Black Classic Press Recommended Reading


Black women have played an essential role in shaping the course of history, despite often being overlooked and marginalized in mainstream narratives. We invite you to take a journey with these 5 books about the lives, experiences and accomplishments of Black women.

-Black Classic Press


Recommended Books

    • Kikuyu Women, the Mau Mau Rebellion and Social Change in Kenya

    • Based on rare oral data from women participants in the “Mau Mau” rebellion, this book chronicles changes in women’s domestic reproduction, legal status, and gender roles that took place under colonial rule. This book links labor activism, cultural nationalism, and the more overtly political issues of land alienation, judicial control, and character of the colonial administration in an analysis of the impact of colonial policy on Kikuyu society, and especially its negative consequences for women. Dr. Presley argues that women’s involvement in anti-colonial activities began during the World War I era when the state forcibly recruited women into a wage labor system characterized by physical and sexual abuse. Women took part in all facets of the increasingly violent nationalist movement, including serving in the guerrilla army.

      This book is an important addition to the “Mau Mau” debate, offering a careful exploration of the effect of colonial social policy on women and making a valuable, original contribution to the literature on African peasant women and their involvement with a major liberation struggle.

      Dr. Cora Ann Presley is Associate Professor of African American Studies at George State University. She received her PhD. in African History from Stanford University. Dr. Presley has taught African and African American History at Loyola University (New Orleans), Tulane University, and Humboldt State University. She has authored several works on African women and has received several prestigious grants. Dr. Presley has an ongoing interest in educational outreach. She has developed seminars and summer programs for secondary and elementary school teachers and has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Amistad Research Center. 213 pgs. Paperback.

    • When the Spirits Dance Mambo

    • When rock and roll was transforming American culture in the 1950s and ’60s, East Harlem pulsed with the sounds of mambo and merengue. Instead of Elvis and the Beatles, Marta Moreno Vega grew up worshipping Celia Cruz, Mario Bauza, and Arsenio Rodriguez. Their music could be heard on every radio in El Barrio and from the main stage at the legendary Palladium, where every weekend working-class kids dressed in their sharpest suits and highest heels and became mambo kings and queens. Spanish Harlem was a vibrant and dynamic world, but it was also a place of constant change, where the traditions of Puerto Rican parents clashed with their children’s American ideals.A precocious little girl with wildly curly hair, Marta was the baby of the family and the favorite of her elderly abuela, who lived in the apartment down the hall. Abuela Luisa was the spiritual center of the family, an espiritista who smoked cigars and honored the Afro-Caribbean deities who had always protected their family. But it was Marta’s brother, Chachito, who taught her the latest dance steps and called her from the pay phone at the Palladium at night so she could listen, huddled beneath the bedcovers, to the seductive rhythms of Tito Puente and his orchestra.In this luminous and lively memoir, Marta Moreno Vega calls forth the spirit of Puerto Rican New York and the music, mysticism, and traditions of a remarkable and quintessentially American childhood. 273 pgs. Paperback.
    • The Afro-American Woman

    • Civil rights activists, educators, writers, artists, and workers–these are the women of The Afro-American Woman: Struggles and Images, an excellent anthology of essays that provides a more accurate image of the Black woman and her place in history and in the cultural development of our society. The Afro-American Woman includes essays that highlight historical experiences common to Black women. The anthology also features essays that focus on early activists Anna J. Cooper, Nannie Burroughs, and Charlotta A. Bass. This book is a long out-of-print, valuable reference source. It was the first written by Black academics which analyzed these women’s experiences from a historical and Black nationalist perspective.  1978*. 137 pgs. Paperback.
    • Women in Africa and the African Diaspora

    • Women in Africa and the African Diaspora examines the role and place of women in the African diaspora. Contributors clarify the concept, methodology, and projected guidelines for studies of women throughout the African diaspora.In this second edition, the essays are grouped into four thematic divisions: “Theory and Method,” “Africa,” “The Diaspora,” and “Comparative Studies.” New essays have been added that are by Lucille Mathurin Mair, Darlene Clark Hine, Sheila S. Walker, Miriam DeCosta-Willis, and each editor. 285 pgs. Paperback.
    • General Harriet Tubman

  • Written by Earl Conrad and originally published by Carter G. Woodson and The Associated Publishers in 1943 and 1990, General Harriet Tubman is a well-researched and documented biography. It draws on the accounts of Tubman’s living relatives and others with expert knowledge of the period in which she lived. Perhaps, for this reason, in his Acknowledgements for the first edition, Conrad likened the book to Tubman herself: “Scores of people have contributed to the information, the understanding, and diverse other assistance that has been necessary in effecting this complete life of Harriet Tubman. I could not possibly call it my own. It is as much the property of others, and of the Negroes in particular, as Harriet herself was the claim of her people and her country.” 1943*, 1990. 248 pgs. Paperback.

ABOUT Black Classic Press

Our Mission

Founded in 1978, Black Classic Press is devoted to publishing obscure and significant works by and about people of African descent. We specialize in republishing works that are out of print and quite often out of memory. We began publishing because we wanted to extend the memory of what we believe are important books that have helped in meaningful ways to shape the Black diasporic experience and our understanding of the world.

Our History

In 1978, when we started publishing, three elders were inspirations and gave their support – John G. Jackson, John Henrik Clarke and Yosef ben-Jochannan. We are informed by the examples of these three giants. Each of these elders contributed in their own special way to our publishing efforts.

John G. Jackson was steadfast that we should publish the works of Stanley Lane-Poole and Gerald Massey. He was thrilled to write the introduction for The Moors in Spain. He saw Lane-Poole’s work as seminal, and Massey’s work as a critical foundation for understanding African history. Brother Jackson also encouraged us to republish the original edition of Introduction to African Civilizations, a book he co-authored in 1937 with Willis Huggins.

John G. Jackson made his transition and became an ancestor in 1993.

Another tremendous supporter was John Henrik Clarke. He was inspiring, and provided the guidance of a wise elder and father. Passionate about the books he’d read, he carried them around in his conversations as living memories. He frequently shared those memories with me as a list of “must be republished” books. He liked the idea of Black Classic Press, and acknowledged the value and importance of our efforts on numerous occasions. In addition to directing us to books for republication, he also assisted us by writing introductions and authoring titles for the press.

Dr. Clarke was a warrior, and a scholar. He made his transition and became an ancestor in 1998. The books we publish today are a celebration of his legacy.

Just as important to BCP is Yosef ben-Jochannan. My relationship with Dr. Ben began in the early 1970s. At that time I was a bookseller, and sold all of his books, then published by Alkebu-lan Book Associates. His books have revolutionized the way Black people relate to African and the Nile Valley.For years he was his own editor and financed the publishing of his books from lecture fees and his salary. Working most often by himself, or at times with a trusted assistant, such as Prof. George Simmonds, he researched, typed and illustrated all of his books. Most of the elaborate pen and ink drawings found in his books of the temples, pyramids and maps of the Nile Valley are his illustrations. Dr. Ben made his transition on March 19, 2015 at the age of 96.

The works of John G. Jackson, John Henrik Clarke and Yosef ben-Jochannan are included on this site. On the left you can find a link to each of their pages and also find their titles listed in our complete online catalog. I am strongly convinced that any library of Black books is incomplete without their works. I encourage you to embrace our elders and reward yourself by ordering their books. Their contributions are many and we are forever grateful.

W. Paul Coates