5 Must Read Books by Legendary HBCU Alumni to Read This Summer

5 Must Read Books by Legendary HBCU Alumni to Read This Summer

Summer is officially here! As the summer solstice graces us with its warm breezes and long days, it's the perfect time to grab a captivating book and immerse yourself in the work of some of the most brilliant authors to emerge from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). So, in the spirit of celebrating these remarkable institutions (as always), we've curated the HBCU Leggings Summer Reading List just for you! Brace yourself for an exciting literary adventure as we present five compelling works written by award-winning HBCU alumni. Get ready to embark on journeys through pages that illuminate the African American experience, stir powerful emotions, and showcase the incredible talent flourishing within these hallowed halls. Are you ready to dive in? Let's do it!

"The Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison: 
Genre: Novel
Awards: National Book Award for Fiction (1953)
Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Special Achievement (1992)

We have to kick off this list with none other than Tuskegee University's very own literary genius and National Book Award-winning author, Ralph Ellison. Prepare to be swept away by the haunting and thought-provoking narrative crafted by this remarkable HBCU alumnus. Ellison's exploration of racial identity and the invisible struggles faced by African Americans in a divided nation will captivate your imagination and challenge your perceptions. With every page, you'll witness the power of this fiction novel as Ellison delves into the complexities of self-definition. As you step into the invisible shoes of his unnamed protagonist, you'll be drawn into a literary masterpiece that has stood the test of time. Brace yourself for a transformative reading experience that will leave an indelible mark on your soul.

"The Autobiography of Malcolm X" by Malcolm X and Alex Haley 
Genre: Autobiography 
Awards: Anisfield-Wolf Book Award (1966)

Prepare to embark on an incredible journey through the life of one of the most influential figures in modern history: Malcolm X. This autobiography, written in collaboration with the talented Hampton University alumnus,  Alex Haley, pulls back the curtain and reveals the layers of Malcolm X's experiences, thoughts, and transformations. From his challenging upbringing to his emergence as a prominent civil rights leader, Malcolm X's story is a testament to resilience, intellectual growth, and an unwavering quest for justice.This autobiography has a timeless quality that resonates with readers from all walks of life. Malcolm X's story sparks conversations, challenges assumptions, and encourages us to reflect on race, systemic oppression, and the pursuit of liberation. His unwavering commitment to justice continues to inspire and empower generations, pushing us toward a more compassionate and equitable world.

BONUS: The 1992 movie "Malcolm X" brought the autobiography to the silver screen, starring Denzel Washington, who received an Oscar nomination for his powerful performance. Ruth E. Carter, an alumna of Hampton University, was also nominated for an Oscar for her exceptional costume design in the film. Experience the visual and emotional impact of "Malcolm X" as it brings this influential story to life.

"The Color Purple" by Alice Walker
Genre: Novel
Awards: Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1983)

"The Color Purple," a literary masterpiece that has transcended the pages of a book to captivate audiences in various forms. From a critically acclaimed novel to an iconic movie adaptation and a breathtaking musical, the story continues to touch hearts and souls. And now this winter, "The Color Purple" is set to grace the screen as a musical movie.

Alice Walker, an alumna of Spelman College and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, has mesmerized readers worldwide, selling over 5 million copies of this masterful book. In this epistolary novel, Walker introduces us to Celie, a young African American woman navigating a life overshadowed by oppression and abuse. However, through the intimate letters she writes, Celie's resilience and strength radiate brilliantly, guiding her on a transformative journey of self-discovery."The Color Purple" is a testament to the indomitable human spirit, the enduring bonds of sisterhood, and the redemptive power of love. It confronts challenging themes while instilling hope and inspiring personal growth. Through Walker's evocative prose, readers are transported into the heart of Celie's world, where her resilience and unwavering determination illuminate the path towards reclaiming one's identity.

The Souls of Black Folk" by W.E.B. Du Bois
Genre: Essays

The profound and insightful words of Fisk University Alumnus, W.E.B. Du Bois, shine a light on the experiences of African Americans in post-emancipation America. Through a collection of profound essays, Du Bois delves into crucial themes such as racial identity, education, and political power. In his timeless exploration, he provides a thought-provoking examination of the sociopolitical effects of racism and its impact on individuals and society as a whole.

One of the central themes explored in Du Bois's work is racial identity. He delves deep into the complexities of what it means to be Black in a society shaped by systemic racism. Through his astute observations and poignant reflections, Du Bois challenges conventional notions of race and reveals the multifaceted nature of Black identity. His words encourage readers to confront their own biases and understand the diverse range of experiences within the Black community.

Education is another vital topic that Du Bois addresses in his writings. He emphasizes the importance of education as a tool for empowerment and social progress. Du Bois advocates for equal access to education and highlights the transformative potential it holds for individuals and communities. His insights into the significance of education in breaking the chains of oppression are thought-provoking and continue to inspire discussions on educational equity.

"The Souls of Black Folk" remains a timeless work that continues to resonate with readers. Du Bois's eloquent prose, keen observations, and unwavering dedication to social justice make this collection of essays a cornerstone of African American literature. It serves as a testament to the enduring struggle for equality and provides a foundation for critical discussions on race, identity, education, and political power.

The World Doesn't Require You: Stories by Rion Amilcar Scott
Genre: Essays
Awards: Towson Prize for Literature

The most recently published book on our list, "The World Doesn't Require You," is a collection that demands attention, offering readers a captivating and thought-provoking literary experience. Rion Amilcar Scott weaves together a tapestry of diverse stories that explore the complexities of the human experience, challenging conventional narratives along the way.

Rion Amilcar Scott is an exceptional author whose works have captivated readers with their insightful storytelling and rich exploration of the African American experience. The child of Trinidadian parents who came to the US to study at Howard University, Scott was born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland and earned an MFA from George Mason University.  (We know, not technically an HBCU but we just had to include this book on our list!).  He brings a unique perspective to his writing, drawing inspiration from his own life and the diverse communities he grew up in.

"The World Doesn't Require You" is a powerful testament to Scott's literary talent, demonstrating his ability to create compelling and unforgettable characters who navigate the complexities of their circumstances with resilience and grace. Through his exploration of social dynamics, race, and inequality, Scott challenges readers to examine their own perspectives, inviting us to confront the realities of our world and the interconnectedness of our lives.

Let the Reading Begin

Through the pages of these books, you'll witness the resilience and strength of African American voices, explore the depths of the human experience, and gain a deeper understanding of the rich tapestry of history and culture. Each book on this list is a testament to the immense talent that thrives within HBCUs and serves as a powerful reminder of the invaluable contributions made by African American authors to the literary landscape.

So, my fellow literary adventurers, grab your HBCU leggings, find a cozy spot under the summer sun, and allow these compelling stories to sweep you away. Whether you're seeking thought-provoking classics or contemporary tales that resonate with the spirit of our times, this reading list has something for everyone.

Let this summer be a season of exploration, growth, and inspiration as you immerse yourself in the words of these legendary HBCU alumni. As you turn each page, may you find solace, joy, and a deeper connection to the profound stories that shape our world.

Remember, the power of literature knows no bounds, and these five books are a testament to the enduring legacy of HBCUs and the transformative power of storytelling. So, let the journey begin. Happy reading!

Bibi Mama is a first generation Beninese-American actress born and raised in Mansfield, CT. Growing up she watched her father, an English professor and author, continue the Yoruba oral tradition through storytelling, which inspired her. She earned her B.F.A. from Howard University and recently finished her MFA at the Old Globe/University of San Diego MFA Graduate Acting Program.
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