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The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, by James Weldon Johnson (1912)

In this fictional autobiography, Johnson follows the intellectual and psychic trials of a young man of mixed race. While Johnson’s “Lift every Voice and Sing” is his most famous work, this book ranks as an important and early exploration of the challenges posed by racial identity.

Lift Every Voice and Sing: A Celebration of the Negro National Anthem; 100 Years, 100 Voices, by Julian Bond and Sondra Kathryn Wilson,eds. (2000)

Written for the centennial anniversary of the song, this book is not a scholarly exploration of the song’s history. Instead, it celebrates the song and its place within the 20th-century civil rights movement. Short essays from a wide range of contributors, including Maya Angelou, Bill Clinton, and Colin Powell, make this a multi-voiced and inspirational read.

Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. Du Bois, and the Struggle for Racial Uplift, by Jacqueline Moore (2003)

This book explores the competing approaches to “racial uplift” at the beginning of the 20th century. The ideas of both Du Bois and Washington are sympathetically explored and placed within their larger historical context.

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