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Life Stories: Nonfiction Celebrating Black History Month

It’s the final day of Black His­to­ry Month! Con­tin­ue the cel­e­bra­tion by adding one of these non-fic­tion titles to your to-be-read list.

Look­ing for more curat­ed recs from our staff? Check out our Read­ing Rec­om­men­da­tions page!

Fran­chise: The Gold­en Arch­es in Black Amer­i­ca by Mar­cia Chatelain

From civ­il rights to Fer­gu­son, Fran­chise reveals the untold his­to­ry of how fast food became one of the great­est gen­er­a­tors of Black wealth in America.

The Last Negroes at Har­vard: The Class of 1963 and the 18 Young Men Who Changed Har­vard For­ev­er by Kent Garrett

The untold sto­ry of the Har­vard class of 63, whose Black stu­dents fought to cre­ate their own iden­ti­ties on the cusp between inte­gra­tion and affir­ma­tive action.

The Oth­er Madis­ons: The Lost His­to­ry of a Pres­i­den­t’s Black Fam­i­ly by Bet­tye Kearse

Bet­tye Kearse — a descen­dant of an enslaved cook and, accord­ing to oral tra­di­tion, Pres­i­dent James Madi­son — shares her fam­i­ly sto­ry and explores the issues of lega­cy, race, and the pow­er­ful con­se­quences of telling the whole truth. 

The Comp­ton Cow­boys: The New Gen­er­a­tion of Cow­boys in Amer­i­ca’s Urban Heart­land by Wal­ter Thomp­son Hernández

Tells the sto­ry of The Comp­ton Cowboys‑a group of African-Amer­i­can men and women who defy stereo­types and con­tin­ue the proud, cen­turies-old tra­di­tion of Black cow­boys in the heart of one of Amer­i­ca’s most noto­ri­ous cities.

The Black Cab­i­net: The Untold Sto­ry of African Amer­i­cans and Pol­i­tics Dur­ing the Age of Roo­sevelt by Jill Watts

Describes the group of African-Amer­i­cans that joined the Roo­sevelt admin­is­tra­tion dur­ing the Great Depres­sion, form­ing the Black Cab­i­net, who worked to devise and rec­om­mend solu­tions to the exclu­sion and racism they faced as part of the New Deal.

A Most Beau­ti­ful Thing: The True Sto­ry of Amer­i­ca’s First All-Black High School Row­ing Team by Arshay Cooper

The mov­ing true sto­ry of a group of young men grow­ing up on Chicago’s West side who form the first all-Black high school row­ing team in the nation, and in doing so not only trans­form a sport, but their lives.

Wan­der­ing in Strange Lands: A Daugh­ter of the Great Migra­tion Reclaims Her Roots by Mor­gan Jerkins

An acclaimed cul­tur­al crit­ic presents the sto­ry of her jour­ney to under­stand her north­ern and south­ern roots, the Great Migra­tion, and the dis­place­ment of Black peo­ple across America.

Van­guard: How Black Women Broke Bar­ri­ers, Won the Vote, and Insist­ed on Equal­i­ty for All by Martha S. Jones

Exam­ines the strug­gle of African-Amer­i­can women to achieve equal­i­ty and polit­i­cal pow­er by exam­in­ing the lives and work of Black women, includ­ing Maria Stew­art, Frances Ellen Watkins Harp­er and Fan­nie Lou Hamer.

The Kid­nap­ping Club: Wall Street, Slav­ery and Resis­tance on the Eve of the Civ­il War by Jonathan Daniel Wells

A prize-win­ning his­to­ri­an tells the sto­ry of the Wall Street net­work judges, lawyers, police offi­cers and bankers who helped keep the ille­gal slave trade alive in ante­bel­lum New York City and the Black jour­nal­ist who worked to expose them.

Soul City: Race, Equal­i­ty, and the Lost Dream of an Amer­i­ca Utopia by Thomas Healy

A his­to­ry of Floyd McKissick­’s 1969 plan to build a Black city in North Car­oli­na, exam­in­ing the sto­ry of the ide­al­ists who set­tled there, the obsta­cles that derailed the project, and what Soul City’s saga says about Black oppor­tu­ni­ty, cap­i­tal­ism, and pow­er then and now.