popular

13 of Our Favorite Books On Black Resistance and Revolution

Here are 13 of the most influential books about resistance and revolution by black visionaries.

This month at OkayAfrica, we're celebrating Black revolution—icons and movements throughout history that have fostered revolutionary thinking and encouraged social progress.


Black history is filled with an abundance of brave, era-defining artists, writers, politicians and more who've embodied a spirit of boldness and progressive thinking in the face of adversity. In today's rocky political landscape of hate, misogyny and anti-blackness, these thinker's teachings, words and ideas are invaluable.

There's no shortage of literature form the likes of Malcolm X to Steve Biko, Thomas Sankara and more that continue to spark fire in people and encourage a revolutionary spirit years after they were written.

Below are 13 of our favorite books about black revolution.

1. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

The prolific writer's 1963 book, contains two thought-provoking essays: My Dungeon Shook—Letter to my Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of Emancipation, a gut-wrenching address to his young nephew about the perils of back identity in America and a meditation on intergenerational trauma, change and legacy, and Down At The Cross — Letter from a Region of My Mind is an equally poignant piece that chronicles his childhood experiences in Harlem. The essay offers a provocative stance on racial dynamics in America.

2. Assata Shakur: An Autobiography

This affecting page-turner, reveals the cutting racial dynamics and corrupt criminal justice system that landed the now exiled Black Liberation Army member in prison for life. We follow her journey from her contested murder conviction to her escape to Cuba. Her story highlights the often downplayed role of black women in the fight towards racial equality in the United States.

3. This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color edited by Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa

This collection of writings from a diverse group of women scholars, offers critical, essays, analyses and prose that reflects on feminism, race and identity and a range of experiences which impact women of color. It is one of the earliest works to criticize white feminism. Each entry enlightens with personal accounts, and unique perspective that stimulate and resonate with readers.

4. Women's Liberation and the African Freedom Struggle by Thomas Sankara

This transcript of a speech that the late first president of Burkina Faso's 1987 speech at a women's rally, illustrates why he is, even till this day, considered Africa's most progressive leader. In the forward-thinking speech, Sankara authoritatively sends a message of uncompromising gender equality. It's in this speech that he delivered one of his most unforgettable quotes: "there is no true social revolution without the liberation of women." Thirty years later, and his words still ring true.

5. I Write What I Like by Steve Biko

This compilation of writings form the South African revolutionary, illustrate why he was one of the anti-apartheid movement's most celebrated figures. This book is the fierce leader's retrospective call-to-action, that encourages readers to reframe their state of mind. I Write What I Like, gifted us this famous gem: "The greatest weapon in the hand of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed."

6. The Autobiography of Malcom X As Told To Alex Haley

This book is often credited with enlightening many a black college student by providing an explosive introduction to black consciousness. It's the most detailed account of how the icon, born Malcom Little, went on to become the fiercest icon of the Civil Rights Movement, and a leader whose name is virtually synonymous with black resistance.

7. Women, Race and Class by Angela Davis

This book by one of the feminist movement's most celebrated thought leaders, is a dissection of an array of societal issues that plague America including race, class and gender inequality. It's a sweeping analysis that breaks down systemic oppression in a digestible way from one of the legendary scholar and former Black Panther leader.

8. Neo-Colonialism, The Last Stage of Imperialism by Kwame Nkrumah

Upon its release in 1965, this book was so controversial that the US Department of State blocked $25 million in foreign aide to Ghana. In the book, Nkrumah unabashedly lambasted Western governments—particularly the United States—calling out the exploitative nature of their economic presence in Africa, even after several African nations gained their independence. It remains one of the most thorough critiques on the subject of neo-colonialism.

9. Stokely Speaks: From Black Power to Pan-Africanism by Stokley Carmichael

This collection of essays, speeches and articles tracks the evolution of consciousness of the revolutionary Civil Rights hero and the collective conscious of the black community as a whole through three key movements: Civil Rights, Black Power and Pan-Africanism. It's a lesson in the many political efforts that shaped black history in the United States, and a reminder to never stop growing in knowledge and perspective.

10. Re-creating Ourselves by Molara Ogundipe-Leslie

This 1994 book by Nigerian poet, feminist, activist and literary critic Molara Ogundipe-Leslie is a classic feminist work by one of its foremost African authorities. In Re-creating Ourselves, Ogundipe-Leslie, discusses colonialism, sexist traditions, and articulates the plight of black and African women. She has written many significant works on feminism from an African perspective, such as the acclaimed essay "Not Spinning on the Axis of Maleness," published in the book Sisterhood Is Global: The International Women's Movement Anthology. Her work is an example of the importance of black women creating and owning their own narratives.

11. A Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

This autobiographical work profiles the South African leader's childhood, activism, and 27 years in prison. The book is an examination of the roots of apartheid told from the perspective of a global icon. It's an inspirational story to say the least, which offers a realistic yet largely optimistic outlook.

12. The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B DuBois

This seminal work of literature, written by the trailblazing sociologist, Civil Rights activist and Pan-Africanist, set the foundation for many works on race, class and society which followed. The Souls of Black Folk is largely heralded as the cornerstone of black literature, introducing radical concepts such as double consciousness, the color line and the veil.

13. The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution by C. L. R. James

This 1938 book by Afro-Trinidadian writer C.L.R. James tells the under-appreciated history of the Haitian Revolution, focusing on the leadership of Toussaint L'Ouverture. This book is significant for obvious reasons, it's a stirring account of how the 'First Black Republic" came to be in the face of adversity and a commentary on the effects of slavery and racism in the Americas.

popular

Here are 10 Recent Books from Black South African Women Writers That You Need to Read

These 10 books have both shifted and unearthed new narratives within South Africa's literary world.

A few years ago, we celebrated the eight most influential Black South African women writers during Women's Month. The list featured the likes of Miriam Tlali, the first Black woman to publish a novel during Apartheid, Sweet Medicine author Panashe Chigumadzi and beloved poet Lebogang Mashile. We now bring you our selection of ten literary gems by various Black South African women writers which have shifted and even unearthed new narratives in the South African body of literature.


This list is in no particular order.

​"Collective Amnesia" by Koleka Putuma, published 2017

It is unprecedented for a poetry book in South Africa to go into a ninth print run and yet, Collective Amnesia has managed to do just that. The collection of poems, which compellingly explores religion, womanhood, Blackness, queerness, traditionalism, trauma and everything in between, has also been translated into Danish, German and Spanish. The winner of the 2018 Luschei Prize for African Poetry, Collective Amnesia has also been adopted as reading material for students at various institutions of higher learning across the country. It is a truly phenomenal and unrivalled first work by Putuma.

"The Ones with Purpose" by Nozizwe Cynthia Jele, published 2018

Jele's book centers themes of loss, grief and trauma. After the main character's (Fikile) sister dies from breast cancer, it is now up to her to ensure that certain rituals are performed before the burial. The Ones with Purpose highlights a lot of what Black people refer to as "drama" following the death of a loved ones. It highlights how often Black people are often not given the opportunity to simply grieve their loss but must instead attend to family politics and fights over property and rights. It also speaks to how, despite the rift that loss inevitably brings to Black families especially, togetherness also results because of it.

"These Bones Will Rise Again" by Panashe Chigumadzi, published 2018

Drawing from Audre Lord's concept of a biomythography in Zami: A New Spelling of My Name as well as Alice Walker's essay In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens, Chigumadzi's These Bones Will Rise Again explores the history of Zimbabwe's spirit medium and liberation fighter Mbuya Nehanda during the Chimurenga, Zimbabwe pre- and post-colonization and the Mugabe-regime. The book also pays homage to her late grandmother. Chigumadzi's commitment to retelling lost narratives in Zimbabwe's complex history is a radical act in itself in a world that seeks to tell the country's stories through a lens that centers any and everyone else except Zimbabweans.

"Reclaiming the Soil: A Black Girl's Struggle to Find Her African Self" by Rosie Motene, published 2018

Just as Matlwa's debut novel Coconut explores the cultural confusion and identity crises that result in Black children raised in a White world, so too does Motene's book. In contrast, however, Reclaiming the Soil: A Black Girl's Struggle to Find Her African Self is instead a non-fictional and biographical account set during Apartheid South Africa. As a young Black girl, Motene is taken in by the Jewish family her mother works for. And while she is exposed to more opportunities than she would have had she remained with her Black parents, hers is a story of tremendous sacrifice and learning to rediscover herself in a world not meant for her.

"Period Pain" by Kopano Matlwa, published 2017

Matlwa's third novel Period Pain honestly pulls apart the late Nelson Mandela's idea of a rainbow nation and non-racialism. Through the central character Masechaba, the reader is shown the reality of a country still stuck in the clenches of racism and inequality. Xenophobia, crime and the literal death sentence that is the public health system are all issues Matlwa explores in the novel. It's both a visceral account of the country from the vantage point of a Black person without the privileges and comforts of a White person as well as a heartfelt story about how even the most broken continue to survive. It's the story of almost every Black person in South Africa and that that story is even told to begin with, and told honestly, is important.

"Always Another Country" by Sisonke Msimang, published 2017

Msimang's memoir details her political awakening while abroad as well as her return to a South Africa on the cusp of democracy. Hers is not an ordinary account of Apartheid South Africa and its aftermath but rather a window into yet another side—the lives of South Africans living in exile and more so, what happens when they eventually return home. Admittedly, it's an honest account of class and privilege. Msimang describes the tight-knit sense of community built between families who were in exile and acknowledges that many of them came back to South Africa with an education—something of which South Africans living in the country were systematically deprived. It is an important addition to the multitude of stories of Apartheid-era South Africa, the transition into democracy and the birth of the so-called "born-free" generation.

"Khwezi: The Story of Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo" by Redi Tlhabi, published 2017

Redi Tlhabi's second non-fiction work tells the story of Fezekile Ntsukela Kuzwayo, the woman who accused then President Jacob Zuma of rape back in 2005. "Khwezi" as she became known throughout the very public trial, was a symbol of the many women subjected to the abuse of men in positions of power. Similarly, she was treated as women like her are so often treated—ostracized by the community and forced to leave and start anew elsewhere. Tlhabi's account of Khwezi's life was a courageous one and one that tries to obtain justice despite the court's decisions. Although Khwezi died in October 2016, her memory continues to live on in the hearts of many South African women who refuse to be silenced by the dominant patriarchal structure. For that alone, this work is tremendously important.

"Intruders" by Mohale Mashigo, published 2018

When one thinks of African literature, stories of migration, colonization, loss, trauma, culture and traditions usually come to the fore. As a result, Afrofuturism or speculative fiction is a genre that is often sidelined and the stories therein left untold. Intruders is a collection of short stories by Mohale Mashigo that unearths these stories in a refreshing manner. From mermaids in Soweto, werewolves falling in love with vampires and a woman killing a man with her high-heeled shoes, Mashigo centers the proverbial "nobody" and pushes against the narrative that Africans can only tell certain kinds of stories but not others.

"Miss Behave" by Malebo Sephodi, published 2017

There is a reason why Sephodi's Miss Behave has resonated so strongly among women across the board. Drawing inspiration from Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's adage that "well-behaved women seldom make history", Miss Behave documents Sephodi's journey to smashing the stereotypes peddled by society in its relentless prescriptions of what women can and cannot be; can and cannot do. Naturally, she's labeled a "misbehaving" woman and hence the title of the book. Sephodi also explores themes of identity and gender issues while allowing women the opportunity to take charge of their own identities despite societal expectations. A book that wants women to discover their bad-ass selves and exercise agency over their lives? A must read.

"Rape: A South African Nightmare" by Professor Pumla Gqola, published 2015

This book is both brilliant in the way it unpacks the complex relationship that South Africa has with rape and distressing in the way this relationship is seen to unfold in reality. Rape is a scourge that South Africa has not been able to escape for years and the crisis only seems to be worsening. Written almost four years ago, Prof Gqola's profound analysis of rape and rape culture as well as autonomy, entitlement and consent is still as relevant today as it was back then—both a literary feat and a tragedy. There can be no single answer to why South Africa is and remains the rape capital of the world, but Rape: A South African Nightmare is by far one of the best attempts thus far.

popular

Nana Oforiatta Ayim author photo (c) Naafia Naah

In Conversation: Nana Oforiatta Ayim On How Her Debut Novel ‘The God Child’ Challenges the Typical Immigrant Narrative

The Ghanaian writer, art historian and filmmaker talks to OkayAfrica about the magical storytelling in her new book, exploring the complexity of intergenerational African identity, the writing process and more.

Nana Oforiatta Ayim's debut novel The God Child isn't your typical immigrant tale—in fact, despite it being about a Ghanaian family living in Germany and the UK, according to the art historian and novelist, it isn't one at all. "I refer to [the characters] as 'expats,' because I think it's kind of nonsensical that Westerners have co-opted this [word]," says Ayim who is also the creator of the African Cultural Encyclopedia project, dedicated to preserving Africa's artistic heritage. "When they come to work in Africa, they call themselves expats, and yet when we go to work in Europe or America, we are automatically immigrants."

The novel seeks to turn trite narratives about immigrants on their head, as it follows two young protagonists Maya and Kojo who come to terms with their cultural heritage while being brought up as first-generation children in Europe. When they learn about their homeland through mystical tales from Maya's mother, they take it upon themselves to try and restore the fictional Ghanaian dynasty back to its former glory.

The God Child colorfully explores the intergenerational experience of African children and parents living in the West, and how each responds to, adapts to, or reject the feelings of loss and sacrifice that often come along with it. Ayim depicts two young people determined to hold on to their culture despite the challenges presented by their environment. The book offers a nuanced perspective and challenges the notion that most Africans migrate to Europe or America out of an idealization of the West.

Keep reading...
popular
Photo courtesy of CSA Global.

In Conversation with Congolese NBA Player Emmanuel Mudiay: 'I want more African players in the NBA.'

The Utah Jazz player talks about being African in the NBA, supporting basketball in the DRC and how 'everybody knows about Burna Boy'.

Inspired by his basketball-playing older brothers, by second grade, Emmanuel Mudiay already knew that he wanted to play in the American National Basketball Association. Then in 2001 his family, fleeing the war in Democratic Republic of Congo, sought asylum in the United States.

In America, Mudiay saw basketball as a way for him to improve his situation. After impressive high school and college careers, he moved to China to play pro ball. Picked 7th overall in the 2015 NBA draft, the now 23-year-old guard has made a name for himself this season coming off the bench for the Utah Jazz.

Mudiay attests to the sport having changed not only his life but that of his siblings. Basketball gave them all a chance at a good education and the opportunity to dream without conditions. Now he wants to see other talented African players make it too.

We caught up with him to talk about his experience as an African player in the NBA, his hopes for basketball on the African continent and who he and his teammates jam out to in their locker rooms.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Keep reading...
popular

University lecturer and activist Doctor Stella Nyanzi (L) reacts in court as she attends a trial to face charges for cyber-harassment and offensives communication, in Kampala, on April 10, 2017. (Photo by GAEL GRILHOT/AFP via Getty Images)

Jailed Ugandan Activist, Stella Nyanzi, Wins PEN Prize for Freedom of Expression

The outspoken activist, who is currently serving a prison sentence for a poem she wrote about the president's mother's vagina, won for her resistance "in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her."

Stella Nyanzi, the Ugandan academic, activist, and vocal critic of President Yoweri Museveni has been awarded the 2020 Oxfam Novib/PEN International award for freedom of expression, given to writers who "continue to work for freedom of expression in the face of persecution."

Nyanzi is currently serving a 15 month sentence for "cyber harassment" after she published a poem in which she wrote that she wished "the acidic pus flooding Esiteri's (the president's mother) vaginal canal had burn up your unborn fetus. Burn you up as badly as you have corroded all morality and professionalism out of our public institutions in Uganda."

According to the director of PEN International, Carles Torner, her unfiltered outspokenness around the issues facing her country is what earned her the award. "For her, writing is a permanent form of resistance in front of a regime that is trying to suppress her," said Torner at the award ceremony.

Keep reading...

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.