My Top Recommendations for Black History Month based on past reviews
We Were Eight Years in Power
We Were Eight Years in Power is a collection of essays written by Ta-Nehisi Coates during the Obama years hence the title. This is a heavy read because, in order to understand how the first black president rose to the highest office in the USA, only to be succeeded by Donald Trump, it is important to have a strong grasp of American History. That history is enraging and tragic. Coates’ ideas around Black Conservatism complements the writing of Black Feminists including Assata Shakur and Kimberle Crenshaw. This solidarity is refreshing and comforting. The depth of Coates’ research makes his arguments strong, clear and convincing.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X
As Told to Alex Haley
Alex Haley transcribed Malcolm X’s autobiography. As the title suggests, this autobiography chronicles the life and times of Malcolm X, from his birth to his untimely death. The book was written during the last years of Malcolm X’s life which were undoubtedly the most tumultuous of his political career. Before reading the autobiography of Malcolm X, I had read Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by historian, Manning Marable. Manning Marable best describes this autobiography, in the title of his book, "a life of reinvention." Malcolm X’s relevance has not waned, because his approach to life means that different people relate different aspects and stages of his life. Many things can be said about Malcolm X, based on his quotes, but it is important to put these quotes and speeches into context, and this autobiography makes it possible to do so. I think readers will find a far more complex personality than his popular quotes and “militant” brand beliefs.
Assata: An Autobiography
Assata Shakur is an African American civil rights activist. Assata is currently in exile in Cuba, after escaping from an American prison in the late 70s. Assata and some fellow Black Panther members were accused of killing a white state trooper during a shootout. This autobiography was originally published in 1987. The 2001 edition has a foreword by Angela Davis. This autobiography gives us an insight into the workings of the Black Panther Party from the perspective of one of its prominent members. Assata is very open about the problems that plagued the organization and revolutions in general. Assata is also a talented poet, and she shares some of her poetry in this autobiography. This book a well-thought-out autobiography, that links Assata’s early life experiences to her work as an activist. By writing about her trial, Assata Shakur puts America on trial for its crimes against black people.
The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Edited by Clayborne Carson
Dr Martin Luther King Jr. was a talented orator and speechwriter, and this is evident in the autobiography. Known, mostly for his non-violence stance, Dr King Jr. lays down his argument for non-violence using his academic prowess with the evangelical fervour of a seasoned Reverend. This is a collector’s item because, in addition to a timeline at the beginning of every chapter, the autobiography includes speeches and press releases by Dr Martin Luther King Jr. which I assume would be difficult to otherwise collect and put together for posterity. Often, pitted against the more “militant” Malcolm X, this book is an interesting basis for comparison.