Start the Conversation with 15 Essential African American History Books
This by-no-means-comprehensive gift guide can help your loved ones learn more about African American history and tell the full American story.
Stories of African-American Life and Achievement
The books here are widespread in subject matter: From the Great Migration to the history of American Slavery, they show how African American history is intertwined in American history in the past, present, and future.
- March Trilogy by John Lewis and Andrew Ayidin
- The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
- The Cooking Gene by Michael Twitty
- Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
- Freedom in Congo Square by Carloe Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (for grades 1-3)
- This is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by James Ransome (for grades K-3)
Audio: If your giftee enjoys listening to their history through earphones, consider buying them a Slate Plus subscription so they can check out these two Slate Academy productions. Produced by Slate’s Jamelle Bouie and Rebecca Onion, these courses include podcasts, essays, and excerpts of text to help you learn about the history of American slavery and the Reconstruction period in the United States.
Stories from Our National Treasures
We at the National Trust advocate for many sites related to African American history. Here are a few titles that will help you dig deeper into the life and work of Rosenwald Schools, Madam C.J. Walker, Pauli Murray, A.G. Gaston, and the Negro Baseball League.
- Proud Shoes: The Story of an American Family by Pauli Murray
- On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker by A’Lelia Bundles
- Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins and Elizabeth Gardner Hines
- You Need a Schoolhouse, Booker T. Washington, Julius Rosenwald and the Building of Schools for the Segregated South, by Stephanie Deutsch
- Black Diamond: The Story of the Negro Baseball Leagues by Patricia C. McKissack and Frederick McKissack (Grades 6-10)
On Telling the Full American Story
If you’re looking for books that connect preservation work and museums with broader conversations of social justice, these selections will get the conversation started.
- Sites of Memory: Perspectives on Architecture and Race by Craig Evan Barton
- Begin with the Past: Building the National Museum of African American History and Culture by Mabel Wilson and Lonnie Bunch
- The Sustainers: Being, Building and Doing Good Through Activism in the Sacred Spaces of Civil Rights, Human Rights and Social Movements by Catherine Fleming Bruce
By purchasing any of these products using the links on this page, you'll be supporting the National Trust. A small portion of the sales comes back to us to support our work. Looking for other ways to support preservation? Consider giving a gift membership to the place-lover in your life.
The 1619 Project, developed by The New York Times Magazine, is donating 50 percent of sales to the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund when you buy shirts and totes inspired by the project.Learn More