19 Nonfiction Books That Keep It Pushin’ for Juneteenth

It’s official! Juneteenth is finally recognized as a national holiday, and what better way to celebrate than to learn the rich history of Black struggle and resilience around the world.

Black Voices Diverse Voices Diversity Female Authors Non-Fiction Recommendations

It’s official! Juneteenth is finally recognized as a national holiday, and what better way to celebrate than to learn the rich history of Black struggle and resilience around the world.

Here’s 19 novels to inspire you to keep it pushin’ this Juneteenth.



1. Warmth of other suns




The great migration of Black Americans from the South to the North in search of better lives will amaze, anger, and inspire you. This book is on the thicker-side, but what else would you expect from a book covering something so pivotal as the mass migration of Black Americans?

2. When they call you a terrorist




Patrisse Cullors started the Black Lives Matter movement with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi in 2013, but who was she before the movement took off? When They Call You A Terrorist tells the story of her family’s struggle with mental illness, poverty, and, of course, racism. In addition, the book details Cullors’s journey with her sexuality, making for a dynamic read.

3. Trevor noah: born a crime




The hilarious Trevor Noah makes light of the discrimination he faced as a mixed person growing up in segregated South Africa at a time when his birth was a criminal offense. His knack for finding the funny in the most depressing situations keeps you coming back. It’s safe to say that his unique upbringing made for a rich narrator and one hell of a comedian.

4. Becoming




Michelle Obama has been a force in the Black community for years, whether she stood beside her husband or worked to bring American schoolchildren healthy meals. But there’s far more to Michelle than her First Lady title. Becoming details her life before, during, and after her time in the White House, which, upon reading the novel, is just one of the many interesting phases of her life.

15. angela davis: An autobiography





What can be said about Dr. Angela Davis that hasn’t already been said? If I could put more of Davis’s books on this list I would, but I wanted to give other books a fighting chance. An inspiration to scholars and activists alike, Davis’s life has been anything but boring. Although this book was originally published in the 70s, it’s just as necessary today as it ever was.

6. Bad feminist




Bad Feminist, a compilation of various essays, documents author Roxane Gay’s evolving relationship with her body, gender, and race. Her expert writing makes you feel as if you know her personally. You become invested in her development like it was your own, and you can’t help but admire the growth of Gay even as you read it.

7. Heavy




The title says it all; this book is, in fact, Heavy. Kiese Laymon uses his expert handle on narrative writing to detail his growing up in the deep south as he wrestled with his Blackness, body, and relationships. Laymon makes you face the great and awful aspects of being Black in America, telling tales of the abuse he received and inflicted, with the hope that we can become better. This novel is so heartbreakingly beautiful that it’ll stay with you long after you finish it.

8. Somebody’s daughter




When John Green calls your memoir “truly a classic in the making,” you’re doing something right. Author Ashley C. Ford let us into her world in this exciting new release as she dealt with her father’s imprisonment and the violence she herself experienced. You watch as Ford finds herself in spite of the bombs life threw her way, giving you that feeling of a proud mom by the end (and who doesn’t love that?).

9. How we fight for our lives




If you’re seeking to read more diverse queer stories, How We Fight For Our Lives  is a great place to start. The story of gifted poet Saeed Jones isn’t one we hear very often, of a young, Black, gay man trying to find his place in the world as he grows up in the deep South. Jones’s memoir cannot be more relatable as he struggles to find out who he really is, and fight like hell for his true self.



10. I know why the caged bird sings




It’s only fitting that you begin Maya Angelou’s whopping seven book autobiographical series with the very first one. A classic of classics. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings gives an fascinating look into Black womanhood, and the hardships inherent to it. Through the close relationship she shared with her grandmother as a child, Angelou explores her hardships as a lover of the world.

11. Song in a weary throat




Though activist Pauli Murray wasn’t given her flowers until after her death, her memoir couldn’t be more relevant. Orphaned at four, Murray fought for her mere existence throughout her life, lending her gifts to the Civil Rights Movement as a poet, lawyer, and force to be reckoned with. Good luck putting this one down.

12. The beautiful struggle




A Beautiful Struggle kills two birds with one stone. With Father’s Day right around the corner from Juneteenth, this story of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s larger-than-life father and his six other siblings is a perfect fit. It describes the unique coming-of-age of Black boys in a country “bent on their destruction.” A novel to hold close to the heart whether you are a father or not, this novel of Black boyhood is an instant favorite.

13. Ain’t i a woman




What would this list be without some feminist theory? Aint I A Woman, named after Sojourner Truth’s famous speech, is the perfect compliment to memoirs and works of fiction. Providing a deeper understanding of the theory and history behind Black feminism, this book gives you the necessary understanding to fight for Black women.

14. The autobiography of malcolm x




Malcolm X’s name has moved through the decades, but what do you really know about his life, ideology, and struggle? For those wishing to know more about this civil rights, and arguably pop culture, icon, this autobiography gives you a look into his world from his very own perspective. What better source is there for understanding this monumental historical figure than his own words?



15. Assata




Assata Shakur’s experience personifies what this country did to many of the Black radicals of her time. Beaten, dehumanized, isolated, and slandered, Shakur went through a gauntlet of abuse at the hands of the government and police. Shakur outlines her life as she was ushered from prison to prison and falsely accused of various crimes. If ever there was required reading outside of school, this would be it.

16. She memes well




Quinta Brunson has many hats. Writer, comedian, internet sensation, and now author, Brunson is funny even on paper. Her essay collection gives fans a peek beyond the funny, beyond the characters, into the deepest parts of herself as a Black woman. If it’s even possible to love Brunson any more than we already do, this book puts the nail in the coffin.

17. You’ll never believe what happened to lacey




Amber Ruffin couldn’t get any funnier than she already is. Wrong. The late night host partners with her sister Lacey to deliver ridiculous, but true, tales of her sibling’s encounters with racism in their everyday lives. Someone putting their hand in your hair without asking? Check. Being mistaken for a prostitute? Check. Whether you’re shocked by, or relate to these anecdotes, it makes for a wildly comic read.

18. Sister outsider




If you don’t know who Audre Lord is, read Sister Outsider. If you do know who Audre Lord is, read Sister Outsider. Lord does us the great pleasure of assembling her essays and speeches into one piece, addressing racism, sexism, homophobia, and other cruel happenings of our world through her breathtaking prose. Don’t call it a comeback, Lord and her astonishing talent are here to stay.

19. Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History and Little Legends: exceptional men in black history




This list would feel incomplete without at least one children’s book. Little Leaders/Legends is perfect for broadening a child’s historical knowledge and pride in its Black figures. Before they even get to school they’ll have a decent understanding of Black historical figures that history books might skim over. Give your own little legend this adorable book and you’ll have a little historian on your hands.

HONORABLE MENTION: Unprotected: a memoir




Billy Porter’s memoir might not be out yet, but boy are we excited for it. Mark your calendars for October, because this honorable mention covers Porter’s life and all the trials you can expect from the life of a wildly successful Black, gay man. It may be months away, but it’s never too early to get excited over a book!