Black History Month: We Need Diverse Books Now More Than Ever


We Need Diverse Books (Courtesy We Need Diverse Books)

By Whit Fuller, Arts Writer


It’s important to recognize organizations like We Need Diverse Books and their promotion of Black voices in literature as Black History Month 2022 has just ended.

We Need Diverse Books

Black History Month began in 1976 as an event to honor the accomplishments and experiences of Black people and others of African descent. This year’s theme is Black Health and Wellness. The U’s Black Cultural Center hosted numerous events throughout the month, including a screening and panel discussion of “The Color of Medicine: The Story of Homer G. Phillips Hospital” to engage with the theme of Black contributions and achievements in scholarship and medicine. The center hosted a community read of Reginald Dwayne Betts’s debut book of poetry “Felon.” Betts recently launched the Freedom Books program to bring author visits, book circles and library resources to prisons and juvenile detention centers. 

Black books and writers have been emphasized through events during this February’s Black History Month celebrations. It is becoming increasingly important to highlight these voices and stories as public school book bans begin taking aim at texts by diverse authors. The non-profit organization, We Need Diverse Books, was founded by a community of writers, professionals in publishing and illustrators to uplift the voices of marginalized identities and celebrate the diversity of the literary world.

The organization launched after a tweet went viral in 2014 about an all-white panel of publishing professionals. Ellen Oh, Lamar Giles and Aisha Saeed are among some of the organization’s founding members. WNDB’s Black Creatives Fund sponsors programs for Black writers to workshop and revise their manuscripts under the mentorship of published authors, or for already published writers to further hone their skills. Participants are given the opportunity to submit their work to editors for publication. Previous mentors include Nic Stone, author of “Dear Martin” and “Dear Justyce,” and Dr. Jewell Parker Rhodes, author of “Ghost Boys” and “Black, Brother, Black, Brother.” Several other mentors served during the 2021 programs, mentoring 12 writers for an extended period.  

Support Black Literature

Programs and initiatives like those supported by We Need Diverse Books allow Black voices to be amplified and push for equity in the publishing industry. The organization provides an extensive guide on finding diverse books from a variety of identities including LGBTQIA, people with disabilities, people of color, gender diverse individuals and others. By providing resources and guides on diverse books to children and adults not only during holidays or celebrations like Black History Month, the organization is extending the accessibility and outreach of OwnVoices works. 

Reading books by Black authors across genres reminds readers that Black stories can have fantastical elements or depict everyday life without needing to center solely on Black struggles or reincarnate trauma for an audience. 

As Black History Month comes to a close readers can consider adding books by Black authors to their reading lists or engaging with the U’s Black Cultural Center throughout the semester. If nothing else — diversifying one’s reading list is a good way to learn about Black experiences and support OwnVoices works. 


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