A classic feminist novel, The Awakening (1899) by Kate Chopin, follows a well-to-do white woman from Louisiana on a perilous path of self-discovery. The novel challenges the strict mores of a society that provides only one path of self-fulfillment for women, namely marriage and motherhood.
The Souls of Black Folk (1903) by W. E B DuBois is a classic document of African-American cultural history. In this collection of essays, DuBois articulates, among other things, his influential theory of "double consciousness," which describes how African-Americans wrestle between two identities as black and American.
Mules and Men, published in 1935, was Zora Neale Hurston' s second book, and it was the first collection of black folklore published in America.
David Levering Lewis' When Harlem Was in Vogue (1981) is a classic historical study of the Harlem Renaissance. Lewis surveys all the major writers, artists, and intellectuals associated with the movement.
The Bluest Eye (1970) by Toni Morrison portrays a young black girl's obsession with blue eyes and blond hair. Having accepted society's definition of beauty as white, she has learned to despise her own black features, which leads to tragic consequences.
Richard Wright's Native Son (1940) is a powerful depiction of how the oppressive environment of Chicago determines the fate of Bigger Thomas, a young black man who is doomed to act out the worst fears of racist whites.