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Top Reading Picks for Black History Month from an Oak Knoll Junior

Posted by Cora Laborde '25 on Feb 15, 2024 9:12:27 AM

Oak Knoll student Cora Laborde ’25 said, “I think books are knowledge, but also vessels of personal experience and culture that can invoke empathy, which is crucial when embracing diversity and inclusion.” With that in mind, she has curated a short list of great books celebrating Black History Month.

Here are Laborde’s top five picks and her own words on why they were most appealing.

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Angel of Greenwood is a story about two black teenagers who live in Tulsa, Oklahoma: Isaiah, an avid reader, and Angel, a quiet church girl. Throughout their relationship, they help each other overcome personal fears and hardships, but they also have to navigate the horrors of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. I think it’s a beautiful story that explores love, hate, identity, and reality as it pertains to racial prejudice. 

Swing Time follows the dynamic friendship of an unnamed narrator and another girl named Tracy, who meet at a dance class. They have opposite personalities and different visions for the future. This book encapsulates the versatility of the black experience and also acknowledges the relevance of the African diaspora. This book relates to this year’s Black History Month theme, which is African American arts and artisans, by recognizing the tie between race, culture, and art.

Black Sister is a collection of poems written by black American women. I thought it was important to include this book because these poems or works of art often go unnoticed. They are a huge contribution to the world of art. This book is another look into the black experience that is beautiful, rhythmic, and moving. These poets explore different social and political issues that were relevant at the time and convey a multitude of emotions.  

X: A Novel follows the journey of Malcolm X before he became the social rights activist that he was. His daughter wrote it, which I think adds great sentimental value to this account of his life. It recounts his initial dreams of becoming a lawyer, his faith journey, and how his parents impacted his life philosophy. I was excited when I first saw this book because I’ve always thought Malcolm X was such an inspirational activist because he passionately fought for what he believed was right and used his religion as empowerment. 

In Darkness is a story about a young boy in Haiti caught in the tragedy of the 2012 earthquake. It follows his inner dialogue but also the life of Toussaint Louverture, who was a Haitian revolutionary leader. When I found this book, I was elated because of my Haitian background and also because Haiti’s independence movement changed the course of history, yet doesn’t get enough recognition. The book has many aspects of Haitian culture, like phrases in Kreyol and references to prevalent Haitian artists.

We thank Laborde for thoughtfully curating this short reading list for Black History Month. The month is only half over and ends in an extra day for leap year, so there’s still time to devour some of her wonderful picks while the month is still in progress or enjoy these books and other windows into African American history all year long.

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Topics: history, student advice, diversity, equity, inclusion and justice, Black History Month

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