Opinion: must-read titles about stories of empowerment and resilience from different perspectives for this year's theme of "Black Resistance"

"I am America. I am the part you won't recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me." – Muhammad Ali

Let us delve into the past and present, as well as get inspired by the vivid Black experience during the month of February, as we honour the neglected accomplishments and contributions of African Americans during Black History Month.

But first, we should take a moment to acknowledge the essential role of the historian Carter G. Woodson, who launched this annual organised history celebration in 1926. The reason behind choosing February as a month to celebrate Black History Month is because it coincides with the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Such a celebration is the perfect time that allows us to learn more about American history, from slavery to the present day, and continue to raise awareness about injustice and the struggle for equality.

Each year, organisations responsible for sponsoring Black History Month choose a theme to focus on a particular aspect of the Black experience. Since this year's theme is "Black Resistance", these are must-read titles about stories of empowerment and resilience, from different perspectives.

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From RTÉ Lyric FM, Braimah Kanneh-Mason celebrates African American opera singer Jessye Norman

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass

A short powerful autobiography, in which Frederick Douglass describes what he endures as a slave, and how he eventually escapes to the north to become an abolitionist. He simply uses his story to fight slavery for the civil rights of his people. Becoming an orator and a writer, back at that time, was not accessible to an African American, not to mention a slave. Yet, Douglass managed to do it, and that is how his eloquent literary masterpiece lives to prove that knowledge and education are people's way to finding the truth and fighting oppression.

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford

A children's book that follows the story of the American icon of freedom Harriet Tubman, also known as "Moses of her people". Tubman was a former slave who became a conductor on the Underground Railroad. For the sake of history, the Underground Railroad was a secret network of people and safe houses that helped enslaved people escape to freedom. The book, filled with illustrations, describes in a simple way Tubman's bravery and sacrifice for her people in a way that introduces children to the narrative of race, history, and resistance.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley and Malcolm X

"I’ve had enough of someone else’s propaganda. I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being first and foremost, and as such I’m for whoever and whatever benefits humanity as a whole." ― Malcolm X

From Stanford, the history of Black History Month

As you can probably tell from the title, this book follows the life of Malcolm X, one of the most controversial figures in African American history. His autobiography is referred to as a classic that provides a brilliant perspective on racism, activism, and social justice. It tackles Malcolm X's childhood, life in prison, and his inspiring transformation from a street hustler to a political thinker. Although his thought-provoking calls for racial equality are often read as violent ones, this autobiography will introduce you to an interesting side of Malcolm’s matured understanding and changing perspectives of race in America because of his religious transformation, humanity, and compassion.

Don't Call Us Dead: Poems by Danez Smith

"Dear badge number.

What did I do wrong? be born? be black? meet you?"

"Don't Call Us Dead" is a book of poetry written by Danez Smith. It explores issues of race and violence in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement. In emotionally effective language, Smith communicates to us the experiences of young Black men living in America, facing death and the fear of being killed because of their skin color. While some passages may strike you as necessarily dark, others will teach you to consider joy as a means of survival and a form of resistance.

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From Walker Art Center, Danez Smith reads their poem 'waiting on you to die so i can be myself'

Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves by Glory Edim

And finally, with an informative, timely anthology that acknowledges diversity and celebrates an original collection of essays by African American women writers who share their different experiences, as well as their reflections on the importance of literature in shaping their identities. This anthology reminds us of the power of reading and the importance of diverse books. In addition, it urges us to empower women to tell their own stories, no matter how traumatic they are, as well as leave the readers diving into the recommended titles.

 Happy Black History Month!

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ