February is Black History month, as you might be aware. There are many well-worn tales of giants of black history: Frederick Douglass, George Washington Carver, and Martin Luther King, Jr.--great men whose stories deserve to be told. But if you’re interested in diving deeper, may we recommend some perhaps lesser known tales, that are but a small sampling of the rich tapestry of black history in America?
The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom - Winner of the 2019 National Book Award for Nonfiction, The Yellow House is Sarah Broom’s account of her family home in New Orleans East. It is at once both personal and connected to the wide sweep of history in the Crescent City, including harrowing first-hand accounts of Hurricane Katrina from her brothers’ perspectives.
The theme of identity is woven masterfully throughout the narrative, whether it Broom and her family tying their identity to their home, or society tying their identity to their blackness. Broom’s ruminations will stick with you long after you finish her story.
All Blood Runs Red by Phil Keith and Tom Clavin - Keith and Clavin have given some long-overdue notice to the remarkable life of Eugene Bullard, a black American expatriate and French war hero, spanning both world wars. Fleeing from racial prejudice in his native soil in Georgia, Bullard uses his competence and charisma to make his way to Europe just before the Great War breaks out. Bullard becomes the first black fighter pilot in aviation history, but his remarkable story doesn’t stop there.
An exciting story told in plain, readable prose, it is a treat to witness Bullard fight to be treated equal to any other man, and then go beyond to lead a remarkable life.
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson - The Warmth of Other Suns is Wilkerson’s 2010 opus regarding a sometimes overlooked, but monumentally important piece of our American history - the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the cities of the North and West during the first half of the 20th century.
Wilkerson tells the story of the Migration specifically through the individuals stories of three migrants--a sharecropper from Chickasaw County in Mississippi, a college-educated orange picker from central Florida, and a young doctor living in Monroe, Louisiana. Wilkerson does an excellent job of focusing alternatively on the large-scale social change, and the lives of the people who lived it.