Paint splatter accent Nationals Philanthropies Black History Month Reading List

February 24, 2022

In honor of Black History Month, Nationals Philanthropies shares a reading list of recommended titles that staff have appreciated to understand better the history of the black experience in America. From historical accounts to reflections on modern-day lived experiences, these recommendations offer applications to our work and lives today to address systemic racism and create a more equitable community.

White Rage
By Carol Anderson

Recommended by Kate Greenberg, Chief Marketing & Development Officer

“In our youth, so many Americans are taught that the work is finished – slavery was abolished and civil rights achieved. Anderson illuminates instead that, repeatedly, progress for black Americans has been met with relentless attempts by white counterparts to undermine advancement. For me this is a sobering reminder that continued efforts are needed, starting right here in our community.”

The Fire Next Time
By James Baldwin

Recommended by Charlie Sperduto, Director, Community & Culture

The Fire Next Time speaks clearly to the racial divide and the socioeconomic factors leading to civil unrest in our country – sadly reflecting much of what’s true in today’s American climate. Baldwin does not foster hate or support lawlessness but promotes self-awareness. He pleas for an awakening, a heightened consciousness, and progress while advocating for love. His prose may have been written over a half century ago but the themes are timeless and important for contemporary racial restoration.”

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness
By Austin Channing Brown

Recommended by Kelly Decerbo, Senior Director, Marketing

I’m Still Here puts into raw perspective what being an ally looks like for the reader – illuminating the fact that too often, non-BIPOC individuals mistake emotions of discomfort or recognition for allyship. Austin Channing Brown teaches readers through her own experiences exactly how and why that is unproductive. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to dive deeper into the lived experience of those systemically barred from white privilege…there are invaluable lessons in each and every chapter.”

Between the World and Me
By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Recommended by Janay Morant, Associate, Volunteerism & Alumni Relations

“I would recommend this book because it really makes you think about systematic barriers in ways that we as a society have become somewhat complicit to. It increased my empathy towards black men and the challenges and unique dangers they encounter that differ from other people of color.”

Mountains Beyond Mountains
By Tracy Kidder

Recommended by Brooke Wilson, Manager, Youth Program Assessment

“From this book highlighting how one man, Dr. Paul Farmer, committed his life to serving others [delivering high-quality healthcare to under-resourced communities], I am inspired to model his mindset. I find this to be applicable to the context of youth and community development through community bridging efforts like cultivating relationships with others – your neighbor next door, a coworker, or a child and mentor relationship.”

By Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi

Recommended by Jordan Jones, Director, Business Operations

“Many figures that are viewed as leaders in American history books had strong prejudice and were far from being anti-racist. If there were more anti-racist practices in the past, the present would look different. We need to challenge society to be more than just non-racist. This book encouraged me to have a better understanding of the standards I should hold those to that I consider to be an ally.”

How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery across America
By Clint Smith

Recommended by Tal Alter, Chief Executive Officer

“A staff writer at The Atlantic who previously taught in Prince George’s County, MD, Smith tells of his travels to various locations with a legacy of slavery. In some of these places, the through line from slavery to today is clear. In others, the connection may be less readily apparent. Smith weaves together past and present through descriptions of lives lived hundreds of years ago and the stories of those living there today. As I seek to make sense of how our country has arrived at this moment and what to do about it, Smith’s combination of deep historical research, evocative story-telling, and matter-of-fact descriptions of contemporary America provides critical context for deeper understanding.”


To connect with our youngest learners, our staff shares some additional book picks below. Take a look back earlier this month as we celebrated the legacy of African American athletes in the game of baseball and ongoing fight for civil rights through our Books + Baseball program.


Change Sings
By Amanda Gorman


Just Like Josh Gibson
By Angela Johnson


It Starts with Me
By Dr. Bernice A. King and Dr. Kimberly P. Johnson


Diversity Ninja: An Anti-racist Diverse Children’s Book about Racism, Prejudice, Equality
By Mary Nhim


All Are Welcome
By Alexandra Penfold