WE APPRECIATE YOUR PATIENCE: As we transition our order fulfillment and warehousing to W. W. Norton select titles may temporarily appear as out-of-stock. Please check your local bookstores or other online booksellers.

About the Black Lives Series


Pairing highly qualified writers with subjects whose lives illuminate the breadth, diversity, and richness of Black experiences, the Black Lives series produces brief, authoritative biographies of individuals of African descent who profoundly shaped history.

Black Lives is the first attempt by a publisher to tell the fullest range of stories about the individual women and men who most profoundly shaped African American, Afro Latin, and African history.  Each book in our series is intended to add a chapter to our larger understanding of the breadth of the experiences of black people as these have unfolded through history. Using a variety of approaches, both interpretive and thematic, these biographies illuminate the evolution of the concept of a “Black” identity, as these definitions competed with each other contemporaneously and shifted dynamically over time. The books in this series will trace the indelible mark that individuals of African descent have left on their worlds, and how the lives of these figures embody both significant contributions to civilization and, at times, critiques of definitions of race and practices of racism in their societies.  It is our hope that the books in this series will show the reciprocal relation between the achievements of Black people and the larger world in which those experiences unfolded.  We hope the cumulative effect of these biographies will be to display the diverse richness of the lives and times of the subjects of these biographies, across time and place, to illustrate the individual and collective ways that black lives have always mattered.

The series is being advised by three distinguished scholars: David Blight, Sterling Professor of History at Yale (and author of an award-winning, best-selling biography of Frederick Douglass); Jacqueline Goldsby, Thomas E. Donnelly Professor of African American Studies and English at Yale; and Henry Louis Gates (’73), the Alphonse Fletcher, Jr. University Professor at Harvard University.

“In launching its Black Lives series of highly-readable and definitive biographies, Yale University Press has boldly committed to seeding a massive cultural project aimed at telling the collective African American epic through the life-stories of the individual historical figures who created it.  Calling upon the finest scholars and creative writers to animate each life of the women and men featured in the series, the Press seeks to narrate the history of the Black Experience in a new and exciting way, through the many lives that, taken together, comprise the larger whole of African American history. This is an inspired, exciting, and unprecedented endeavor in the history of academic publishing, and I am honored to join my co-editors, Professors Jackie Goldsby and David Blight, and our colleagues at the Yale University Press, in helping it to grow and expand.”—Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

“The time has finally come for a line of books devoted to Black biography, and Yale University Press has the reach to make it happen. These biographies will surprise readers because we’re asking authors to do more than recount a life; we want interpretations and arguments that challenge what we think we know about Black history. We’re recruiting an amazing line-up of authors—scholars who write like journalists, and journalists who think like scholars. Our nation needs more critical thinking and cross-cultural engagement with the lessons Black Lives can teach us. This is going to be a fantastic series, and I can’t wait to read these books myself.”—Jacqueline Goldsby

Praise for the Series:

"We need more Black biographies. . . . Biography matters: It reveals the importance of individual experiences and contributions. . . . The hard truth is that this dearth of biographies is not always about a lack of sources. Yale University Press’s new Black Lives series seeks to address this hard truth."—Kellie Carter Jackson, The Nation