These biographies and memoirs uncover the life stories and enduring legacies of some of the most prominent and influential Black Americans in U.S. history, from the pioneering abolitionist Frederick Douglass to the first Black president of the United States, Barack Obama. Including both contemporaneous accounts and biographies written with a longer historical view of their subjects, these titles are a great place to start for those looking to find out more about major moments in American history and the people behind them.
Explore everything the Library has to offer for Black History Month, and discover more recommended reads with the Schomburg Center’s Black Liberation Reading List.
Some of these titles are also available in accessible formats including talking books (DB), braille (BR), and through Bookshare (BK), as indicated below. See The New York Public Library's Andrew Heiskell Library for more information.
The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.
by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Clayborne Carson (ed.)
Accessible editions: BK
Drawing on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s unpublished writings and other materials housed in the archives of Stanford University, civil rights scholar Clayborne Carson assembles a continuous first-person narrative of King's life.
The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X
Ida: A Sword Among Lions: Ida B. Wells and the Campaign Against Lynching
Jane Crow: The Life of Pauli Murray
Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry
by Imani Perry
A revealing portrait of playwright and activist Lorraine Hansberry, best known for A Raisin in the Sun, focusing on how she used her prominence to support the civil rights movement and confront the romantic racism of the Beat generation.
My Bondage and My Freedom
A Promised Land
Thurgood Marshall: A Life in American History
by Spencer R. Crew
Through a study of the career of attorney and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who believed in the power of the law to change society, Crew introduces readers to the constant and multifarious battles for equity faced by Black Americans.
Up from Slavery
W.E.B. Du Bois: A Biography
by David Levering Lewis
Du Bois, an architect of the civil rights movement in America, was a fiercely proud individual blessed with the language of the poet and the impatience of the agitator. Discover his life in this condensed and updated edition of Pulitzer Prize winner David Levering Lewis’s epic two-volume biography.
Browse book recommendations, the Schomburg Center’s Black Liberation Reading List, more than 100 free online events, blog posts, research resources, and more as part of the Library’s Black History Month celebrations.