BCALA and the ALA Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table: Black Lives Matter Reading List
Last updated June 8, 2020
Comic books have always been political. They are both a reflection and a barometer of our times. From the first appearance of Captain America in March 1941 punching the face of Hitler, to recent titles like I am Alfonso Jones and MARCH - titles tackling police brutality, #BlackLivesMatter, and the life story of Congressman John Lewis - comic books have been and continue to be vitally important avenues to visually tell our stories, to share our histories, and to show experiences and multiple perspectives while engaging both sides of our brain.
The Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table of the American Library Association affirms the ALA Executive Board's statement and stands in support of not only the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, but also the Black community at large. The United States has a long history of violence against the Black community and white supremacy is laid into the foundation of our societal contract.
In solidarity, the GNCRT is collaborating with our colleagues at the BCALA on this reading list that draws attention to the Black experiences of the past and present to demand a new future for our Black friends and neighbors. It is our hope that this list will grow and serve as an important resource going forward for educators, parents, and readers of all ages.
We must not stand by in silence as lives continue to be unnecessarily taken. Action and education must happen. Join us. #saytheirnames #BlackLivesMatter
Have suggestions for additional titles to add to this list?
Please visit BCALA online or email GNCRT at firstname.lastname@example.org with the Subject Heading, ‘Black Lives Matter Reading List. Alternatively, connect with us on social media - @BC_ALA and @libcomix - with #bcala #libcomix #BlackLivesMatter
Children’s Comics, Graphic Novels & Picture Books
The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage
Selina Alko, writer; Sean Qualls and Selina Alko, artists.
2015, Arthur A. Levine Books [Scholastic]
Nonfiction picture book about the landmark Supreme Court case 1967 Loving v. Virginia in which Mildred and Richard Loving, legally married in Washington D.C., fought against segregation laws in their home state of Virginia in which interracial marriage was a criminal act.
Dream Big, Little One
Vasthi Harrison, writer and artist.
2018, Little, Brown Kids
This beautifully illustrated board book edition and adaptation of instant bestseller Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History showcases eighteen women who changed the world and is the perfect goodnight book to inspire big dreams.
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History
Vashti Harrison, writer and artist.
2017, Little, Brown and Company
The forty bold women featured include civil rights activist Rosa Parks, gymnast Dominique Dawes, and Civil War-era Union secret intelligence agent Mary Bowser.
Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History
Vashti Harrison, writer and artist; with Kwesi Johhnson, writer.
2019, Little, Brown and Company
Among these thirty five biographies, readers will find aviators and artists, politicians and pop stars, athletes and activists. The exceptional men featured include artist Aaron Douglas, civil rights leader John Lewis, dancer Alvin Ailey, filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, musician Prince, photographer Gordon Parks, tennis champion Arthur Ashe, and writer James Baldwin.
The Little Rock Nine and the Fight for Equal Education
Gary Jeffrey, writer; Nana Li, artist
2013, Gareth Stevens Publishing.
Nonfiction graphic novel about the African American students chosen to integrate a high school in Little Rock, Arkansas after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down school segregation.
When seventh-grader Jordan Banks starts attending a private school that is primarily white, he has to learn how to navigate microaggressions, tokenism, and not fitting in. Newbery Medal Award, 2020. Coretta Scott King Award, 2020.
Strange Fruit. Volume II: More Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History
Joel Christian Gill, writer and artist
2018, Fulcrum Publishing
A collection of stories from early African American history that represent the oddity of success in the face of great adversity. Each of the eight illustrated chapters chronicles an uncelebrated African American hero or event.
Tales of the Talented Tenth: No. 2, Bessie Stringfield
Joel Christian Gill, writer and artist
2016, Fulcrum Publishing
Imagine a five-foot-two-inch-tall woman riding a Harley eight times across the continental United States. Now imagine she is black and is journeying across the country in the pre-Civil Rights era of the 1930s and '40s.
Mahogany Browne, writer; Theodore Taylor, illustrator
2018, Roaring Brook Press
Woke babies are up early. Woke babies raise their fists in the air. Woke babies cry out for justice. Woke babies grow up to change the world. This lyrical and empowering book is both a celebration of what it means to be a baby and what it means to be woke. With bright, playf inul art, Woke Baby is an anthem of hope in a world where the only limit to a skyscraper is more blue.
A Wreath for Emmett Till
Marilyn Nelson, writer; Philippe Lardy, artist
2005, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Nonfiction picture book by award winning poet Marilyn Nelson detailing the 1955 murder of Emmett Louis Till. Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award, 2006. Michael L. Printz Honor Award, 2006.
Young Adult Comics & Graphic Novels
Black Panther & The Crew: We are the Streets
Ta-Nehisi Coates, Yona Harvey, and Jackson Butch Guice
2017, Marvel Worldwide, Inc.
The death of a Harlem activist kicks off a mystery that will reveal surprising new secrets about the Marvel Universe's past - and set the stage for a huge story in the near future!... Fear, hate and violence loom, but don't worry, The Crew's got this: They are the streets.
Colorblind: A Story of Racism
Johnathan Harris, writer; Donald Hudson, artist; Fahriza Kamaputra, colorist
2019, Zuiker Press
“Colorblind – Johnathan’s story of multiculturalism – is a gripping story of a 15-year-old boy who had his civil rights violated by police officers in Long Beach, California. Jonathan’s uncle, who was in prison at the time, teaches the young boy how to deal with racism by seeing the world through a multicultural lens rather than the color of people’s skin. In the end, the two bestow upon each other the most valuable gift of all: freedom.” Publisher site includes discussion videos and other resources.
Colored: The Unsung Life of Claudette Colvin
2019, Europe Comics
A biography of Claudette Colvin, who was arrested at the age of 15 when she refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, a short time before Rosa Parks.
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans
2016, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Using precise language and powerful illustrations, Brown tells a riveting tale of heroism, courage, racism, and incompetence during one of America’s worst natural disasters.
Fights: One Boy's Triumph Over Violence
Joel Christian Gill
2020, Oni Press
An autobiographical comic about Joel's childhood. He lived in a rough neighborhood where violence was often seen as the answer, but he wanted a different path for himself.
I Am Alfonso Jones
Tony Medina, writer; Stacey Robinson and John Jennings, artists
2017, Tu Books
Alfonso Jones, a young black teen, is only trying to buy a suit when an off-duty cop mistakes a clothes hanger for a gun and shoots him on sight.
Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography
Andrew Helfer, writer; Randy DuBurke, artist
“A graphic novel that shows Malcolm Little's transformation from a black youth beaten down by Jim Crow America into Malcolm X, the charismatic, controversial, and doomed national spokesman for the Nation of Islam.” - Baker & Taylor
John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, writers; Nate Powell, artist
2013 - 2016, Top Shelf Productions
A three volume history of the Civil Rights Movement, as experienced by civil rights leader and U.S. congressman John Lewis.
Monster: A Graphic Novel
Walter Dean Myers, writer; Guy A. Sims, adapter; Dawud Anyabwile, artist
2015, Harper Collins
Teen Steve Harmon records his experience of awaiting trial for robbery and murder. A graphic adaptation of the award-winning Walter Dean Myers novel.
Anthony Horton, writer; Youme Landowne, writer and artist
2008, Cinco Puntos Press
Writer/artist Horton tells his story of living homeless six stories below city streets in New York City’s subway tunnels.
Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling
Marc Mauer, writer; Sabrina Jones, adapter and artist
2013, The New Press
Explore the causes of the exponential growth of the U.S. prison system, and how the country has produced the highest rate of incarceration in the world.
Superman Smashes the Klan
Gene Luen Yang, writer; Gurihiru, artist
2020, DC Comics
“The year is 1946, and the Lee family has moved from Metropolis' Chinatown to the center of the bustling city. While Dr. Lee is greeted warmly in his new position at the Metropolis Health Department, his two kids, Roberta and Tommy, are more excited about being closer to their famous hero, Superman!” - from the publisher.
Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty
Gregory Neri, writer; Randy Duburke, artist
2010, Lee & Low Books
A fictional retelling of the life of 11-year-old Robert “Yummy” Sandifer, attempts to explain the circumstances that turned a young boy from candy-loving child to gun-wielding gang member.
Adult Comics & Graphic Novels
Are You at Risk for “Empathy Myopia”?
Ezra Claytan Daniels
Upgrade Soul author and BTTM FDRS writer Daniels “considers the idea that we subconsciously force our experiences into moral narratives that satisfy an evolutionary desire for order. But if we believe everything happens for a reason, what happens when our reasoning is flawed?” Also available in print through Radiator Comics.
Big Black: Stand at Attica
Frank “Big Black” Smith and Jared Reinmuth, writers; Ameziane, artist
2020, Archaia [Boom! Studios]
Big Black's memoir about his time as a prisoner in Attica State Prison and the 1971 rebellion against injustices in the prison system.
David F. Walker and Chuck Brown, writers; Sanford Greene, artist
2019, Image Comics
The Sangerye family is racing the clock to save 1920s New York from supernatural forces threatening to infect the community with hate.
Kwanza Osajyefo, writer/co-creator; Tim Smith 3, designer/co-creator; Jamal Igle, artist
2016-2017, Black Mask Studios
When a young man survives being shot by police, he discovers that he is part of a small group of Black people who possess superpowers.
Black (AF): America’s Sweetheart
Kwanza Osajyefo, writer/co-creator; Tim Smith 3, co-creator; Jennifer Johnson, artist
2018, Black Mask Studios
15-year-old Eli Franklin lives in a world that just discovered only Black people have superpowers. She is also the most powerful among them.
Black History for Beginners
Denise Dennis, writer; Susan Willmarth, illustrator
2007, For Beginners.
Covers Black history starting with enslavement and continuing through the Civil Rights movement to the 2000s.
From Truth With Truth
2020, Lawrence Lindell
In this “Kinda a Graphic Memoir,” Lindell shares insight into his childhood and adolescence, learning to come to terms with depression, PTSD, and Bipolar disorder in concert with his identity.
The Harlem Hellfighters
Max Brooks, writer, Caanan White, artist
2014, Broadway Books
Fictionalized story of the all-Black 369th Infantry. It follows members of the group from enlistment to their brave fight in World War I France and never shies away from the prejudice they encountered along the way.
Incognegro: A Graphic Mystery (New Edition)
Mat Johnson, writer; Warren Pleece, artist
2018, Berger Books [Dark Horse Comics]
Two fictional black reporters who are able to “pass” as white are sent to Mississippi to investigate the murder of a white woman. Prequel Incognegro: Renaissance is also available from the same publisher.
José-Louis Bocquet, witer; Catel Muller, artist
Traces the life of the extraordinary Josphine Baker from her performances in Paris to her work with the French Resistance during World War II and her activism after the war.
Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation
Octavia Butler, writer; Damian Duffy, adapter; John Jennings, artist
2017, Abrams ComicArts
“Butler’s most celebrated, critically acclaimed work tells the story of Dana, a young black woman who is suddenly and inexplicably transported from her home in 1970s California to the pre–Civil War South. As she time-travels between worlds, one in which she is a free woman and one where she is part of her own complicated familial history on a southern plantation, she becomes frighteningly entangled in the lives of Rufus, a conflicted white slaveholder and one of Dana’s own ancestors, and the many people who are enslaved by him.” - from the publisher.
King — A Comics Biography: The Special Edition
Ho Che Anderson
A multifaceted look at Martin Luther King Jr. in both his life as a leading Civil Rights activist and advocate for racial equality, and his untimely and violent death.
The Life of Frederick Douglass: A Graphic Narrative of an Extraordinary Life
David F. Walker, writer; Damon Smyth and Marissa Louise, artists
2019, Ten Speed Press
“A graphic novel biography of the escaped slave, abolitionist, public speaker, and most photographed man of the nineteenth century, based on his autobiographical writings and speeches, spotlighting the key events and people that shaped the life of this great American.” - from the publisher.
The Nib is a webcomic publisher primarily focused on political and social commentary. Over the years, a number of creators have published invaluable work on Black experience in the United States. We have provided links to a few selections below, but it is not exhaustive.
- African-Americans Are More Likely to Distrust the Medical System. Blame the Tuskegee Experiment | Whit Taylor and Chris Kindred
- Black Mothers Face Far Worse Health Outcomes. How Do We Fix It? | Whit Taylor
- The Great Debate: Martin Luther King, Jr. vs Robert F. Williams | Ben Passmore
- Lighten Up: A cartoonist reflects on the subtle racism of shifting skin tones in a Marvel comic | Ronald Wimberly
- She Dared to Be Herself: Shirley Chisholm’s Legacy | Whit Taylor and Shannon Wright
- The Weight of Being Black in America | Bianca Xunise
- Survival Techniques for Existing While Black | Ruben Bolling
Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation
Octavia Butler, writer; Damian Duffy, adapter; John Jennings, artist
2020, Abrams ComicArts
“In this graphic novel adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower, the author portrays a searing vision of America’s future. In the year 2024, the country is marred by unattended environmental and economic crises that lead to social chaos. Lauren Olamina, a preacher’s daughter living in Los Angeles, is protected from danger by the walls of her gated community. However, in a night of fire and death, what begins as a fight for survival soon leads to something much more: a startling vision of human destiny . . . and the birth of a new faith.” - from the publisher
The Silence of Our Friends
Mark Long and Jim Demonakos, writer; Nate Powell, artist
2018 (updated edition), First Second/Square Fish (Macmillian)
In this semi-autobiographical story, two families find common ground during a little-remembered incident from the civil rights movement.
Draw Stronger author Willberg considers the history of medical experimentation on unwilling subjects, with particular emphasis on “founding father of gynecology” J. Marion Sims’ abuse of enslaved Black women, and the ramifications of benefiting from this cruel approach to medicine. Author introduction and print editions.
Three-Fifths a Man: A Graphic History of the African American Experience
Sid Jacobson, writer; Ernie Colón, artist
“Through richly drawn four-color illustrations and concise, accessible chapters, Jacobson and Colón convey a history of hardship and hope—a painful and necessary process, full of victories and setbacks, from the Amistad mutiny and the Three-Fifths Compromise to Brown v. Board of Education and the Scottsboro Boys. We see the first African slaves arriving in Jamestown in 1619, watch as the ‘peculiar institution’ undermines our founding ideals, witness the triumph of the Union in the Civil War followed by the collapse of Reconstruction in the South, and observe the hard-won progress of the civil rights movement from the early twentieth century to its contemporary iterations.” - from the publisher
Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures
2018, New York Review Comics
Although set in a French context among Beninese immigrants, the title story in this collection effectively explores life as a member of an overly-scrutinized minority.
Your Black Friend
2016, Silver Sprocket
An exploration of the stresses and harm a Black man experiences in his everyday life through his relationships with non-Black people.