Black Country Books: Top Picks

On March 29, Grammy-winning musical powerhouse Beyoncé released her eighth studio album, Cowboy Carter. A concept album, it was met with widespread acclaim and ignited discussions on Black musicians' place in the prejudiced world of country music. In this intricate and beautifully crafted album, Beyoncé looks to explore her country roots and inspires others to uncover theirs. Let's take a look at some Black country-themed books that'll be sure to take you on a historical journey.

As a child, country music allowed Alice Randall to bond with her mother. Years later, it became her platform as she became the first Black woman to co-write a number-one country hit. Her invaluable memoir My Black Country celebrates the genre's renaissance and highlights the triumphs of Black Americans who struggled in the face of racism, prejudice and classism.

Life is a journey. For Lensinda Martin, that journey is filled with reckoning, self-discovery and survival. In the Upper Country depicts Lensinda's unlikely bond with an old woman whose arrival from the Underground Railroad poses several questions. The woman's complex storytelling may hold the key to a shocking murder that Lensinda must solve before it's too late.

African American Westerns have a rich and dynamic culture. No one knows that more than Mia Mask, a young journalist who examines the role of Blacks in the rumble-tumble world of Western films and television. Black Rodeo is a literary timeline detailing iconic Western classics ranging from Sidney Poitier's Buck and the Preacher to Jamie Foxx's titular role in Django Unchained. From beginning to end, Mask takes us down a road that blends film history and the Western unforgettably.

Long before Beyoncé, country music had indeed been under an umbrella of racist whitewashing. In Black Country Music, we learn that in recent years the genre has experienced a reckoning of Black performers challenging and changing what country music should look and sound like. From the funky 70s sounds of Tina Turner's "Nutbush City Limits" to the trap pop beats of Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road," Black music will forever leave its' imprint in the most revolutionary way. 

What do you do when things appear hopeless? It's simple: you persevere. In the page-turning novel The American Daughters, Ady and her mother Sanite are enslaved in the New Orleans French Quarter until their separation. Initially, Ady feels dejected until she meets newly freed Lenore, who invites her to a clandestine society of spies. Inspired by her newfound community, Ady becomes liberated and learns to fight for her freedom.

Do you have a favorite Black Western book? Put your titles down, down, down, down in the comments below.