What to read for African-American History Month?

What to read for African-American History Month?

February is African-American History Month. The following historical novels by and about African-American women are ones that I have read and recommend. Please feel free to leave a comment with your recommended historical novels by and about African-American women. (By the way, the photo above, taken by Thomas Askew, shows an unidentified African American woman, and is part of the image collection at the Library of Congress.)


Kindred, by Octavia Butler

In this time-travel novel, a modern-day African-American woman is repeatedly pulled back in time to rural Maryland in the early 1800’s. It turns out that she is being somehow summoned to save the life of the son of a slave-owner who, she discovers, is one of her own ancestors. Each time she is pulled back, her life is in more danger. This gripping, thought-provoking novel is not to be missed.


River, Cross My Heart, by Breena Clarke

This poignant, beautifully written novel takes place in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC in the 1920’s, and is based on stories the author was told by her family. It follows the life of young Johnnie Mae as she grows up in this segregated community.


I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem, by Maryse Conde

This short novel is based on the historical figure of Tituba, an Afro-Caribbean slave who was accused of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. Because so little is known about the real Tituba, Conde had free reign to imagine her life. Tituba tells her own story in first person in a fast-paced, sometimes mocking way: she can see the humor of her often tragic situations from beyond the curtain of death.


Beloved, by Toni Morrison

The searing Beloved won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. It is the story of an escaped slave living in Cincinnati, Ohio in the 1850’s, who is haunted by the ghost of her daughter.


The Color Purple, by Alice Walker

Winner of the 1983 Pulitzer Prize, The Color Purple is written in the form of letters by Celie, an uneducated but hard-working black woman in rural Georgia in the early 20th century. It is hailed as a feminist classic, and was made into a movie in 1985.


Jubilee, by Margaret Walker

This is a non-racist alternative to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. First published in 1966, Jubilee is a fictionalized account of the author’s great-grandmother’s experiences before, during, and after the Civil War. You will fall in love with the main character, Vyry, and will not want this novel to end.

6 thoughts on “What to read for African-American History Month?

  1. I haven’t read Breena Clarke’s River, Cross My Heart, but I can highly recommend her Stand the Storm

    Also Sharon Ewell Foster’s 2-volume The Resurrection of Nat Turner is spectacular

    Barbara Chase-Riboud’s Hottentot Venus, Sally Hemings, and The President’s Daughter

    Natashia Deon’s Grace

  2. What a great list – thank you! So often, people of color, particularly women, are overlooked in historical fiction so it is great to see you giving this focus to books worth reading. I am SO impressed with your blog (found it via a discussion comment that you initiated on Goodreads). The lists of HF that you offer in the sidebar are fantastic! I noticed that you have no works listed, as of yet, for Germany. I recently read HOUSE OF JOHANN, by Kathi Gosz, which is set in a tiny village, 1800s, of Germany’s Rhineland. It was wonderful! Though the title may sound a bit masculine, the story focuses on the female members of this Germany family. As with people of color, the common people of 19th century Germany, the forebears of so many of us in the U.S., are virtually non-existent in HF – until now! Apparently the book is the first of what will be a series and I am eagerly awaiting the next installment. Thanks again for all the excellent content you provide in this blog. Kudos!!!

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