DAR Books: 7 Important Black Autobiographies

By @TrueGodImmortal

Reading about the life and times of some historical figures in black history can be pivotal for many young minds growing up. In adult life, our understanding of these stories becomes greater and as a result, there are some biographies and autobiographies that you appreciate much more as you evolve as a person. Perhaps there is no better example than autobiographies of the black revolutionaries that have come through our history. Today, I wanted to reflect on 7 of those autobiographies that are important and vital. Let's take a look at those books.

*Soul On Ice By Eldridge Cleaver (1968)

-Let everyone else tell it, Eldridge is one of the most problematic black figures in the history of our society. At least that's the narrative today. While he was a troubled soul of the time, Eldridge at one point stood for something and became a revolutionary with an ideology that would benefit his people. His book chronicles his life and times, and features 4 parts thematically, and while I don't agree with some of the things he says, his ability to write and channel his emotions and experiences is amazing. Soul On Ice is a book that you should read without judgment and with that, you can recognize the flawed revolutionary that was Eldridge Cleaver, whether you agree with his methods and life or not.

*Assata: An Autobiography (1987)

-One of the most controversial figures in black history is Assata Shakur. While some would classify her as many things beyond a revolutionary, at her core, she was just that. Born with a will to survive, her life story is not the norm and it makes her book a gripping read. For those who know pieces of her story, including why she lives in Cuba now, this is a very telling read that allows the woman born JoAnne Chesimard to showcase her story. If anything, my favorite aspect of this book is that she is unapologetic and honest, and the way we may have perceived her due to the revolutionary folklore is a bit different from who the woman is, and that is an aspect that we tend to overlook when seeing leaders and figures. Their lives have been mazes and full of good and bad that led them to where they are, and the revolutionary side is grown (whereas people use someone's past to belittle their revolutionary present, this book embraces it). Perhaps there is no other autobiography in black history that showcases this more than Assata and her story.

*Nigger: An Autobiography By Dick Gregory (1964)

-One of the most outspoken voices of the time, Dick Gregory was a controversial figure that has a life many of us would watch play out over the years. In his later years, his outspoken style didn't dwindle, but in his younger years, he was a Civil Rights activist and focused on black issues without question. His autobiography, with a very interesting title, came about in the mid 60's, where he speaks about his experience through the years, discrimination and everything in between. While the book isn't regarded as one of the more powerful books, it should be. This is an autobiography that everyone should read at least once.

*Angela Davis: An Autobiography (1974)

-When we look back at women in black history that made an impact, the list is extensive. One of the most notable remains Angela Davis, an activist who assisted the Black Panther and many other revolutionary groups and stands out as one of the last pieces in the Black Liberation movement. Her book chronicles the hatred faced for being a revolutionary, as well as her life story. For young women of color, this book is important to read. For everyone, this book is important to read. The look into the rise and the ascension of one of the last true revolutionaries of the time is a necessary read.

*A Taste Of Power: A Black Woman's Story (1992)

-There are many women who overcame the obstacles during the darkest era, but perhaps Elaine Brown is the brightest of them all. The former close friend and lover of Huey P. Newton would rise up and become a leader in the Black Panther Party and this book would tell her story. More so a book of memoirs than your traditional autobiography, this follows her upbringing in Philly all the way to her years as the leader of the Party and everything in between. Elaine Brown is a name we don't see mentioned as much with Angela Davis and Assata, and while there are some reasons for that, her book is still a good read that showcases someone who searched for their own identity and found it through liberation.

*Revolutionary Suicide By Huey P. Newton (1973)

-An underrated autobiography in the grand scheme, a look into the mind and world of Black Panther Huey P. Newton was gripping. You learn so much from this book about Huey, some of which you might even find hard to believe initially. He is open and honest about his upbringing and how he taught himself to read much later in life than expected, along with the Oakland history he would become a part of. As one of the central figures in the history of the Black Panther Party, this book is interesting for a number of reasons, which you have to read for yourself to grasp why I say that.

*The Autobiography Of Malcolm X (1965)

-The greatest book ever written for me. While I wasn't the biggest fan of Alex Haley and some aspects of his career as an author, I will always marvel at the attention to detail on this supremely executed autobiography. Simply put, learning about Malcolm and his upbringing keeps you attentive to the page at every second. Whether it's discussing how he would be close to a white woman in his past, him being saved at times when things got rough, his life as Detroit Red, and everything else in between, the early days of Malcolm show a man looking to find his way. The later years show a man still searching for identity, but gaining more clarity as the days go on. For me, this is the essential reading experience as a black man in America and I've always said that I've been inspired by Malcolm and his story and honestly, this book is a prime example of why. It's that great, and honestly the best autobiography of all time IMO.



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