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The ReadDown

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.

Learn more about inspiration Black leaders who changed history here.

  1. 1
    The Source of Self-Regard Book Cover Picture
    The Source of Self-Regard Book Cover Picture

    The Source of Self-Regard

    by Toni Morrison

    An essential collection from an essential writer, The Source of Self-Regard shines with the literary elegance, intellectual prowess, spiritual depth, and moral compass that have made Toni Morrison our most cherished and enduring voice.
    The Source of Self-Regard Book Cover Picture
    The Source of Self-Regard Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $16.95

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  2. 2
    I Am Not Your Negro Book Cover Picture
    I Am Not Your Negro Book Cover Picture

    I Am Not Your Negro

    by James Baldwin and Raoul Peck

    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
    I Am Not Your Negro Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $15.00

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  3. 3
    Black Futures Book Cover Picture
    Black Futures Book Cover Picture

    Black Futures

    by Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham

    Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham have brought together this collection of work—images, photos, essays, memes, dialogues, recipes, tweets, poetry, and more—to tell the story of the radical, imaginative, provocative, and gorgeous world that Black creators are bringing forth today. The book presents a succession of startling and beautiful pieces that generate an entrancing rhythm: Readers will go from conversations with activists and academics to memes and Instagram posts, from powerful essays to dazzling paintings and insightful infographics.
    Black Futures Book Cover Picture
    Black Futures Book Cover Picture

    Hardcover
    $40.00

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  4. 4
    The Hill We Climb Book Cover Picture
    The Hill We Climb Book Cover Picture

    The Hill We Climb

    by Amanda Gorman

    On January 20, 2021, Amanda Gorman became the sixth and youngest poet to deliver a poetry reading at a presidential inauguration. Taking the stage after the 46th president of the United States, Joe Biden, Gorman captivated the nation and brought hope to viewers around the globe. Her poem “The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country” can now be cherished in this special gift edition. Including an enduring foreword by Oprah Winfrey, this keepsake celebrates the promise of America and affirms the power of poetry.
    The Hill We Climb Book Cover Picture
    The Hill We Climb Book Cover Picture

    Hardcover
    $15.99

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  5. 5
    The Autobiography of Malcolm X Book Cover Picture
    The Autobiography of Malcolm X Book Cover Picture

    The Autobiography of Malcolm X

    by 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
    The Autobiography of Malcolm X Book Cover Picture

    Hardcover
    $28.00

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  6. 6
    Ordinary Light Book Cover Picture
    Ordinary Light Book Cover Picture

    Ordinary Light

    by Tracy K. Smith

    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
    Ordinary Light Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $16.95

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  7. 7
    The Truths We Hold Book Cover Picture
    The Truths We Hold Book Cover Picture

    The Truths We Hold

    by Kamala Harris

    From Vice President Kamala Harris, one of America’s most inspiring political leaders, comes a book about the core truths that unite us, and the long struggle to discern what those truths are and how best to act upon them, in her own life and across the life of our country.
    The Truths We Hold Book Cover Picture
    The Truths We Hold Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $18.00

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  8. 8
    Thurgood Marshall Book Cover Picture
    Thurgood Marshall Book Cover Picture

    Thurgood Marshall

    by Juan Williams

    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
    Thurgood Marshall Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $17.00

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  9. 9
    The Purpose of Power Book Cover Picture
    The Purpose of Power Book Cover Picture

    The Purpose of Power

    by Alicia Garza

    An essential guide to building transformative movements to address the challenges of our time, from one of the country’s leading organizers and a co-creator of Black Lives Matter.
    The Purpose of Power Book Cover Picture
    The Purpose of Power Book Cover Picture

    Hardcover
    $27.00

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  10. 10
    I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Book Cover Picture
    I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Book Cover Picture

    I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

    by Maya Angelou

    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
    I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $18.00

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  11. 11
    Between the World and Me Book Cover Picture
    Between the World and Me Book Cover Picture

    Between the World and Me

    by Ta-Nehisi Coates

    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
    Between the World and Me Book Cover Picture

    Hardcover
    $26.00

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  12. 12
    A Promised Land Book Cover Picture
    A Promised Land Book Cover Picture

    A Promised Land

    by Barack Obama

    In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency—a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.
    A Promised Land Book Cover Picture
    A Promised Land Book Cover Picture

    Hardcover
    $45.00

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  13. 13
    The Beautiful Ones Book Cover Picture
    The Beautiful Ones Book Cover Picture

    The Beautiful Ones

    by Prince

    The brilliant coming-of-age-and-into-superstardom story of one of the greatest artists of all time, in his own words—featuring never-before-seen photos, original scrapbooks and lyric sheets, and the exquisite memoir he began writing before his tragic death.
    The Beautiful Ones Book Cover Picture
    The Beautiful Ones Book Cover Picture

    Hardcover
    $30.00

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  14. 14
    All God's Dangers Book Cover Picture
    All God's Dangers Book Cover Picture

    All God’s Dangers

    by Theodore Rosengarten

    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
    All God's Dangers Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $17.00

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  15. 15
    The Portable Frederick Douglass Book Cover Picture
    The Portable Frederick Douglass Book Cover Picture

    The Portable Frederick Douglass

    by 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
    The Portable Frederick Douglass Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $23.00

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  16. 16
    The Souls of Black Folk Book Cover Picture
    The Souls of Black Folk Book Cover Picture

    The Souls of Black Folk

    by W. E. B. Du Bois

    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
    The Souls of Black Folk Book Cover Picture

    Hardcover
    $25.00

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  17. 17
    Becoming Book Cover Picture
    Becoming Book Cover Picture

    Becoming

    by Michelle Obama

    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
    Becoming Book Cover Picture

    Hardcover
    $32.50

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  18. 18
    Sister Outsider Book Cover Picture
    Sister Outsider Book Cover Picture

    Sister Outsider

    by Audre Lorde

    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
    Sister Outsider Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $16.99

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  19. 19
    Just Mercy (Movie Tie-In Edition) Book Cover Picture
    Just Mercy (Movie Tie-In Edition) Book Cover Picture

    Just Mercy (Movie Tie-In Edition)

    by Bryan Stevenson

    Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever. A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time.
    Just Mercy (Movie Tie-In Edition) Book Cover Picture
    Just Mercy (Movie Tie-In Edition) Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $17.00

    Also available from:

  20. 20
    Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem Book Cover Picture
    Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem Book Cover Picture

    Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem

    by Daniel R. Day

    With his now-legendary store on 125th Street in Harlem, Dapper Dan pioneered high-end streetwear in the 1980s, remixing classic luxury-brand logos into his own innovative, glamorous designs. But before he reinvented haute couture, he was a hungry boy with holes in his shoes, a teen who daringly gambled drug dealers out of their money, and a young man in a prison cell who found nourishment in books. In this remarkable memoir, he tells his full story for the first time. Decade after decade, Dapper Dan discovered creative ways to flourish in a country designed to privilege white Americans over others.
    Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem Book Cover Picture
    Dapper Dan: Made in Harlem Book Cover Picture

    Paperback
    $18.00

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