Black History Month Reading List Curated by Debbie Gershenowitz

To celebrate Black History Month we are sharing reading lists of relevant black history titles for you to enjoy all month long. The following reading list is curated by Assistant Editorial Director, Debbie Gershenowitz, who acquire’s books on United States, Latin American, and Caribbean history. Debbie’s particular areas of interest include: Black history; the history of the African diaspora; histories of enslavement, abolition, and freedom; histories of gender, women, and sexualities; the history of the Americas in a global context; military history; Latinx history; legal history; and borderlands history. She is also the sponsoring editor of the following UNC Press series: John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture, David J. Weber Series in the New Borderlands History, New Cold War History, and Latinx Histories.

UNC Press made its first appearance on my radar screen over three decades ago, when I read Robin D. G. E. Kelley’s hot-off-the-press HAMMER AND HOE in graduate school. Like so many other readers, my mind was blown by the book: its fearlessness, radicalism, and most important, the spotlight it shone on the ordinary Black Alabamians who became anti-racist activists well before Selma. Thirty-three years later, the Press continues to champion hard histories that focus on Black movement, power, and agency, which strive to disrupt traditional narratives and give future generations a more inclusive and messier vision of the past that will equip them to rethink and revise the future. I’m honored to feature these titles not just for Black History Month, but for all times, and hope that minds will be blown by them.

Debbie Gershenowitz

If you’re interested in purchasing any of these titles, you can get 30% off plus free shipping on orders over $75 with code 01UNCP30.

The Colored Conventions Movement: Black Organizing in the Nineteenth Century edited by P. Gabrielle Foreman, Jim Casey, Sarah Lynn Patterson

“A must for all students, researchers, and general readers with an interest in Black lives, this essential overview of the CCP’s legacy offers fresh understanding of the history of organized Black activism and commitment to community efforts for equal rights. Highest recommendation.”—Library Journal, *starred review*

“Highly recommended.”—Choice Reviews

Administering Freedom: The State of Emancipation after the Freedmen’s Bureau by Dale Kretz

“An incredible story of the attempts to devise collective solutions to problems left by the demise of slavery and how those problems were instead dealt with in a piecemeal way.”—Bruce Baker, coeditor of After Slavery: Race, Labor, and Citizenship in the Reconstruction South

“A remarkable achievement and invaluable contribution to the study of emancipation, Reconstruction, and citizenship. Kretz has crafted a cohesive story out of many varied histories, weaving together the narratives of former slaves’ encounters with federal government agencies and drawing a clear line from the Freedmen’s Bureau to the Social Security Act of 1935.”—Elizabeth Regosin, author of Freedom’s Promise: Ex-Slave Families and Citizenship in the Age of Emancipation

Escape to the City: Fugitive Slaves in the Antebellum Urban South by Viola Franziska Müller

“A work of political economy at its best. Müller sets aside the traditional narrative of slavery to freedom and explores the mobility, networking, and labor of the runaway slaves who chose to stay in the South, focusing on how they lived and survived in a complex social environment.”—R. J. M. Blackett, author of The Captive’s Quest for Freedom: Fugitive Slaves, the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, and the Politics of Slavery

“Through rigorous research, lucid prose, and striking tabulation, Müller plots new spatial approaches toward fugitive slaves’ flight to antebellum southern cities that breathe life into these neglected historical actors through lived experiences, context of flight, and arresting comparison with contemporary refugees.”—Jeffrey R. Kerr-Ritchie, author of Rebellious Passage: The Creole Revolt and America’s Coastal Slave Trade

At the Threshold of Liberty: Women, Slavery, and Shifting Identities in Washington, D.C. by Tamika Y. Nunley

2021 Letitia Woods Brown Prize, Association for Black Women Historians

2022 Pauli Murray Book Prize, African American Intellectual History Society

2021 Mary Kelley Prize, Society for Historians of the Early American Republic

Honorable Mention, 2022 Darlene Clark Hine Award, Organization of American Historians

Finalist, 2022 Association for the Study of African American Life and History Book Prize

Shortlisted, 2021 Museum of African American History Stone Book Award

Finalist, 2023 Shapiro Book Prize, Shapiro Center for American History and Culture at The Huntington

“An impressively cohesive study exemplifies the duality of Black women’s and girls’ lived experiences in the capital at a pivotal turning point in the political project of nation-making.”—Black Perspectives

Debbie also recommends Tamika Y. Nunley’s forthcoming book The Demands of Justice: Enslaved Women, Capital Crime, and Clemency in Early Virginia (April 2023)

Eating While Black: Food Shaming and Race in America by Psyche A. Williams-Forson

Eating While Black looks at Black food culture along the broader tablecloth of structural and systemic racism, violence, degradation, socioeconomics, and exploitation…The stories, anecdotes, and analyses are illuminating…insightful.”—INDY Week

“Unpacking the ugly history of racist stereotypes, exclusionary agricultural policies, and the cultural assumption that Black people’s lives need monitoring, this is a book that celebrates the diversity of Black American food culture across the United States. . . . Eating While Black is a thoughtful text with insights into how much unwelcome extra tension and “heaviness” lands on Black Americans’ plates.”—Foreword Reviews