What to Read, Watch and Listen to This Black History Month!

Posted on: 3 October 2023 by Mollie Hynes, International Slavery Studies MA. in 2023 posts

A collage of two book covers and a screenshot of an audiobook

The theme of this year’s Black History Month is ‘Saluting Our Sisters,’ the celebration and showcase of Black women. I’m going to share how to celebrate Black history this October – by reading, watching and listening!

A Must-Watch Film: 'Till'

A film recommendation that springs to mind after its release earlier this year is ‘Till.’ The film retells the injustice suffered by Mamie Till after the unjust and racially motivated murder of her son Emmett, by two white men. A devastating story, the film highlights the pivotal role of Mamie Till in bringing national attention to the racial violence faced by Black people in the Jim Crow era, and her importance from the outset of the Civil Rights Movement.

Saluting Our Sisters in Literature: 'The Vanishing Half' and 'Memphis'

Following the theme ‘Saluting Our Sisters’, my choice of fiction reads are two stories about the strength and resilience of Black women. Authors Brit Bennett and Tara M. Stringfellow both follow the theme of family history and sisterhood, in their novels ‘The Vanishing Half’ and ‘Memphis’ respectively. The Vanishing Half sees two sisters in the 1940s American South and their polarising treatment based on their racial identities. Memphis explores the impact of racial violence through three generations of women, whilst keeping the relationship between women at the forefront of the plot. Each chapter is from the perspective of a different central character, which made me as a reader feel more connected to the story and the relationships at play. Two novels by two talented Black authors are perfect to celebrate Black History Month through fiction.

Currently listening to: 'An American Marriage'

I’ve recently started listening to audiobooks, and my current listen is ‘An American Marriage’ by Tayari Jones. This book is available through Libby, which is accessible to university students by using your library card! The story follows the marriage of Celestial and Roy, and the impact his wrongful criminal conviction brings to their lives. I have around five hours of this book left to listen to, and I’m excited to see where the plot goes!

For the Non-Fiction Enthusiast: 'Black History Year' Podcast

If you prefer non-fiction, I recently discovered the podcast Black History Year. Episodes are titled ‘2 Minute Black History,’ and tell new and unheard Black stories. The topics range from well-known figures to those you may not have heard of, and focus on individual contributions to science, literature, healthcare and more. If you’re someone who prefers short-from media, this podcast is the one for you!

Untold Stories: 'Black Tudors' by Miranda Kaufmann

The subtitle of the next book I recommend is ‘an Untold Story,’ which is perfect for this month! Miranda Kaufmann delivered a guest lecture during my history degree, which is where I was introduced to her book Black Tudors. By examining the stories of individual African men and women who came to be in Tudor England, this book is a great way to learn about an aspect of lesser-known history in a very personal way.

Remember, the importance of Black history is not only limited to one month – it is something that should be recognised all year. Whilst these recommendations can get you started this October, here’s what to look out for in the future and what I plan on reading next:

  • The Colour Purple – an adaptation of the novel by Alice Walker, set to be released in January 2024.
  • Blonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo.
  • In Every Mirror She’s Black by Lola Akinmade Akerstrom.
  • Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly.