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Black Studies


This interdisciplinary guide has been compiled to enable the discovery of Black scholarship in the collections of UCL Libraries, including both print and digital resources, and we welcome your input to help us develop it further. If you have any suggestions for content or general feedback please let us know by filling in the form via the 'Help improve this guide' button on the left hand side of this page. We especially welcome resource recommendations from those studying in Science-based disciplines.


Three friends, William H. Johnson, ca. 1944-45This guide focuses on sources originating from authors / creators of African and African-Caribbean descent with reference to topics of relevance to the Black Diaspora. See also our guide to Studies of the Americas for literature originating from and relating specifically to Latin America. 

This guide also includes advice on techniques for searching our catalogues and databases to find literature on topics of particular relevance to Black Studies and by Black authors in books and journals as well as films, images and other primary source material.

For further advice relating to resources in your subject area please contact your specialist Librarian via our Subject Guides.

We welcome suggestions for new acquisitions that contribute to the diversification of our collections.

Image: Three friends, William H. Johnson, ca.1944-56. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation

New books

Shotgun Seamstress

A cut & paste celebration of Black punk and outsider identity, this is the only complete collection of the fanzine Shotgun Seamstress, a legendary DIY project that centered the scope of Blackness outside of mainstream corporate consumerist identity.

A History of the Harlem Renaissance

The Harlem Renaissance was the most influential single movement in African American literary history. The movement laid the groundwork for subsequent African American literature, and had an enormous impact on later black literature world-wide. In its attention to a wide range of genres and forms - from the roman à clef and the bildungsroman, to dance and book illustrations - this book seeks to encapsulate and analyze the eclecticism of Harlem Renaissance cultural expression.

New daughters of Africa: an international anthology of writing by women of African descent.

Three decades after her pioneering anthology, Daughters of Africa, Margaret Busby curates an extraordinary collection of contemporary writing by 200 women writers of African descent, including Zadie Smith, Bernardine Evaristo and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. A glorious portrayal of the richness and range of African women's voices, this major international book brings together their achievements across a wealth of genres.

Routledge Handbook of Afro-Latin American Studies

This Handbook provides a comprehensive roadmap to the burgeoning area of Afro-Latin American Studies. Afro-Latins include the civilization phenomenon of the African diaspora in the Americas, which developed during the period of slavery, obtaining cultural contributions from indigenous and European worlds and which today is enriched by new social configurations derived from contemporary migrations from Africa.

Who Hears Here?

Representing twenty-five years of commentary and scholarship, these essays document Ramsey's search to understand America's Black musical past and present and to find his own voice as an African American writer in the field of musicology. This far-reaching collection embraces historiography, ethnography, cultural criticism, musical analysis, and autobiography, traversing the landscape of Black musical expression from sacred music to art music, and jazz to hip-hop.

When We See Us

A major new study of Black figurative art from Africa and the African diaspora, covering 100 years from the early 20th century to now. Published to accompany a major exhibition at Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town, this book presents a comprehensive exploration of Black self representation through portraiture and figuration, celebrating Black subjectivity and Black consciousness from Pan-African and Pan-Diasporic perspectives.

Unsettling the Great White North : Black Canadian history

Unsettling the Great White North offers a chronological, regional, and thematic compilation of some of the latest and best scholarship in the field of Black Canadian history.

Afro Atlantic Histories

A colossal, panoramic, much-needed appraisal of the visual cultures of Afro-Atlantic territories across six centuries Named one of the best books of 2021 by Artforum Afro-Atlantic Histories brings together a selection of more than 400 works and documents by more than 200 artists from the 16th to the 21st centuries that express and analyze the ebbs and flows between Africa, the Americas, the Caribbean and Europe.

Pleasure in the News

Critics often chastised the twentieth-century black press for focusing on sex and scandal rather than African American achievements. In Pleasure in the News, Kim Gallon takes an opposing stance--arguing that African American newspapers fostered black sexual expression, agency, and identity.

Tomashi Jackson

Jackson's paintings synthesize connections shared by local residents of color around experiences of transportation, housing, agriculture and labor. The first monograph on Tomashi Jackson (born 1980), The Land Claim illustrates the Cambridge- and New York-based artist's unique work and research methodology that focuses on the historic and contemporary lived experiences of Indigenous, Black and Latinx families on the East End of Long Island, and how the role of women, the meaning of labor and the sacredness of land link these communities.

Betye Saar: Serious Moonlight

Rarely seen installation works that exemplify this pioneering artist's critical focus on Black identity and Black feminism. Showcasing a lesser-known aspect of Saar's art, Betye Saar: Serious Moonlight provides new insights into her explorations of ritual, spirituality and cosmologies, as well as themes of the African diaspora.

Fragments of Epic Memory

New ways of understanding Caribbean visual culture, from historical photographs following emancipation to contemporary transnational perspectives. Anchored by an extensive selection from the world-class Montgomery Collection of Caribbean Photographs at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Fragments of Epic Memory situates a range of prints, postcards, daguerreotypes and albums from the period just after emancipation in 1838 within a broader context of visual culture in the Caribbean.

Assembling a Black Counter Culture

In Assembling a Black Counter Culture, writer and musician DeForrest Brown, Jr, provides a history and critical analysis of techno and adjacent electronic music such as house and electro, showing how the genre has been shaped over time by a Black American musical sensibility.

Wangechi Mutu

Between Afrofuturism, fantasy and postcolonialism: the most comprehensive monograph to date on the fantastical worlds of Wangechi Mutu. Wangechi Mutu takes viewers on journeys of material, psychological and sociopolitical transformation; this volume explores her most recent groundbreaking work. Over the past two decades, Mutu has created chimerical constellations of powerful female characters, hybrid beings and fantastical landscapes.

Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour - Frederick Douglass

A visual and literary meditation juxtaposing Isaac Julien's artworks with archival images of Frederick Douglass and essays that consider his enduring legacy. This sumptuously illustrated artist's book and reader documents Lessons of the Hour (2019), the ten-screen film installation and series of related photographic artworks by the internationally acclaimed artist Isaac Julien CBE RA (born 1960), which honor the public and private life of one the most important figures in US history: Frederick Douglass.

Black Existential Freedom

The history of slavery, colonization, subjugation, gratuitous violence, and the denial of basic human rights to people of African descent has led Afro-Pessimists to look at black existence through the lens of white supremacy and anti-blackness. Against this trend, Black Existential Freedom argues that Blackness is not inherently synonymous with victimhood. Rather, it is inextricable from existential freedom and the struggle for political liberation.

Really Free: the Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe

An unprecedented look at Nellie Mae Rowe's art as a radical act of self-expression and liberation in the post-civil rights-era South. During the last 15 years of her life, Nellie Mae Rowe lived on Paces Ferry Road, a major thoroughfare in Vinings, Georgia, and welcomed visitors to her "Playhouse," which she decorated with found-object installations, handmade dolls, chewing-gum sculptures and hundreds of drawings.

African American Literature in Transition, 1960-1970: Volume 13

This volume considers innovations, transitions, and traditions in both familiar and unfamiliar texts and moments in 1960s African American literature and culture. It interrogates declarations of race, authenticity, personal and collective empowerment, political action, and aesthetics within this key decade.

The First Black Archaeologist

The First Black Archaeologist reveals the untold story of a pioneering African American classical scholar, teacher, community leader, and missionary. Born into slavery in rural Georgia, John Wesley Gilbert became a nationally known figure in the early 1900s, but his achievements are little known today.

Untangling Blackness in Greek Antiquity

How should articulations of blackness from the fifth century BCE to the twenty-first century be properly read and interpreted? This important and timely new book is the first concerted treatment of black skin color in the Greek literature and visual culture of antiquity. In charting representations in the Hellenic world of black Egyptians, Aithiopians, Indians, and Greeks, Sarah Derbew dexterously disentangles the complex and varied ways in which blackness has been co-produced by ancient authors and artists; their readers, audiences, and viewers; and contemporary scholars.

African art now

African Art Now is an expansive overview featuring some of the most interesting and innovative artists working today. Far-reaching in its scope, this book celebrates the diversity and dynamism of the contemporary African art scene across the continent today.

Blackness As a Universal Claim

In this bold and provocative new book, Damani Partridge examines the possibilities and limits for a universalized Black politics. German youth of Turkish, Arab, and African descent use claims of Blackness to hold states and other institutions accountable for racism today. Partridge tracks how these young people take on the expressions of Black Power, acting out the scene from the 1968 Olympics, proclaiming "I am Malcolm X," expressing mutual struggle with Muhammad Ali and Spike Lee, and standing with raised and clenched fists next to Angela Davis.

Phenomenology of Black Spirit

Ryan Johnson and Biko Mandela Gray study the relationship between Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit and Black Thought from Frederick Douglass to Angela Davis. This staging of an elongated dialectical parallelism between Hegel's classic text and major 19th-20th-century Black thinkers explodes the western canon of philosophy.

Subversive Habits

Subversive Habits, Shannen Dee Williams provides the first full history of Black Catholic nuns in the United States, hailing them as the forgotten prophets of Catholicism and democracy. Drawing on oral histories and previously sealed Church records, Williams demonstrates how master narratives of women's religious life and Catholic commitments to racial and gender justice fundamentally change when the lives and experiences of African American nuns are taken seriously.

Class Interruptions

As downward mobility continues to be an international issue, Robin Brooks offers a timely intervention between the humanities and social sciences by examining how Black women's cultural production engages debates about the growth in income and wealth gaps in global society during the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

What is Black art?

What is Black art? This vital anthology gives voice to a generation of artists of African, Asian and Caribbean heritage who worked within and against British art institutions in the 1980s, including Sonia Boyce, Lubaina Himid, Eddie Chambers and Rasheed Araeen. It brings together artists' statements, interviews, exhibition catalogue essays and reviews, most of which have been unavailable for many years and resonate profoundly today. 

Revolution Is Love: a Year of Black Trans Liberation

Revolution Is Love: A Year of Black Trans Liberation is the powerful and celebratory visual record of a contemporary activist movement in New York City, and a moving testament to the enduring power of photography in activism, advocacy, and community. Through photographs, interviews, and text, Revolution Is Love celebrates the power of shared joy and struggle in trans community and liberation.

Selling Black Brazil

In the early twentieth century, Brazil shifted from a nation intent on whitening its population to one billing itself as a racial democracy. Anadelia Romo shows that this shift centered in Salvador, Bahia, where throughout the 1950s, modernist artists and intellectuals forged critical alliances with Afro-Brazilian religious communities of Candomblé to promote their culture and their city. 

Panama in Black

In Panama in Black, Kaysha Corinealdi traces the multigenerational activism of Afro-Caribbean Panamanians as they forged diasporic communities in Panama and the United States throughout the twentieth century. Drawing on a rich array of sources including speeches, yearbooks, photographs, government reports, radio broadcasts, newspaper editorials, and oral histories, Corinealdi presents the Panamanian isthmus as a crucial site in the making of an Afro-diasporic world.

Sonia Boyce

The first major publication to explore the work of Sonia Boyce, one of Britain's most exciting contemporary artists, including her newest and most ambitious work to date. The British artist Sonia Boyce (b. 1962) is celebrated for depicting intimate social encounters that explore interpersonal dynamics in drawing, photography, video, and installation, using images and sounds captured during the participatory art events she initiates.

The Cambridge Companion to Caribbean Music

The diverse musics of the Caribbean form a vital part of the identity of individual island nations and their diasporic communities. At the same time, they witness to collective continuities and the interrelatedness that underlies the region's multi-layered complexity. This Companion introduces familiar and less familiar music practices from different nations, from reggae, calypso and salsa to tambú, méringue  and soca. 

Hey America!

This is the untold story of black music - its triumph over racism, segregation, undercapitalised record labels, media discrimination and political anxiety - told through the perspective of the most powerful office in the world: from Louis Armstrong's spat with President Eisenhower and Eartha Kitt's stormy encounter with Lady Bird Johnson to James Brown's flirtation with Nixon, Reaganomics and the 'Cop Killer' scandal.

Settlers : journeys through the food, faith and culture of Black African London

A journey into the hidden, vibrant world of Black African London. What makes a Londoner? What is it to be Black, African and British? And how can we understand the many tangled roots of our modern nation without knowing the story of how it came to be?

Black Disability Politics

In Black Disability Politics Sami Schalk explores how issues of disability have been and continue to be central to Black activism from the 1970s to the present. Schalk shows how Black people have long engaged with disability as a political issue deeply tied to race and racism. 

Black British Lives Matter

This is more than a book - it's an incitement to change people's perceptions.

Black Matrilineage, Photography, and Representation

Black Matrilineage, Photography, and Representation questions how the Black female body, specifically the Black maternal body, navigates interlocking structures that place a false narrative on her body and that of her maternal ancestors. Drawing on a wide range of scholarly inquiry and contemporary art, this book addresses these misconceptions and fills in the gaps that exist in the photographic representation of Black motherhood, mothering, and mutual care within Black communities. 

In the Black fantastic

In the Black Fantastic assembles art and imagery from across the African diaspora that embraces ideas of the mythic and the speculative. It brings to life the forces that shape Afrofuturism - the cultural movement that conjures otherworldly visions out of the everyday of Black experience - and beyond, looking at how speculative fictions in Black art and culture are boldly reimagining perspectives on race, gender, identity and the body in the 21st century.

Writing Black Scotland

A critical approach to blackness in devolutionary Scottish writing Writing Black Scotland examines race and racism in devolutionary Scottish literature, with a focus on the critical significance of blackness. The book reads blackness in Scottish writing from the 1970s to the early 2000s, a period of history defined by post-imperial adjustment. Critiquing a unifying Britishness at work in black British criticism, Jackson argues for the importance of black politics in Scottish writing.

Black Oot Here

What does it mean to be Black in Scotland today? How are notions of nationhood, Scottishness, and Britishness implicated in this? Why is it important to archive and understand Black Scottish history? Reflecting on the past to make sense of the present, Francesca Sobande and layla-roxanne hill explore the history and contemporary lives of Black people in Scotland. Based on intergenerational interviews, survey responses, photography, and analysis of media and archived material, this book offers a unique snapshot of Black Scottish history and recent 21st century realities. 

Decolonizing African Studies

This book explores how decolonization and decoloniality provide liberationist knowledge to question and replace the hegemony of Western knowledge systems imposed on Africa. It critically examines the silencing and exclusion of subalterns in global knowledge production and the far-reaching implications of this for pedagogy and policy. 

A little devil in America: in praise of Black performance

At the March on Washington in 1963, Josephine Baker reflected on her life and her legacy. She had spent decades as one of the world's most successful entertainers but told the crowd, "I was a devil in other countries, and I was a little devil in America, too". Inspired by these words, celebrated poet and music critic Hanif Abdurraqib has written a profound meditation on Black performance in the modern age, in which culture, history and his own lived experience collide.

African American Studies

This book brings together chapters authored by leading African American Studies/Black Studies scholars in the USA and the UK. It focuses on the roots of the discipline, reaching back to early brilliant Black intellectuals, discusses the historical and epistemological development of formal Black Studies, setting these in their socio-political contexts, and presents research methodologies and guidelines that are appropriate and valid for people of African descent.

Brief History of Black British Art

Brief History of Black British Art

Taking as its starting point the London-based Caribbean Artists Movement, this concise introduction showcases the work of over sixty Black British artists from the 1960s until the present.

African Artists

A groundbreaking A-Z survey of the work of over 300 modern and contemporary artists born or based in Africa. Modern and Contemporary African art is at the forefront of the current curatorial and collector movement in today's art scene. This groundbreaking new book represents the most substantial appraisal of contemporary artists born or based in Africa available. 

Caribbean Art

Caribbean Art

An updated and expanded edition of this classic, illustrated survey of Caribbean art, featuring the work of over 100 artists from the period of colonialism to the present day.

As We Rise: Photography from the Black Atlantic

As We Rise: Photography from the Black Atlantic

As We Rise presents an exciting compilation of photographs from African diasporic culture. With over one hundred works by Black artists from Canada, the Caribbean, Great Britain, the United States, South America, as well as throughout the African continent, this volume provides a timely exploration of Black identity on both sides of the Atlantic.

Black Artists Shaping the World

Black Artists Shaping the World

Black Artists Shaping the World celebrates the diversity of work being produced today by Black artists from around the globe, introducing twenty-six contemporary artists from Africa and of the African diaspora.

The Black Index

The Black Index

The artists featured in The Black Index--Dennis Delgado, Alicia Henry, Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, Titus Kaphar, Whitfield Lovell, and Lava Thomas--build upon the tradition of Black self-representation as an antidote to colonialist images.

Who's Black and Why?

Who's Black and Why?

The first translation and publication of sixteen submissions to the notorious eighteenth-century Bordeaux essay contest on the cause of black skin--an indispensable chronicle of the rise of scientifically based, anti-Black racism.


Soundies and the Changing Image of Black Americans on Screen

In the 1940s, folks at bars and restaurants would gather around a Panoram movie machine to watch three-minute films called Soundies, precursors to today's music videos. Susan Delson takes a deeper look at these fascinating films by focusing on the role of Black performers in this little-known genre.

Visualising slavery

Visualising Slavery

The purpose of this book is to excavate and recover a wealth of under-examined artworks and research materials directly to interrogate, debate and analyse the tangled skeins undergirding visual representations of transatlantic slavery across the Black diaspora. 

Politics of Black joy

The Politics of Black Joy

During the antebellum period, slave owners weaponized southern Black joy to argue for enslavement. In contrast, abolitionists wielded sorrow by emphasizing racial oppression. Both arguments were so effective that a political uneasiness on the subject still lingers. In this book Lindsey Stewart analyses Zora Neale Hurston's uses of the concept of Black southern joy. 

Earliest African American literatures

The Earliest African American Literatures

This groundbreaking collection of thirty-eight biographical and autobiographical texts chronicles the lives of literary black Africans in British colonial America from 1643 to 1760 and offers new strategies for identifying and interpreting the presence of black Africans in this early period. 

Sistuhs in the struggle

Sistuhs in the Struggle

The first oral history to fully explore the contributions of black women intellectuals to the Black Arts Movement, Sistuhs in the Struggle reclaims a vital yet under-researched chapter in African American, women's, and theater history.

On Black Media Philosophy

Building on concepts from Black studies and cultural studies, Towns develops an insightful critique of this dominant conception of the human in media philosophy and introduces a foundation for Black media philosophy.

Africa fashion

Africa Fashion

Unique exploration of how the cultural renaissance following independence evolved into today's dynamic African fashion revolution. Africa Fashion explores how radical post-independence social and political re-ordering sparked a cultural renaissance across the continent.  With contributions from experts on cloth, fashion and cultural history as well as the voices of makers and designers, this inspiring and arresting book offers a window into one of the most innovative, exciting and thoughtful areas of fashion today.

Black Celebrity

Black Celebrity examines representations of postbellum black athletes and artist-entertainers by novelists Caryl Phillips and Jeffery Renard Allen and poets Kevin Young, Frank X Walker, Adrian Matejka, and Tyehimba Jess.

Key resources