10 Excellent Black Historical Audiobooks

10 Excellent Black Historical Audiobooks

Books

There’s nothing better than a beautifully written, well-narrated audiobook. Whether I’m trying to learn about a moment in history or simply relax, audiobooks have become one of my go-to methods of reading. And when it comes to Black historical audiobooks, there is a wide and wonderful world to choose from. I’m looking for two things when I pick out audiobooks: an interesting, well-written book and a narrator who can do it justice. In fact, good audiobook narrators do much more than that. They can bring a story to life. Their accents and intonation, the emotion they add to the telling — all these things create an experience that is unique to audiobooks.

Books have existed for a long time, but audiobooks are a uniquely modern medium. They bring traditions of oral storytelling to life in our homes, making stories and great storytelling accessible for so many. Which is why you’re never gonna hear me say that reading audiobooks isn’t real reading. Haven’t we learned better than that by now?

These Black historical audiobooks, set in the U.S., Canada, France, Uganda, and Nigeria, feature stories both incredible and heartbreaking, and oftentimes both. Courageous characters, wronged men, willful women, and communities fighting back against injustice fill these stories to the brim. They are hard and hopeful and honest, even when reality is not always as it seems. So sit back, and let these stories be told.

The American Daughters Audiobook cover The American Daughters Audiobook cover

The American Daughters by Maurice Carlos Ruffin

Narrator: Lynnette R. Freeman

A sharp-witted girl named Ady joins up with a secret society of Black women working together to undermine the Confederacy in this Civil War-era novel about slavery, sisterhood, and the fight to be free. When Ady and her beloved mother are separated, Ady is left adrift. But when she meets a free Black woman at the Mockingbird Inn, she is introduced to a clandestine group called The Daughters. For the first time in a long time, Ady can imagine a future for herself again, one involving freedom and her new sisters by her side.

Kintu audiobook coverKintu audiobook cover

Kintu by Jennifer Makumbi

Narrator: Kalungi Ssebandeke

Following generations of Kintu Kidda’s clan from the 1750s onward, Kintu explores a family’s “cursed bloodline.” On his way to swear loyalty to the new leader of the Buganda Kingdom in what is now Uganda, Kintu Kidda accidentally unleashes a curse that will plague his family for centuries. He and four of his descendants will have to learn how to live life with this curse even as they try to carve out a better future.

The Rib King audiobook coverThe Rib King audiobook cover

The Rib King by Ladee Hubbard

Narrator: Korey Jackson and Adenrele Ojo

When the Barclays, a once wealthy white family, fall on hard times, they decide to sell their talented Black cook’s rib sauce as their own alongside a caricature of August, who works as their groundskeeper. Neither August nor Miss Mamie will be paid for their part, even as the Barclays profit. August feels a rage growing inside him, and soon, his feelings over this injustice explode outward with terrible consequences for all those involved.

At Night All Blood is Black Audiobook coverAt Night All Blood is Black Audiobook cover

At Night All Blood Is Black by David Diop

Narrator: Dion Graham

A Senegalese man fighting with the French in WWI earns a reputation for his brutality on the battlefield, but what his comrades don’t understand is he’s reliving the horrific death of his childhood friend on the battlefield, enacting horrors before giving them the mercy he was unable to give Mademba. It’s grief — and maybe a touch of madness — driving Alfa, not rage. Narrated by Dion Graham, who brings Alfa and Mademba to life through Diop’s visceral prose, the audiobook is a masterpiece of surreal historical fiction.

The Last Gift of the Master Artists audiobook coverThe Last Gift of the Master Artists audiobook cover

The Last Gift of the Master Artists by Ben Okri

Narrator: Ashley Zhangazha

Before the arrival of the Transatlantic slave trade in Africa, two young lovers meet by chance. One is a prince, the other a gifted daughter from a secretive tribe. Their feelings are almost instant, and the two vow to meet again. But when their reunion never takes place, the prince sets out on a quest to find his love no matter the cost.

Mademoiselle Revolution Audiobook coverMademoiselle Revolution Audiobook cover

Mademoiselle Revolution by Zoe Sivak

Narrator: Imani Jade Powers

After escaping the Haitian Revolution, the daughter of a white plantation owner and an enslaved woman finds herself in the midst of another revolution taking shape in France. Sylvie is only beginning to understand her complicity in what took place back in Haiti as she falls in with the revolutionary Maximilien Robespierre and his equally brilliant mistress, Cornélie Duplay. Robespierre sees her as a symbol of a more egalitarian world, while Cornélie offers her a chance to open up her mind and worldview. But as her affections are torn and violence comes to Paris, Sylvie will once again have to decide where she stands.

In the Upper Country audiobook coverIn the Upper Country audiobook cover

In the Upper Country by Kai Thomas

Narrator: Milton Barnes, Tymika Tafari, and Wesley French

1800s Dunmore, Canada, is a town where those fleeing enslavement in the United States can settle down. But when a slave hunter is shot dead by an old woman who’s only recently arrived, a journalist named Lensinda is summoned to take down her story before she can be condemned for her crime. The woman doesn’t want to confess, though. Instead, she proposes a trade: a story for a story. As their tales unravel, Lensinda is forced to face the past she’s tried to bury if she wants to learn the truth about the woman before her.

Tempest audiobook coverTempest audiobook cover

Tempest by Beverly Jenkins

Narrator: Kim Staunton

A mail-order bride inadvertently shoots her new husband, Dr. Colton Lee, upon their first meeting. It’s not exactly the meeting either one of them expected. But Reagan is the type of woman who would leave everything behind to brave the Wyoming Territory and marry a widower sight unseen. Neither expects to find love in this relationship, but soon, it begins to seek them out all the same.

The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store audiobook coverThe Heaven and Earth Grocery Store audiobook cover

The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride

Narrator: Dominic Hoffman

A community of Black and Jewish people in 1970s Pennsylvania are rocked when a skeleton is recovered from the bottom of a well. They all know who that skeleton belonged to and how it got there. The residents of Chicken Hill have done what they needed to do in order to protect themselves and each other. But now the truth is coming out, and they’ll all have to reckon with it.

Carolina Built audiobook book coverCarolina Built audiobook book cover

Carolina Built by Kianna Alexander

Narrator: Shayna Small and Leon Nixon

This historical fiction novel celebrates the story of real-life pioneering real-estate magnate Josephine N. Leary. Josephine has always dreamed of creating a better life for herself and her family. A self-taught businesswoman, she is determined to build a legacy. But it’s hard to balance life as a mother, daughter, wife, and granddaughter with her ambitions. That isn’t going to stop her, though.

If you want even more excellent black historical audiobooks to read, check out these recommendations:

Black Historical Fiction To Read in Your Book Club

#OwnVoices Black Historical YA Books

Black Girls of YA Historical Fiction

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