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Books & Authors

Why Black Lives Matter

On Tuesday, October 20, a panel of artists, educators and historians discussed the unique aesthetics of Blackness in regards to arts and culture to cultivate a greater appreciation of Black lives’ cultural contributions. This Zoom-hosted webinar entitled Why Black Lives Matter was facilitated by Jonathan Herbert, theater program head at Ozarks Technical Community College. You can view a recording of the webinar here. Throughout the webinar, several books and films were recommended, which are collected in this list. You can view an article with additional digital resources linked here.

Recommended Books

The autobiography of Malcolm X / Malcom X with the assistance of Alex Haley

Malcolm X, the Muslim leader, firebrand, and anti-integrationist, tells the extraordinary story of his life and the growth of the Black Muslim movement. His fascinating perspective on the lies and limitations of the American Dream, and the inherent racism in a society that denies its nonwhite citizens the opportunity to dream, gives extraordinary insight into the most urgent issues of our own time.




A testament of hope : the essential writings and speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. / edited by James Melvin Washington

The only major one-volume collection of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s writings, speeches, interviews, and autobiographical reflections, A Testament of Hope contains his thoughts on nonviolence, social policy, integration, black nationalism, and the ethics of love and hope.




The new Jim Crow : mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness / Michelle Alexander

Former litigator-turned-legal-scholar Alexander argues that we have not ended racial caste in America: we have simply redesigned it. Alexander shows that, by targeting black men and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. 




Native son / Richard Wright

Bigger Thomas had been headed for jail. It could have been for assault or petty larceny; by chance, it was for murder and rape. Set in Chicago in the 1930s, Native Son follows this young black man caught in a downward spiral after he kills a young white woman in a brief moment of panic. Wright's novel is a reflection on the poverty and feelings of hopelessness experienced by people in inner cities across the country and of what it means to be black in America.



Roots : the saga of an American family (CD Audiobook) / by Alex Haley

It begins with a birth in an African village in 1750, and ends two centuries later at a funeral in Arkansas. And in that time span, an unforgettable cast of men, women, and children come to life, many of them based on the people from Haley's own family tree: six generations, including slaves and freemen, farmers and lawyers, an architect, and a teacher.




Ring shout, wheel about : the racial politics of music and dance in North American slavery / Katrina Dyonne Thompson (MOBIUS)

Thompson examines the conceptualization and staging of race through the performance, sometimes coerced, of black dance from the slave ship to the minstrel stage. She explicates how black musical performance was used by white Europeans and Americans to justify enslavement, perpetuate the existing racial hierarchy, and mask the brutality of the domestic slave trade.



Who's afraid of post-Blackness? : what it means to be Black now / Touré (MOBIUS) 

How do we make sense of what it means to be Black in a world with room for both Michelle Obama and Precious? Touré, an iconic commentator and journalist, defines and demystifies modern Blackness with wit, authority, and irreverent humor.





Recommended Films

Black is, black ain't : a personal journey through black identity (documentary) /  directed by Marlon Riggs

This documentary explores issues of black cultural identity in America, intermixing footage of performers like poet Essex Hemphill and choreographer Bill T. Jones with insight and analysis by prominent voices in culture, race relations, and media such as Angela Davis, Bell Hooks, and Cornel West.




Bamboozled / directed by Spike Lee

In a searing parody of American television, Bamboozled takes a humorous look at how race, ratings and the pursuit of power lead to a network executive's stunning rise and tragic downfall.





Poetic justice : a street romance / directed by John Singleton

A mismatched pair pushed together on a road trip from South Central L.A. to Oakland, find themselves reluctantly attracted to each other, when they are confronted once again by the shocking violence they thought they'd left behind.





Rosewood / directed by John Singleton (MOBIUS)

The black town of Rosewood and its white sister town of Sumner peacefully coexist. When mysterious stranger Mann arrives in town, his appearance unfortunately coincides with the news of a convict on the loose. Fannie Taylor, who's involved in an abusive adulterous affair, takes advantage of the situation and blames her beatings on an anonymous black man. Soon the white men of Sumner form into a lynching mob, and Mann must help Rosewood as it is attacked.



Boyz n the hood / directed by John Singleton (MOBIUS)

Three friends struggle to survive in South Central Los Angeles where friendship, pain, danger and love form a true picture of life in "the hood."






The 13th (documentary) / directed by Ava DuVernay (view on YouTube)

DuVernay connects the U.S. prison system with America's history of racial inequality, drawing on the expertise of activists and scholars.






Recommended Authors

Click the link to access books by an author in our catalog or digital collections.

Zora Neale Hurston (OverDrive, Hoopla)

James Baldwin (OverDrive, Hoopla)

Alice Walker (OverDrive, Hoopla)

Toni Morrison (OverDrive, Hoopla)

Ralph Ellison (OverDrive)

Nella Larsen (OverDrive, Hoopla)

Phillis Wheatley (Hoopla)


The Library has a new page called Black Voices, Black Lives which we keep updated with book lists, community conversations, and more. The page can be accessed by clicking here.

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