Reading List: Black History and Heritage Month

As part of our calendar celebrating national heritage months and observances, explore these selected works that speak to Black history and heritage.


Collage artwork showing four Black children holding hands, with colorful stripes radiating out from behind them

Rico Gatson, Watts Kids, 2015, color pencil and photograph on paper, (22″ x 30″)


  • Vievee Francis’s “The Beauty of Boys Is” (Issue 13) and “This Morning I Miss Such Devotion (Issue 14) illuminate intimate and vulnerable moments.

  • The supernatural, the divine, the sexual, and the cerebral come together in the Issue 15 excerpt from Erica Dawson’s singular “When Rap Spoke Straight to God.”

  • In his Issue 13 poem “Lesson for Cortney,” Cortney Lamar Charleston starts at an intersection and constructs a powerful list of lessons about race, class, and the dangers, contradictions, and facts of life. Also from Issue 13, Charleston’s “Still Life with Black Boy’s Face Overlaying Project Buildings,” about living and dying in the projects on the southside of Chicago, is a poem suffused with personal memories of a home that’s been demolished and the lack of justice inherent in such destruction.

  • Catherine Esther Cowie’s One Night in the Midwest” (Issue 19) evokes the senses and ease of a childhood self.

  • In “Crater Lake” (Issue 19) marcus scott williams writes about a smoky afternoon by Oregon’s Crater Lake and the dynamics of white American patriarchy.

  •  “How Do You Get to Harlem?” by Tyree Daye (Issue 17) evokes childhood wonder at a Harlem that sounds like heaven and “the train, // how it can take you / where you needed to be.”
  • Tommye Blount’s three poems in Issue 24—”Klan Giant,” “Charcoal” and “Terror“—explore the violent and ongoing legacies of American slavery. 

  • Jordan Honeyblue writes about Black motherhood and childbirth in her Issue 23 poem “holy war.” 

  • Our Night Hangs By A Thread” (Issue 24) by Akwe Amosu details the simultaneous beauty and fear that she and her family encounter in the Catskill Mountains. 

  • In his 2023 DISQUIET Prize-winning poem “The Gardener” (Issue 26), Joshua Burton reflects on voice, voicelessness, and the power of narrative. 



  • In “You’re the Sweetest One” (Issue 14) by LaShonda Katrice Barnett, a roadside accident in segregation-era Indiana sparks a complicated love between a hearse driver and an aspiring model.

  •  “The Electric City” (Issue 09) by Kashana Cauley tells the story of an immense purchase and an attempt to “fix” its human-made entropy.   



  • In her Issue 16 essay “Land Not Theirs,” Madison Davis explores a complex relationship with Christianity and its history of racial and gendered violence, while making space for her own alternative spiritual practices.

  • In his Issue 12 essay “Passing Strange,” W. Ralph Eubanks discusses his return to the South after decades away, and his sense of being “torn somewhere between acceptance and separateness.”

  • In her Issue 20 essay, “In Search of a Homeplace, LaToya Faulk writes about her grandmother, the ways that homes and bodies carry history, and her path towards defining her Black womanhood.

  • Leave the Child” by Akwe Amosu (Issue 12) takes place during the early years of the Nigerian Civil War and combines letters, photos, historical documents and ephemera with poetry and prose to bring forth a child’s experience of civil and domestic conflict. 
  • In “Every Month is Black History Month” (Issue 12), Susan Straight reflects on being a white mother “trying to help [her] daughters navigate the looks and words and physical manifestations of racism.”  
  • Alexis M. Wright‘s “Which One is the Lifeline?” (Issue 24), an essay named a Notable Essay in the Best American Essays 2023, explores lines from Langston Hughes’s “Impasse” and reflects on place, performance, and American justice. 
  • In “Every Month is Black History Month” (Issue 12), Susan Straight reflects on being a white mother “trying to help [her] daughters navigate the looks and words and physical manifestations of racism.”



  • John Murillo and Nathan McClain discuss oral tradition, recognition, and Murillo’s Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry, his Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award-winning collection, in this 2021 interview

  • In a 2022 interview with July Westhale, Arisa White talks about form, father figures, and the coming-of-age story in her lyrical memoir Who’s Your Daddy?

  • Nathan McClain discusses inheritance, religion, and the politics of a poem’s audience in an interview with Virginia Konchan
  • “I was tired of talking and feeling like my voice and those of other Black Americans were not being heard,” Enzo Silon Surin says in this interview with Daphne Santana Strassmann about his newest collection American Scapegoat. 
  • In an interview from 2024, Joseph O. Legaspi interviews January Gill O’Neil about her explorations of slavery and history in Mississippi and her brand new collection Glitter Road. 



  • Artist Rico Gatson’s work from Issue 12 combines photo collage, energetic geometries, and vibrant hues to represent heroes of the Black power movement and explore the vital potentials of line and color.


Reading List: Black History and Heritage Month