The 10 Best Black Books of 2007

The 10 Best Black Books of 2007


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While sisters do dominate the list, there are several brothers who have

distinguished themselves, such as Bill Cosby and Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint with

Come on People, their controversial clarion call for self-help and personal responsibility.



The 10 Best Black Books of 2007

            By Kam Williams


Looking back on the best books I read this past year by African-Americans, the only thing they seem to have in common is their daring in terms of a willingness to tackle material from an unorthodox point of view. This refreshing inclination reflects the fact that black thinking has become less and less a predictable, monolithic mindset and is increasingly represented by a variety of novel perspectives.

 For instance, in Pimps Up, Ho’s Down, rap fan T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting confesses to being conflicted about how the music she was raised on has influenced the thinking and behavior of females of the Hip-Hop Generation.

In Lose Your Mother, Saidiya Hartman writes about her disappointing year spent in the Motherland during which she discovered herself to be more American than African.

And how about Sonsyrea Tate’s revealing memoir, Do Me Twice, in which she shares the often shocking details about being raised inside the Nation of Islam? While sisters do dominate the list, there are several brothers who have distinguished themselves, such as Bill Cosby and Dr. Alvin F. Poussaint with Come on People, their controversial clarion call for self-help and personal responsibility.

In an entirely different vein, we have photographer Jerry Taliaferro’s Women of a New Tribe, a tasteful, black & white celebration of the black female via portraits posed in the glamorous style of screen divas from the Forties. Meanwhile, Harriet Washington’s meticulously-researched Medical Apartheid shed some light on America’s discriminatory healthcare system.

As you can see that the entries covering a wide range of subjects. So, without further ado, I give you this critic’s picks as the best non-fiction books published by black authors in 2007.

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10 Best Black Books of 2007

1. Pimps Up, Ho’s Down: Hip Hop’s Hold on Young Black Women

By T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting 

In the wake of Don Imus being fired and rehired for his insensitive comments about black women, you probably couldn’t ask for a more timely discussion of gangsta rap and its demeaning depictions of females. Highly recommended as a seminal tome likely to usher in a promising new era of honest intellectual debate about the imminent head-on collision between hip-hop and emerging, black feminist thinking.      

2. Lose Your Mother: A Journey along the Atlantic Slave Route

By Saidiya Hartman

Written in a most engaging fashion, this thought-provoking, post-sentimental, and ultimately heartbreaking neo-narrative, if embraced, is likely to lead to an overhaul in Pan-Africanist thinking. For the fundamental question repeatedly raised here by implication is whether African-Americans are more African than American or vice versa. And Saidaya provides plenty of anecdotal evidence to support her thesis that the latter just might be the answer.


3. Come on People: On the Path from Victims to Victors

By Bill Cosby and Alvin F. Poussaint, M.D.

Ever since Bill Cosby delivered what might be called the historic Ghettoesburg Address in Washington, D.C. during the NAACP’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision, there’s been a big brouhaha brewing in the black community over his oft-repeated remarks. In a cultural war, you have to pick a side, and I suspect that most parents who truly love their children will consider straight talk of this nature not only appropriate but downright necessary in the face of the degeneracy directed daily at African-American youth in the battle for their bodies and minds.

4. Women of a New Tribe

A Photographic Celebration of the Black Woman

By Jerry Taliaferro

This groundbreaking photographic collection features a rainbow of African-American females, not just in terms of skin color, but also in shape, size and age. And we don’t just see sisters who meet a shallow, narrowly-defined, Eurocentric standard of beauty. A timely and overdue homage, indeed, which wonderfully elevates and illustrates both the inner and outer beauty of all sisters, a segment of society generally taken for granted, if not denigrated by the mainstream culture.

5. Medical Apartheid

The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present

By Harriet A. Washington

Most people only think of the infamous Tuskegee study of subjects with untreated syphilis when it comes to the exploitation of blacks as guinea pigs. But such experimentation by medical researchers neither began nor ended with that shocking case. This chilling expose’ makes it abundantly clear that just as America has a two-tiered criminal justice system, it has totally different quality healthcare systems when it comes to its blacks and white citizens.

6. Do Me Twice: My Life after Islam: A Memoir

By Sonsyrea Tate 

Until the age of 18, Sonsyrea Tate was essentially raised in the Nation of Islam, which apparently proved to be very confusing for a child who first had it ingrained in her head that all white people were devils, before being taught that they’re not devils, and then, oops, they were in fact devils after all. But apparently far more damaging than the dogma was the hypocrisy young Ray-Ray witnessed in her family members and other disciples whose behavior bore little resemblance to what was dictated by the Koran. A poignant page-turner offering an insider’s view from behind the veil.

7. Saving the Race

 Empowerment through Wisdom Daily Affirmations for Young Black Males

By Anthony Asadullah Samad

If one is to believe the dire statistics, African-American men are an at-risk segment of the population, and in acute crisis due to skyrocketing incarceration, dropout, unemployment, HIV infection, drug addiction and homicide rates. This book is a collection of inspirational affirmations aimed at young black males culled from a variety of sources, including the Bible, African proverbs, and dozens of different luminaries like Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Malcolm X, Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey, and Muhammad Ali. A worthwhile opus which ought to serve as a regular reminder to impressionable young minds to resist negative influences as they strive for success in their every endeavor.

8. Broken Utterances

A Selected Anthology of 19th Century Black Women’s Social Thought

Edited and Illustrated by Michelle Diane Wright

For too long, the unique perspective of the African-American female has languished in the shadows of intellectual thought. This treatise lays the groundwork for a long overdue appreciation of a score of visionary sisters who were ready to lead their people over a hundred years ago. An admirable, exhaustive, encyclopedic effort to elevate these brave women, even if belatedly, to their rightful place as very important voices in the black struggle for freedom.     

9. We Gotta Have It

Twenty Years of Seeing Black at the Movies, 1986-2006

By Esther Iverem

Worth the investment for the opening chapter alone, in which the author assesses the predicament of blacks in the U.S. through the prism of motion pictures. There, she asks, “Why does a police officer feel he can get away with sodomizing us with a broomstick; shooting us, as we stand unarmed, forty or fifty times; or beating us bloody on a crowded New Orleans street?”

She concludes it is “the least attractive, the most criminal, the most seedy part of us, that is then made to become representative of us all.” A cultural critic who can skewer so succinctly and delightfully is rare enough indeed, but when you couple that talent with an uncompromising, unique black feminist perspective, now you’re talking about a sister with a seminal voice deserving of much wider recognition.

10. The Revolution Will Not Be Funded

Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex

Edited by Incite! Women of Color against Violence

Have you ever wondered why poverty persists in America, despite the existence of so many incredibly wealthy charitable organizations, some of which boast billion-dollar endowments? This incendiary collection of essays brilliantly blows the covers off the non-profit racket, indicting it as being in bed with a power elite whose primary interest is in maintaining the status quo.  

Apparently, many charities even masquerade as progressive while pushing an arch-conservative agenda. In sum, the sisters behind this enlightening expose’ earn high marks for compiling a critical inquiry into an unregulated industry long-presumed to be dedicated to the public interest, which unfortunately, more often than not, ostensibly functions as a pawn of big business and the ruling class.

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Honorable Mention

Ralph Ellison: A Biography

By Arnold Rampersad

Supreme Discomfort

The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas

By Kevin Merida and Michael A. Fletcher  

Campus CEO

The Student Entrepreneur’s Guide to Launching a Multimillion-Dollar Business

By Randal Pinkett

Crisis of the Black Intellectual

By W.D. Wright

You Have Cancer

A Death Sentence That Four African-American Men Turned into an Affirmation to Remain in the “Land of the Living” 

By Ronald P. Bazile, Sr., Ellis M. Brossett, Sr., Preston J. Edwards, Sr. and Benjamin M. Priestley


 From the Streets to the Stove, from Cocaine to Foie Gras

By Chef Jeff Henderson

Billionaire Baby

How to Make Your Child Rich & Famous

By Emory Drake

Wonderful Ethiopians of the Cushite Empire, Book II

Origin of Civilization from the Cushites by Drusilla Dunjee Houston Edited

By Dr. Peggy Brooks Bertram

Sucka Free Love

How to Avoid Dating The Dumb, The Deceitful, The Dastardly, The Dysfunctional, and The Deranged

By Deborrah Cooper

In-Dependence from Bondage Claude McKay and Michael Manley

Defying the Ideological Clash and Policy Gaps In African Diaspora Relations

By Lloyd D. McCarthy

Grace After Midnight A Memoir

By Felicia “Snoop” Pearson  with David Ritz

Fishing for Love on the Net

A Guide to Those Searching for Love  

By Myles Reed, Jr. 

African American History for Dummies

By Ronda Racha Penrice

posted 9 December 2007

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 – Don’t Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 – Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 – Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King

#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.” We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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update 14 March 2012




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