Here in the UK, October is Black History Month. For more than 35 years, October has seen a “nationwide celebration of Black History, Arts and Culture throughout Britain”. Locally to me, here in Bristol, events include music, theatre, film, workshops and exhibitions, many of which sound fantastic. The month will end with Bristol Somali Festival, a week-long celebration of Somali identity and heritage.
While I am excited about all the arts and culture events, to me the heart of Black History Month is the history part, and for that I am inclined to turn to books. There are many to choose between, from important people in Black history, to the multitude of stories of Africa, to slave narratives, to the experiences of Black people and communities outside of Africa.
Books I have read and reviewed here on those themes include:
- An Image of Africa by Chinua Achebe
- Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
- In the Country of Men by Hisham Matar
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Which is a great, but short list, and largely fiction. I wasn’t sure whether to also include The Monster’s Daughter by Michelle Pretorius, which covers the whole 20th century history of South Africa, but is also fantasy/science fiction.
The only slave narrative I remember reading is The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, which is also great, but is fiction written by a white woman. That doesn’t preclude it from being a well-researched historical account (after all, otherwise I’d be writing off Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, which is pretty important historically), but I feel like to truly count towards Black History Month I should be looking to the work of Black authors, perhaps even true historical accounts.
The thing is, I don’t read that much non-fiction, so I don’t really know where to start, other than continuing to work my way through Maya Angelou’s many volumes of autobiography. Is Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup worth reading? For more recent US Black history there are some good titles in my Luke Cage reading list. For another important African work, I have Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton in my TBR.
But what about Black history here in Britain? Can anyone recommend some good titles?
There are lots of fantastic resources on the Black History Month website, including the fascinating article “Margaret Busby: Doyenne of Black British Publishing“. This article references a lot of African writers I have to admit I have never heard of. Any pointers as to who I should be adding to my TBR?