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The Reading Room

The MOWFF Reading Room is an educational resource center for educators, students and anyone seeking to enhance their understanding of African American history, culture and the issues surrounding the fight against systemic racism and toward a more just society.

It features:


  1. The Principles of Two Key Movement Groups of the 1960s – Nonviolent Social Action from the SCLC, and the 10 Point Plan of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, for examination and discussion. 

  2. Curriculum Guide for Brother Outsider, the Bayard Rustin film; and Rustin’s original notes on final plans for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

  3. The Core Principles for How to Heal Oppressions

  4. Do Something! Our list of advocacy organizations   

  5. Suggested reading lists of fiction and non-fiction, adult and young adult titles on African American history and culture from: 

    1. The Harlem Writers Guild

    2. Black Classic Press

    3. The Black Man of Happiness Project


The decade of the 1960s saw the rapid growth of several national movements toward racial and economic justice for African Americans.  Two in particular, The Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, stated objectives that were widely shared in their organization’s newspapers and in books by their leaders. 


Questions to contemplate:

  • Which of the objectives have been met? 

  • Which are yet unfulfilled?

  • Which are still considered viable goals in the struggle for justice and equality? 

  • Which should be left behind? 

  • How have these movements fared over the past half-century?

The Reading Lists

We asked three organizations to suggest some titles of books that should be read to better round out an understanding and appreciation of African American life in its fullest intellectual, artistic, cultural, and personal dimensions.  Here are their suggestions:  

The Black Man of Happiness Project Peter J. Harris is the American Book Award and PEN Oakland Award-winning poet, journalist, essayist, workshop leader and creator of The Black Man of Happiness Project, an intellectual, artistic and life-affirming exploration that explores the lives of Black men and is prompted by the question, “What is a happy Black man?” Harris collaborated with his daughter Adenike in Pops N Ade, their restorative healing workshops which grew out of their courageous dialogues while confronting, surviving and transcending her sexual abuse by her step-father. His work has been included in numerous anthologies. He wrote the stage play, The Johnson Chronicles, and was the publisher of the magazine, “Genetic Dancers: The Artistry Within African/American Fathers,” the first of its kind to address the artistry of conscious parenting. His blog is Wreaking Happiness, A Joyful Living Journal. The Healers, by Ayi Kwei Armah – set in the 19th century Ashanti kingdom (Ghana), it tells the story of replacing toxic ignorance with the healing knowledge of African unity through the life of a young man. The Salt Eaters, by Toni Cade Bambara – Set in a town somewhere in the South, a community of Black people searching for the healing properties of salt witness an event that will change their lives forever. Freedom Dreams, by Robin D.G. Kelley - this exciting history of renegade intellectuals and artists of the African diaspora throughout the 20th century begins with the premise that the catalyst for political engagement is not oppression, it is hope for a new world radically different from the one we have inherited. The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, by Annette Gordon-Reed - recounts the history of four generations of the African-American Hemings family, from their African and Virginia origins until the 1826 death of Thomas Jefferson, their master and the father of Sally Hemings' children. This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible, by Charles E. Cobb Jr. - Visiting Martin Luther King Jr. at the peak of the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott, journalist William Worthy almost sat on a loaded pistol. “Just for self-defense,” King assured him - a frank look at the complexities and contradictions of the civil rights movement. The Black Book, co-edited by Roger Furman, Middleton A. Harris, Morris Levitt, Ernest Smith, and Toni Morrison - a compilation of nearly five hundred images forming one sensational narrative of the Black experience in America, through historic documents, facsimiles, artwork, obituaries, advertisements, patent applications, photographs, sheet music, and more. We Who Believe in Freedom, By Bernice Johnson Reagan and Sweet Honey in the Rock - celebrates the 20th anniversary of this Grammy Award-winning a cappella group with essays from each member, starting out in 1973 at Howard University and singing in a wide range of styles. Ella Baker & the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision, by Barbara Ransby – about the most influential woman in the civil rights movement, organizer, master strategist and teacher Ella Baker, whose remarkable career spanned fifty years and touched thousands of lives. Lost Prophet, the Life and Times of Bayard Rustin, by John D'Emilio – before Martin Luther King, before Malcolm X, this committed pacifist and key organizer of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was working to bring the cause to the forefront of America's consciousness. Ida: A Sword Among Lions, by Paula J. Giddings - a sweeping narrative about a country and a brilliant crusader, Ida B. Wells, embroiled in the struggle against lynching—a practice that imperiled not only the lives of Black men and women, but also a nation based on law and riven by race. The Black Man of Happiness: In Pursuit of My ‘Unalienable Right,’ by Peter J. Harris – a jazzy journal that navigates the labyrinth of father, stepfather, and grandfather, lover, and younger brother finding affirmation after his father’s death, and confronting, surviving, and transcending his youngest daughter’s rape by her Black stepfather.

Black Classic Press Founded in 1978 by W. Paul Coates, Black Classic Press is devoted to publishing obscure and significant works by and about people of African descent to extend the memory of important books that have helped in meaningful ways to shape the Black diasporic experience and our understanding of the world. BCP has published original titles by notable authors including Walter Mosley, John Henrik Clarke, E. Ethelbert Miller, Yosef Ben-Jochannan, and Dorothy B. Porter, as well as reissuing significant works by Amiri Baraka, Larry Neal, W. E. B. Du Bois, Edward Blyden, Bobby Seale, J. A. Rogers, and others. The Osiris Papers: Reflection of the Life and Writings of Dr. Frances Cress Welsing - Ed. Raymond Winbush & Denise Wright - examines the life, theories, and contributions of one of the greatest African thinkers on racism and white supremacy through an assembled group of scholars, activists and entertainers. Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing - Ed. Amiri Baraka & Larry Neal - this defining work of the Black Arts Movement is at once a rich anthology of 200 selections including poetry, essays, short stories, and plays from over 75 cultural critics, writers, and political leaders, that captures the social and cultural turmoil of the 1960s. Pillars in Ethiopian History by William Leo Hansberry - the father of African Studies examines the myth and legend of Ethiopia, i.e. the Queen of Sheba legend, the origin and development of Ethiopian Christianity, medieval international relations, and the Prester John legend. Africa & Africans As Seen by Classical Writers by William Leo Hansberry - examines classical references to the African continent and its people in the writings of Homer, Pliny, Ovid, Virgil, Herodotus and others in a lively and highly readable manner. The Myth of Genesis and Exodus and the Exclusion of Their African Origin by Yosef A.A. ben-Jochannan – examines the origins of the Genesis and Exodus stories and traces them back to the myths and stories of ancient Africans, mainly the Egyptians. Blood in My Eye - George Jackson –convicted of stealing $70 from a gas station at age 18 and sentenced from one year to life, the author spent seven of his last 11 years in solitary confinement, transforming himself into a political theoretician and activist, and died days after the completion of this book. African People in World History - John Henrik Clarke - guides the reader along a narrative journey that spans from antiquity to present times. Your History: From the Beginning of Time to the Present - J.A. Rogers Survey Graphic (March 1925) Harlem, Mecca of the New Negro - Ed. Alain Locke

Harlem Writers Guild The Harlem Writers Guild, founded in 1950 by John Oliver Killens, Rosa Guy, John Henrik Clarke, Willard Moore and Walter Christmas, is the oldest, continuously operating African American Writers Guild in the world. The HWG was set up as a forum where African-American writers could develop their craft. After funding for an organization active in the late 1940's called The Committee for the Negro in the Arts ended, these writers felt excluded from the mainstream literary culture of New York. The HWG was also part of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960's. By 1986, members of the Guild had produced more than 300 published works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, plays and screenplays. Writers who have been associated with the HWG include Lonne Elder III, Douglas Turner Ward, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Paule Marshall, Sidney Poitier, Audre Lorde, Walter Dean Myers, Maya Angelou, Terry McMillan, and Sarah E. Wright. The Guild’s rationale continues to be to celebrate, develop and aid in the publication of works by writers of the African diaspora. The Vanishing Half: a Novel by Brit Bennett Fiction (Adult) The Vignes, twin sisters, will always be identical. But after growing up, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other will secretly pass for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. What will happen to the next generation when their own daughters’ storylines intersect? The Residue Years by Mitchell S. Jackson Fiction (Adult) Grace is just out of a drug treatment program, trying to stay clean and get her kids back. Champ is in and out of incarceration, trying to do right by his mom and younger brothers. He dreams of the home his family once shared. The Residue Years switches between the perspectives of a young Champ and his mother Grace. When both are left few options and little opportunity, how can this family overcome the addictions that have torn them apart? Speaking of Summer: a Novel by Kalisha Buckhanon Fiction (Adult) On a cold December evening, Autumn Spencer’s twin sister, Summer, walks to the roof of their shared Harlem brownstone and is never seen again. Faced with authorities indifferent to another missing Black woman, Autumn must pursue the search for her sister all on her own. The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in the Detroit Numbers by Bridgett M. Davis Fiction (Adult) In 1958, a pretty young mother from Nashville, Tennessee, borrowed $100 from her brother to run a number racket out of her home. Part bookie, part banker, mother, wife, and granddaughter of slaves, that woman was Fannie Davis, Bridgett M. Davis’s mother. Fannie ran her numbers business for thirty-four years, doing what it took to survive the times, in a business that just happened to be a criminal enterprise. Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson Fiction (Adult) Moving forward and backward in time, the book opens in 2001. It is the evening of sixteen-year-old Melody’s coming of age ceremony in her grandparents’ Brooklyn brownstone. But the event is not without poignancy. Sixteen years earlier, that very dress was measured and sewn for a different wearer: Melody’s mother, for a celebration that ultimately never took place. I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal Fiction (Young Adult) Lena has her killer style, her awesome boyfriend, and a plan. Campbell, on the other hand, is just trying to keep her head down and get through the year at her new school. When both girls attend the Friday-night football game, everything descends into sudden mass chaos, the chaos that unexpectedly throws them together. A Gift to Treasure by Judy C. Andrews Fiction (Adult) The legacy of small affluent African American community implodes, due to scandal at the local hospital, involving insurance fraud, illegal painkillers, and sex trafficking. In the small town of Jewel Park, it is a mysterious 14-year-old who has the keys to unlock all the seedy details. Tyrell by Coe Booth Fiction (Young Adult) Tyrell is living with his spaced-out mother and little brother cramped in a vermin-infested homeless shelter. His father is incarcerated. Tyrell’s girlfriend supports him, but he doesn’t feel good enough for her, especially when he can never seem to get a break. As a young African American male, shouldered with adult responsibilities, can Tyrell find his way and continue to do the right thing? The Tree: A Journey to Freedom by Minnette Coleman Historical Fiction (Adult) Epsie journeys from slavery to freedom with the bellowing hounds close behind her. Her only chance for salvation is the Tree, the Underground Railroad, and the ‘Friends’ that man it. The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus Fiction (Young Adult) This is the story of two black girls, Sixteen-year-olds Mabel and Audre, newly arrived from Port of Spain, Trinidad. Both girls from different backgrounds search for love and happiness in a world that seems determined to deny them both. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas ISBN-13: 978-0062498588 Fiction (Young Adult) Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least win her first battle. As the daughter of an underground hip hop legend who died right before he hit big, Bri’s got massive shoes to fill. Sasha Savvy Loves to Code by Sasha Ariel Alston (Author), Vanessa Brantley-Newton (Illustrator) An early reader chapter book (ages 7-10) Sasha Savvy is a super-smart 10-year old African American girl, who lives in Washington, DC. Sasha must choose which class to take for summer camp. Her mom discovers that the camp is offering a new class for girls on how to code. The Everyday Excellence Student Planner by Eartha Watts Hicks (Middle School) This Planner has a monthly calendar, space class schedules, and weekly appointments. The Everyday Excellence Student Planner also includes a Monthly Calendar At-a-Glance with Brainstorming Section and Checklist, Cursive Writing Instruction Sheets, Charts, and Tools designed to help smart girls plan their academic success right from the start. My Friend, My Hero by Jerald LeVon Hoover (Middle School) Bennett Wilson is one of the top basketball players in New York State. Many of the nation’s top colleges are already reaching out, eager to sign him to their roster. Bennett’s dreams come to a screeching halt. Will Bennett succumb to a life he has avoided and if he does, what will it cost?

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