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By Kristen LaRue-Sandler — February 12, 2024

Black History Month 2024 ASU English faculty book collage

The Department of English at ASU shares this bibliographical resource in celebration of Black History Month. Covering a broad spectrum of genres, these 31 titles — all written or edited by ASU English faculty — shed light on people, ideas and events from Black history.

By no means comprehensive, this book list is in chronological publishing order and is organized loosely by these categories: biography and memoir, collected writings, culture and history, fiction, literary analysis, poetry and reference. We wish you enlightened reading.

Biography and Memoir

How to Say Babylon: A Memoir (37 Ink / Simon and Schuster, 2023)

By Associate Professor Safiya Sinclair, a story of the author’s struggle to break free of her rigid Rastafarian upbringing — reckoning with patriarchy, tradition, and the legacy of colonialism in Jamaica — to find her own voice as a woman and poet.

My Life with Charles Billups and Martin Luther King: Trauma and the Civil Rights Movement (Peacock Proud Press, 2019)

By Rene Billups Baker with Professor Emeritus Keith Miller, this is the story of civil rights activist Charles Billups as related by his daughter in a dramatic account that illuminates the horrors of white supremacist violence as well as the triumph and cost of resisting it.

Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family (Scribner, 2019)

By John O. Whiteman Dean's Distinguished Professor Mitchell Jackson, this memoir is an addition to the national conversation about race and class and takes its name from the calculations the author made to survive the Portland, Oregon of his youth.

Harriet Jacobs’ ‘Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl’ (Shanghai Jiao Tong University Press, 2015)

Translated into Chinese by Shih Penglu and edited by Associate Professor Joe Lockard, this is the first Chinese translation of Harriet Jacobs' important memoir of slavery.

Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins: Black Daughter of the Revolution (University of North Carolina Press, 2008)

By Foundation Professor Lois Brown, it's the life of Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins (1859 to 1930), a pioneering playwright, journalist, novelist, feminist and public intellectual.

Memoir of James Jackson: The Attentive and Obedient Scholar, Who Died in Boston, October 31, 1833, Aged Six Years and Eleven Months, By His Teacher (Harvard University Press, 2000)

By Miss Susan Paul and edited by Foundation Professor Lois Brown, this is the first African American biography and a work that predates Harriet Jacobs’ "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" by almost 30 years ― a lost treasure from the annals of African American history.

Collected Writings

Voice: Fiction, Autobiography, and Speech (Shanghai Jiaotong University Press, 2019)

Translated into Chinese by Xiao Xu, Xu Chaoli and Liu Yangxiaolu, and edited by Shih Penglu and Associate Professor Joe Lockard, this is a volume of Chinese translations of American slave narratives written by William Wells Brown, Mary Prince and David Walker.

Witness: Classic Slave Narratives (Shanghai Jiaotong University Press, 2019)

Translated into Chinese by Shih Penglu, Cei Beiling and Tu Manman and edited by Shih Penglu and Associate Professor Joe Lockard, a volume of Chinese translations of American slave narratives written by Olaudah Equiano, Frederick Douglass and Josiah Henson.

Culture and History

Fly: The Big Book of Basketball Fashion (Hachette / Artisan, 2023)

By John O. Whiteman Dean's Distinguished Professor Mitchell Jackson, a "coffee table book" of photos and essays about the intersection of high fashion and the NBA, especially pre- and post-Civil Rights Act, and as influenced by R&B, hip-hop and activism.

Blackface (Bloomsbury, 2021)

By Regents Professor Ayanna Thompson, a history of the performance of Blackness, including the birth of blackface minstrelsy, contemporary performances of Blackness, and anti-Black racism.

Rhetorical Crossover: The Black Presence in White Culture (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020)

By Associate Professor Cedric Burrows, borrowing the term "crossover" from music, a theory of how the Black rhetorical presence has moved in mainstream spaces as African Americans become more visible in white culture.

Beyond Hashtags: Racial Politics and Black Digital Networks (New York University Press, 2019)

By Associate Professor Sarah Florini, a study of how Black Americans use network technologies to reassert racial identities, forge community, organize politically and create alternative media representations and news sources.

Racialized Politics of Desire in Personal Ads (Lexington Books, 2008)

Edited by Foundation Professor Neal A. Lester and Professor Emeritus Maureen Daly Goggin, this collection of essays explores how complex intersections among the social categories of race, gender and sexuality within personal ads reveal a dynamic tapestry of power relations and hierarchies.

Watching Slavery: Witness Texts and Travel Reports (Peter Lang, 2008)

By Associate Professor Joe Lockard, examines travel accounts, fictions, poetry and legal texts to analyze direct and indirect encounters with slavery in the antebellum United States.

Voice of Deliverance: The Language of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Its Sources (Free Press, 1992)

By Professor Emeritus Keith Miller, the first full-length study of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s language, including intellectual roots, spiritual resonances and actual sources of his speeches and essays.


The Residue Years: A Novel (Bloomsbury, 2014)

By John O. Whiteman Dean's Distinguished Professor Mitchell Jackson, a coming-of-age story of a Black teen growing up in a neglected neighborhood of America’s whitest city, Portland, Oregon.

Literary Analysis

Shakespeare on the Shades of Racism (Routledge, 2021)

By Associate Professor Ruben Espinosa, examines Shakespeare in relation to ongoing conversations interrogating the vulnerability of Black and brown people amid oppressive structures that aim to devalue their worth.

Martin Luther King’s Biblical Epic: His Final, Great Speech (University of Mississippi Press, 2013)

By Professor Emeritus Keith Miller, the first book to analyze Martin Luther King, Jr.’s approach to the Bible and its importance to his rhetoric and persuasiveness in his final, "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech.

Passing Strange: Shakespeare, Race, and Contemporary America (Oxford University Press, 2013)

By Regents Professor Ayanna Thompson, uses a wide range of contemporary texts and performances to examine the contact zones between American constructions of Shakespeare and American constructions of race.

Sapphire’s Literary Breakthrough: Erotic Literacies, Feminist Pedagogies, Environmental Justice Perspectives (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012)

Edited by Foundation Professor Neal A. Lester, Teaching Professor Lynette D. Myles, alum Elizabeth McNeil and DoVeanna S. Fulton, a collection that explores the writing of provocative poet, author, and performance artist Sapphire to elucidate her social justice concerns and to locate her contributions within larger African-American literary traditions and cultural landscapes.

Weyward Macbeth: Intersections of Race and Performance (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)

Edited by Scott L. Newstok and Regents Professor Ayanna Thompson, a volume of essays that provides innovative, interdisciplinary approaches to the various ways Shakespeare’s "Macbeth" has been adapted and appropriated within the context of American racial constructions.

Female Subjectivity in African American Women's Narratives of Enslavement: Beyond Borders (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009)

By Teaching Professor Lynette D. Myles, a study of Black women's transformation, focusing on Black women writers who support the notion of separate location for a changed female consciousness.

Performing Race and Torture on the Early Modern Stage (Routledge, 2007)

By Regents Professor Ayanna Thompson, provides the first sustained reading of Restoration plays through a performance theory lens, demonstrating how many of the debates we continue to have about the nature of racial identity were engendered by 17th-century performances.

Once Upon a Time in a Different World: Issues and Ideas in African American Children’s Literature (Routledge, 2007)

By Foundation Professor Neal A. Lester, published in 2007 by Routledge. For parents, students, and educators, a re-examination of African American children’s texts via a variety of topics, including the moralities of heterosexism, the veneration of literacy, and the "politics of hair."

Colorblind Shakespeare: New Perspectives on Race and Performance (Routledge, 2006)

Edited by Regents Professor Ayanna Thompson, a collection of 14 essays about both the production history of colorblind casting in cultural terms and the theoretical implications of this practice for reading Shakespeare in a contemporary context.

Ntozake Shange: A Critical Study of The Plays (Garland Science, 1995)

By Foundation Professor Neal A. Lester, an analysis of plays by poet, novelist, and playwright Ntozake Shange, who illuminated injustices suffered by oppressed peoples of color, especially women and children.


Cannibal: Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry (University of Nebraska Press, 2016)

By Associate Professor Safiya Sinclair, colliding with and confronting "The Tempest" and postcolonial identity, these poems explore Jamaican childhood and history, race relations in America, womanhood, otherness, and exile.

Scratching the Ghost: Poems (Graywolf Press, 2013)

By Faculty Associate Dexter Booth, through poems addressed to various family members and historical figures, the book attempts to terms with the often humorous, often terrifying experience of being an African-American male in the United States in the 21st century.


The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Race (Cambridge University Press, 2021)

Edited by Regents Professor Ayanna Thompson, moves well beyond "Othello" to invite the reader to understand racialized discourses, rhetoric and performances in all of Shakespeare's plays, including the comedies and histories.

Encyclopedia of the Harlem Literary Renaissance (Infobase Publishing / Facts on File, 2005)

By Foundation Professor Lois Brown, contains more than 800 concise, A-to-Z entries that detail the historical relevance of the literary side of this broad artistic movement of the 1920s and early '30s, explaining how each writer, work or idea helped fundamentally reshape American literature.

Understanding Zora Neale Hurston's 'Their Eyes Were Watching God': A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents (Greenwood Press, 1999)

By Foundation Professor Neal A. Lester, an encyclopedia of African American folk culture including historical documents, contemporaneous interviews, music, theater, dance performance and more related Zora Neale Hurston’s 1937 novel.