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Learn more about The Black Clown with these books, videos, and recordings related to the show.


The Souls of Black Folk

By W. E. B. Du Bois, 1903

This seminal book of essays by Du Bois examines the sociology of race and African-Americans in the United States.

The Ways of White Folks

By Langston Hughes, 1934

A collection of short stories that engages with themes of race, racism, and the challenges of integration in a divisive American culture, composed in Hughes’ unmistakably lush and wry language.

The Big Sea: An Autobiography

By Langston Hughes, 1940

Hughes’ first autobiography, covering the years from his childhood up until the end of the Harlem Renaissance.

Harlem Renaissance

By Nathan Huggins, 1971

This critically acclaimed deep dive into the art and artists of the Harlem Renaissance uses the locus of Harlem as a backdrop to talk about the lived experiences of Black Americans and the country as a whole.


By Octavia Butler, 1979

This fictional novel by acclaimed science-fiction author Butler remains one of her most acclaimed and influential novels. A young black woman inexplicably travels between 1976 Los Angeles and a pre-Civil War Maryland, in a story that is revelatory and harrowing at once.

The Life of Langston Hughes: Volumes I & II

Volume I: 1902-1941: I, Too, Sing America
Volume II: 1941-1967: I Dream a World
By Arnold Rampersad, 1986

An exhaustively detailed look at the life of the notoriously private poet.

The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes

Edited by Arnold Rampersad, 1994
Associate Edited by David Roessel

In this comprehensive collection of Hughes’ poetry, Rampersad and Roessel chronologically place the works alongside careful annotation.

Langston Hughes: Critical Perspectives, Past and Present

Edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and K. A. Appiah, 2000

Looking at the expanse of poems, prose, essays, and plays written by Langston Hughes, Gates and Appiah present historic and contemporary criticism of Hughes’ oeuvre from the likes of Countee Cullen, Raymond Smith, and Arnold Rampersad.

Prophets of Protest: Reconsidering the History of American Abolitionism

By Timothy Patrick McCarthy, 2006

Lecturer and director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, McCarthy urges a shift from the accepted narratives of white abolitionists to the unheard or underrepresented histories of Black abolitionists in America.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michelle Alexander, 2010

Taking a deep look at the criminal justice system, author and legal scholar Alexander exposes the immense scale of incarceration of black males in America.

Hip Hop’s Inheritance: From the Harlem Renaissance to the Hip Hop Feminist Movement

By Reiland Rabaka, 2011

Tracking political shifts, alongside the artistic movements of Black peoples, Rabaka explores the complex interrelation of art and social change, moving from the Harlem Renaissance, through the Civil Rights Movement, Black Power, gay rights, and the waves of feminist thought.

Citizen: An American Lyric

By Claudia Rankine (The White Card), 2014

Rankine’s New York Times best-selling book of prose poetry exposes the quotidian microaggressions which lead to macro-aggressive racialized violence. This painfully beautiful book continues to inspire and challenge readers worldwide.

Between the World and Me

By Ta-Nehisi Coates, 2015

In the tradition of Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, Coates examines the historic racialized violence in the United States through the lens of his own childhood in Baltimore, and his experiences as a journalist and parent.

They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and A New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement

By Wesley Lowery, 2016

Journalist Lowery looks at the rise of Black Lives Matter in the context of numerous social and racial justice movements in this inspiring, well-researched book.


Looking for Langston

Directed by Isaac Julien, 1989

A poetic re-examination of Langston Hughes’ life and times, through the lens of Black gay maleness. Dreamy and filmed in stark black-and-white, Director Julien revisits the sexual energy of the Harlem Renaissance in his search for the queer Langston Hughes.

Jazz: A Film By Ken Burns

Directed by Ken Burns, 2001
Produced by PBS

An award-winning documentary series that tracks the rise of jazz from the 1920s into the modern era. Following musicians Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and more, Burns places Black narratives as the driving force of his examination of this musical form.

Slavery By Another Name

Directed by Sam Pollard, 2012
Produced by PBS

From Douglas A. Blackmon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, this harrowing documentary reveals the ways that slavery persisted beyond the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Watch on PBS

Black History

Produced by University of California Television, ongoing

A video podcast from UCTV. This series produced by the UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy looks at a myriad of sociological, historical, and political issues.

Watch on UCTV

The Reconstruction Era and the Fragility of Democracy

Part 1: The World the War Made
Produced by Facing History and Ourselves

From Brookline-based non-profit Facing History and Ourselves, the first video in this 7-part series takes a deep look at the Reconstruction Era following the Civil War and its effects on the nation. The materials are aimed at educators but provide fascinating information for all.

Watch on Facing History and Ourselves


The Glory of Negro History

By Langston Hughes, 1955

Weaving poems and songs into his narrative, Hughes details the story of Black struggle from slavery to the founding of the NAACP, featuring the voices of Harlem Renaissance poet Claude McKay and Ella Fitzgerald.

Purchase from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

Rhapsodies in Black: Music and Words from the Harlem Renaissance

Rhino Records, 2000

A 4-disc box-set with accompanying 100-page booklet that samples poetry and music from the Renaissance. Poems from Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas Johnson, and many more read by contemporary Black artists like Quincy Jones and Alfre Woodard. Musical selections from Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Louis Armstrong, and many more.

Still Processing

Hosted by Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris, ongoing

Produced by the New York Times and Pineapple Street Media, this podcast focuses on the varied intersections of black identity and pop culture, politics, food, and so much more.

Listen at the New York Times