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Reading List February 17, 2019

Our Black History Month Valentines

Those who have changed America—and those you might not have heard of.

In today’s final installment of our Black History Month reading series, we are sharing some of our archival essays that highlight the lives and achievements of a range of African Americans.

From a missing chapter of Malcolm X’s autobiography that has now been found, to the work of genderqueer social activist Pauli Murray, we are looking at the lesser-known histories of famous figures, as well as the lives of some you may not have heard of.

This reading list also acknowledges those who could not be included as their names and stories have been lost to history. As Christopher Lebron notes, more often than not this is the disproportionate fate of black women, who are “consistently rendered invisible.”

—Rosie Gillies


Why Coretta Scott King Fought for a Job Guarantee
by David Stein

“I am not a ceremonial symbol—I am an activist. I didn’t just emerge after Martin died—I was always there and involved.”

• • •

When W. E. B. Du Bois Was Un-American
by Andrew Lanham

“At the very height of the McCarthy era, Du Bois tried to keep alive a free and open debate about American military, economic, and foreign policy. He fought, above all, for intellectual freedom.”

• • •

The Missing Malcolm X
by Garrett Felber

Our understanding of Malcolm X is inextricably linked to his autobiography, but newly discovered materials force us to reexamine his legacy.

• • •

Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt’s Beloved Radical
by Kenneth W. Mack

As a black, gender-ambiguous pioneer of the Harlem Renaissance, Pauli Murray’s biography seems to “dramatize many of the most critical social and political struggles of the twentieth century.”

• • •

Baldwin’s Lonely Country
by Ed Pavlić

“A week before King was slain, Baldwin told his brother that he just didn’t care about the country like he once did. He saw the looming catastrophe and figured most Americans deserved it.”

• • •

Janelle Monáe for President
by Christopher Lebron

“Monáe’s celebrations of blackness, queerness, and women plants an Afrofuturist flag square in the middle of our popular culture, beaming a progressive vision of respect and emancipation.”

• • •

A Love Supreme: Remembering James H. Cone
by Cornel West

“James Cone was a love warrior, an exemplary figure in a tradition of a people who have been terrorized for 400 years but taught the world so much about freedom.”

• • •

The Invisibility of Black Women
by Christopher Lebron

“Black women leaders are not honored anywhere near commensurate with their deep historical contributions to the struggle for racial—and, more broadly, democratic—justice.”

Our weekly themed Reading Lists compile the best of Boston Review’s archive. Previews are delivered to members every Sunday. Become a member to receive them ahead of the crowd.

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