As it’s Black History Month, I’m focusing on works by black authors and I’m lucky enough to have access to some great libraries and be able to afford to buy books. However, I know not everybody is as fortunate as me, and I know people love free things, so I’ve compiled this list of five speculative fiction novels by black authors that are in the public domain. These books are completely free! If you click on the cover, it’ll bring you to either the Project Gutenberg or the Archive.org page for each novel. The first three can also be found for free on Amazon while the last two are only available on Archive.org. For the final two, I recommend downloading the PDF as the other formats aren’t as readable.
The Conjure Women by Charles W. Chesnutt is, according to Wikipedia, the first known speculative fiction collection written by a person of color.
First published in 1892, this stirring novel by the great writer and activist Frances Harper tells the story of the young daughter of a wealthy Mississippi planter who travels to the North to attend school, only to be sold into slavery in the South when it is discovered that she has Negro blood. After she is freed by the Union army, she works to reunify her family and embrace her heritage, committing herself to improving the conditions for blacks in America.
Self-published in 1899 and sold door-to-door by the author, this classic African-American novel—a gripping exploration of oppression, miscegenation, exploitation, and black empowerment—was a major bestseller in its day. The dramatic story of a conciliatory black man and a mulatto nationalist who grow up in a racist America and are driven to join a radical movement dedicated to the creation of an all-black nation in Texas, Imperium in Imperio had a profound influence on the development of black nationalism.
Of One Blood first appeared in serial form in Colored American Magazine in the November and December 1902 and the January 1903 issues of the publication, during the four-year period that Hopkins served as its editor.
Hopkins tells the story of Reuel Briggs, a medical student who couldn’t care less about being black and appreciating African history, but finds himself in Ethiopia on an archeological trip. His motive is to raid the country of lost treasures — which he does find in the ancient land. However, he discovers much more than he bargained for: the painful truth about blood, race, and the half of his history that was never told.
Note -Download the PDF version as due to the fact it was originally doubled columned, when OCR was used it resulted in an imperfect text version.
An early example of Afrofuturistic writing, this 1904 novel is the first imagining of a realistic post racist society in America. The protagonist loses control of an airship in 1906 and awakens in 2006 to find that, much to his surprise, America has made many strides towards becoming an egalitarianism.
Note – Again, the PDF version of this is recommended as the text is constantly interrupted by the page headers