This month at OkayAfrica, we’re celebrating Black revolution—icons and movements throughout history that have fostered revolutionary thinking and encouraged social progress.
Black history is filled with an abundance of brave, era-defining artists, writers, politicians and more who’ve embodied a spirit of boldness and progressive thinking in the face of adversity. In today’s rocky political landscape of hate, misogyny and anti-blackness, these thinker’s teachings, words and ideas are invaluable.
There’s no shortage of literature form the likes of Malcolm X to Steve Biko, Thomas Sankara and more that continue to spark fire in people and encourage a revolutionary spirit years after they were written.
Below are 13 of our favorite books about black revolution.
1. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
The prolific writer’s 1963 book, contains two thought-provoking essays: My Dungeon Shook—Letter to my Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of Emancipation, a gut-wrenching address to his young nephew about the perils of back identity in America and a meditation on intergenerational trauma, change and legacy, and Down At The Cross — Letter from a Region of My Mind is an equally poignant piece that chronicles his childhood experiences in Harlem. The essay offers a provocative stance on racial dynamics in America.
2. Assata Shakur: An Autobiography
This affecting page-turner, reveals the cutting racial dynamics and corrupt criminal justice system that landed the now exiled Black Liberation Army member in prison for life. We follow her journey from her contested murder conviction to her escape to Cuba. Her story highlights the often downplayed role of black women in the fight towards racial equality in the United States.
3. This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color edited by Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa
This collection of writings from a diverse group of women scholars, offers critical, essays, analyses and prose that reflects on feminism, race and identity and a range of experiences which impact women of color. It is one of the earliest works to criticize white feminism. Each entry enlightens with personal accounts, and unique perspective that stimulate and resonate with readers.
4. Women’s Liberation and the African Freedom Struggle by Thomas Sankara
This transcript of a speech that the late first president of Burkina Faso’s 1987 speech at a women’s rally, illustrates why he is, even till this day, considers Africa’s most progressive leader. In the forward-thinking speech, Sankara authoritatively sends a message of uncompromising gender equality. It’s in this speech that he delivered one of his most unforgettable quotes: “there is no true social revolution without the liberation of women.” Thirty years later, and his words still ring true.
5. I Write What I Like by Steve Biko
This compilation of writings form the South African revolutionary, illustrate why he was one of the anti-apartheid movement’s most celebrated figures. This book is the fierce leader’s retrospective call-to-action, that encourages readers to reframe their state of mind. I Write What I Like, gifted us this famous gem: “The greatest weapon in the hand of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”
6. The Autobiography of Malcom X As Told To Alex Haley
This book is often credited with enlightening many a black college student by providing an explosive introduction to black consciousness. It’s the most detailed account of how the icon, born Malcom Little, went on to become the fiercest icon of the Civil Rights Movement, and a leader whose name is virtually synonymous with black resistance.