BCALA x GNCRT: Black Lives Matter Black Literature Matters - Comics Reading List
September 23, 2020
As the next iteration of our ongoing collaboration between the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA), and the Graphic Novels & Comics Round Table of the American Library Association (GNCRT), we are launching an updated version of our Black Lives Matter comics reading list with a focus on Black Literature. Black Lives Matter, Black Literature Matters.
This list of 50 comics titles for Juvenile, Teen (YA), and Adult audiences is centered on Black creators, Black stories, and Black histories for all ages. This list includes many titles from our earlier comics list, while adding others. The goal of this list is not to be a prescriptive spectrum of all the subject or format content out there in the landscape of Black stories or comics. Rather, this is a step, another step, towards building collections and conversations that spark hope, demand justice, address erasure, and agitate for learning - using both sides of our brains through words and pictures. Because when ‘Black lives are lost, Black stories are lost’ (Stacey Robinson).
Title must be published sequential art, with one of more of the following elements:
- Created by a Black storyteller
- Displays empathy and respect for Black bodies
- Introduces readers to Black art, people, history, organizations and communities
- Represents Black experiences both domestically and throughout the world
- Showcases a diversity of artistic mediums
- Includes the lived experiences of Black people from all demographics
- Reinforces Black stories of success, resistance, endurance and love
- Employs a wide array of genres
- Demonstrates an understanding of cultural nuance
- Represents independent and non-traditional publishing
- Includes stories of ancient Black civilizations as well as Black people’s continued existence in the future
- Improves access to authentic Black stories for all patrons
- Exposes Black creators to wider audiences
*Not all elements listed above are required for inclusion; to date, all titles included are in English
- BCALA and GNCRT Supplemental Reading Lists
- GNCRT / BCALA Webinar - Black Future Month (February 10, 2021)
- GNCRT / BCALA ALA Midwinter Virtual Discussion Session - Black Lives Matter Comics Reading List (January 25, 2021)
- GNCRT/BCALA Webinar - Black Lives Matter: Comics as a Powerful Lens for Social Justice (September 23, 2020)
- American Library Association - Libraries Respond: Black Lives Matter
- Black Lives Matters: Comics Resource List (issued June 8, 2020)
- GNCRT Affirms ALA Executive Board Statement Standing with BCALA (June 1, 2020)
- BCALA Statement Condemning Increased Violence and Racism Towards Black Americans and People of Color (May 28, 2020)
Black Lives Matter Black Literature Matters - Comics Reading List
Children’s Comics, Graphic Novels & Picture Books
Black Heroes of the Wild West: Featuring Stagecoach Mary, Bass Reeves, and Bob Lemmons
James Otis Smith, writer and artist; Kadir Nelson, introduction
September 2020, TOON Graphics
This nonfiction graphic novel brings to life the tales of three African American historical figures who made an impact on the Western expansion of the United States, known for their success in stage coach driving, as a US marshal, and in horsemanship. Ages 8-12.
The Crossover (Graphic Novel)
Kwame Alexander, writer; Dawud Anyabwile, artist
2019, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Adapted from the Newbery award-winning novel in verse, this coming-of-age story features twins brothers, and their relationships to each other, to their father, and to basketball. Ages 9-12.
Dream Big, Little One
Vashti Harrison, writer and artist.
2018, Little, Brown Kids
This beautifully illustrated board book edition 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. Ages 0-8.
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. Ages 9-12.
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 - first graphic novel to win the Newbery. Coretta Scott King Award, 2020. Ages 9-12.
Tales of the Talented Tenth: No. 2, Bessie Stringfield
Joel Christian Gill
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. Ages 9-12.
Varian Johnson, writer; Shannon Wright, artist
2020, Scholastic Inc.
Best friends and twin sisters, Maureen and Francine Carter start to grow apart when they enter the 6th grade. Ages 8-12
When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop
Laban Carrick Hill, writer; Theodore Taylor III, artist
2013, Roaring Brook Press [Macmillan]
Introduces the beginnings of hip hop in the 1970s and 1980s through the biography of DJ Kool Herc, starting on the island of Jamaica and moving to the Bronx, NYC. Ages 6-10.
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. Ages 0-8.
Young Adult Comics & Graphic Novels
Aya: Life in Yop City
Marguerite Abouet, writer; Clement Oubrerie, artist; Helge Dascher, translator
2012, Drawn and Quarterly
Aya and her friends navigate the paths of womanhood available to them as young adults in the Ivory Coast during the late 1970s. Collects volumes 1-3.
Tee Franklin, writer; Jenn St-Onge, artist; Joy San, colorist
2018, Image Comics
Two young women meet at church bingo in 1963, and fall in love. They are forced apart and both marry men. Decades later, they meet again at church bingo, and rekindle their romance.
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
“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.” - from publisher
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.
E.X.O. - The Legend of Wale Williams Part One: A Superhero Graphic Novel
Roye Okupe, writer; Sunkanmi Akinboye, artist
2016, Youneek Studios
In 2025 Nigeria super-powered Wale Williams investigate’s his father’s disappearance.
(H)afrocentric Comics, Volumes 1–4
Juliana “Jewels” Smith, writer; Ronald Nelson, artist; Mike Hampton, colorist/letterer
2017, PM Press
“An unflinching visual and literary tour-de-force on the most pressing issues of the day— including gentrification, police violence, and housing—with humor and biting satire.”-Publisher
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.
Icon: A Hero’s Welcome
Dwayne McDuffie, writer; M.D. Bright, artist
2009, DC Comics
This reprint collects the adventures 1-8 of Milestone Comics’ flagship character, Augustus Freeman, a super powered alien being who crash lands on Earth and is raised by enslaved individuals in pre-Civil War America.
Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography
Andrew Helfer, writer; Randy DuBurke, artist
Graphic nonfiction biography charting the life and times of Malcom X from his youth as Malcolm Little to the national spokesperson for the Nation of Islam.
John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, writers; Nate Powell, artist
2013 - 2016, Top Shelf Productions
A 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.
Quincredible Vol. 1: Quest to Be the Best!
by Rodney Barnes (Author), Selina Espiritu (Illustrator), Kelly Fitzpatrick (Colorist)
2019, Oni Press
Quin is a normal teen just trying to fit in. But Quin discovers a secret superpower: invulnerability. Can Quin use his new super-ability to save his family and his New Orleans community?
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.
A Right to Be Hostile: The Boondocks Treasury
2003, Three Rivers Press [Penguin Random House]
Collection of over 800 comic strips featuring commentary on American life, culture and politics from the perspective of two witty and insightful boys and their grandfather.
Showtime at the Apollo : The Epic Tale of Harlem’s Legendary Theater
Ted Fox, writer; James Otis Smith, adapter and artist
2019, Abrams ComicArts [Harry N. Abrams]
This graphic adaptation of the 1983 prose work depicts the history of the Apollo theater, as well as legendary artists that performed there.
Victor LaValle’s Destroyer
Victor LaValle, writer; Dietrich Smith, artist
2018, BOOM! Studios
“The legacy of Frankenstein’s monster collides with the sociopolitical tensions of the present-day United States.” -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
APB: Artists against Police Brutality: A Comic Book Anthology
Bill Campbell, Jason Rodriguez, John Jennings, editors.
2015, Rosarium Publishing
“APB: Artists Against Police Brutality is a benefit comic book anthology that focuses on hot-button issues including police brutality, the justice system, and civil rights, with one primary goal: show pictures and tell stories that get people talking. The proceeds will go to the Innocence Project, an organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people.”-Publisher
Are You at Risk for “Empathy Myopia”?
Ezra Claytan Daniels
Upgrade Soul author and BTTM FDRS writer Daniels offers readers a “thought experiment” to consider the narratives we tell about ourselves, the world we live in, and how a critical evaluation of these stories might break us free.
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 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.
2019, Drawn and Quarterly
In this 2020 Eisner award-winning short story collection, ethnographer, teacher and cartoonist Ebony Flowers recounts rich coming-of-age experiences with hair, community and culture.
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, writer; 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.
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
Whether you only know of Frederick Douglass by name or are already familiar with his storied life, this comics biography will pull you in and leave you with an intimate appreciation of the celebrated abolitionist.
The Massacre of Black Wall Street
Natalie Chang, writer; Clayton Henry, illustrator; Marcelo Mailo, colorist
This scrolling digital comic, commissioned as a companion piece to HBO’s Watchmen series, tells the true and undertold story of the 1921 Massacre of Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in which as many as 300 Black Tulsans were murdered, thousands were left homeless, and the economic prosperity of Black Wall Street obliterated. This nonfiction comic features extensive source material links and resources.
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.” - Publisher
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.” -Publisher
Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures
2018, New York Review Comics
Set in a French context among Beninese immigrants, the title story in this collection explores life as a member of an overly-scrutinized minority.
Suggestions for further reading:
- Deimosa Webber-Bey
- Elisa Garcia
- Sandra Farag
- Shaundra Walker
- Shauntee Burns-Simpson
- Tamela Chambers
- Tatanisha Love
- Alea Perez
- Amie Wright
- Emily Drew
- Matthew Noe
- Miriam Meadow
- Patrick Holt
- Shira Pilarski
- Susen Shi
GNCRT Staff Liaison - Tina Coleman