Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin

‘I am what time, circumstance, history, have made of me, certainly, but I am, also, much more than that. So are we all’

In this breakthrough essay collection that made him the voice of his generation, James Baldwin captures the complexity of black life at the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement. 

A Gift of Love by Martin Luther King, Jr.

‘Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity’

Written for the Birmingham campaign in 1963, this volume of sixteen classic sermons depicts King’s vision of love and peaceful action as social and political forces for change.

Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

‘Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge’

In this powerful and lyrical collection of fifteen essays and speeches, Audre Lorde challenges topics including racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia and class.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X 

‘One day, may we all meet together in the light of understanding’

Published posthumously and written with the help of Alex Haley, this is an important record of the Civil Rights Movement, which chronicles Malcolm X’s life and views across a range of topics from race to religion.

The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon 

‘Your passiveness serves no other purpose but to put you on the side of the oppressors’

Written at the height of the Algerian war for independence from French colonial rule, this seminal work on the trauma of colonization made Fanon the leading anti-colonialist thinker of the twentieth century.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison 

'It is sometimes advantageous to be unseen, although it is most often rather wearing on the nerves'

Published in 1952, the journey of Ellison's invisible man gives voice to the experience of an entire generation of black Americans, taking him from his expulsion from a Southern college to the so-called freedom in the North. 

Women, Race & Class by Angela Davis 

‘Black women, of course, were virtually invisible within the protracted campaign for woman suffrage’

This ground-breaking history of race, gender and class inequality examines the racism and class prejudices inherent in so much white feminism and brings pioneering black activists to the forefront of history.

The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon 

‘Nobody in London does really accept you. They tolerate you, yes, but you can’t go in their house and eat or sit down and talk’

Published in 1956, Sam Selvon’s book mixes social realism with humour to chronicle Britain’s hostility towards post-war Caribbean migrants, following the British Nationalist Act of 1948. 

Lady Sings the Blues by Billie Holiday

‘I've been told that no one sings the word 'hunger' like I do. Or the word 'love'

Billie Holiday’s memoir tells the story of her life spent in jazz, smoky Harlem clubs and packed-out concert halls, her love affairs, her wildly creative friends, her struggles with addiction and her adventures in love. 

Segu by Maryse Condé

'Segu loves the smell of gunpowder and the taste of blood'

The bestselling epic novel of family, treachery, rivalry, religious fervour and the turbulent fate of a royal African dynasty. Bernadine Evaristo calls it 'a great novel: unputdownable and unforgettable'.

In the Castle of My Skin by George Lamming

'They won't know you, the you that's hidden somewhere in the castle of your skin'

Lyrical and unsettling, George Lamming's autobiographical coming-of-age novel is a story of tragic innocence amid the collapse of colonial rule.

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