Image of books.

In honor of Black History Month, we asked CRC Staff to share recommendations for books written by Black authors that have inspired, motivated and moved them to become better allies and advocates for equity. Whether it’s a children’s book, a novel or a memoir, each of these books is told through the lens of Black experiences in America.

Most of the following titles are available online—but it’s always recommended to support a local bookstore. You’ll find suggestions for independent bookstores in the Bay area and Greater Los Angeles area at the end of this list.


“Sulwe” by Lupita Nyong’O

“Although this is a children’s book that I read for the first time as an adult, this still stands as one of the most powerful and influential books I’ve read. Lupita tells the story of a young dark-skinned girl that learns to love and appreciate her skin and see how special she is, which is a story I wish I got to read when I was little. I received the book as a Christmas gift from a friend a few years ago, and I’m so grateful because I plan to read it to my future kids and gift it to my nieces, nephews and young family members as well.”

Henrieta Igwe, Development and Operations Associate

“Assata: An Autobiography” by Assata Shakur

“One of my favorite books by a Black author is “Assata: An Autobiography” by Assata Shakur. Her story reminds us of the importance of the struggle for Black liberation and freedom for political prisoners. She embodies the kind of determined spirit that is necessary in the face of hardships.”

Aliyah Shaheed, Bay Area Organizer

“The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.” by Peniel E. Joseph 

“As a dual Africana studies and psychology major at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, I took a number of intriguing courses, but none was more transformative than a ‘Martin v. Malcolm’ elective course. My previous exposure to both of these historical figures was extremely limited and heavily reduced to common stereotypes. This course, however, was illuminating because we were able to draw parallels and see how these great men were much more alike than different. I highly recommend this book because it does the same.”

Yehwroe Martyn, Resilience Fund Program Manager

“I Don’t Want to Die Poor” by Michael Arceneaux

“One of my favorite books I’ve read in recent years is  ‘I don’t want to die poor’ by Michael Arceneaux. This collection of essays explores the flimsy ground that the ‘American Dream’ is built on; particularly, it interrogates the belief that a college education can guarantee a life of financial stability. Arceneaux, a Black, gay man, talks in great detail about his relationship to debt, particularly student loan debt, and captures the suffocating reality that many people face. This is one of my favorite books, in part, due to the humor and candor Arceneaux writes with. He traverses so much ground and illustrates that financial precarity and marginalization in America are intrinsically tied. To me, it’s a shining example of how an intersectional analysis can illuminate the true extent to which systemic forces impact our day-to-day life, including career decisions, physical/mental health, romantic and platonic relationships and much more.”

Doni Tadesse, Southern California Organizer

“Black Skin, White Masks” by Frantz Fanon

“I first read this in college and continuously return to it. Fanon draws connections between the history of colonialism, its socio-political effects, and its impacts on both the individual and societal psychology and the myth-making of race. Fanon’s interdisciplinary analysis of racism and dehumanization resulting from colonialism was a formative read for my personal politics. A predecessor to his later and more politically revolutionary ‘The Wretched of the Earth’, these two works, in particular, are must-reads for those interested in political philosophy and/or concerned with the issue of colonialism.”

Jamie Buell, Research Analyst

“Punch Me Up to the Gods: a Memoir” by Brian Broome

“‘Punch Me Up to the Gods: a Memoir’ by Brian Broome describes the author’s experience growing up gay and Black in the 1980s and 1990s in Pittsburgh, PA. In the book he describes in beautifully written detail what it was like being queer and Black in that place at that time; touching on issues of masculinity, racism, addiction, family, belonging and what it means to empathize with those who oppress you, those who support you, and with yourself. I’ve recommended this book to many of my friends, and they’ve all told me how profoundly it affected them. One of the best novels I’ve ever read.”

John Hoffman, Chief Development Officer

“Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America” by Melissa Harris-Perry

“This is a bold and moving telling of the ways in which Black women seek to be recognized as their authentic selves and as full citizens in a country that benefits from their subjugation. It challenges society’s deadly and dehumanizing stereotypes while also challenging the reader’s personal beliefs about Black women and shining a light on the very systems that have perpetuated those beliefs. Through this work, Melissa Harris-Perry challenged me to look at what I’ve been taught consciously and subconsciously about Black women and pushed me to up the fight for racial justice.”

Paulina Gonzalez-Brito, Chief Executive Officer

“The Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin

“I chose this book because it is powerfully written and did have an impact on me. I read it when I was transitioning from being a student to being an adult. I found it a strong and emotional depiction of the impact of racism and injustice on individuals and society. It is a call for action, and in the context of a letter to a young relative, it asks us to think about the kind of society we want for our kids, the next generation. I am going to read it again and see how I experience it now.”

Kevin Stein, Chief of Legal and Strategy

“We Were Eight Years in Power” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

“One of my favorite books by a Black author is ‘We Were 8 Years in Power’ by Ta-Nehisi Coates. This book moved me because of its powerful and insightful commentary on the Black experience in America. Through a collection of essays, Coates sheds light on the systemic injustices faced by the Black community, including racism, police brutality and mass incarceration. He also reflects on the hope and disappointment felt during the Obama presidency, highlighting the challenges faced by Black Americans even with a Black president in office. Coates’ writing is both thought-provoking and emotional, which left a lasting impact on me as a reader. The book challenged me to confront the realities of the American experience and inspires me to work towards a more just society.”

Jose Olivas, Chief Financial and Operating Officer


Bay Area and Greater Los Angeles Area independent bookstores: