Selected Book List
The following list will help provide general historical background reading as well as primary sources for use with young people. Books containing primary source documents are indicated by an asterisk (*). Your librarian can also help you find titles on specific people, events, or places.
* Aptheker, Herbert, ed. A Documentary History of the Negro People in the United States. Vol. 1. New York: The Citadel Press, 1951. Hundreds of primary source documents from 1661 to 1910. (Although Volume 1 is out of print it's often found in libraries; subsequent volumes contain primary sources for later years.)
* Cain, William E., ed. William Lloyd Garrison and the Fight Against Slavery: Selections from The Liberator. New York: Bedford Books, 1995. A selection of writings from the famous abolitionist newspaper.
* Douglass, Frederick. Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. New York: Macmillan, 1962. The autobiography of the noted abolitionist.
Ellis, Joseph. American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1997. An in-depth portrait of the author of the Declaration of Independence.
* Five Black Lives: The Autobiographies of Venture Smith, James Mars [and others]. Introduction by Arna Bontemps. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1971. A collection of early colonial narratives.
Franklin, John Hope, and Alfred A. Moss, Jr. From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans. 7th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994. An in-depth history of African Americans.
* Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Edited by Jean Fagin Yellin. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987. The memoir of a 19th-century slave.
Gates, Jr., Henry Louis, and Nellie McKay, eds. The Norton Anthology of African American Literature. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1997. A literary anthology which includes the works of many historical figures.
Ham, Debra, ed. The African-American Mosaic: A Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Black History and Culture. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1993. A survey of the Library of Congress holdings in the history and culture of black Americans.
Harding, Vincent. There Is a River: The Black Struggle for Freedom in America. Rev. ed. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991. An examination of African Americans from captivity to the Civil War.
Hine, Darlene Clark, and Clayborn Carson, consulting eds. Milestones in Black American History series. New York: Chelsea House Publishers. Each of the 16 volumes features primary sources and scholarship geared for young adult readers. Titles include:The Birth of Black AmericaHine, Darlene Clark, Elsa Barkley Brown, and Rosalyn Terborg-Penn, eds. Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1994. A comprehensive biographical reference.
Braving the New World 1619-1784
The Gathering Storm 1787-1829
Days of Sorrow, Years of Glory 1831-1850
Toward the Promised Land 1851-1861
Hoobler, Dorothy and Thomas. The African American Family Album. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. A pictorial and written record of the African American experience, intended for middle-school readers.
Huggins, Nathan Irvin. Black Odyssey: The African-American Ordeal in Slavery. New York: Vintage Books, 1990. The black experience from enslavement to emancipation.
Ignatiev, Noel. How the Irish Became White. New York: Routledge, 1995. The tattered history of Irish and African American relations.
* Kaplan, Sidney, and Emma Nogrady Kaplan. The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1989. A comprehensive history, with many primary sources.
Katz, William Loren. Black Legacy: A History of New York's African Americans. New York: Atheneum, 1997. An overview of blacks in New York from the 1600s to the 1990s.
Katz, William Loren. Breaking the Chains: African American Slave Resistance. New York: Atheneum, 1990. A history of slave revolt, resistance, and rebellion for young adults.
* Katz, William Loren. Eyewitness: A Living Documentary of the African American Contribution to American History. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995. Eyewitness accounts and historical background.
* Kemble, Frances Anne (Fanny). Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation in 1838-1839. Edited by John Scott. New York: Knopf, 1981. The diary kept by English-born actress and abolitionist Fanny Kemble.
Loewen, James. Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. New York: Touchstone, 1995. An exploration of myths and misinformation about American history.
McKissack, Patricia, and Frederick McKissack. Rebels Against Slavery: American Slave Revolts. New York: Scholastic, 1996. A chronicle of slave resistance for younger readers.
* Meltzer, Milton, ed. The Black Americans: A History in Their Own Words 1619-1983. New York: HarperTrophy, 1985. A collection of primary sources with brief introductions.
Myers, Walter Dean. Now Is Your Time! The African-American Struggle for Freedom. New York: HarperCollins, 1991. A historical overview for younger readers.
* Mullane, Deirdre, ed. Crossing the Danger Water: Three Hundred Years of African American Writing. New York: Anchor Books, 1993. A literature anthology providing extensive primary source documents and historical context.
* Nash, Gary B. Race and Revolution. Madison, WI: Madison House Publishers, 1990. A series of essays on race and abolition in colonial America, with primary sources.
Newman, Richard, and Marcia Sawyer. Everybody Say Freedom: Everything You Need to Know about African-American History. New York: Penguin, 1996. Detailed information in a question-and-answer format.
* Rae, Noel, ed. Witnessing America: The Library of Congress Firsthand Accounts of Life in America 1600-1900. New York: The Stonesong Press, 1996. A compilation of diaries, letters, memoirs, articles, ads, and more ordinary men and women.
* Ripley, C. Peter, ed. Witness for Freedom: African American Voices on Race, Freedom, and Emancipation. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993. A documentary account of the African American struggle for freedom, including the rise of the abolitionist movement.
Roediger, David R. The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class. New York: Verso, 1991. An account of the origins of ideas about race and racism among the working class.
Rubin, Rhea Joyce. Humanities Programming: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 1997. A general guide for public librarians on planning, funding, and managing programs.
* Sterling, Dorothy, ed. Speak Out in Thunder Tones: Letters and Other Writings by Black Northerners, 1787-1865. New York: Da Capo Press, 1998. A sampling of letters, diaries, essays, and articles by black writers.
* Sterling, Dorothy, ed. We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century. New York: W. W. Norton, 1997. Annotated letters, diaries, autobiographies, and records.
Sullivan, Charles, ed. Children of Promise: African American Literature and Art for Young People. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1991. Literature and art of the African-American experience.
Thomas, Hugh. The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade: 1440-1870. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997. The economics, politics, and societal impact of the slave trade.
* Walker, David. David Walker's Appeal, in Four Articles... Rev. ed. Introduction by Sean Wilentz. New York: Hill and Wang, 1965. A reprint of the abolitionist tract.
Young Oxford History of African Americans series. New York: Oxford University Press. This 11-volume series uses primary sources, stories, and scholarship. Titles include:The First Passage, 1502-1617Zinn, Howard. A People's History of the United States. New York: HarperPerennial, 1995. An overview of American history.
Strange New Land, 1516-1776
Revolutionary Citizens, 1776-1804
Let My People Go, 1804-1860
The novels listed below are just some of the many books for adults and young adults that you can use for book discussions, background reading, and projects. Your local librarian will be able to recommend additional titles.
Johnson, Charles. Middle Passage. New York: Atheneum, 1990. Winner of the 1990 National Book Award, this is an account of the journey to America that Africans were forced to endure.
Lester, Julius. Long Journey Home: Stories from Black History. New York: Puffin, 1998. A collection of stories based on true accounts.
Lester, Julius. From Slave Trip to Freedom Road. Illustrations by Rod Brown. Dial Books, 1998. Presented in a picture book format, this tells the history of slavery in America.
Lyons, Mary E. Letters from a Slave Girl: The Story of Harriet Jacobs. New York: Aladdin, 1996. A fictionalized version of the Harriet Jacobs story.
Meltzer, Milton. Underground Man. San Diego: Odyssey Classics, 1990. A historical novel for young adults about the abolitionist movement.
Morrison, Toni. Beloved: a novel. New York: Knopf, 1987. A Nobel Prize-winning novel about slavery and endurance.
Petry, Ann. Harriet Tubman. New York, HarperTrophy, 1996. A biographical novel of the famous abolitionist.
Unsworth, Barry. Sacred Hunger. New York: Doubleday, 1992. Winner of the Booker Prize, this novel is about the 18th-century slave trade.
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