Countering Anti-Black Sentiments

As your public library, we are committed as an organization and as individuals to dismantle the systems of oppression that have created, and that fuel, racist conditions. Learn more about your public library’s anti-racism journey »

On this page, you’ll find content that reflects a celebration of Black joy, a primer on the unvarnished history of Black people in America, and an examination of the intersections between Black identity and other marginalized communities.

The comprehensive title lists on this page are compiled by a collaborative Oak Park team led by Collection Management Librarians Dontaná McPherson-Joseph and Jenna Friebel. Other Oak Park Public Library staff on the team include Megha Bamola, Andy Goelzer, Vann Harris, Beronica Puhr, Nora Sanchez, and Kathy Sexton. Quarterly, this team expects to review and update the lists of books, media, articles, and websites. Here they are grouped by age and format:

Black joy


Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (book, fiction)

Separated by differing ambitions after falling in love in occupied Nigeria, beautiful Ifemelu experiences triumph and defeat in America, while Obinze endures an undocumented status in London until the pair is reunited in their homeland fifteen years later.

Audience: Adults, Teens

Keywords: Immigration, Nigerian, Political, Romance

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (book, picture book)

Middle grade novel written in verse about twin brothers and their love of basketball.

Audience: Tweens

Keywords: African Americans, Family Relationships, Newberry Medal, Romance

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes (book, picture book)

Celebrates the magnificent feeling that comes from walking out of a barber shop with newly cut hair.

Audience: Kids

Keywords: Contemporary Black Life in America

How to Be Black by Bartunde Thurston (book, memoir)

Bartunde Thurston shares with readers of all colors his wisdom and expertise on how to be Black. Beyond memoir, this guidebook offers practical advice on everything from “How to Be the Black Friend” to “How to Be the (Next) Black President” to “How to Celebrate Black History Month.”

Audience: Adults

Keywords: African Americans, Humor, Social Conditions, Wit

The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish (book, autobiography)

From stand-up comedian and actress Tiffany Haddish comes The Last Black Unicorn, a hilarious, edgy, and heart-wrenching collection of autobiographical essays that will leave you laughing through tears.

Audience: Adults

Keywords: African American Women, Anecdotes, Comedians

A Phoenix First Must Burn by Patrice Caldwell (book, fiction)

Black girls, including gender non-conforming individuals, star in this collection of sixteen stories of fantasy, science fiction, and magic.

Audience: Teens

Keywords: Fantasy, LGBTQ, Science Fiction, Short Stories 

Saturday by Oge Mora (book, picture book)

When all of their special Saturday plans go awry, Ava and her mother still find a way to appreciate one another and their time together.

Audience: Kids

Keywords: Adaptability, Mothers & Daughters

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy by Tony Medina (book, poetry)

A fresh perspective of young men of color depicting thirteen views of everyday life.

Audience: Kids

Keywords: African American Boys, Conduct of Life

The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert (book, fiction)

Preparing to vote for the first time, Marva is indignant when she observes a fellow teen turned away from the voting booth and teams up with him to fight a corrupt system and search for a missing cat.

Audience: Teens

Keywords: Political Activism, Voting

Black Panther by Ryan Coogler (movie)

When two enemies conspire to destroy Wakanda, the hero known as Black Panther must join forces with C.I.A. agent Everett K. Ross and members of the Wakandan Special Forces to prevent Wakanda from being drawn into a world war.

Audience: Adults, Teens, Kids

Keywords: Action, Marvel Universe, Science Fiction, Superheroes

“The Free Black Women’s Library Amplifies the Voices of Female African American Writers” by Eva Recinos for The Los Angeles Times (article)

First started in New York by Olaronke Akinmowo, the Free Black Women’s Library is a mobile pop-up library that brings literature (written by African American female authors) to various places. Asha Grant is the founder of the L.A. chapter.

Audience: Adults

Keywords: Female African American Writers, Pop-up Library

How the Jump Rope Got Its Rhythm by Kyra Gaunt (video)

In this TedTalk, digital ethnomusicologist Kyra Gaunt talks about the origins of the jump rope and its connection to young African American girls.

Audience: Adults, Teens

Keywords: Design, History, Jump Rope, Kinetic Orality, Music, Play

“The Magic of Black Girls Play” by Kyra Gaunt for The New York Times (article)

Kyra Gaunt focuses on the importance of play and how young black girls develop their own format. This article sums up nicely her book titled The Games Black Girls Play. Get full New York Times coverage for free through our library, from anywhere »

Audience: Adults

Keywords: Black Girls, Game-Songs, Playground Games


Black feminist thought


Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women by Brittney C. Cooper (book, nonfiction)

Charts the development of African American women as public intellectuals and the evolution of their thought from the end of the 1800s through the Black Power era of the 1970s. Cooper delves into the processes that transformed women like Anna Julia Cooper, Mary Church Terrell, Fannie Barrier Williams, Pauli Murray, and Toni Cade Bambara, and others into racial leadership figures, including long-overdue discussions of their theoretical output and personal experiences.

Audience: Adults

Keywords: Women’s Studies

Black Macho & the Myth of the Superwoman by Michele Wallace (book, nonfiction)

Describes how women remained marginalized by the patriarchal culture of Black Power, demonstrating the ways in which a genuine female subjectivity was blocked by the traditional myths of Black womanhood. 

Audience: Adults

Keywords: African American Women, Black Power, Stereotypes, Women’s Studies

The Black Woman: An Anthology by Toni Cade Bambara (book, essays)

A collection of essays on being a Black woman in contemporary America features contributions by such writers as Nikki Giovanni, Paule Marshall, and Alice Walker, in an anthology that addresses such topics as urban living, the myth of the Black female matriarchy, and Black pride.

Audience: Adults

Keywords: Contemporary Black Life in America, Essays, Women’s Studies

Hood Feminism: Notes From the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall (book, nonfiction)

A compelling critique of today’s Black feminist movement that argues that modern activism needs to refocus on health care, education, and safety for all women instead of a privileged few.

Audience: Adults

Keywords: Contemporary Black Life in America, Women’s Studies

How We Get Free : Black Feminism & the Combahee River Collective by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (book, nonfiction)

The Combahee River Collective, a path-breaking group of radical Black feminists, was one of the most important organizations to develop out of the anti-racist and women’s liberation movements of the 1960s and 70s. In this collection of essays and interviews edited by activist-scholar Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, founding members of the organization and contemporary activists reflect on the legacy of its contributions to Black feminism and its impact on today’s struggles.

Audience: Adults

Keywords: Historical Context, Women’s Studies

When & Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race & Sex in America by Paula Giddings (book, nonfiction)

Drawing on extensive research in speeches, diaries, letters, and other original sources, this interpretive history assesses the contributions of numerous uncelebrated Black women to the causes of political and sexual equality.

Audience: Adults

Keywords: History, Intimacy, Women’s Studies

Women, Race & Class by Angela Y. Davis (book, nonfiction)

An in-depth study of women and race explores the complex relationship between racism and sexism, analyzes the role of women and race, and traces the historical connection between sexism, racism, and class consciousness.

Audience: Adults

Keywords: Class Systems, Women’s Studies


Black LGBTQIA+ lives


All Boys Aren’t Blue by George Johnson (book, memoir)

A powerful memoir written by gender non-conforming Black activist and author, George Johnson, who outlines their life through a series of personal essays emphasizing the intersections of being Black and queer.

Audience: Adults, Teens

Keywords: Black Joy, Black Resilience, Coming-of-Age, Nonbinary, Queer, Self-Discovery, Transgender

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta (book, fiction)

A fierce coming-of-age novel about identity and the liberating power of drag follows the experiences of a mixed-race teen in London who struggles to connect with his heritage before coming out and establishing his place in Drag Society—and the Black Flamingo is born.

Audience: Teens

Keywords: Biracial, Black Joy, Coming-of-Age, Drag, Queer, Self-Love

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender (book, fiction)

Felix Love, a transgender 17-year-old, attempts to get revenge by catfishing his anonymous bully, but lands in a quasi-love triangle with his former enemy and his best friend. As he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.

Audience: Teens

Keywords: Black Joy, Coming-of-Age, Transgender, Self-Love

How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones (book, memoir)

How We Fight for Our Lives is a coming-of-age memoir about a young, gay, Black man from the South as he fights to carve out a place for himself, within his family, within his country, and within his own hopes, desires, and fears.

Audience: Adults, Teens

Keywords: Black Joy, Coming-of-Age, Self-Love, Transgender

Lot by Bryan Washington (book, fiction)

Coming of age in his family’s Houston restaurant, a mixed-heritage teen navigates bullying, his newly discovered sexual orientation, and the ripple effects of a disadvantaged community impacted by an affair, a youth baseball season, and displaced hurricane survivors.

Audience: Adults

Keywords: Biracial, Black Resilience, Gay

Love the One You’re With by James Earl Hardy (book, fiction)

When his partner of two years travels to Hollywood to make his first film, Mitchell Crawford finds himself challenged to stay faithful in the wake of several temptations, including a new relationship with musician Montgomery Simms.

Audience: Adults

Keywords: Black Love, Black Resilience, Gay

Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn (book, fiction)

A layered story about Patsy, a Jamaican immigrant, who leaves Jamaica and her young child, Tru, for New York City in pursuit of a hopeful romance with her life-long best friend, Cecily.

Audience: Adults

Keywords: Abuse, Black Resilience, Immigration, Lesbian, Nonbinary, Self-Discovery

The Stars & the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus (book)

Told in two voices, 16-year-old Audre and Mabel, both young women of color from different backgrounds, fall in love and figure out how to care for each other as one of them faces a fatal illness.

Audience: Teens

Keywords: Coming-of-Age, Lesbian, Self-Discovery

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson (book, fiction)

A Black, underprivileged misfit from a wealthy, prom-obsessed Midwestern community carefully plans to attend a prestigious medical college before the unexpected loss of her financial aid forces her to compete for her school’s prom-queen scholarship.

Audience: Teens

Keywords: Black Girl Magic, Black Joy, LGBTQ+, Rom-Com

Zami: A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde (book, biomythography)

Audre Lorde was a prominent activist, feminist, writer, and librarian. From the author’s vivid childhood memories in Harlem to her coming of age in the late 1950s, this book tells a lifestory by relating the linkage of women who have shaped her.

Audience: Adults

Keywords: Black Resilience, Bisexual, Lesbian, Self-Discovery, Self-Love

Hoodrat to Headwrap: A Decolonized Podcast with Ericka Hart & Ebony Donnley on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts & Spotify (podcast, series)

A Decolonized Podcast is for people and lovers of intersecting marginalized identities. Join sex educator, Ericka Hart, and their partner, Ebony Donnley, as they discuss toppling white supremacy, systemic racism and oppression, current issues, pop culture, and Black queer love.

Audience: Adults

Keywords: Current Events, LGBTQ+, Political, Pop Culture

Marsha’s Plate with Diamonnd Stylez, Mia Mix & Zee (podcast, series)

Marsha’s Plate is a podcast where three friends come together to share opinions, advice, and thoughts through a black trans lens.

Audience: Adults

Keywords: Current Events, History, Political, Queer, Transgender


Contemporary Black life in America


Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires (book, fiction)

In a collection of boundary-pushing stories that are touching, contemporary, and darkly humorous, the author illuminates the simmering tensions and precariousness of Black citizenship and the concept of Black identity in this so-called post-racial era.

Audience: Adults

Keywords: Short Stories

How Are You Going to Save Yourself by J. M. Holmes (book, fiction)

Four friends come of age in a Rhode Island post-industrial enclave and struggle to liberate themselves from the limitations imposed on African Americans while navigating the dynamics of sex, drugs, class, and family.

Audience: Adults

Keywords: Coming of Age, Short Stories

In West Mills by De’Shawn Charles Winslow (book, fiction)

A woman in mid-20th-century rural North Carolina, determined to live on her own terms in spite of community gossip, finds unexpected support from a veteran fixer who struggles with an inability to correct his own troubled past.

Audience: Adults

Keywords: African American Women, Historical Fiction

Luster by Raven Leilani (book, fiction)

Sharp, comic, disruptive, tender, Raven Leilani’s debut novel, Luster, sees a young Black woman fall into art and someone else’s open marriage.

Audience: Adults

Keywords: African American Women, Coming of Age, Literary

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid (book, fiction)

Seeking justice for a young black babysitter who was wrongly accused of kidnapping by a racist security guard, a successful blogger finds her efforts complicated by a video that reveals unexpected connections.

Audience: Adults

Keywords: African American Women, Structural Racism

You Can’t Touch My Hair & Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson (book, essays)

The stand-up comedian and WNYC podcaster offers humorous, poignant essays describing her experience as a Black woman in modern America on topics such as how she’s been questioned on her love of Billy Joel and U2 and why you can’t touch her hair.

Audience: Adults

Keywords: African American Women, Black Hair, Essays

We’re Going to Need More Wine: Stories That Are Funny, Complicated & True by Gabrielle Union (book, memoir)

A powerful collection of essays on gender, sexuality, race, beauty, Hollywood and the realities of modern women also includes the author’s wrenching experiences as a survivor of sexual assault, in a volume that seeks to raise awareness about the needs of victims of sexual violence.

Audience: Adults

Keywords: African American Women, Black Parenthood, Memoir

Last Black Man in San Francisco

In San Francisco, a Black man plots to get back his childhood home—built by his grandfather—from which his family was forced out when the neighborhood became too expensive.

Audience: Adults

Tags: African American Men, Gentrification

Sorry to Bother You (movie)

When telemarketer Cassius Green discovers the key to professional success, he finds his life at work becoming more and more bizarre.

Audience: Adults

Tags: Satire

Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe (music)

The third studio album from Grammy-Award-nominated artist Janelle Monáe. Explores themes of womanhood and sexuality.

Audience: Adults

Tags: African American Women, LGBTQ+

Code Switch (podcast)

Explores how race affects all aspects of life in America—as the NPR description states—”from politics and pop culture to history, sports and everything in between.”

Audience: Adults

Keywords: Current Events, Political, Pop Culture

Louder Than a Riot (podcast)

NPR description: “Rhyme and punishment go hand in hand in America. [This podcast] reveals the interconnected rise of hip hop and mass incarceration.”

Audience: Adults

Keywords: Current Events, Hip Hop, Policing & Mass Incarceration, Pop Culture


Questioning authority in teen literature


All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely (book, fiction)

When sixteen-year-old Rashad is mistakenly accused of stealing, classmate Quinn witnesses his brutal beating at the hands of a police officer who happens to be the older brother of his best friend.

Audience: Teens

Keywords: Contemporary Black Life in America, Police Brutality

Anger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro (book, fiction)

Struggling with panic attacks and grief over his father’s death, high school junior Moss, in the face of a racist school administration, decides to organize a protest that escalates into violence.

Audience: Teens

Keywords: Anxiety Disorder, Contemporary Black Life in America, Education, LGBTQ+, Protests

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (book, fiction)

After witnessing her friend’s death at the hands of a police officer, Starr Carter’s life is complicated when the police and a local drug lord try to intimidate her in an effort to learn what happened the night Kahlil died.

Audience: Teens

Keywords: Contemporary Black Life in America, Death, Police Brutality

I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina, Stacey Robinson, John Jennings & Bryan Stevenson (book, graphic novel)

The ghost of 15-year-old Alfonso Jones travels in a New York subway car full of the living and the dead, watching his family and friends fight for justice after he is killed by an off-duty police officer while buying a suit in a Midtown department store.

Audience: Teens

Keywords: Contemporary Black Life in America, Death, Ghosts, Police Brutality

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes (book, fiction)

After seventh-grader Jerome is shot by a white police officer, he observes the aftermath of his death and meets the ghosts of other fallen black boys including historical figure Emmett Till

Audience: Kids

Keywords: Contemporary Black Life in America, Death, Ghosts, Police Brutality

Light It Up by Kekla Magoon (book, fiction)

Told from multiple viewpoints, Shae Tatum, an unarmed, 13-year-old black girl, is shot by a white police officer, throwing their community into upheaval and making it a target of demonstrators.

Audience: Teens

Keywords: Contemporary Black Life in America, Death, Police Brutality, Protests

Say Her Name by Zetta Elliot & Loveis Wise (book, poetry)

Inspired by the #SayHerName campaign, this poetry collection features 49 poems honoring activists and victims of police brutality.

Audience: Teens

Keywords: Black Joy, Black Lives Matter, Black Resilience, Police Brutality

This Is My America by Kim Johnson (book, fiction)

Sending weekly letters to an organization she hopes will save her innocent father from death row, 17-year-old Tracy uncovers racist community secrets when her track star brother is wrongly accused of murder.

Audience: Teens

Keywords: Policing & Mass Incarceration, Political Activism

Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles (book, fiction)

When Marvin Johnson’s twin brother, Tyler, is shot and killed by a police officer, Marvin must fight injustice to learn the true meaning of freedom.

Audience: Teens

Keywords: Brothers, Contemporary Black Life in America, Death, Police Brutality


True Black American history


The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein (book, nonfiction)

In this groundbreaking history of the modern American metropolis, Richard Rothstein, a leading authority on housing policy, explodes the myth that America’s cities came to be racially divided through de facto segregation—that is through individual prejudices, income differences, or the actions of private institutions like banks and real estate agencies.

Audience: Adults

Keywords: Political, Social Justice, Social Movements

Dark Sky Rising: Reconstruction & the Dawn of Jim Crow by Henry Louis Gates Jr. & Tonya Bolden (book, nonfiction)

Shares real-life accounts from the age of Reconstruction and the Jim Crow era to explore the African American experience in post-Civil War U.S.

Audience: Teens

Keywords: Historical Context, Jim Crow, Reconstruction

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women & the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly (book, nonfiction)

Explores the previously uncelebrated but pivotal contributions of NASA’s African-American women mathematicians to America’s space program, describing how Jim Crow laws segregated them from their white counterparts despite their groundbreaking successes.

Audience: Teens, Kids

Keywords: Black Women in Science, STEM

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (book, nonfiction)

Documents the story of how scientists took cells from an unsuspecting descendant of freed slaves and created a human cell line that has been kept alive indefinitely, enabling discoveries in such areas as cancer research, in vitro fertilization, and gene mapping.

Audience: Adults, Teens

Keywords: STEM

March by John Lewis & Andrew Aydin (book, graphic novel series)

March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

Audience: Teens

Keywords: Political Activism, Social Justice, Social Movements

Medical Apartheid (book, nonfiction)

Explores the history of the Black people’s contribution to the medical profession, often as unwitting and unwilling subjects.

Audience: Adults

Keywords: Health Care, Historical Context, Structural Racism

Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi (book, nonfiction)

Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-Black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. Stamped From the Beginning uses the lives of five major American intellectuals to offer a window into the contentious debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and antiracists.

Audience: Adults

Keywords: Historical Context, Structural Racism

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander (book, picture book)

Originally performed for ESPN’s The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to Black life in the U.S. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes.

Audience: Kids

Keywords: Historical Context, Newberry Honor

Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson (book, nonfiction)

In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of Black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life.

Audience: Adults

Keywords: The Great Migration, Historical Context, Migrations

Black America Since MLK: And Still I Rise with Henry Louis Gates Jr. (movie)

Henry Louis Gates Jr. embarks on a deeply personal journey through the last fifty years of African American history. Joined by leading scholars, celebrities, and a dynamic cast of people who shaped these years, Gates travels from the victories of the civil rights movement up to today, asking profound questions about the state of Black America and our nation as a whole.

Audience: Adults

Keywords: Political, Social Justice, Social Movements

The Real Story of Rosa Parks: And Why We Need to Confront Myths About Black History by David Ikard (video)

Black history taught in U.S. schools is often watered-down, riddled with inaccuracies and stripped of its context and rich, full-bodied historical figures. Equipped with the real story of Rosa Parks, professor David Ikard highlights how making the realities of race more benign and digestible harms us all—and emphasizes the power and importance of historical accuracy—in this TedTalk.

Audience: Adults

Keywords: Storytelling, Race, Education

The 1619 Project from The New York Times (website)

Groundbreaking examination of American chattel slavery and its long-lasting effect on political, economic, and social life. Get full New York Times coverage for free through our library, from anywhere »

Audience: Adults

Keywords: Historical Context, Photography

The 1619 Podcast from The New York Times (podcast, series)

Companion audio to The 1619 Project, these five episodes range from 30 to 45 minutes. Get full New York Times coverage for free through our library, from anywhere »

Audience: Adults

Keywords: Historical Context

“The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates for The Atlantic (article)

Ta-nehisi Coates’ essay frames 400 years of policies in the United States that have failed and harmed Black Americans.

Audience: Adults

Keywords: Historical Context

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