First Lines for Black History Month

This is a special edition of First Lines Friday for black history month. These titles are a sampling of the list given by Nisi Shawl in her “annotated list of 40 black science fiction works that are important to your understanding of its history”

First Line Friday is a series of blog articles posted on the first Friday of every month. The first line of a story, we’re told, must hook the reader. Implied is that the reader will not buy the book if the first line isn’t great. These entries are from Amazon, my personal library, or other online booksellers. Do these first lines hook you? Do you want to read more?

For first lines for black history month this is the cover of Blake by Martin R Delany on a black background shades of orange creates a woodcut-like print of a man with a gun over jungle style leaves.

On one of those exciting occasions during a contest for the presidency of the United States, a number of gentlemen met in the city of Baltimore.

Blake: or; The Huts of America (1862) by Martin R. Delany 

For first lines for black history month this is the cover of Of One Blood by Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins and is a photo portrait of a black woman with a tall hat adorned with feathers and wearing a high collar dress.

The recitations were over for the day. It was the first week in November and it had rained about every day for the entire week; now freezing temperature added to the discomforture of the dismal season.

Of One Blood, or The Hidden Self (1903) by Pauline Elizabeth

This is the cover of Babel-17. Mostly black it has geometric maze-like designs in orange and yellow over the black on the lower half of the cover

It’s a port city.

Here fumes rust the sky, the General thought. Industrial gases flushed the evening with oranges, salmons, purples with too much red.

Babel-17 (1966) by Samuel R. Delany 

Cover of Mumbo Jumbo is an orange background with the title and author name in large, bold block letters that are on different colored blacks

A true sport, the Mayor of New Orleans, spiffy in his patent-leather brown and white shoes, his plaid suit, the Rudolph Valentino parted-down-the-middle hair style, sits in his office. 

Mumbo Jumbo (1972) by Ishmael Reed

Sold, to Mister Bascombe Wade of Willow Springs, one negress answering to the name Sapphira.

Mama Day (1988) by Gloria Naylor

As soon as he entered the room, Baines blurted out, “We want you to find us a viable human heart, fast.”

Brown Girl in the Ring (1998) by Nalo Hopkinson 

I awoke to darkness.

I was hungry—starving!—and in pain.

Fledgling (2005) by Octavia E. Butler

When I was eight, my papai took me to the part to watch a king die.

The Summer Prince (2013) by Alaya Dawn Johnson

The Summer Prince (2013) by Alaya Dawn Johnson

I sang a song as I sprang from the womb—which is not unusual. 

The Record Keeper (2019) by Agnes Gomillion  

Lisette Toutournier sighed. She breathed in again, out, in, the marvelous air smelling of crushed stems, green blood bruised and roused by her progress along this narrow forest path.

Everfair: A Novel (2016) by Nisi Shawl


There are no affiliate links in this post. I don’t make a cent off of the books listed on this page. Usually these titles are pulled at random. They are here for your enjoyment. And to entice you to buy more books.

I’ve constructed this list with deep gratitude to Nisi Shawl’s post “A Crash Course in the History of Black Science Fiction” 

Do You Want to Read More?

Did you enjoy this list? Check out previous First Line Fridays posts. Want to read more stories by black science fiction authors? Check out this list of stories available online compiled by Nnedi Okorafor

 Which of the First Lines in honor of black history month spoke to you? Did you buy it?

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