Black History Month Recommendations from Team NFF

February 23, 2023

This year for Black History Month, we asked NFF staff what they were listening to, watching, reading, and doing to honor Black history and celebrate Black futures. Check out these Black History Month recommendations from the NFF team! 

The ABCs of Black History, written by Rio Cortez and illustrated by Lauren Semmer. If you are looking to begin educating and inspiring the young children in your life about the many contributions of African Americans, give them The ABCs of Black History. My four-year-old granddaughter loves this book! It is a beautiful alphabet picture book that presents key names, moments, and places in Black history with text lyrically written by poet Rio Cortez. This New York Times Bestseller is a story of big ideas – P is for Power, S is for Science and Soul. Of significant moments – G is for Great Migration. Of iconic figures – H is for Zora Neale Hurston, X is for Malcom X. It's an ABC book like no other, and a story of hope and love. Aisha Benson, CEO. 

Brian “Goose” Davis, Legends Barbershop, Los Angeles. Many Black men are distrustful of the medical establishment because of negative experiences with the healthcare system – painful experiences from the distant past to present day, that they’ve heard of from family and community members and felt personally. My barber, Goose Davis, is part of a larger effort to promote health screenings for Black men by inviting trusted healthcare professionals into the “safe space” of the barbershop. Cecil Daniels, Director, Enterprise Operations & Support 

Emergent Strategy, by adrienne maree brown. Inspired by the writing of Octavia Butler, this book is relevant to all of us, but especially for NFF as we shift and explore the ways we want to bring about change at the systemic and organizational levels. Brown’s writing is built on years of experience through successes and hard lessons combined with a community perspective on how change impacts us all. She combines the challenges of embedded and internalized oppressive structures and ideologies with the nuances of a beautiful vision, all while asking readers how we can minimize harm and create change. Haydée Cuza, Director, Consulting 

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, by David W. Blight. This book was recommended to me by a history buff friend who both read the print version and listened to the audiobook during COVID lockdowns shortly after it was published. I figured that, if I wanted to do a deep dive into Frederick Douglass, I should do it right and get the most comprehensive biography that I could find. What makes this biography unique is the author was able to use original manuscripts from a private collection when he researched and wrote the book. He also devotes a portion of the story to Douglass’s marriages and extended family. LeNola Potami, Manager, Underwriting 

Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi. The novel is about two sisters in 18th century Ghana and the paths of eight generations of their descendants in both Ghana and the United States. I loved reading this novel as it connects to my own identity. My father is Nigerian, and my mother is from Mississippi – both Black, but culturally different. Gyasi was able to highlight the interconnectedness and differences through the various perspectives of the characters. Each time I read it, I pick up something new that I missed. Homecoming is a book I will always recommend – not just for Black History Month, but any time someone needs a book suggestion. Chiweta Uzoka, Specialist, Consulting 

How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America, by Clint Smith. This book follows Smith as he travels to nine historic sites around the country and considers how the story of slavery is told or omitted. His travels include Monticello, Angola Prison, and his hometown of New Orleans. I just started the book, but I really enjoyed hearing Smith speak at a Philadelphia book reading where he shared some of these experiences along with his poetry. You can hear him speak about the book on NPR and read this Atlantic article in which Smith asks what the US can learn from Germany regarding, “how to memorialize the sins of our history.” Beth Doreian, Interim CFO 

Kindred (FX and Hulu limited series, based on the novel by Octavia Butler). I'd like to lift up the words of this show's creator, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, from this New York Times interview: “After watching this, I want people to question their assumptions about what they think they know about history, about themselves. I want them to read Octavia’s work … in honoring Octavia’s book, I’m trying to find new things to talk about. We should never stop telling these stories, especially when people try to erase them from history books.” Lee Farmer, Director, Loan Origination 

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, by Ibram X. Kendi. I chose to share this title as it explores the brutal facts of being Black in America over the last 400 years. The book investigates the works, theories and practices of thought leaders who have brought to life these harsh realities for centuries, responding directly to those who assert to this very day that we exist in a post-racial society. It’s a challenging read, but I think that challenging reads are important. Reading about these thinkers encourages me to reflect on my ancestors' past and the past of this country – and on how our history affects the world we live in today. I also find that no matter how much I think I know about how we (America) found ourselves here, I learn something new every time I read a book like this. Asia Edwards, Director, Loan Servicing 

Star Trek: Deep Space 9: Far Beyond the Stars (Season 6, Episode 13). I love this series – and this episode in particular – because it tackles social issues such as racism and social/cultural progress in such an artistic, tactful and intentional manner. While the series as a whole takes place in the 24th century, this episode centers around a fictional African American Sci-Fi writer in the 1950s. Sci-Fi as a genre is generally used as a literary method of escapism, but African Americans are almost always absent from fictional depictions of the future. As a young child, watching Captain Benjamin Sisko portrayed by Avery Brooks allowed my imagination to run wild and envision a future world where diverse peoples could simply exist. Patrick Campbell, Specialist, Enterprise Operations & Support 

“Valentines for Seniors” Black History Month Project. My local Montessori school’s Pan-African and Caribbean (PAC) affinity group launched this project in 2021 to send cards to a nearby senior living facility that had not seen any visitors due to the pandemic in 2021. Since then, we have grown to sending more than 200 Valentine’s Day cards to older adults at two facilities. My daughters and I craft mailboxes that the children use to “mail” their valentines to the seniors, and then we deliver them to the facility the weekend before Valentine’s Day. This year, folks are finally coming together in person, so I’m hosting PAC members at our home to complete the cards as a group. I will also be going into the toddler and early childhood classrooms to read stories connecting the project to friendship and love for one’s neighbor. Julia Ferguson, NFF Board Liaison 

The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson. I’ve always wanted to learn more about the Great Migration since it’s such an impactful but overlooked period of American history. This was one of the largest and longest periods of migration within the United States, yet it’s barely taught in schools; until now, it has been very lightly researched. I’m just at the beginning of the book, and I’ve already learned so much. Isabel Wilkerson deftly weaves together the true stories of three different African Americans migrating north or west, bringing to life the hopes and dreams that compelled them to migrate, as well as the real challenges they faced on their journey. She also includes new historical information that she’s uncovered, making sure these stories do not remain untold or ignored. Mariesa Kubasek, Manager, Consulting