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2024 Black History Month Reading List

In honor of Black History Month, Stone Pigman celebrates the contributions of African Americans who have dedicated themselves to the fight for justice and equality. Our Chief Diversity Officer Heather Lonian provides a curated list of essential fiction and non-fiction books about the black experience and the impact of racism on American society.

2024 Black History Month Reading List:

Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin by John D'Emilio. This biography details the life of Bayard Rustin, a passionate believer in non-violence, a close ally of Dr. Martin Luther King, and the architect of the 1963 March on Washington. Rustin's contributions to the Civil Rights Movement, long overlooked due in part to his homosexuality, are the subject of Rustin, the 2023 film for which Colman Domingo was recently nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor.

A Gathering of Old Men by Ernest J. Gaines. Gaines, born to a family of sharecroppers on the River Lake Plantation in Point Coupée Parish, tells the story of a small rural Louisiana town's response to the murder of a white farmer. This book was adapted as a 1987 film directed by Volker Schlöndorff and starring Louis Gossett, Jr. and Holly Hunter.

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. Wilkerson's bestseller, labeled an "instant classic" by the New York Times, is a fascinating reflection on the intersections of race and caste in American society. It was adapted by Ava DuVernay as the 2023 film Origin. 

King: A Life by Jonathan Eig. This acclaimed biography provides a comprehensive, complex portrait of King and his legacy. If you liked the movie Selma, this book is well worth your time.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward. Ward is a Tulane professor, recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship "genius grant," and winner of the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. Her third novel is a story of three generations of a Bois Sauvage, Mississippi family haunted by literal and metaphorical ghosts.   

Emmett Till: The Murder That Shocked the World and Propelled the Civil Rights Movement by Devery S. Anderson is a definitive account of the 1955 murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till. The brutal crime, immortalized by the photographs of his open casket funeral, and the subsequent acquittal of his killers by an all-white Mississippi jury, served as a catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement. The story of his mother, Mamie Till-Bradley, and her fight for justice is the subject of the 2022 film Till by Chinonye Chukwu.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker. This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel tells the story of Celie, a woman who overcomes abuse and heartbreak through hope, love, and friendship, has been adapted twice on screen (in 1985 and 2023) and on Broadway (in 2005). 

A More Noble Cause: A.P. Tureaud and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Louisiana by Dr. Rachel Emanuel and A.P. Tureaud, Jr. This book chronicles Tureaud's iconic career as one of the foremost legal strategists of the Civil Rights Movement. Working alongside Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, his legal challenges to segregation and other racially discriminatory practices helped to dismantle Jim Crow in Louisiana.   


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