Any time of the year is a good time to support Black authors and learn about Black theology, thought, and culture, but it's especially appropriate and important during Black History Month. Here you will find books by Black authors about race, religion, culture, and many intersections of experience, including queerness, trauma, and mental illness. You will find stories of pain and struggle as well as stories of hope and grace—sometimes all in the same book. Depending on who you are, you may find encouragement, challenge, resonance with your own story, all of the above, or something else entirely.
By Lenny Duncan
In 1991, when they were 13 years old, Lenny Duncan stepped out of their house in West Philadelphia, walked to the Greyhound station, and bought a ticket--the start of their great American adventure.
Today Duncan, who inspired and challenged audiences with their breakout first book, Dear Church, brings us a deeply personal story about growing up Black and queer in the U.S. In their characteristically powerful voice, they recount hitchhiking across the country, spending time in solitary confinement, battling for sobriety, and discovering a deep faith, examining pressing issues like poverty, mass incarceration, white supremacy, and LGBTQ inclusion through an intimate portrayal of their life's struggles and joys. United States of Grace is a love story about America, revealing the joy and resilience of those places in this country many call "the margins" but that Lenny Duncan has called home. This book makes the bold claim that God is present with us in the most difficult of circumstances, bringing life out of death.
By Jennifer R. Farmer
First and Only is a guide for every woman who has found herself closing the cover on other leadership books that omit our true experiences and strengths. In these pages, trainer and activist Jennifer R. Farmer helps readers learn what is required for the long haul of liberation by providing a roadmap to on-the-job success, challenging systemic racism, and seeking inner healing through the sustaining power of faith. She offers practical strategies for Black women to thrive in workplaces that can be ambivalent about their success, as well as tips and stories from psychologists, activists, and organizational experts that equip Black women to lead others and heal past wounds.
By Yolanda Pierce
The church mothers who raised Yolanda Pierce, dean of Howard University School of Divinity, were busily focused on her survival. In a world hostile to Black women's bodies and spirits, they had to be. Born on a former cotton plantation and having fled the terrors of the South, Pierce's grandmother raised her in the faith inherited from those who were enslaved. Now, in the pages of In My Grandmother's House, Pierce reckons with that tradition, building an everyday womanist theology rooted in liberating scriptures, experiences in the Black church, and truths from Black women's lives. Pierce tells stories that center the experiences of those living on the underside of history, teasing out the tensions of race, spirituality, trauma, freedom, resistance, and memory.
By Khristi Lauren Adams
The stories of girls of color are often overlooked, unseen, and ignored rather than valued and heard. In Parable of the Brown Girl, minister and youth advocate Khristi Lauren Adams introduces readers to the resilience, struggle, and hope held within these stories. Instead of relegating these young women of color to the margins, Adams brings their stories front and center where they belong. By sharing encounters she's had with girls of color that revealed profound cultural and theological truths, Adams magnifies the struggles, dreams, wisdom, and dignity of these voices. Thought-provoking and inspirational, Parable of the Brown Girl is a powerful example of how God uses the narratives we most often ignore to teach us the most important lessons in life. It's time to pay attention.
By Brit Barron
Brit Barron grew up in an Evangelical megachurch in the '90s, trying to fit neatly inside the boundaries her church and its narrow view of God had placed around her. She was boxed in by her fears, unable to realize her full potential. All that changed when she met a girl named Sami, fell in love, and chose to leave behind those narrow boundaries in favor of a fuller and more vibrant life.
In Worth It, Brit tells her story to inspire all of us to overcome our own fears—the kinds of fears that keep us from evolving beyond the narratives that have been handed to us by others. We can't avoid or outrun these fears, but if we face them, we'll find out that it was so worth it!
In The Seeker and the Monk, Scott mines the extensive private journals of one of the most influential contemplative thinkers of the past for guidance on how to live in these fraught times.
As a Black woman who is not Catholic, Scott both learns from and pushes back against Merton, holding spirited, and intimate conversations on race, ambition, faith, activism, nature, prayer, friendship, and love. She asks: What is the connection between contemplation and action? Is there ever such a thing as a wrong answer to a spiritual question? How do we care about the brutality in the world while not becoming overwhelmed by it?
By engaging in this lively discourse, readers will gain a steady sense of how to dwell more deeply within—and even to love—this despairing and radiant world.
By Lenny Duncan
Part manifesto, part confession, and all love letter, Dear Church offers a bold new vision for the future of Lenny Duncan's denomination and the broader mainline Christian community of faith. Dear Church rejects the narrative of church decline and calls everyone--leaders and laity alike--to the front lines of the church's renewal through racial equality and justice.
It is time for the church to rise up, dust itself off, and take on forces of this world that act against God: whiteness, misogyny, nationalism, homophobia, and economic injustice. Duncan gives a blueprint for the way forward and urges us to follow in the revolutionary path of Jesus.
By Rozella Haydée White
In Love Big, leadership coach Rozella Haydée White introduces readers to the power of revolutionary relationships. Modeled after the image of God as a lover, these relationships can heal the brokenness of our lives by crossing over the dividing lines of race, gender, religion, orientation, ability, identity, and class to provide relief and inspiration.
By Monica A. Coleman
Bipolar Faith is both a spiritual autobiography and a memoir of mental illness. In this powerful book, Monica Coleman shares her life-long dance with trauma, depression, and the threat of death. Citing serendipitous encounters with black intellectuals like Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Angela Davis, and Renita Weems, Coleman offers a rare account of how the modulated highs of bipolar II can lead to professional success, while hiding a depression that even her doctors rarely believed. Only as she was able to face her illness was she able to live faithfully with bipolar. And in the process, she discovered a new and liberating vision of God.
By Zach Mills
Born in 1925 into a life of sharecropping in Brownsville, Tennessee, Clay Evans was desperate to escape life working for the descendants of plantation owners. At night, he listened to jazz musicians like Cab Calloway and Guy Lombardo on the radio and imagined one day singing on a secular stage. But a greater calling drew Evans into ministry, and he soon stood upon a unique stage as one of America’s most famous gospel singers, civil rights heroes, and the godfather of Chicago’s black preachers. From this stage Clay sought to rescue his family from poverty and inspire a city and a nation to see, hear, and witness the dignity and value of black lives.
Zach Mills’s lively and powerful biography, The Last Blues Preacher, brings the life and work of Reverend Evans into our time and examines how current national conversations on race, religion, politics, and popular culture can and should inform contemporary activism.
By Phil Allen Jr.
On December 10, 1953, tragedy was visited on a family when Nathaniel Allen was murdered on the Sampit River by his white employer, who lured him into the meeting under the false promise of reconciliation. Allen's death was recorded as an accidental drowning, a deliberate cover-up of the bullet hole seen by more than one witness.
Three generations later, Phil Allen Jr. revisits this harrowing story and recounts the "baton of bitterness" that this murder passed down in his family.
Through interviews, difficult conversations, and deep theological reflection, Allen takes up the challenge of racism today, naming it for what it is and working to chart a path toward reconciliation.
Open Wounds, and the documentary that accompanies it, is a transformative experience of listening and learning as a grandson looks, laments, an ultimately leads his family and his society forward toward a just and reconciled future. It's an essential part of our national reckoning with racism and injustice.
By James Henry Harris
Black Suffering articulates suffering as an everyday reality of Black life. Harris names suffering's many manifestations, both in history and in the present moment, and provides a unique portrait of the ways Black suffering has been understood by others. Drawing on decades of personal experience as a pastor, theologian, and educator, Harris gives voice to suffering's practical impact on church leaders as they seek to forge a path forward to address this huge and troubling issue. Black Suffering is both a mixtape and a call to consciousness, a work that identifies Black suffering, shines a light on the insidious normalization of the phenomenon, and begins a larger conversation about correcting the historical weight of suffering carried by Black people.
The book combines elements of memoir, philosophy, historical analysis, literary criticism, sermonic discourse, and even creative nonfiction to present a "remix" of the suffering experienced daily by Black people.
By Chichi Agorom
For Black women in particular, our Enneagram personality types reflect more than just our way of being in the world; they are shaped by armor that we use to protect ourselves from pain, suffering, and shame. Breaking down each Enneagram type as a form of armor, this book offers practices to help Black women, and all who live on the margins, begin to build a sense of self separate from our mechanisms of self-protection, while working to dismantle the systems that require us to stay constantly armored up. Chichi Agorom takes readers through each of the nine Enneagram types, along with stories of Black women who identify with them, to illustrate the stories people must tell themselves in order to feel safe. In the process, Agorom seeks to inspire us to expand beyond our type patterns.
By Khristi Lauren Adams
From Khristi Lauren Adams, author of the celebrated Parable of the Brown Girl, comes Unbossed, a hopeful and riveting inquiry into the lives of eight young Black women who are agitating for change and imagining a better world. Offering practical lessons in leadership, resilience, empathy, and tenacity from a group of young leaders of color who are often neglected, Unbossed includes profiles of Jaychele Nicole Schenck, Ssanyu Lukoma, Tyah-Amoy Roberts, Grace Callwood, Hannah Lucas, Amara Ifeji, Stephanie Younger, and Kynnedy Smith.
By Therese Taylor-Stinson
In Walking the Way of Harriet Tubman, Therese Taylor-Stinson introduces Harriet, a woman born into slavery whose unwavering faith in God and practices in prayer and contemplation carried her through insufferable abuse and hardship. Her deep spirituality rooted in mysticism, Christianity, and African indigenous beliefs sustained her escape from slavery and led her to an internal liberation, giving her the strength and purpose to lead others on the road to freedom.
Harriet's lived spirituality illuminates a profound path forward for those of us in the fight for justice and equity—a freedom which Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and people of color must cultivate to be fully who we are called to be for ourselves and our communities. As the luminous significance of Harriet Tubman's spiritual life is revealed, so too is the path to our own spiritual truth, advocacy, and racial justice as we follow in her footsteps—for Black lives and all people of color.
By Jamie McGhee and Adam Hollowell
After a speech at UMass Amherst on February 28, 1984, James Baldwin was asked by a student: "You said that the liberal façade and being a liberal is not enough. Well, what is? What is necessary?" Baldwin responded, "Commitment. That is what is necessary. You mean it or you don't."
Taking up that challenge and drawing from Baldwin's fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and interviews, You Mean It or You Don't will spur today's progressives from conviction to action. It is not enough, authors Hollowell and McGhee urge us, to hold progressive views on racial justice, LGBTQ+ identity, and economic inequality. True and lasting change demands a response to Baldwin's radical challenge for moral commitment. Called to move from dreams of justice to living it out in communities, churches, and neighborhoods, we can show that we truly mean it.