Compiled by the Staff of the Avery Research Center
College of Charleston

Why a List of African & African American Classics?

The staff of the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture is often asked about books and resources on the African American experience. Over the course of the years we have complied a number of bibliographical lists that address specific aspects of that experience such as slavery, Gullah culture, religion, Reconstruction, and politics. These lists were presented to patrons of the Center and then filed away until we received another request for resources or books on a specific area of the African-American experience.

Recently, we decided to take a proactive approach and create a list of books that we think are some of the best written by Africans and Africans-Americans about the black experience. We believe that such a list is very important because it will enable people of all races to learn about and to begin to understand the unique experiences of people of African descent in world history. These classics written by people of African descent are quite significant in the history of human intellectual thought. They provide an important perspective on the last 500 years of world history; they critique the failings of western democracy; and most importantly, they show the creativity and enduring humanity of African people.

When we compiled the list we attempted to include works from a variety of writers of African descent and to represent as broad a spectrum of time as possible. Nevertheless, we admit that our list weighted heavily by 20th century works as well as the area that we emphasize the most at the Center: African-American history. We remind potential critics of the list, however, that it is our list. Readers of the list will be introduced to some of the enduring classics in African-American literature, such as Jean Toomer's Cane, and they will also be challenged by some of the more recent afrocentrist scholarship such as Marimba Ani's Yurugu. We feel that whatever interests readers may have, they will find a book on our list. Like the experience of African people in general, this list of classics by writers of African descent provides a perspective on the human experience that is both unique and universal. We highly recommend that all people read the books on this list in order to enhance their understanding of the experiences of the people of African descent.


General Histories
Blassingame, John W. The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South. (1972)
Franklin, John Hope and Alfred A, Moss. From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans. Seventh Edition. (1994)
Giddings, Paula. When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America. (1984)
Harding, Vincent. There Is A River: The Black Struggle for Freedom in America. (1981)
Rogers, J.A. World's Great Men of Color. Two Volumes. (1947)

Social and Political Essays
Baldwin, James. The Fire Next Time. (1963)
Carmichael, Stokely and Charles V. Hamilton. Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America. (1967)
Cleaver, Eldridge. Soul on Ice. (1968)
Cooper, Anna Julia. A Voice From the South. (1892)
Cruse, Harold. The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual. (1967)
Delany, Martin R. The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States. (1852)
Dubois, W.E.B. The Souls of Black Folk. (1903)
Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth. (1963)
Frazier, E. Franklin. Black Bourgeoisie: The Emergence of a New Middle Class in America. (1957)
Wright, Bruce. Black Robes, White Justice. (1987)
Padmore, George. Pan-Africanism or Communism? (1960)
Rodney, Walter. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. (1972)
Walker, David. Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World, but in particular, and Very Expressly to those of the United States of America (1829)
Williams, Chancellor. The Destruction of The Black Civilization: Great Issues of A Race From 4500 B.C. to 2000 A.D. (1974)
Woodson, Carter G. The Mis-Education of the Negro. (1933)

Afrocentric Thought
Ani, Marimba. Yurugu: An African-Centered Critique of European Cultural, Thought, and Behavior. (1994)
Asante, Molefi K. The Afrocentric Idea (1987)
Diop, Cheikh A. The African Origins of Civilization: Myth or Reality? (1955)
James, George G.M. Stolen Legacy. (1954)
Van Sertima, Ivan. They Came Before Columbus. (1976)

Autobiographies & Narratives
Douglass, Frederick. My Bondage and My Freedom. (1855)
Haley, Alex. Editor. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. (1966)
Hughes, Langston. I Wonder as I Wander. (1956)
Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents In The Life of A Slave Girl. (1861)
Moody, Ann. Coming of Age in Mississippi. (1968)
Nkrumah, Kwame. Ghana: The Autobiography of Kwame Nkrumah. (1957)
Washington, Booker T. Up From Slavery. (1901)
Wells, Ida B. Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida Wells. (1970)
Wright, Richard. Black Boy. (1945)

Novels (Fiction)
Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. (1958)
Butler, Octiva. Kindred. (1988) Conde, Maryse. The Children of Segu. (1989) Ellison, Ralph. The Invisible Man. (1952)
Himes, Chester. If He Hollers, Let Him Go. (1945)
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. (1937)
Johnson, James Weldon. The Autobiography of An Ex-Colored Man. (1913)
Morrison, Toni. Song of Solomon. (1977)
Mosley, Walter. Black Betty. (1994)
Walker, Alice. Meridian. (1976)
Walker, Margaret. Jubilee. (1967)

Anthologies & Other Works
King, Martin Luther, Jr. Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story. (1958)
Locke, Alain. Editor. The New Negro. (1925)
Robinson, Jackie. I Never had It Made. (1972)
Thurman, Howard. The Luminous Darkness. (1965)
Toomer, Jean. Cane. (1923)

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Trotwood, Ohio 45426-0148

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