Celebrate Black Voices

Celebrate Black History Month by reading one of these biographies or memoirs about Black artists, activists, and historical figures.

Compiled by:
Elizabeth G.
The Art of Ruth E. Carter: Costuming Black History and the Afrofuture, from Do the Right Thing to Black Panther

Ruth E. Carter
921 Carter Car

For three decades, Ruth E. Carter has shaped the story of the Black experience on screen—from the 80s streetwear of Do the Right Thing to her Oscar-winning designs in Black Panther. Here is her story, including sketches, mood boards, and film stills.

The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo

Tom Reiss
921 Dumas Rei

General Alex Dumas is a man almost unknown today, but his son, the novelist Alexandre Dumas, used his larger-than-life feats as inspiration for The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. But, hidden behind General Dumas's swashbuckling adventures was an even more incredible secret: he was the son of a Black slave—who rose higher in the white world than any man of his race would before our own time.

Black Fortunes: The Story of the First Six African Americans who Escaped Slavery and Became Millionaires

Shomari Wills
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The astonishing untold history of America's first black millionaires—former slaves who endured incredible challenges to amass and maintain their wealth for a century. Between the years 1830 and 1927, as the last generation of Black people born into slavery was reaching maturity, a small group of smart, tenacious, and daring men and women broke new ground to attain the highest levels of financial success.

The Black Period: On Personhood, Race, and Origin

Hafizah Augustus Geter
921 Geter Get

Hafizah Augustus Geter recounts her experiences as the queer Nigerian-born daughter of a Muslim Nigerian woman and a Black American man from a Southern Baptist family in Jim Crow Alabama. This title follows Hafizah on a journey that tells her at every turn she's not worthy yet she manages to sidestep shame, confront disability, embrace forgiveness, and emerge proudly and unabashedly as herself.

Finding Me

Viola Davis
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Learn the story of award-winning actress Viola Davis—from a crumbling apartment in Central Falls, Rhode Island, to the stage in New York City, and beyond. Discover her path to finding purpose and strength in a world that didn't always see her.

I Always Knew: A Memoir

Barbara Chase-Riboud
921 Chase-Riboud Cha

This intimate and vivid portrait of renowned artist Barbara Chase-Riboud’s life is told through the letters she wrote to her mother between 1957 and 1991. In candid detail, Chase-Riboud tells her mother about her life in Europe, her work as an artist, her romances, and her journeys around the world, from Western and Eastern Europe to the Middle East, Africa, the Soviet Union, China, and Mongolia.

King: A Life

Jonathan Eig
921 King Eig

This is the first biography of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. to include recently declassified FBI files. This revelatory new portrait of the preacher and activist  gives readers an intimate view of the courageous and often emotionally troubled human being who demanded peaceful protest for his movement but was rarely at peace with himself.

The Marathon Don't Stop: The Life and Times of Nipsey Hussle

Rob Kenner
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This is the first in-depth biography of Nipsey Hussle, the hip-hop mogul, artist, and activist whose transformative legacy inspired a generation with his motivational lyrics and visionary business savvy—before he was tragically shot down in the very neighborhood he was dedicated to building up. For Nipsey Hussle, “The Marathon” was more than a mixtape title or the name of a clothing store; it was a way of life, a metaphor for the relentless pursuit of excellence and the willpower required to overcome adversity.

Master Slave Husband Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom

Ilyon Woo
920 Woo

The remarkable true story of Ellen and William Craft, who escaped slavery through daring, determination, and disguise, with Ellen passing as a wealthy, disabled White man and William posing as “his” slave.

The Sisterhood:  How a Network of Black Women Writers Changed American Culture

Courtney Thorsson
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On February 6, 1977, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Ntozake Shange, and several other Black women writers met at June Jordan's Brooklyn apartment. Naming itself "The Sisterhood," the group would meet over the next two years to discuss the future of Black literary feminism, how to promote and publicize their work, and the everyday pressures and challenges of being a Black woman writer.

Unprotected: A Memoir

Billy Porter
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Growing up Black and gay in America, Billy Porter was seen as different. He was sent to therapy to "fix" his effeminacy. He was endlessly bullied at school, sexually abused by his stepfather, and criticized at his church. This is his story of a boy whose talent and courage opened doors for him, and whose determination led him to become a proud icon who refuses to back down or hide.