One of the purposes of Black History Month is education about the struggle, achievements and current condition of black Americans.
The following reviews are of four “must read” books for those interested in African American studies.
“Why We Can’t Wait” by Martin Luther King Jr.
“Why We Can’t Wait,” is Martin Luther King Jr.’s analysis of nonviolent ideology and the dangers of an exclusive democracy.
The always-eloquent King tells the story of the harsh racial divide that occured in Birmingham, Ala. in 1963.
For those whose exposure to King has been limited to blurbs in textbooks, “Why We Can’t Wait,” will introduce you to a more dynamic version of the leader.
King writes, “The Negro today is not struggling for some abstract, vague rights, but for concrete improvement in his way of life.
What will it profit him to be able to send his children to an integrated school if the family income is insufficient to buy them school clothes?”
“The Mis-Education of the Negro” by Carter G. Woodson
At the risk of being too predictable, I highly recommend the “Mis-Education of the Negro.”
First published in 1933, it’s almost frightening how applicable this book still is almost 70 years later.
Before reading, prepare yourself to realize how deeply the seeds of political, economic and social “mis-education” have been planted in the black community.
“If you can control a mans thinking you don’t have to worry about his action. . . if you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself.”
“In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens” by Alice Walker
Alice Walker’s collection of essays and prose examines the complex roles of black women in America.
Walker defines the term “womanism” and explains how it differs from traditional feminism.
“But it’s a great time to be a woman,” Walker writes. “. . . The past is studded with sisters who, in their time, shone like gold. They give us hope. They have proved the slender of our past. . .”
If you don’t have the time or the attention span to read a book, this is an excellent choice.
“The Souls of Black Folk” by W.E.B. Du Bois
In his essays, Du Bois discusses the impact of color on American politics and the emergence of the “double consciousness.”
Du Bois’ intellectual approach to fighting injustice is represented in each essay.
He also offers his visions for a productive and equitable society.
“Only by a union of intelligence and sympathy across the color-line in this critical period of the Republic shall justice and right triumph,” Du Bois writes.
Unfortunately, while valuable in content, some might think the book is a bit dense. Have patience and a dictionary.