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Find more Top 10 Black History Audiobooks
These audiobooks, reviewed between February 1, 2012, and February 1, 2014, focus on individuals whose lives and stories create black history.
12 Years a Slave. By Solomon Northup. Read by Louis Gossett. 2013. 8hr. Blackstone, CD, $76 (9781482916171).
In a gruff, weather-beaten, but unbowed voice, Gossett strikes a delicate balance between moral outrage, humility, and sheer world-weariness over the sufferings Northup witnessed and endured in this riveting, heartbreaking 1853 account of his kidnapping—as a free man—and subsequent sale to a succession of owners in the Deep South.
Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock. By David Margolick. Read by Carrington MacDuffie. 2011. 8hr. Tantor, CD, $71.99 (9781452634180).
An iconic 1957 photograph captures a moment in history: a black student on her way to the newly desegregated high school and the angry young white girl in the background. MacDuffie’s gentle southern accent draws listeners into this dramatic story of two women and their lives before and after.
Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him. By David Henry and Joe Henry. Read by Dion Graham. 2013. 9hr. Tantor, CD, $42.99 (9781452615578).
Graham puts heart and soul into his reading of the life of Pryor and the turbulent times that shaped him. Listeners might feel that Graham is touched by the “groundbreaking genius” of Pryor, a man whose “raw, edgy, colorful, hip humor” paved the way for contemporary comics.
It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership. By Colin Powell. Read by the author. 2013. 7.5hr. Harper, CD, $34.99 (9780062196859).
Powell effectively creates an intimate storytelling session as he reads his memoir, filled with revealing and sometimes humorous recollections of his years in the public eye.
King Peggy: An American Secretary, Her Royal Destiny, and the Inspiring Story of How She Changed an African Village. By Peggielene Bartels and Eleanor Herman. Read by J. Karen Thomas. 2012. 14hr. Books on Tape, CD, $40 (9780307879073).
Unexpectedly chosen to succeed her uncle as king of Otuam, Bartels returns to Africa. Thomas’ reading, with a measured pace and rhythmic cadence, lends an air of traditional storytelling that highlights the charm of Bartels’ recollections.
Miles: The Autobiography. By Miles Davis and Quincy Troupe. Read by Dion Graham. 2012. 17hr. AudioGO, CD, $99.95 (9780792784814).
Graham channels legendary jazz trumpeter Davis in this tell-all oral history that chronicles the artist’s musical life and illustrates his impact on music, culture, and history.
Mom & Me & Mom. By Maya Angelou. Read by the author. 2013. 4hr. Books on Tape, CD, $30 (9780449808245).
In a measured cadence and thoughtful tone, Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Angelou recounts her complicated relationship with her mother. Angelou’s powerful words and stories keep listeners riveted.
My Song. By Harry Belafonte and Michael Shnayerson. Read by Harry Belafonte and Mirron Willis. 2011. 19.5hr. Books on Tape, CD, $45 (9780307932822).
Part insider show-business story and part commentary on social activism, Belafonte’s memoir traces his life. Reading the first chapter, octogenarian Belafonte sets the stage; Willis continues the narration, assuming a Caribbean lilt that adds authenticity to the memories.
NPR American Chronicles: Civil Rights. By Michele Norris. Read by Michele Norris and others. 2011. 3hr. HighBridge, CD, $24.95 (9781611745085).
NPR reporter Norris’ familiar and soothing voice bridges 26 NPR interviews, stories, and accounts in this riveting collection of “defining moments” of the civil rights movement. Music, including freedom-song clips, is scattered amid these extraordinary accounts of courage and valor.
A Slave in the White House: Paul Jennings and the Madisons. By Elizabeth Dowling Taylor. Read by Judith West and Kevin Kenerly. 2012. 11hr. HighBridge, lib. ed., CD, $73 (9781611748611); 11 hr. CD, $34.95 (9781611748598).
In clear, brisk tones West conveys a well-researched portrait of Paul Jennings, who was born a slave, became slave valet to President James Madison, and was later freed. Kenerly energetically reads Jennings’ accompanying account of his years with Madison.
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