At Women for Women International, our mission is to secure a world that is more equal, peaceful and prosperous. We invest in the power of women around the world to create a ripple effect of change across generations to come. This Black History Month, we’ve curated a book list to commemorate women of the past and present whose works have inspired change—from the Civil Rights Movement to the fight for women’s equality.
Lighting the Fires of Freedom: African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement by Janet Dewart Bell
Written by Janet Dewart Bell, this book examines the powerful role of Black women during the Civil Rights Movement. From mobilizing against rape enabled by the Jim Crow South’s “droit de seigneur” tradition to rallying for voting rights and desegregation, their efforts were tangible in the fight for social justice. Through a series of narratives, Bell unearths the stories of nine women whose involvement and dedication to change is not widely recognized. By detailing their contributions, she highlights changemakers whose names do not always surface during the conversation on women of the Civil Rights era.
We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
We Should all be Feminists explores womanhood and feminism in the contemporary age. In this book, author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie states the importance of gender equality, paralleling her argument with her personal experiences in the United States and abroad. Adichie also expresses the need to empower young girls without the constraints of expectations that they are traditionally encouraged to accept. “I am trying to unlearn many lessons of gender I internalized while growing up,” she writes. “But I sometimes still feel vulnerable in the face of gender expectations.”
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body: by Roxanne Gay
In this moving memoir of her experiences up to her early adult years, writer and social commentator Roxanne Gay brings readers into her life, and the constant, long-lasting effects of a traumatic childhood assault. Through shedding light on her reality as a survivor of sexual assault and her tumultuous relationship with her body in the aftermath, Gay places a focus on the perception around women’s bodies which those who share her experiences can relate to. “This is a memoir of [my] body because, more often than not, stories of bodies like mine are ignored or dismissed or derided,” she writes.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou left her mark on the world as a renowned writer, poet and Civil Rights activist. In I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, she lays bare her journey; from her upbringing as a young girl in rural Arkansas to the birth of her son, Guy. Through this award-winning memoir, Angelou shares how she formed a companionship with literature while surviving a traumatic childhood and living under constant threat of racial violence, experiences which would inspire her literary career and achievements.
Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer's Enduring Message to America by Keisha Blain
An activist during the Civil Rights Movement, Fannie Lou Hamer endured threats against her life and an extremely brutal beating in a Mississippi prison for her unwavering activism for voting rights. Decades after her death, author Keisha Blain details Hamer’s life, from the impoverished conditions that would inspire her advocacy, to her address to the National Democratic Convention about the horrors of Jim Crow which “shook the nation to its core.” Through this historical take on one woman’s influence on democracy, Blain examines present-day issues around race in America.