100 Favorite African American Books of the 20th Century

In honor of African American History Month (which we celebrate at Literanista on the daily), here are the AALBC’s Favorite 100 African American Books of the 20th Century:

The Color PurpleAlice Walker
Their Eyes Were Watching GodZora Neale Hurston
BelovedToni Morrison
And This Too Shall PassE. Lynn Harris
I Know Why the Caged Bird SingsMaya Angelou
Some Love, Some Pain, Some Time: StoriesJ. California Cooper
Disappearing ActsTerry McMillan
Invisible ManRalph Ellison
Song of SolomonToni Morrison
Native SonRichard Wright
2nd Time AroundJames Earl Hardy
A Raisin In The SunLorraine Hansberry
Homemade LoveJ. California Cooper
Sister, SisterEric Jerome Dickey
KindredOctavia Butler
A Lesson Before DyingErnest Gaines
Flyy GirlOmar Tyree
Friends and Lovers- Eric Jerome Dickey
Tumbling – Dianne Mckinney-Whetstone
Blessings- Sheneska Jackson
Waiting to ExhaleTerry McMillan
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/when the Rainbow Is Enuf: A ChoreopoemNtozake Shange
A Little Yellow DogWalter Mosley
The Autobiography of Malcolm X– Malcolm X and Alex Haley
Invisible Life: Fifth Anniversary Edition- E. Lynn Harris
Possessing the Secret of JoyAlice Walker
Makes Me Wanna Holler: A Young Black Man in America – Nathan McCall
Just as I AmE. Lynn Harris
Mama DayGloria Naylor
The WeddingDorothy West
Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
Breath, Eyes, MemoryEdwidge Danticat
Li’l Mama’s RulesSheneska Jackson
One Better– Rosalyn McMillan
Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine – Bebe Moore Campbell
Devil in a Blue Dress- Walter Mosley
Sula – Toni Morrison
The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison
A Gathering of Old Men – Ernest Gaines
My Soul to Keep – Tananarive Due
Roots: The Saga of an American Family – Alex Haley
The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni (1968-1995) – Nikki Giovanni
The Street – Ann Petry
Cane – Jean ToomerTerry McMillian
Tar Baby – Toni Morrison
The Souls of Black Folk (Modern Library Series) – W.E.B.  DuBois
Ugly Ways- Tina McElroy Ansa
Another Country- James Baldwin
Black Gold- Anita Richmond Bunkley
Caught up in the Rapture- Sheneska Jackson
Only Twice I’ve Wished for Heaven – Dawn Turner
Trice The Heart of a Woman – Maya Angelou
A Do Right Man- Omar Tyree
Go Tell It on the Mountain – James Baldwin
The Between – Tananarive Due
The Hand I Fan With – Tina McElroy Ansa
The Piano Lesson – August Wilson
The Spook Who Sat by the Door- Sam Greenlee
Big Girls Don’t Cry- Connie Briscoe
Knowing – Rosalyn McMillan
Paradise – Toni Morrison
The Best of SimpleLangston Hughes
The Third Life of Grange Copeland- Alice Walker
Trying to Sleep in the Bed you Made- Out-of-Print
Bailey’s CafeGloria Naylor
In Search of SatisfactionJ. California Cooper
Just above My Head – James Baldwin
The Parable of the SowerOctavia Butler
Tempest Rising – Diane McKinney – Whetstone< The Fire Next Time (Modern Library Series)James Baldwin
The Isis Papers: The Keys to the ColorsDr. Frances Cress Welsing

Mama Black Widow– Iceberg Slim
Miss Ophelia– Mary Burnett Smith
The Wake of the WindJ. California Cooper
Baby of the FamilyTina McElroy Ansa
BillyAlbert French
Black BettyWalter Mosley
Manchild in the Promised Land – Claude Brown

Novels and Stories of Zora Neale Hurston (Library of America)
Zora Neale Hurston
The Women of Brewster PlaceGloria Naylor
Bessie – Chris Albertson
Black Boy: (American Hunger)Richard Wright
Magic City – Jewell Rhodes Parker
Scenes from a SistahLolita Files
The Color of Love – Sandra Kitt
What a Woman’s Gotta DoEvelyn Coleman
B-Boy Blues: A Seriously Sexy, Fiercely Funny, Black-on-Black Love Story – James Earl Hardy
Belly Song and Other PoemsEtheridge Knight
The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White MotherJames McBride
Corregidora – Gayl Jones
Giovanni’s RoomJames Baldwin
I Been in Sorrow’s Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots: A Novel – Susan Straight
In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens – Alice Walker
JazzToni Morrison
Middle PassageCharles Johnson
Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary ImaginationToni Morrison
The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored ManJames Weldon Johnson
Sounder– William H. Armstrong

I have read many of these books and some I’m not familiar with at all but I like this list because it’s very inclusive and covers many genres and issues. However, of course, it’s a tad outdated and missing recent must-reads.

How many of these have you read? Are there any obvious ones or not so obvious ones missing?


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