10 Books By Women That Empower You To Boss Up All 2021

Check out these hot reads by Black authors on leadership, resilience, and more.

Good Reads

Women's History Month continues, and we're getting all the feels for empowerment, sister tribes, and career wins. And within all of that, many of us are seeking a much-needed escape from what's happening the world. (Politics and pandemic, anyone?) Maybe you're trying to get some knowledge to pour into your spiritual and intellectual self. Well, a dive into a great read always does the trick. Here are 10 great books for Black women—written for us, by us—that will definitely spark bigger and better boss moves this year.


'In Search of The Color Purple' by Salamishah Tillet

Alice Walker's 1983 book The Color Purple is clearly a classic that will remain on top book lists until the end of time. (And the book indeed is better than the film—word to Celie.) Books about the process or journey of things always inspire me when I feel like I've hit a roadblock in completing a project, so this one intrigues. It includes details on Walker's research and interviews with women who were part of the journey in expanding the story's reach including queen boss Oprah herself.



'This Is Only a Test: What Breast Cancer Taught Me' by Chris-Tia Donaldson

Harvard-trained and Detroit-bred, Chris-Tia Donaldson is a survivor in more ways than one. As CEO and founder of haircare line TGIN (Thank God It's Natural), she not only empowers women to take charge of every aspect of their lives including their own version of beauty, she continues to thrive in her lane. This book focuses in on her path in overcoming breast cancer and what the whole ride taught her about faith, love and business.



'The Other Black Girl: A Novel' by Zakiya Dalila Harris

This fiction work has awesome themes about finding community when you're the "only one" in a predominately white work environment. It centers on two women who work in New York's publishing world and is written by an editor who's worked in the industry. Micro-aggressions, upward mobility, office politics, and betrayal—it's all there and then some.



'Carefree Black Girls: A Celebration of Black Women in Pop Culture' by Zeba Blay

Blay is a film and culture writer born in Ghana and based in New York, and she brings the soul and savvy of both to this book. It includes a collection of essays that explore the lives and achievements of our favorite Black women. (Think Janet "Aunt Viv" Hubert, Cardi B, and Josephine Baker). She made the hashtag "carefreeblackgirls" popular on Twitter, and hits on points about misogyny, bigotry and gender stereotypes in this book in a way only Blay can.



'Just as I Am: A Memoir' by Cicely Tyson

A Hollywood legend and icon who lived more than nine decades and actively worked as an actress for six of them, Cicely Tyson definitely has some major jewels to drop about life, confidence, career, and motivation. She talks about how she chooses to say yes to roles, the resilience of Black women, and thriving through major historical moments, from Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination to former President Barack Obama's inauguration.



'Expect F*cking More: The 5 Keys to Business Success for African American Women' By Dr. Bee Thomas

What's great about this book is that it offers historical context and background before getting into the business tips. It's good to have research to provide a platform for a plan of action in reaching your business goals. Thomas, an entrepreneur and consultant who has etched a lane in the CBD industry, gives us all the things and more with this one.



'Bee Fearless: Dream Like a Kid' by Mikaila Ulmer

She's a teen entrepreneur whose been named among Time magazine's top 30 young business leaders, and her story of turning fear into advocacy and profit can inspire adults and kids alike. Her flaxseed-infused lemonade business started as a way to support bee conservation and has expanded into a multi-million-dollar brand sold in stores nationwide. She even got a deal on Shark Tank as a pre-teen. Whether you're a parent or simply want a story of ingenuity to light a fire in your tail, get into this.



'First & Only: A Guide to Thriving at Work and In Life' by Jennifer R. Farmer 

A veteran PR professional and strategist, Farmer gives the goods on monetizing what you're good at and owning your talents. She emphasizes that the book is "not about how to get or keep a job," but how to "heal yourself so you can sustain yourself." She takes a holistic approach to coaching one through the journey of overcoming traumas, maintaining hope and finding the courage to sometimes stand alone in embracing one's power.



'Get Over 'I Got It': How to Stop Playing Superwoman, Get Support, and Remember That Having It All Doesn’t Mean Doing It All Alone' by Elayne Fluker

Elayne Fluker has been riding for women's empowerment since her days as an editor at some of our favorite publications, from Martha Stewart Living and Conde Nast Digital to Essence and Vibe Vixen. Now as founder and CEO of Chic Rebellion Media, where she hosts the Support is Sexy podcast, highlighting the stories of women entrepreneurs, she continues building her own legacy. Her latest book gets into the nitty-gritty of the isolating superwoman complex many of us struggle with and digs into how to build strong networks of support for long-term success.



'Beyond Engagement: The Value of Love-Based Leadership in Organisations' by Yetunde Hofmann

Hofmann, a UK-based executive leadership coach, shifts the narrative of business from strictly transactional (aka "What can you do for me, sis?") to heart-based ("What's the intention? What can I do for you?"), a way of connection that many highly successful business women have found to be the key to success. She's all about "living more enjoyably" in all aspects of life, a refreshing retreat from the dog-eat-dog mantras of workplace politics.


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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

This article is in partnership with Staples.

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