Dangerous Minds

James Baldwin, Distinguished Visiting Professor28 Reads that Challenge and Inspire

Now, if I had the chance, I would have been the first in line trying to become Ikhlas Shabazz. But if I see one more article/event/lecture on Malcolm X, well I won’t do anything but probably read, attend, and listen. There’s tons of other prolific works out there too, though. I asked my friends for their “top 5”, made some cuts, condensed the list (my faves took preference), and this is what we got. I hope there’s some on here that you’ve read, and even more that you haven’t. I’m not here for the hierarchy, so the list is in no particular order. Here’s to being Young, Gifted, and Black.


 1. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Who you know fresher than J? On this 150th anniversary of Emancipation, read or re-read Baldwin’s essay to his nephew on the 100th anniversary shedding all the light on race in America and the relationship between race and religion. Won’t be the last time you see his name hit this list.

2. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Ms. Morrison recently reflected on her novel Beloved with Stephen Colbert: “I looked down and there were these sentences. These incredible, beautiful, lyric but straight and powerful sentences, so I just kept reading.” We can’t stop reading either.

3. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of the Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
Make sure all your Northern friends (white and black) know their roots and shut that camp down.

4. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde
“I find I am constantly being encouraged to pluck out some one aspect of myself and present this as the meaningful whole, eclipsing or denying the other parts of self.” Speak.

5. The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon
Don’t let those French forgetDecolonize the mind.

6. Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley
And then watch Easy Rawlins come to life, by of course none other than Denzel.

7. The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. DuBois
Step in to another consciousness of double-consciousness. Gotta read this one on repeat.

8. Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur
Most wanted…on my bookshelf.

9. The Mis-Education of the Negro by Dr. Carter G. Woodson
Not to be confused with The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. But can be used as a companion piece.

10. In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens by Alice Walker
Womanism.

11. Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
We know how much I love this one.

12. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
We livin it.

13. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment  by Patricia Hill Collins
Where were my thoughts before? Roaming somewhere through the male gaze, probs.

14. Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
Yes please. And everywhere.

15. To Be Young, Gifted, and Black: Lorraine Hansberry in Her Own Words
Either before, during, or after reading, please watch: Nina Simone live at Morehouse College (1969).

16. All About Love by bell hooks
Love is.  

17. Islam and the Blackamerican by Sherman Jackson
Navigating legitimacy and authority while being Black. My umi said shine your light on the world.

18. Coconut by Kopano Matlwa
Cream on the inside, “black” (?) on the outside. Young, Black, and post-Apartheid.

19. Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
From slavery to freedom.

20. Black Mecca: The African Muslims of Harlem by Zain Abdullah
What does it mean to be Black and Muslim? In America?

21. Born to Rebel: An Autobiography by Benjamin Mays
Is there any other way to live?

22. From Superman to Man by J.A. Rodgers
Honestly, haven’t read this one, but recommendation from mama so gotta honor that.

23. The Spook Who Sat by the Door by Sam Greenlee
Required reading.

24. The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta
It’s never what we expect it to be.

25. The Best of Simple by Langston Hughes
These are our favorites too!

26. Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neale Hurston
Learn all you can about Mama Zora.

27. Annie Allen by Gwendolyn Brooks
The first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize, long overdue, and well deserved.

28. David Walker’s Appeal
“But Americans. I declare to you, while you keep us and our children in bondage, and treat us like brutes, to make us support you and your families, we cannot be your friends. You do not look for it do you?” Written in 1829 or 2015?

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