Best African American Literary Criticism Books

Here you will get Best African American Literary Criticism Books For you.This is an up-to-date list of recommended books.

1. James Baldwin : Collected Essays : Notes of a Native Son / Nobody Knows My Name / The Fire Next Time / No Name in the Street / The Devil Finds Work / Other Essays (Library of America)

Author: by James Baldwin
Published at: Library of America (February 1, 1998)
ISBN: 978-1883011529

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James Baldwin was a uniquely prophetic voice in American letters. His brilliant and provocative essays made him the literary voice of the Civil Rights Era, and they continue to speak with powerful urgency to us today, whether in the swirling debate over the Black Lives Matter movement or in the words of Raoul Peck’s documentary “I Am Not Your Negro.” Edited by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, the Library of America’s Collected Essays is the most comprehensive gathering of Baldwin’s nonfiction ever published.

With burning passion and jabbing, epigrammatic wit, Baldwin fearlessly articulated issues of race and democracy and American identity in such famous essays as “The Harlem Ghetto,” “Everybody’s Protest Novel,” “Many Thousands Gone,” and “Stranger in the Village.” Here are the complete texts of his early landmark collections, Notes of a Native Son (1955) and Nobody Knows My Name (1961), which established him as an essential intellectual voice of his time, fusing in unique fashion the personal, the literary, and the political.


2. The Spook Who Sat by the Door (African American Life Series)

Author: by Sam Greenlee
Published at: Wayne State University Press; Reissue edition (May 1, 1989)
ISBN: 978-0814322468

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A classic in the black literary tradition, The Spook Who Sat by the Door is both a comment on the civil rights problems in the United States in the late 1960s and a serious attempt to focus on the issue of black militancy.

Dan Freeman, the “spook who sat by the door,” is enlisted in the CIA’s elitist espionage program. Upon mastering agency tactics, however, he drops out to train young Chicago blacks as “Freedom Fighters” in this explosive, award-winning novel. As a story of one man’s reaction to ruling-class hypocrisy, the book is autobiographical and personal.

As a tale of a man’s reaction to oppression, it is universal.


3. Liner Notes for the Revolution: The Intellectual Life of Black Feminist Sound

Author: by Daphne A. Brooks
Published at: Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press (February 23, 2021)
ISBN: 978-0674052819

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An award-winning Black feminist music critic takes us on an epic journey through radical sound from Bessie Smith to Beyonc.Daphne A. Brooks explores more than a century of music archives to examine the critics, collectors, and listeners who have determined perceptions of Black women on stage and in the recording studio.

How is it possible, she asks, that iconic artists such as Aretha Franklin and Beyonc exist simultaneously at the center and on the fringe of the culture industry? Liner Notes for the Revolution offers a startling new perspective on these acclaimed figuresa perspective informed by the overlooked contributions of other Black women concerned with the work of their musical peers.

Zora Neale Hurston appears as a sound archivist and a performer, Lorraine Hansberry as a queer Black feminist critic of modern culture, and Pauline Hopkins as America’s first Black female cultural commentator. Brooks tackles the complicated racial politics of blues music recording, song collecting, and rock and roll criticism.


4. Notes of a Native Son

Author: by James Baldwin
Published at: Beacon Press; 1st edition (November 20, 2012)
ISBN: 978-0807006238

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#26 on The Guardian’s list of 100 best nonfiction books of all time, the essays explore what it means to be Black in AmericaIn an age of Black Lives Matter, James Baldwin’s essays on life in Harlem, the protest novel, movies, and African Americans abroad are as powerful today as when they were first written.

With films like I Am Not Your Negro and the forthcoming If Beale Street Could Talk bringing renewed interest to Baldwin’s life and work, Notes of a Native Son serves as a valuable introduction. Written during the 1940s and early 1950s, when Baldwin was only in his twenties, the essays collected in Notes of a Native Son capture a view of black life and black thought at the dawn of the civil rights movement and as the movement slowly gained strength through the words of one of the most captivating essayists and foremost intellectuals of that era.

Writing as an artist, activist, and social critic, Baldwin probes the complex condition of being black in America. With a keen eye, he examines everything from the significance of the protest novel to the motives and circumstances of the many black expatriates of the time, from his home in The Harlem Ghetto to a sobering Journey to Atlanta.


5. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Author: by Maya Angelou
Published at: Random House Trade Paperbacks; unknown edition (April 21, 2009)
ISBN: 978-0812980028

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Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic beloved worldwide. Her life story is told in the documentary film And Still I Rise, as seen on PBS’s American Masters. Here is a book as joyous and painful, as mysterious and memorable, as childhood itself.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right. Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic beloved worldwide.

Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local powhitetrash. At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her ageand has to live with the consequences for a lifetime.

Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns that love for herself, the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.


6. Devil in a Blue Dress (30th Anniversary Edition): An Easy Rawlins Novel (1) (Easy Rawlins Mystery)

Author: by Walter Mosley
Published at: Washington Square Press; Reissue edition (October 6, 2020)
ISBN: 978-1982150341

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The first novel by master of mystery (The New York Times) Walter Mosley, featuring Easy Rawlins, the most iconic African American detective in all of fiction. Named one of the best 100 mystery novels of all time by the Mystery Writers of America, this special thirtieth anniversary edition features an all new introduction from the author.

The year is 1948, the town is Los Angeles. Easy Rawlins, a black war veteran, has just been fired from his job at a defense factory plant. Drinking in his friend’s bar, he’s wondering how he’ll manage to make ends meet, when a white man in a linen suit approaches him and offers him good money if Easy will simply locate Miss Daphne Money, a missing blonde beauty known to frequent black jazz clubs.

Easy has no idea that by taking this job, his life is about to change forever. More than simply a detective novel[Mosley is] a talented author with something vital to say about the distance between the black and white worlds, and with a dramatic way to say it (The New York Times).


7. The Souls of Black Folk (Dover Thrift Editions)

Author: by W. E. B. Du Bois
Published at: Dover Publications, Incorporated; Unabridged edition (July 14, 2016)
ISBN: 978-0486280417

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This landmark book is a founding work in the literature of black protest.W.E.B. Du Bois (18681963) played a key role in developing the strategy and program that dominated early 20th-century black protest in America. In this collection of essays, first published together in 1903, he eloquently affirms that it is beneath the dignity of a human being to beg for those rights that belong inherently to all mankind.

He also charges that the strategy of accommodation to white supremacy advanced by Booker T. Washington, then the most influential black leader in America, would only serve to perpetuate black oppression. Publication of The Souls of Black Folk was a dramatic event that helped to polarize black leaders into two groups: the more conservative followers of Washington and the more radical supporters of aggressive protest.

Its influence cannot be overstated. It is essential reading for everyone interested in African-American history and the struggle for civil rights in America.


8. Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination

Author: by Toni Morrison
Published at: Vintage; Reprint edition (July 27, 1993)
ISBN: 978-0679745426

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An immensely persuasive work of literary criticism that opens a new chapter in the American dialogue on raceand promises to change the way we read American literature. Morrison shows how much the themes of freedom and individualism, manhood and innocence, depended on the existence of a black population that was manifestly unfree-and that came to serve white authors as embodiments of their own fears and desires.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Morrison “reimagines and remaps the possibility of America.” Her brilliant discussions of the “Africanist” presence in the fiction of Poe, Melville, Cather, and Hemingway leads to a dramatic reappraisal of the essential characteristics of our literary tradition.

Written with the artistic vision that has earned the Nobel Prize-winning author a pre-eminent place in modern letters, Playing in the Dark is an invaluable read for avid Morrison admirers as well as students, critics, and scholars of American literature.


9. Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America (Race and American Culture)

Author: by Saidiya V. Hartman
Published at: Oxford University Press; 1st edition (September 4, 1997)
ISBN: 978-0195089844

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In this provocative and original exploration of racial subjugation during slavery and its aftermath, Saidiya Hartman illumines the forms of terror and resistance that shaped black identity. Scenes of Subjection examines the forms of domination that usually go undetected; in particular, the encroachments of power that take place through notions of humanity, enjoyment, protection, rights, and consent.

By looking at slave narratives, plantation diaries, popular theater, slave performance, freedmen’s primers, and legal cases, Hartman investigates a wide variety of “scenes” ranging from the auction block and minstrel show to the staging of the self-possessed and rights-bearing individual of freedom.

While attentive to the performance of power-the terrible spectacles of slaveholders’ dominion and the innocent amusements designed to abase and pacify the enslaved-and the entanglements of pleasure and terror in these displays of mastery, Hartman also examines the possibilities for resistance, redress and transformation embodied in black performance and everyday practice.

10. In the Wake: On Blackness and Being

Author: by Christina Sharpe
Published at: Duke University Press Books; Illustrated edition (November 14, 2016)
ISBN: 978-0822362944

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In this original and trenchant work, Christina Sharpe interrogates literary, visual, cinematic, and quotidian representations of Black life that comprise what she calls the “orthography of the wake.” Activating multiple registers of “wake”the path behind a ship, keeping watch with the dead, coming to consciousnessSharpe illustrates how Black lives are swept up and animated by the afterlives of slavery, and she delineates what survives despite such insistent violence and negation.

Initiating and describing a theory and method of reading the metaphors and materiality of “the wake,” “the ship,” “the hold,” and “the weather,” Sharpe shows how the sign of the slave ship marks and haunts contemporary Black life in the diaspora and how the specter of the hold produces conditions of containment, regulation, and punishment, but also something in excess of them.

In the weather, Sharpe situates anti-Blackness and white supremacy as the total climate that produces premature Black death as normative. Formulating the wake and “wake work” as sites of artistic production, resistance, consciousness, and possibility for living in diaspora, In the Wake offers a way forward.

11. The Origin of Others (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures)

Author: by Toni Morrison
Published at: Harvard University Press; 1st Edition (September 18, 2017)
ISBN: 978-0674976450

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America’s foremost novelist reflects on the themes that preoccupy her work and increasingly dominate national and world politics: race, fear, borders, the mass movement of peoples, the desire for belonging. What is race and why does it matter? What motivates the human tendency to construct Others?

Why does the presence of Others make us so afraid? Drawing on her Norton Lectures, Toni Morrison takes up these and other vital questions bearing on identity in The Origin of Others. In her search for answers, the novelist considers her own memories as well as history, politics, and especially literature.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, and Camara Laye are among the authors she examines. Readers of Morrison’s fiction will welcome her discussions of some of her most celebrated booksBeloved, Paradise, and A Mercy. If we learn racism by example, then literature plays an important part in the history of race in America, both negatively and positively.

12. Becoming Human: Matter and Meaning in an Antiblack World (Sexual Cultures, 53)

Author: by Zakiyyah Iman Jackson
Published at: NYU Press (May 19, 2020)
ISBN: 978-1479830374

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Argues that blackness disrupts our essential ideas of race, gender, and, ultimately, the humanRewriting the pernicious, enduring relationship between blackness and animality in the history of Western science and philosophy, Becoming Human: Matter and Meaning in an Antiblack World breaks open the rancorous debate between black critical theory and posthumanism.

Through the cultural terrain of literature by Toni Morrison, Nalo Hopkinson, Audre Lorde, and Octavia Butler, the art of Wangechi Mutu and Ezrom Legae, and the oratory of Frederick Douglass, Zakiyyah Iman Jackson both critiques and displaces the racial logic that has dominated scientific thought since the Enlightenment.

In so doing, Becoming Human demonstrates that the history of racialized gender and maternity, specifically antiblackness, is indispensable to future thought on matter, materiality, animality, and posthumanism. Jackson argues that African diasporic cultural production alters the meaning of being human and engages in imaginative practices of world-building against a history of the bestialization and thingification of blacknessthe process of imagining the black person as an empty vessel, a non-being, an ontological zeroand the violent imposition of colonial myths of racial hierarchy.

13. Nobody Knows My Name

Author: by James Baldwin
Published at: Vintage; Reissue edition (December 1, 1992)
ISBN: 978-0679744733

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Told with Baldwin’s characteristically unflinching honesty, this collection of illuminating, deeply felt essays – “passionate, probing, controversial” (The Atlantic) – examines topics ranging from race relations in the United States to the role of the writer in society, and offers personal accounts of Richard Wright, Norman Mailer and other writers.

14. The Black Unicorn: Poems (Norton Paperback)

Author: by Audre Lorde
Published at: W. W. Norton & Company; Reissue edition (August 17, 1995)
ISBN: 978-0393312379

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The Black Unicorn is a collection of poems by a woman who, Adrienne Rich writes, “for the complexity of her vision, for her moral courage and the catalytic passion of her language, has already become, for many, an indispensable poet.” Rich continues: “Refusing to be circumscribed by any simple identity, Audre Lorde writes as a Black woman, a mother, a daughter, a Lesbian, a feminist, a visionary; poems of elemental wildness and healing, nightmare and lucidity.

Her rhythms and accents have the timelessness of a poetry which extends beyond white Western politics, beyond the anger and wisdom of Black America, beyond the North American earth, to Abomey and the Dahomeyan Amazons. These are poems nourished in an oral tradition, which also blaze and pulse on the page, beneath the reader’s eye.”