In Their Own Words: Black Veterans

In celebration of Black History Month, we have collected a list of memoirs, autobiographies, and oral histories of African American veterans. We’re including all military conflicts from World War II to Iraq and Afghanistan. We hope this gives you a chance to learn about their experiences in their own words.

A-TRAIN: MEMOIRS OF A TUSKEGEE AIRMAN by Charles W. Dryden (DB 47159)
AND I HAVEN’T HAD A BAD DAY SINCE: FROM THE STREETS OF HARLEM TO THE HALLS OF CONGRESS by Charles B. Rangel (DB 65068)
BLOODS: AN ORAL HISTORY OF THE VIETNAM WAR BY BLACK VETERANS by Jake Williams (DB 21512)
I’M STILL STANDING: FROM CAPTIVE U.S. SOLDIER TO FREE CITIZEN–MY JOURNEY HOME by Shoshana Johnson (DB 71726)
INFINITE HOPE: A BLACK ARTIST’S JOURNEY FROM WORLD WAR II TO PEACE by Ashley Bryan (DB 100565)
LASTING VALOR by Vernon J. Baker (DB 47493)
REAPER: AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF ONE OF THE DEADLIEST SPECIAL OPS SNIPERS by Nicholas Irving (DB 81337)
WE WERE THERE: VOICES OF AFRICAN AMERICAN VETERANS, FROM WORLD WAR II TO THE WAR IN IRAQ (DB 58665)

In Her Own Words: Sandra Day O’Connor

Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female Supreme Court Justice, passed away on December 1. Born in El Paso, Texas, and raised in Arizona, O’Connor wrote several books describing her childhood as well as her life as a Supreme Court Justice. Here are the books she’s written in our collection. 

LAZY B: GROWING UP ON A CATTLE RANCH IN THE AMERICAN SOUTHWEST (DB 53655, BR 15666)
MAJESTY OF THE LAW: REFLECTIONS OF A SUPREME COURT JUSTICE (DB 56444)
OUT OF ORDER: STORIES FROM THE HISTORY OF THE SUPREME COURT (DB 76471)

Indigenous Voices: Memoirs and Autobiographies

In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, we have collected some autobiographies and memoirs written by Native Americans. We have memoirs from Metis, Potawatomi, Lakota, and many other Indigenous Americans.

ABANDON ME by Melissa Febos (DBC16562)
BITTEROOT: A SALISH MEMOIR OF TRANSRACIAL ADOPTION by Susan Devan Harness (DBC 13108)
BRAIDING SWEETGRASS: INDIGENOUS WISDOM, SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE AND THE TEACHINGS OF PLANTS by Robin Wall Kimmerer (DB 92274)
CARRY: A MEMOIR OF SURVIVAL ON STOLEN LAND by Toni Jensen (DB 101608)
CRAZY BRAVE: A MEMOIR by Joy Harjo (DB 97592, BR 22807)
FROM THE ASHES: MY STORY OF BEING INDIGENOUS, HOMELESS, AND FINDING MY WAY by Jesse Thistle (DB 113670, LB 14003)
HEART BERRIES: A MEMOIR by Terese Marie Mailhot (DB 108091)
LAKOTA WOMAN by Mary Crow Dog (DB 32089)
MY BODY IS A BOOK OF RULES by Elissa Washuta (DBC 06942)
PIPESTONE: MY LIFE IN AN INDIAN BOARDING SCHOOL by Adam Fortunate Eagle (DB 113324)
SPIRIT CAR: JOURNEY TO A DAKOTA PAST by Diane Wilson (DBC 19747)
SPIRIT MOVES: STORY OF SIX GENERATIONS OF NATIVE WOMEN by Loree Boyd (DB 46850)
SPIRIT RUN: A 6,000-MILE MARATHON THROUGH NORTH AMERICA’S STOLEN LAND by Noe Alvarez (DB 98794)
THEY CALLED ME NUMBER ONE: SECRETS AND SURVIVAL AT AN INDIAN RESIDENTIAL SCHOOL by Bev Sellars (DB 113452)
TURQUOISE LEDGE: A MEMOIR by Leslie Marmon Silko (DBC 04945)
YOU DON’T HAVE TO SAY YOU LOVE ME: A MEMOIR by Sherman Alexie (DB 89576, BR 22175, LB 10335)

African American Authors – Biographies, Autobiographies, and Memoirs

From classic African American authors from the early 20th century like James Baldwin and Langston Hughes to newer authors such as Saeed Jones and Nnedi Okorafor, the National Library Service (NLS) has books that tell the stories of their lives.

Biographies

ALICE WALKER: A LIFE
WHITE, EVELYN C.
Chronicles the life of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple (DB 58842, BR 12265). Traces Walker’s experiences as the daughter of Georgia sharecroppers, an acclaimed writer, and wife of a white NAACP lawyer. Explores her feminist and civil rights activism. Strong language. 2004.
DB 59554
 
CHESTER HIMES: A LIFE
SALLIS, JAMES
Discusses the African American novelist’s Missouri childhood, the inception of his writing career from prison, and the failure of his early works in a racially charged climate. Explains that Himes became famous writing crime stories while an expatriate in Europe. Some strong language.
DB 52754
 
LIFE OF LANGSTON HUGHES, VOLUME 1: 1902-1941. I, TOO, SING AMERICA
RAMPERSAD, ARNOLD
Rampersad’s biography of the American poet and writer takes Hughes from a tumultuous childhood in the Midwest, through worldwide travels and ramblings, to the early literary successes in New York. Tracing Hughes’s development and experiences, the book highlights the character of the artist, portraying him as a driven man devoted to his writing. 1986. Followed by LIFE OF LANGSTON HUGHES: VOLUME 2, 1941-1967: I DREAM A WORLD which continues the story of the noted poet (DB 28699)
DB 27535
 
LOOKING FOR LORRAINE: THE RADIANT AND RADICAL LIFE OF LORRAINE HANSBERRY
PERRY, IMANI
A portrait of the activist and writer best known for A Raisin in the Sun (DB 15750). Discusses Hansberry’s bold stances on civil rights, the prominent figures with whom she associated, her involvement in one of the nation’s first lesbian organizations, and the attention she drew from the FBI. Some strong language. Commercial audiobook. 2018.
DB 92981
 
NEVER WOULD HAVE MADE IT: THE RISE OF TYLER PERRY, THE MOST POWERFUL ENTERTAINER IN BLACK AMERICA (AND WHAT IT REALLY TOOK HIM TO GET THERE)
CHILDS, MELVIN
Entertainment producer describes the rise of African American comedian Tyler Perry as his career expanded from the “chitlin’ circuit” of black Southern clubs into a multi-billion-dollar enterprise. Highlights the financial side of show business and the author’s estrangement from Perry. Strong language. 2012.
BR 19674
 
RALPH ELLISON: A BIOGRAPHY
RAMPERSAD, ARNOLD
Professor analyzes the life of African American writer Ralph Ellison, whose only novel, Invisible Man (DB 56346, BR 14988), won the 1953 National Book Award. Uses Ellison’s correspondence to detail the personal and artistic struggles he endured, as well as his social and cultural milieu. 2007.
DB 65148
 
RICHARD WRIGHT: THE LIFE AND TIMES
ROWLEY, HAZEL
Interweaving journals, letters, and personal recollections, biographer Rowley illuminates the important African American novelist’s life, work, and ideas. Portrays Wright as a self-taught intellectual, an independent thinker, and an outspoken critic of racism. Examines his relationships with other writers, such as Ralph Ellison and Langston Hughes. Bestseller.
DB 53071
 
STREET POISON: THE BIOGRAPHY OF ICEBERG SLIM
GIFFORD, JUSTIN
Literature professor chronicles the life of Robert Beck (1918-1992), better known as Iceberg Slim, author of Pimp (DB 79726), Doom Fox (DB 80092), and Trick Baby (DB 80284). Discusses Slim’s criminal lifestyle and how it influenced his later writings, and appraises his significance in popular culture. Strong language. 2015.
DB 83628
 
SORROW’S KITCHEN: THE LIFE AND FOLKLORE OF ZORA NEALE HURSTON
LYONS, MARY E.
Lyons inserts samples of Hurston’s fiction, autobiography, and folklore collected in Florida, Louisiana, and the West Indies into this account of the African American anthropologist and Harlem Renaissance writer of stories, plays, essays, and articles.
DB 41455
 
SURPRISED QUEENHOOD IN THE NEW BLACK SUN: THE LIFE AND LEGACY OF GWENDOLYN BROOKS
JACKSON, ANGELA
Biography of author of Bronzeville Boys and Girls (DB 63916). Discusses Brooks’ early years in Chicago, personal relationships, racism she experienced, and publishing career. Examines the influence of her experiences on specific pieces of her work. Commercial audiobook. 2017.
DB 88823

Autobiographies and Memoirs

AMERICAN HUNGER
WRIGHT, RICHARD
Compelling autobiographical continuation of BLACK BOY (DB 20415, BR 04398) covering Wright’s struggle to make his way in Chicago and New York. Traces his experience with poverty and racism, his development as a writer, and his conversion to and estrangement from the Communist Party. Some strong language.
DB 10660
 
BROKEN PLACES & OUTER SPACES: FINDING CREATIVITY IN THE UNEXPECTED
OKORAFOR, NNEDI
The author recounts how a simple operation took her from track star to paralyzed. Confined in a hospital bed for months, she began to imagine fantastical things and turn those experiences into writing. Also discusses her childhood and other authors who have used hardship to fuel their work. Unrated. Commercial audiobook. 2019.
DB 96603
 
FATHERALONG: A MEDITATION ON FATHERS AND SONS, RACE AND SOCIETY
WIDEMAN, JOHN EDGAR
A collection of six essays examining a strained father son relationship in terms of social issues about race and family. Wideman, an award-winning novelist who wrote about his brother and himself in “Brothers and Keepers” (DB 23360), here combines a memoir of his father with observations about African-American life. Some strong language.
DB 40624
 
HOW WE FIGHT FOR OUR LIVES: A MEMOIR
JONES, SAEED
A poet describes his experiences growing up as black and gay in the American South through a series of vignettes. Describes familial relationships, romantic flings, and friendships. Examines what people do for and to each other in the search for identity. Strong language and some descriptions of sex.  Commercial audiobook. 2019.
DB 98361; BR 21014)
 
I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS
ANGELOU, MAYA
The first book in an autobiographical series. The author describes the childhood and adolescence of a black girl in rural Arkansas, St. Louis, and San Francisco.  She is a strong and sensitive young woman who endures and overcomes many horrors in her life. 1969. Followed by GATHER TOGETHER IN MY NAME (DB 56481; BR 16910).
DB 24959; BR 15665)
 
NO NAME IN THE STREET
BALDWIN, JAMES
Best known for GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN (DB 33488, BR 08734 ), in this personal statement Baldwin tells of his years of self- exile and renewal abroad, of his activities in the civil rights movement, and his road back to complete involvement in the cause of black people in America.
DB 25147
 
REGION NOT HOME: REFLECTIONS FROM EXILE
MCPHERSON, JAMES ALAN
First African American winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for ELBOW ROOM (DB 16996; BR 12600), in this collection of essays the author discusses his pursuits, from the segregated South to Morris Brown College, Harvard Law School, the University of Virginia, and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Reflects on his love for his daughter, the experiences of Americans, life’s sorrows and delights, and works by other authors. Some strong language.
DB 52007
 
WHAT BECOMES OF THE BROKENHEARTED: A MEMOIR
HARRIS, E. LYNN
Autobiography by gay, African American, bestselling author of Invisible Life (DB 38731). Describes his humble beginnings in Arkansas, his career development, failed romantic relationships, bouts with depression, and deep faith in God. Strong language and some violence. Bestseller. 2003.
DB 56881

African American Women Autobiographies and Biographies

February is both African American History Month and Women’s History Month. With that in mind, here are several autobiographies and biographies on amazing African American women. Ministers, soldiers, athletes, mathematicians–African American women have done it all. Some of these women may be familiar and some may be new to you, but ALL of them can be read about via the Texas Talking Book Program.

BEHIND THE SCENES, OR, THIRTY YEARS A SLAVE AND FOUR YEARS IN THE WHITE HOUSE
KECKLEY, ELIZABETH
DB 94362, BR 15761

BESSIE COLEMAN: FIRST FEMALE AFRICAN AMERICAN AND NATIVE AMERICAN PILOT
SMALL, CATHLEEN
DB 91002

BOUND FOR THE PROMISED LAND: HARRIET TUBMAN, PORTRAIT OF AN AMERICAN HERO
LARSON, KATE CLIFFORD
DB 64511

CATHY WILLIAMS: FROM SLAVE TO FEMALE BUFFALO SOLDIER
TUCKER, PHILLIP THOMAS
DB 59297

EYE ON THE STRUGGLE: ETHEL PAYNE, THE FIRST LADY OF THE BLACK PRESS
MORRIS, JAMES MCGRATH
DB 81681

FINDING MY VOICE: MY JOURNEY TO THE WEST WING AND THE PATH FORWARD
JARRETT, VALERIE
DB 94980, LB 11113

HABEN: THE DEAFBLIND WOMAN WHO CONQUERED HARVARD LAW
GIRMA, HABEN
DB 96188, BR 22702

HIDDEN FIGURES: THE AMERICAN DREAM AND THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE BLACK WOMEN MATHEMATICIANS WHO HELPED WIN THE SPACE RACE
LEE SHETTERLY, MARGOT
DB 86234, BR 21798

LOOKING FOR LORRAINE: THE RADIANT AND RADICAL LIFE OF LORRAINE HANSBERRY
PERRY, IMANI
DB 92981

MYSTERIOUS LIFE AND CALLING: FROM SLAVERY TO MINISTRY IN SOUTH CAROLINA
RILEY, CHARLOTTE S.
DB 84674

NEVER CAUGHT: THE WASHINGTONS’ RELENTLESS PURSUIT OF THEIR RUNAWAY SLAVE, ONA JUDGE
DUNBAR, ERICA ARMSTRONG
DB 88898

RABBIT: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MS. PAT
WILLIAMS, PATRICIA
DB 89915

STORMY WEATHER: THE LIFE OF LENA HORNE
GAVIN, JAMES
DB 69545

TIGERBELLE: THE WYOMIA TYUS STORY
TYUS, WYOMIA
DB 93189