Don’t Know Much About African American History? A 2 Dope Reading List

Released in 1960, Sam Cooke sang and co-wrote the single “Wonderful World,” the first line of which is:

Don’t know much about history. . .

As Da Hype 1 and I planned our posts for Black History Month, we decided that we wanted to include a list of must-read books for the 2 Dope Sistahs blog. Of course, there are many such lists on other blogs and websites, but we still wanted to provide our recommendations as well. Between a literary scholar and a historian, this proved to be an overwhelming task. I had 48 books on my preliminary list, and I wasn’t sure how to narrow it. There were just too many books, and, of course, I thought people should read all of them.

After much agonizing, I decided to focus on books I would recommend to those who “Don’t know much about African American history.” I thought of my friend who was always wanted me to teach him because he hadn’t taken any history classes in college. I also considered books that I have chosen for my African-American history survey courses over the years. And I wanted to select books that have moved me. Finally, I thought it was best not to overwhelm readers with a long list or declare this as the definitive “must-read” list. The final product, I hope, is a list of six titles that will be helpful for those who are new to African American history and that it will encourage them to read more.


Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, Written by Himself, 1845.


Mary Prince, History of Mary Prince, a West Indian Slave, Related by Herself, 1831.


Deborah Gray White, Ar’n’t I a Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation South, Revised Edition, 1999.


Carter G. Woodson, The Miseducation of the Negro, 1933.


W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, 1903.


Cheikh Anta Diop, The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality, 1974.

The great thing about this list is that many of these titles available on the web free or charge or for a nominal fee for e-readers. Enjoy!

*Thanks to my colleagues and friends, Drs. Tiwanna Simpson and Cherisse Jones-Branch, whom I consulted as I was compiling this list.


2 Dope Bookshelf: Women in Academia

Last weekend, at the Faculty Women of Color in the Academy Conference, I was fortunate enough to attend a workshop facilitated by Carmen G. González, professor of law at Seattle University School of Law and co-editor of Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia. Prof. González outlined some of the challenges confronting women of color as faculty members and then discussed “practical strategies” to address those challenges.

It was a powerful session, with many of Prof.González’s examples resonating with those in attendance. She stressed the importance of telling one’s story as the contributors to Presumed Incompetent did. Later I talked with her at her book signing, and she wrote in my copy: “Please share this book with others.” Now, I know she probably wrote something similar in all the books she signed that day, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea. This 2 Dope Bookshelf includes Presumed Incompetent and some additional titles that may be useful for women in academia.

 Women in Academia


Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide, 2009.


Maria Castaneda and Kirsten Isgro, eds., Mothers in Academia, 2013.


Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs, Yolanda Flores Niemann, Carmen G. González, and Angela P. Harris, eds., Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia, 2012.


Atsuko Seko and Mary Alice Bruce, eds., Women’s Retreat: Voices of Female Faculty in Higher Education, 2013.


Deborah Gray White, ed., Telling Histories: Black Women Historians in the Ivory Tower, 2008.

2 Dope Bookshelf: Women’s Studies

My writing partner and I have many things in common, including our teaching interests. Although we come from different disciplines in the humanities (literature and history), we have both taught courses in Women’s Studies. So, on this last Thursday in Women’s History Month, we are featuring texts we use for our Women’s Studies classes.

Readings in Women’s Studies


Patricia Hill Collins, Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment, Routledge, 2nd Ed, 2008.


Josephine Donovan, Feminist Theory: The Intellectual Traditions, Bloomsbury Academic, 4th Ed., 2012.


Cynthia Ellen Harrison, On Account of Sex: The Politics of Women’s Issues, 1945-1968, University of California Press, 1987.


Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, Crossing Press, 2007.


Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own, Penguin, 2004.


2 Dope Bookshelf: Women’s Autobiography

Here are more selections from the eclectic grab bag that is the 2 Dope Bookshelf. Continuing with our Women’s History Month focus, this week we have women’s autobiographies/memoirs.

Women’s Autobiography


Elaine Brown, A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story, Anchor Books, 1993


Angela Davis, Angela Davis: An Autobiography, International Publishers, 1988.


Mary Crow Dog with Richard Erdoes, Lakota Woman, HarperPerennial, 1991.


Elva Trevino, Barefoot Heart: Stories of a Migrant Child, Bilingual Press, 1999.


Condoleezza Rice, Extraordinary, Ordinary People: a Memoir of Family, Three Rivers Press, 2011.

2 Dope Bookshelf: Women and Work

As you can tell by our header and our numerous posts about books, the 2 Dope Sistahs are pretty serious readers. I don’t know about you, but whenever I go into people’s homes or offices, I’m drawn to their bookshelves. I want to see what they read. We thought our readers might interested to find out what books are on our bookshelves (or in boxes when we run out of shelves) as well. Because of Women’s History Month, we’re featuring books on women’s history for the rest of March.

This week’s theme is: Women and Work.


Elizabeth Clark-Lewis, Living In, Living Out: African American Domestics and the Great Migration, 1994.


Penny Colman, Rosie the Riveter: Working Women on the Home Front in World War II, 1995.


Susanna Delfino and Michele Gillespie, eds., Neither Lady nor Slave: Working Women of the Old South, 2002.


Jacqueline Jones,  Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work and the Family, From Slavery to the Present, 1986.


Phyllis Palmer, Domesticity and Dirt: Housewives and Domestic Servants in the United States, 1920-1945, 1989.

(Some the books above have newer editions available)