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"In times of social unrest and crisis, we are wise to look back to determine the paths and missteps that brought us to those particular junctures—we must take time to pause, read, reflect, learn, and take reparative actions to attend to the harm done."

—Michelle D. Commander, from the introduction to Unsung: Unheralded Narratives of American Slavery & Abolition

To celebrate Black History Month and the publication of Unsung: Unheralded Narratives of American Slavery & Abolition, Penguin Classics and The Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture have collaborated to create a curated reading list of works on slavery and memory in the United States. Exploring these subjects through classic and contemporary novels, poetry, and nonfiction works, the list seeks to highlight writings that also speak to themes of resistance and liberation.

In addition to the reading list, make sure to explore the digital resources available through the Schomburg Center, including:

This month (and every month), let us know what you are reading using #AmplifyBlackStories.

A reading list of works on slavery and memory in the United States

Curated by Michelle D. Commander, editor of Unsung: Unheralded Narratives of American Slavery & Abolition, and associate director and curator of the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Commander is also the author of Afro-Atlantic Flight: Speculative Returns and the Black Fantastic and Avidly Reads Passages.

To purchase books from the reading list through the Schomburg Shop, click here.

Titles available from Penguin Classics

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Unsung

Kevin Young, Michelle D. Commander, Schomburg Center, Michelle D. Commander, Kevin Young

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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave

Frederick Douglass, Ira Dworkin, Ira Dworkin

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The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers

Hollis Robbins, Henry Louis Gates, Hollis Robbins, Henry Louis Gates

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The Light of Truth

Ida B. Wells, Mia Bay, Mia Bay, Henry Louis Gates, Mia Bay

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The Souls of Black Folk

W. E. B. Du Bois, Ibram X. Kendi, Monica E. Elbert

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Cane

Jean Toomer, Zinzi Clemmons, George B. Hutchinson

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God's Trombones

James Weldon Johnson, Maya Angelou, Henry Louis Gates

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Passing

Nella Larsen, Emily Bernard, Thadious M. Davis

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The Blacker the Berry . . .

Wallace Thurman, Allyson Hobbs

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Not Without Laughter

Langston Hughes, Angela Flournoy

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Black No More

George S. Schuyler, Danzy Senna

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Revolutionary Suicide

Huey P. Newton, Ho Che Anderson, Fredrika Newton

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The Cancer Journals

Audre Lorde, Tracy K. Smith

Additional Reading

About the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery

The Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery, founded in 2014 with a generous $2.5 million gift from Ruth and Sid Lapidus, generates and disseminates scholarly knowledge and works on the slave trade, slavery, and anti-slavery pertaining to the Atlantic World. The Center supports the work of researchers with long-term and short-term fellowships. Given the centrality of Atlantic slavery to the making of the modern world, Lapidus fellowships ensure that slavery studies are a cornerstone of the Schomburg Center’s broader research community. The Center engages the public with a variety of programs, an annual nonfiction book prize, exhibitions, conferences, and partnerships with local, national, and international institutions. To see the Lapidus Center’s digital collection, click here. To learn more about the Lapidus Center, please visit lapiduscenter.org.

About the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Founded in 1925 and named a National Historic Landmark in 2017, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is one of the world’s leading cultural institutions devoted to the preservation, research, interpretation, and exhibition of materials focused on African American, African Diasporan, and African experiences. As a research division of The New York Public Library, the Schomburg Center features diverse programming and collections totaling over 11 million items that illuminate the richness of global black history, arts, and culture. Learn more about how to support the Schomburg Center here.

About the New York Public Library

For 125 years, The New York Public Library has been one of the world’s leading free providers of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With 92 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming, and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars, and has seen record numbers of attendance and circulation in recent years. The New York Public Library serves nearly 18 million patrons who come through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at nypl.org. To offer this wide array of free programming, the New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding.