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Educating Ourselves – Commit to Reading Black (Muslim) Literature & Experience

Posted on Jun 10, 2020
Dilshad Ali


The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis following the deaths of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery (three names in a long line line of people who have been wrongfully killed or subjected to police (or other) brutality) has brought the lived realities of African Americans and racism to an important critical mass.

A lot of us who are nonBlack and admittedly live within our own privilege of not recognizing what our own biases may be and all we just do not know are working to learn and understand better. Asking Black people (who we may know or reach out to) to educate us, as many have pointed out, only adds to their emotional and mental trauma and exhaustion.

Muslim Cool

Many nonBlack Muslims are getting more on board with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, but Black Muslim youth still feel that too many don't "get it" and behave in ways that disrespect and discriminate against black Muslims.

As iterated in this Bklyner article, protest organizer Esraa Elzin says, "I get it, you're not racist. But how do we get you to hate racism the way Black people hate racism? ... We've moved on from the idea that solidarity is someone who has Black Lives Matter in their bio, to what are you doing, where are you donating ... and more importantly, what are the discussions you're having in your home?"

One of the ways we can move beyond posting and performative acts to a deeper base of learning and understanding is to invest in self-education about Black history, literature and experience. With that in mind, here is a list of books to get us all started. My thanks to my friend and fellow HH blog writer Layla Abdullah-Poulos for editing this list and suggesting so many wonderful books. As always, please add your reading suggestions in the comments, so we can continue to educate ourselves.


1. Native Son by Richard Baldwin

2. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

3. Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

4. Not Without Laughter by Langston Hughes

5. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

6. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Urban Fiction

7. Black No More by George Schuyler

8. Tried and Tested by Umm Juwayriyah

9. If I Should Speak by Umm Zakiyyah

Historical Figures

10, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

11. The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley

Life Experiences

12. We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates

13. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

14. Ain't I A Woman by Bell Hooks


15. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

16. The Eve of Destruction: How 1965 Transformed America by James T. Patterson

17. So You Want to Talk About Race? by Ieoma Oluo 

18. Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi

19. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

20. I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown

Black Muslim History and Experience

Black Muslim Reads

21. Women of the Nation: Between Black Protest and Sunni Islam by Dawn-Marie Gibson with Dr. Jamillah Karim as contributor

22. Muslim Cool by Su'ad Khabeer

23. Polygyny by Debra Majeed

24. Black Pilgrimage to Islam by Robert Dannin

25. Bismillah & Bean Pies: How Black Americans Crafted an Islamic Expression through Nationalism by Asad el Malik

26. A History of Islam in America: From the New World to the New World Order by Kambiz Ghaneabassiri

27. African American Islam by Aminah McCloud

28. Five Classic Muslim Slave Narratives by Muhammad A. Al-Ahari

29. Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas by Sylviane A. Diouf

30. Illuminating the Darkness: Blacks and North Africans in Islam by Habeeb Akande

31. Centering Black Narrative by Ahmad Mubarak and Dawud Walid

32. Black Seeds: The Poetry and Reflections of Tariq Toure

33. Black Muslim Reads edited and curated by Layla Abdulah-Poulos

Please add your reading suggestions in the comments below, so we can continue to educate ourselves.