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The Black Excellence Book List

Celebrate notable African Americans who have changed the culture and politics of the United States. Learn from inspirational figures, including Michelle Obama, Maya Angelou, W.E.B. Du Bois and more,  through their memoirs, essays, and biographies.

To highlight moments and voices during Black History Month, we’ve teamed up with StoryCorps. Find out more here.
  1. 1

    The Source of Self-Regard

    Toni Morrison is one of the most celebrated and revered writer of our time, and winner of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Literature. Her new nonfiction collection is a rich gathering of her essays, speeches, and meditations on society, culture, and art, spanning four decades.

    The Source of Self-Regard Book Cover Picture
  2. 2

    I Am Not Your Negro

    James Baldwin was a novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic. In his final years, Baldwin had envisioned a book about his three assassinated friends, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King. Filmmaker Raoul Peck juxtaposes Baldwin’s deeply personal notes with his public statements, in a blazing examination of the tragic history of race in America.

    I Am Not Your Negro Book Cover Picture
  3. 3

    The Autobiography of Malcolm X

    In the searing pages of this classic autobiography, originally published in 1964, Malcolm X, the Muslim leader, firebrand, and anti-integrationist, tells the extraordinary story of his life and the growth of the Black Muslim movement.

    The Autobiography of Malcolm X Book Cover Picture
  4. 4

    Ordinary Light

    In Ordinary Light, Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Tracy K. Smith tells her remarkable story, giving us a quietly potent memoir that explores her coming-of-age and the meaning of home against a complex backdrop of race, faith, and the unbreakable bond between a mother and daughter. Here is the story of a young artist struggling to fashion her own understanding of belief, loss, history, and what it means to be black in America.

    Ordinary Light Book Cover Picture
  5. 5

    Thurgood Marshall

    Thurgood Marshall argued many monumental cases (including Brown v. Board of Education) before the Supreme Court before joining as its first African American member. Juan Williams’ biography reveals the life of the great lawyer and Supreme Court justice.

    Thurgood Marshall Book Cover Picture
  6. 6

    Narrative of Sojourner Truth

    Sojourner Truth’s landmark slave narrative chronicles her experiences as a slave and her transformation into an extraordinary abolitionist, feminist, orator, and preacher.

    Narrative of Sojourner Truth Book Cover Picture
  7. 7

    I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

    Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic beloved worldwide. 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.

    I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Book Cover Picture
  8. 8

    Between the World and Me

    In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis.

    Between the World and Me Book Cover Picture
  9. 9

    Dreams from My Father

    Nine years before the Senate campaign that made him one of the most influential and compelling voices in American politics, Barack Obama published this memoir. Dreams from My Father tells the story of Obama’s struggle to understand the forces that shaped him as the son of a black African father and white American mother—a struggle that takes him from the American heartland to the ancestral home of his great-aunt in the tiny African village of Alego.

    Dreams from My Father Book Cover Picture
  10. 10

    All God’s Dangers

    Nate Shaw faced down a crowd of white deputies who had come to confiscate a neighbor’s crop. His defiance cost him twelve years in prison. This triumphant autobiography, assembled from the eighty-four-year-old Shaw’s oral reminiscences, is the plain-spoken story of an “over-average” man who witnessed wrenching changes in the lives of Southern black people—and whose unassuming courage helped bring those changes about.

    All God's Dangers Book Cover Picture
  11. 11

    The Portable Frederick Douglass

    Frederick Douglass, an outspoken abolitionist, was born into slavery and, after his escape, repeatedly risked his own freedom as a prominent anti-slavery lecturer, writer, and publisher. This collection contains the seminal writings and speeches of a legendary writer, orator, and civil rights leader.

    The Portable Frederick Douglass Book Cover Picture
  12. 12

    The Souls of Black Folk

    W.E.B. Du Bois was a writer, civil rights activist, and scholar, and is one of the most significant intellectuals in American history. His writings, speeches, and public debates brought fundamental changes to American race relations. The Souls of Black Folk not only recorded and explained history—it helped alter its course.

    The Souls of Black Folk Book Cover Picture
  13. 13


    As First Lady, Michelle Obama helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls, and changing the ways that families pursue healthier lives. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms.

    Becoming Book Cover Picture
  14. 14

    Sister Outsider

    Audre Lorde was a lesbian poet and feminist writer who published nine volumes of poetry and five works of prose.  In this collection, Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change. Her prose is incisive, unflinching, and lyrical, reflecting struggle but ultimately offering messages of hope.

    Sister Outsider Book Cover Picture
  15. 15

    On the Other Side of Freedom

    DeRay Mckesson is a civil rights activist, community organizer, and the host of Crooked Media’s podcast, Pod Save the People. He stood with hundreds of others on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, to push a message of justice and accountability. These protests resulted in the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement. Now, in his first book, Mckesson lays down the intellectual, pragmatic, and political framework for a new liberation movement.

    On the Other Side of Freedom Book Cover Picture

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