5 Essential Publications to Read During Black History Month
Black History Month is a time to remember and acknowledge Black Americans' sacrifice, struggle, and resilience throughout the evolution of this country, and to celebrate their rich, powerful, and poignant stories that are woven into the fabric of our city and our culture.
We've highlighted five publications that examine varying aspects of the Black experience in and around Houston. Each one captures a different moment in time, or a different angle of Black life, from the post-WWI Jazz age, to the riots at Texas Southern University, to a fantasy novel with a young woman protagonist with unique magical powers.
Black Archives: A Photographic Celebration of Black Life, is multidisciplinary artist Renata Cherlise’s collection of intimate photos that show a refreshing and upbeat perspective of Black life across the country. The collection tells a story of joyful living, warm everyday family portraits, summer days at the beach, and Sunday mornings at church. As Cherlise writes in her introduction, the book "explores familial archiving practices, and how we experience kinship and recognize one another through a visual language of the Black experience."
Da Mayor of Fifth Ward: Stories from the Big Thicket and Houston
When freelance writer, community organizer, and former Chicago Black Panther, Bob Lee died in 2017, he left behind a collection of essays from his youth about his family. As told to journalist, scholar, and the editor of the book, Michael Berryhill, Lee’s recollections reveal a list of surprising—to hime—anecdotes, including the fact that his elderly aunt and uncle, who lived in Jasper, Texas, were lifelong Republicans, and Lee’s discovery at the age of 19 that white people, too, could be poor.
True Crime Tales: TSU Riots
Through written text and select video clips, the story of the 1967's infamous civil rights protests at Texas Southern University is detailed in this online record. Dubbed an "Alamo-style shootout" this pivotal moment of social unrest saw the Houston police fire an estimated 3,000 rounds into TSU’s Lanier Dormitory where protesting students were barricaded. One police officer was killed and 488 students were arrested, to this day it's still the largest mass arrest in Houston history. A judge later dismissed the case, saying the cop who was killed was likely hit by a stray bullet from a fellow officer.
Houston Bound: Culture and Color in a Jim Crow City
In this book, author and associate professor, Tyina Steptoe, looks back at Houston in the early 1900s, as migration turned the city into one of the more diverse in the nation. The city’s population boom and demographic shift also prompted the emergence of traditionally Black musical art forms like jazz and blues which grew in popularity in post-WWI Houston.
Wings of Ebony
Houston native J. Elle’s 2021 fantasy novel, Wings of Ebony, details the life of Rue, growing up in fictional East Row with her sister. In the book, Rue’s mother is killed, she is taken by her father, and she has to abandon her younger sister. He takes her to a magical place called Ghizon, where Rue discovers she and the rest of the people there have superpowers. As the book description reads: "Desperate to see her sister on the anniversary of their mother's death, Rue breaks Ghizon's sacred "Do Not Leave" law and returns to Houston, only to discover that Black kids are being forced into crime and violence. And her sister, Tasha, is in danger of falling sway to the very forces that claimed their mother's life."