Black Westchester’s African-American Pandemic Reading List Part One

Rate Article

On Friday, April 17th the New York Times posted an article titled, ‘What Are Your Favorite Pandemic Reads?’ In the article they stated; One activity that’s been largely untouched by the pandemic? Reading. What is on your reading list? Share your favorite titles in the comments section of this article, along with anything a potential reader should know about them.

Time.com wrote; No matter what’s going on in the world, a good book can provide insight, comfort or a welcome escape. As the COVID-19 outbreak continues and many of us are seeking entertainment while staying home, reading offers some respite. Now may be the time to finally dig into that epic novel you’ve had on your shelf forever, revisit an old favorite or try something out of your reading comfort zone, Friday, March 20th, in their article, ’30 Books and Series to Read While Social Distancing.’

Several other sites gave reading list on books on nature, biographies, and several other subjects, from memoir and apocalyptic satire to award-winning literary fiction. So put together the Black Westchester African-American Pandemic Reading List.

booksAs the late British scholar and writer C.S. Lewis once stated, “Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.” Indeed, throughout history, humanity has been blessed to explore beautiful expressions of excellent writers such as Herman Melville, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Virginia Woolf, Robert Frost, Pablo Neruda, George Santayana, Frantz Fanon, T.S. Eliot, Anton Chekhov, Walt Whitman and Jhumpa Lahiri.

Oftentimes, rich literary treasures are not associated with writers of African descent, but objective evidence has shown and continues to denote that some of the world’s finest books have evolved from the minds of black authors. Whether fiction or non-fiction, these writings have been important not only as poignant reflections of reality, but also as interesting opportunities for cross-cultural understanding.

The following books represent books we feel you should read anytime but especially while you are shut in. (Please share the list with family, friends and co-workers).

“The New Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander (2010)

“Two years after Obama’s election, Alexander put the entire criminal justice system on trial, exposing racial discrimination from lawmaking to policing to the denial of voting rights to ex-prisoners. This bestseller struck the spark that would eventually light the fire of Black Lives Matter.”
—Ibram X. Kendi, The New York Times

The New Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness is a important and informative book by Michelle Alexander, a civil rights litigator and legal scholar. The book discusses race-related issues specific to African-American males and mass incarceration in the United States, but Alexander noted that the discrimination faced by African-American males is prevalent among other minorities and socio-economically disadvantaged populations. Alexander’s central premise, from which the book derives its title, is that “mass incarceration is, metaphorically, the New Jim Crow”.

“The Autobiography of Malcolm X” by Alex Haley (1987)

The Autobiography of Malcolm X was published in 1965, the result of a collaboration between human rights activist Malcolm X and journalist Alex Haley. Haley coauthored the autobiography based on a series of in-depth interviews he conducted between 1963 and Malcolm X’s 1965 assassination. The Autobiography is a spiritual conversion narrative that outlines Malcolm X’s philosophy of black pride, black nationalism, and pan-Africanism. After the leader was killed, Haley wrote the book’s epilogue. He described their collaborative process and the events at the end of Malcolm X’s life.

While Malcolm X and scholars contemporary to the book’s publication regarded Haley as the book’s ghostwriter, modern scholars tend to regard him as an essential collaborator. They say he intentionally muted his authorial voice to create the effect of Malcolm X speaking directly to readers

“Becoming” by Michelle Obama (2018)
The book’s 24 chapters (plus a preface and epilogue) are divided into three sections: Becoming Me, Becoming Us, and Becoming More. Becoming Me traces Obama’s early life growing up on the South Side of Chicago with her parents – Fraser and Marian Robinson in an upstairs apartment. There, Obama shared a bedroom with her brother Craig. The book continues through her education at Princeton University and Harvard Law School, to her early career as a lawyer at the law firm Sidley Austin, where she met Barack Obama. Becoming Us departs from the beginning of their romantic relationship and follows their marriage, the beginning of his political career in the Illinois State Senate. The book shares Obama’s balance between her position as the first African American First Lady of the United States of America, her motherly duties, and marital commitments. The section ends with election night in 2008 when Barack Obama was elected President of the United States Becoming More takes the readers through Barack Obama’s presidency, Michelle Obama’s focus on her Let’s Move campaign, and her role of “head mom in chief” to her two daughters – Malia and Sasha Obama, along with the other aspects of the Obama’s life as first family.

“Sweat The Technique: Revelations on Creativity From The Lyrical Genius” by Rakim (2019)
This one is for all my Hip-Hop heads out there. On the heels of Kendrick Lamar’s Pulitzer Prize, as the world begins to recognize the creative side of Hip-Hop, comes a writing guide from a musician and “The greatest Emcee of all time,” Rakim. The musician and Hip Hop legend–hailed as “the greatest Emcee of all time” and compared to Thelonious Monk–reimagines the writing handbook in this memoir and guide that incorporates the soulful genius, confidence, and creativity of a master artist. When he exploded on the music scene, musical genius Rakim was hailed for his brilliant artistic style, adding layers, complexity, depth, musicality, and soul to rap. More than anyone, Rakim has changed the way Emcees rhyme. Calm on the mic, his words combine in a frenzy of sound, using complicated patterns based on multisyllabic rhymes and internal rhythms. Rakim can tell a story about a down-on-his-luck man looking for a job and turn it into an epic tale and an unforgettable rhyme. He is not just a great songwriter–he’s a great modern writer. Part memoir, part writing guide, Sweat the Technique offers insight into how Rakim thinks about words, music, writing, and rhyming as it teaches writers of all levels how to hone their craft. It is also a rare glimpse into Rakim’s private life, full of entertaining personal stories from his youth on Long Island growing up in a home and community filled with musicians to the clubs of New York and the studios of Los Angeles during his rise to the top of popular music. Rakim celebrates the influences that shaped his development, including the jazz music of John Coltrane and the spirituality of the streets, and shares anecdotes spotlighting personalities such as L. L. Cool J. and Dr. Dre, among others. Filled with valuable lessons for every writer, Sweat the Technique reveals the heart and mind of an artist and his love for great storytelling, and always, the words

“Blueprint for Black Power: A Moral, Political, and Economic Imperative for the Twenty-First Century” by Amos Wilson (1998)
Afrikan life into the coming millennia is imperiled by White and Asian power. True power must nest in the ownership of the real estate wherever Afrikan people dwell. Economic destiny determines biological destiny. ‘Blueprint for Black Power’ details a master plan for the power revolution necessary for Black survival in the 21st century. White treatment of Afrikan Americans, despite a myriad of theories explaining White behavior, ultimately rests on the fact that they can. They possess the power to do so. Such a power differential must be neutralized if Blacks are to prosper in the 21st century … Aptly titled, ‘Blueprint for Black Power’ stops not at critique but prescribes radical, practical theories, frameworks and approaches for true power. It gives a biting look into Black potentiality.

“PowerNomics: The National Plan To Empower Black America” by Dr. Claud Anderson (2000)
Gab In this book, Dr. Anderson obliterates the myths and illusions of black progress and brings together data and information from many different sources to construct a framework for solutions to the dilemma of Black America. In PowerNomics: The National Plan, Dr. Anderson proposes new principles, strategies and concepts that show blacks a new way to see, think, and behave in race matters. The new mind set prepares blacks to take strategic steps to create a new reality for their race. It offers guidance to others who support blacks self-sufficiency. In this book, Dr. Anderson offers insightful analysis and action steps blacks can take to redesign core areas of life – Education, Economics, Politics and Religion – to better benefit their race. The action steps in each area require new empowerment tools that Dr. Anderson presents – a new group vision and a new culture of empowerment – tools designed to counter, if not break many of the racial monopolies in society. Vertical integration and Industrializing black communities are other major concepts and strategies that he presents in the book.

“We’re Gonna Need More Wine” by Gabrielle Union (2017)
Gabrielle Union tells the story the of her life in the funny, sad and engaging book that encourages you to grab a glass of wine and get cozy!

“Beloved” by Toni Morrison (1987)
This is the story of an African American woman who escapes slavery in Kentucky to be free in Ohio. Even though she obtains her physical freedom emotionally she is not free.

“The Blacker The Berry” by Wallace Thurman (1929)
This is a story about Emma Lou Morgan isn’t a shamed of being Black but is ashamed of the darkness of her skin. None of her friends and family members could offer her any words of advice, consolation, or hope. Looking for hope else were Emma Lou leaves her home in Idaho and finds herself in the middle of the Harlem Renaissance that leads her on a soul finding journey to accepting herself as she is.

“Black Girls Rock!: Owning Our Magic, Rocking Our Truth” by Beverly Bond (2018)
An inspiring and beautifully designed book that pays tribute to the achievements and contributions of black women around the world, fueled by the insights of women of diverse backgrounds, including Michelle Obama, Angela Davis, Shonda Rhimes, Misty Copeland Yara Shahidi, and Mary J. Blige, this book is a celebration of black women’s voices and experiences that will become a collector’s items for generations to come.

“Once A Cop: The Streets, The Law, Two Worlds, One Man” by Corey Pegues (2016)
Once A Cop is the author’s journey from former Crack Dealer to the Highest Ranks of the NYPD. New Jack City meets Serpico in this provocative memoir of a crack dealer-turned-decorated NYPD officer—a timely reflection on the complex relationship between the police and the communities they are meant to protect.

“Just 23: Thoughts from a Mother in Spoken Word” by Kisha Walker by Valerie M. Bell (2016)
Just 23 will take you on a journey through the days that followed the fifty shots that were blasted by New York City Police officers, resulting in the murder of Sean Bell. Valerie Bell finds herself having to regroup and reconnect with her emotions.

“Blend: The Secret To Co-Parenting And Creating A Balanced Family” by Mashonda Tifrere (2018)
A wise and inspiring guide to creating a happy and healthy blended family by Mashonda Tifrere with contributions from her co-parents–Swizz Beatz and his wife, Grammy-Award winning singer and songwriter Alicia Keys.

“Let Love Have the Last Word” by Common (2019)
Rapper, Actor, Writer, Philanthropist, and Activist Common believes that the phrase “let love have the last word” is not just a declaration; it is a statement of purpose, a daily promise. Love is the most powerful force on the planet and ultimately, the way you love determines who you are and how you experience life.

Black Westchester local Black Author Showcase:
“A Hope For Justice,” by A’yanna Armstrong (2019)
A Hope For Justice is an innovative approach to how everyone can make an impact on criminal justice reform. It is a non-fiction book that speaks to young adults and adults who are interested in ways to improve the criminal justice system and how to reform prisons to reduce the recidivism rate.

“On The Other Side Of Freedom: The Case of Hope” by DeRay Mckesson (2018)
“Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools” By Monique W. Morris (2015)

“Assata: An Autobiography” by Assata Shakur (1987)
“For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf” by Ntozake Shange (1975)
“Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison (1952)
“I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou (1969)

“Go Tell It On The Mountain” by James Baldwin (1953)
“Song of Solomon” by Toni Morrison (1977)
“The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes (1925)
“Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston (1937)
“King of the Cats: The Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell Jr.” by Wil Haygood (2006)
“The Souls of Black Folks” by W.E.B Dubois (1903)
“Native Son” by Richard Wright (1940)
The Miseducation of the Negro – Carter G. Woodson

This is just to get your started during this time of shut-in and social distancing to keep working the most important muscle in your body, the brain. We will be putting together a children book reading list to read with or encourage your children to read while school is closed.

Black Westchester promotes literacy in the African-American community, and since most are home, this is a perfect time to catch up on your reading. Whether its reading or finishing those books you never seem to have time to read or finish or re-reading your favorite books by African-American authors. We encouraging reading as much as you can, by as many authors as you can, but for the purpose of this pandemic reading list we wanted to showcase African-American authors.

Most of these titles can be found everywhere books are sold, many are on Audible, but you can find all these titles by googling them.

Please share books you believe African-Americans should read and give us a reason why in the comment section below.

AJ Woodson

AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company, Host & Producer of the People Before Politics Radio Show. AJ is a Father, Brother, An Author, Journalism Fellow (Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism), Hip-Hop Artist - one third of the legendary underground rap group JVC FORCE known for the single Strong Island, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian, Documentarian, Activist, Criminal Justice Advocate and Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale, Sonicnet.com, Launch.com, Rolling Out Newspaper, Daily Challenge Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine, Word Up! Magazine, On The Go Magazine and several others.

Related posts


Michelle Reed April 25, 2020 at 12:13 AM

Excellent idea, Brother! Thanks for these. I will add some to my must read list.
So far, what I have read from this list:
I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings, Maya Angelou.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Alex Haley.
The Color Purple, Alice Walker
What I am currently reading:
The Souls of Black Folks, W.E.B. Du Bois
Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison

AJ Woodson May 20, 2020 at 10:58 PM

Thank you Michelle, please feel free to share the list, a second list should be out shortly


Comments are closed.