The African American Experience: Graphic Novels

The African American Experience blog photo

I think that is what we do by preserving and telling our stories. If you don’t tell your stories, other people will tell their story about you. It’s important that we nurture and protect these memories. Things change. Existence means change. So, the kind of precious memories about being black for my generation won’t exist for my kids’ and grandkids’ generations unless we preserve them through fiction, through film, through comic books, and every other form of media we can possibly utilize to perpetuate the story of the great African-American people.” –Henry Louis Gates

Explore graphic novels about superheros and real-life heroes and discover the diversity in the genre.


Abbott by Saladin Ahmed

While investigating police brutality and corruption in 1970s Detroit, journalist Elena Abbott uncovers supernatural forces being controlled by a secret society of the city’s elite.


Bessie Stringfield : Tales of the Talented Tenth by Joel Christian Gill

This is the amazing true story of Bessie Stringfield, the first black woman to be inducted into the American Motorcyclist Association Hall of Fame and the Harley Davidson Hall of Fame, a pioneer who rode as a civilian courier for the US military across the country in the pre-Civil Rights era of the 1930s and ’40s, confronting Jim Crow laws in every ride.


Best Shot in the West : The Adventures of Nat Love by the McKissacks and Randy DuBurke

This graphic novel surveys the life of Nat Love, African American cowboy, renowned for his riding, roping, and sharpshooting.


Black by Kwanza Osejyefo, Tim Brown 3, and Jamal Igle

What if only Black people had superpowers? After miraculously surviving being gunned down by police, a young man learns that he is part of the biggest lie in history. Now he must decide whether it’s safer to keep it a secret or if the truth will set him free.


Black Comix Returns compiled by Damien Duffy and John Jennings

This massive volume is a brand-new collection of art and essays celebrating the vibrant African American independent comics community, spotlighting on the amazing diversity in the field today.


Black History In It’s Own Words by Ronald Wimberly and Others

Presented here are 39 quotations about Black history, ranging from the casual to the profound, from luminaries both past and present, all illustrated by noted artist Wimberly.


Family Business (Bitter Root, Vol. 1) by David Walker and Chuck Brown

In the 1920s, during the Harlem Renaissance, only the fading Sangerye Family, once known as the greatest monster hunters of all time, can save New York by curing the souls of those infected by racism and hate.


Fights : One Boy’s Triumph Over Violence by Joel Christian Gill

Fights is the visceral, deeply affecting memoir of the artist/author, chronicling his coming of age as a black child in a chaotic landscape of rough city streets and foreboding backwoods.


Fire!! : the Zora Neale Hurston Story by Peter Bagge

Noted underground artist Bagge tells and illustrates this bold and dazzling bio of the bold and dazzling woman who challenged the norms of what was expected of an African American woman in early 20th century society.


(H)afrocentric. Volumes 1-4 by Julianna “Jewels” Smith and Ronald Nelson

This literary tour-de-force tackles racism, patriarchy, gentrification, police violence, and the housing crisis–with humor and biting satire. When gentrification strikes the neighborhood surrounding Ronald Reagan University, the students combine their technically savvy and Black Millennial sensibilities to resist.


Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad by Michael Martin and Others (Juvenile)

Here’s a tense, exciting graphic novel of heroic Harriet Tubman, a true conductor of the Underground Railroad who helped countless others find their way to freedom.


Hip Hop Family Tree 1 by Ed Piskor

Originally serialized on the website Boing Boing, this is an encyclopedic comics history of the formative years of hip hop capturing the vivid personalities and magnetic performances of old-school pioneers and early stars. Continues with several other volumes.


Hot Comb by Ebony Flowers and Others

Hot Comb offers a poignant glimpse into black women’s lives and coming of age stories as seen across a crowded, ammonia-scented hair salon while ladies gossip and bond over the burn.


Incognegro : A Graphic Mystery by Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece

In the early 20th Century, lynchings were commonplace in the American South. A few courageous African American reporters risked their lives to expose these atrocities. Due to their light skin color, they could “pass” among whites. In this tale reporter Zane Pinchback goes undercover as a white man to investigate the arrest of his brother and save him from a lynch mob.


Josephine Baker by José-Louis Bocquet

Only 19 when she moved to Paris in 1925, this American dancer/singer/actress created a sensation, captivating audiences and rising to fame as the first black star on the world stage. After World War II and her time in the French Resistance, Baker devoted herself to the struggle against racial segregation.


Kindred : A Graphic Novel Adaptation adapted by Damien Duffy and John Jennings

Octavia E. Butler’s most celebrated, critically acclaimed work tells the story of Dana, a young black woman who is suddenly and inexplicably transported from her home in 1970s California to the pre-Civil War South, a classic now adapted in illustrative form..


Malcolm X : A Graphic Biography by Andrew Helfer and Randy DuBurke

Best known for his staunch and controversial black racial advocacy during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and for his time spent as a vocal spokesman for the Nation of Islam, this American Muslim minister was brutally assassinated for his pursuit of racial justice.


March : Book One by John Lewis and Others

This is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Followed by the sequels Book Two and Book Three.


Martin Luther King Jr. by Rachel Ruiz

This biography of the great civil rights leader in graphic novel form traces his life from his boyhood in Atlanta and his education through his role in the struggle for civil rights and his murder to his lasting influence today.


Miles Morales, Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis and Others

When Peter Parker falls, the world needs a Spider-Man – and young Miles Morales takes up the mantle! His web swinging adventures fill many volumes as he’s thrust into danger with only gut instinct, his best friend Ganke, and a thing called responsibility as his guides.


Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Connie Colwell Miller (Juvenile)

Congress called her “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement”. It all began on 12/1/1955, when Parks refused to relinquish her seat to a white passenger. Her courage inspired the black community to boycott the Montgomery buses for over a year, the first major direct act of the modern civil rights movement. She became an international icon and prominent activist.


The Silence of Our Friends by Mark Long and Others

A white family from a notoriously racist neighborhood and a black family from its poorest ward cross Houston’s color line, overcoming humiliation, degradation, and violence to win the freedom of five black college students unjustly charged with the murder of a policeman.


Strange Fruit : Uncelebrated Lives from Black History by Joel Christian Gill and Others

This anthology of graphic work tells nine stories of lesser-known African Americans using historical and cultural commentary.


When The River Rises by D.C. Walker and Bruno Oliveira

Inspired by true events, this thrilling chase features a juvenile delinquent and his estranged father struggling to escape Orleans Parish Prison as Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans.


Your Black Friend and Other Strangers by Ben Passmore

Passmore masterfully tackles comics about race, gentrification, the prison system, online dating, gross punks, bad street art, kung fu movie references, beating up God, and lots of other grown-up stuff with refreshing doses of humor and lived relatability.

Looking for more reading suggestions? JMRL encourages you to use What Do I Read Next? to receive personal recommendations from JMRL librarians.

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