

Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon

High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America by Jessica B. Harris

The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter

Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir by Saeed Jones

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose by Alice Walker

Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking by Toni Tipton-Martin

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

Kwame Brathwaite: Black Is Beautiful by Kwame Brathwaite

The Light of the World: A Memoir by Elizabeth Alexander

Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America by James Forman, Jr.

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable

Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad

Men We Reaped: A Memoir by Jesmyn Ward

Monument: Poems: New and Selected by Natasha Trethewey

My Song: A Memoir by Harry Belafonte

Negroland: A Memoir by Margo Jefferson

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Overground Railroad: The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America by Candacy Taylor

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, adapted by John Jennings, art by Damian Duffy

Parenting for Liberation: A Guide for Raising Black Children by Trina Greene Brown

Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination by Toni Morrison

Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good by adrienne maree brown

Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter by Jordan T. Camp & Christina Heatherton

Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present by Deborah Willis

Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools by Monique W. Morris

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock

S O S: Poems 1961–2013 by Amiri Baraka

Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems by Sonia Sanchez

Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation After the Genome by Alondra Nelson

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

The Street by Ann Petry

Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family by Mitchell S. Jackson

Sweat by Lynn Nottage

Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black by bell hooks

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom

The Tradition by Jericho Brown

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Vibration Cooking: or, The Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl by Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor

Voyage of the Sable Venus: And Other Poems by Robin Coste Lewis

Wade in the Water: Poems by Tracy K. Smith

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

The Ways of White Folks by Langston Hughes

Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval by Saidiya Hartman

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom by Bettina L. Love

We're On: A June Jordan Reader by June Jordan

Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves by Glory Edim, ed.

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays by Damon Young

Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?: Stories by Kathleen Collins

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and asha bandele

Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? by Martin Luther King, Jr.

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon

Find the books on SimplyE (available on the App Store or Google Play) or find at Schomburg Shop.

About the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

“Where every month is Black History Month”


Founded in 1925 and named a National Historic Landmark in 2017, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is one of the world’s leading cultural institutions devoted to the preservation, research, interpretation, and exhibition of materials focused on African American, African Diasporan, and African experiences. As a research division of The New York Public Library, the Schomburg Center features diverse programming and collections totaling over 11 million items that illuminate the richness of global black history, arts, and culture. Learn more at

Stay up-to-date with the Schomburg Center on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Plus find more resources and announcements from the Schomburg Center by signing up for our biweekly e-newsletter, Schomburg Connection.

About the Schomburg Shop: “Your Black Bookstore Uptown”

An emporium for products related to the global Black experience, the Schomburg Shop has many items ranging from classic and contemporary books for adults and children, unique gifts, and an exclusive collaborations and products designed for the Schomburg Center. Like the Schomburg Center, named a National Historic Landmark in 2017, the shop's selections are chosen to inspire learning and advance knowledge, providing a distinctive shopping destination.