Staff Picks for Black History Month

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh staff recommend their latest selections to celebrate Black authors, culture, and history.

Visit your local library to find book displays and more, get recommendations from library staff, or browse our event listings to see our full lineup for Black History Month programs and events for all ages.


Former first lady Michelle Obama’s candid and lively memoir reflects her luminous journey from the South Side of Chicago to first lady of the United States.

Dom Flemons Presents Black Cowboys

Don Flemons pays tribute to the music, culture, and complex history of African Americans in America’s Wild West. The songs and poems featured on this first-of-its-kind album earned Flemons a 2019 Grammy nomination in the category of best folk album.

Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick: Stories from the Harlem Renaissance

In 1925, Barnard student Zora Neale Hurston–the sole black student at the college–was living in New York, “desperately striving for a toe-hold on the world.” During this period, she began writing short works that captured the zeitgeist of African American life and transformed her into one of the central figures of the Harlem Renaissance. This title is also available on Hoopla as an eBook  or as eAudio, or on Libby/Overdrive as an eBook or eAudio.

Old in Art School: A Memoir of Starting Over

After retiring from Princeton University, historian Dr. Nell Irvin Painter returned to school to earn a NFA and MFA in Painting. In this memoir she explores the meaning of art, the role of race, appearance, and gender in art while reflecting on learning later in life.

Sign My Name to Freedom: A Memoir of a Pioneering Life

In her 96 years, Betty Reid-Soskin has experienced both the highs and lows of living in America. Born in the Deep South in 1921, she was subjected to racism; however, she also lived to see the election of the country’s first African American president.

Smoketown: The Untold Story of the Other Great Black Renaissance

Mark Whitaker’s Smoketown is a captivating portrait of this unsung community and a vital addition to the story of black America. It depicts how ambitious Southern migrants were drawn to a steel-making city on a strategic river junction; how they were shaped by its schools and a spirit of commerce with roots in the Gilded Age; and how their world was eventually destroyed by industrial decline and urban renewal. Whitaker takes listeners on a rousing, revelatory journey-and offers a timely reminder that Black History is not all bleak.

Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

Some Americans insist that we’re living in a post-racial society. But racist thought is not just alive and well in America–it is more sophisticated and more insidious than ever. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues, racist ideas have a long and lingering history, one in which nearly every great American thinker is complicit. In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. You can also check out this title as eBook on OverDrive/Libby, as eAudio on OverDrive/Libby or as eAudio on Hoopla.

Workers on Arrival: Black Labor in the Making of America

Joe William Trotter, Jr. charts the black working class’s vast contributions to the making of America over the last four hundred years since Africans were first brought to Virginia in 1619. This dynamic and vital history of remarkable contributions despite repeated setbacks expands our understanding of America’s economic and industrial growth, its cities, ideas, and institutions, and the real challenges confronting black urban communities today.

Year of Yes

The creator of Grey’s Anatomy and other hit TV series embarks on a self-improvement project to step out of her comfort zone, embracing opportunities for growth and positive change in this poignant and hilarious memoir.