Black History Month 2023: Books from across the African diaspora

This Black History Month reading list spans across genres, continents and generations.

Sarah Ladipo Manyika, recently named one of the 100 Most Influential Africans, is the British-American-Nigerian author of In Dependence and Between Starshine and Clay

In her own words, here are her top recommendations for books you need to pick up in February 2023 and beyond.

Sarah Ladipo Manyika

1. The Trayvon Generation

by Elizabeth Alexander

Sarah says: “In this gem of a book, poet Elizabeth Alexander writes from the perspective of a mother as she reflects on the challenges facing young Black America of the ‘Trayvon generation’.  

Alexander masterfully interweaves art and poetry into this wise and heartfelt book from which there is so much to learn and reflect upon. 

I enjoyed this both as a written text and also as an audiobook, superbly narrated by Alexander.”

2. The Fire Next Time

by James Baldwin

Sarah says: “This classic of the civil rights era begins with a letter from Baldwin to his nephew written on the 100th anniversary of America’s Emancipation Proclamation. 

Celebrations of freedom are, as Baldwin writes, 100 years premature. The letter and the subsequent essay address the roots of racial tensions in America.

The lessons and ideas of Baldwin’s work remain as true and relevant today as they did more than half a century ago.”

3. New Daughters of Africa

An International Anthology of Writing by Women of African Descent

Edited by Margaret Busby

Sarah says: “Thirty years ago, Britain’s first ever Black woman publisher—Margaret Busby— compiled a groundbreaking anthology featuring 200 women writers of African descent spanning centuries. 

New Daughters of Africa is the follow up anthology featuring an additional 200 writers from 49 countries across the world.

Now available in paperback, this anthology illustrates the courage of Black women writers writing freely, amongst other things, about the pain and joy of the Black experience.”

BSAC Launch
Sarah Ladipo Manyika with Margaret Busby (editor of New Daughters of Africa), Lord Michael Hastings and Professor Fareda Banda

4. Who’s Black and Why?

A Hidden Chapter from the Eighteenth-Century Invention of Race

Edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Andrew S. Curran

Sarah says: “In the latest book from scholar and historian, Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., we get a new window into the origins of racism. 

This book includes a series of essays written in response to a contest set by Bordeaux’s Royal Academy of Sciences in 1739 on the sources of “blackness.”

It’s a fascinating, albeit disturbing, read reminding us of the darkness in the Enlightenment period.”

5. Black Food

by Bryant Terry

Sarah says: “This is a truly delicious, global cookbook and more. In addition to recipes, the book includes essays, history, art and even a music playlist. 

From George McCalman’s stunning cover art, to Herbie Hancock’s ‘Succotash,’ to Elle Simone Scott’s vegan black-eyed pea beignets served with warm spiced sugar and green tomato jam (!)—this is a literal feast for the eyes, ears, and taste buds.

Terry describes the book as ‘medicine’ and I wholeheartedly agree.”

Footnote's Choice!

Conversations from the African Diaspora

by Sarah Ladipo Manyika

Foreword by Bernardine Evaristo

Footnote says: Sarah’s own book, Between Starshine and Clay deserves a place here as part of our Black History Month reading list.

Think of this book as a dinner party. It is an intimate, warm, lively dinner party hosted by an equally warm host, Sarah. Through the evening we hear from 12 inspirational curators, creators and change-makers from across the African diaspora. 

Icons like Toni Morrison, Wole Soyinka, Claudia Rankine, Michelle Obama, as well as new friends, tell us their own stories, in their own words.

Sarah’s gift for conversation and her own thoughtfully-observed insights into gender, race and class make the perfect addition to your bookshelf.

Shop Between Starshine and Clay now

Sarah Ladipo Manyika

Sarah Ladipo Manyika is a British-Nigerian-American writer of novels, short stories and essays translated into several languages. 

She is author of the best-selling novel In Dependence (2009) and multiple shortlisted novel Like A Mule Bringing Ice Cream To The Sun (2016), and has had work published in publications including GrantaThe Guardian, the Washington Post and Transfuge among others. 

Sarah serves as Board Chair for the women’s writing residency, Hedgebrook; she was previously Board Director for the Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco; and has been a judge for the Goldsmiths Prize, California Book Awards, Aspen Words Literary Prize, and Chair of judges for the Pan-African Etisalat Prize. 

Sarah is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.