Who doesn’t love a good podcast? They’re an easy way to learn new information, stay up to date on current events, and enjoy a bit of entertainment. Finding a good podcast is like finding a good restaurant in your neighborhood—you’ll keep going back for more. Another bonus of podcasts is that they provide informative perspectives void of awkward debates or confrontational intensity. If you’re looking to add new content to your queue while raising your racial awareness, try giving these eight Black history podcasts a listen. Each one centralizes race, culture, and politics as experienced by people of color in America and beyond.
8 Black History Podcasts to Add to Your Queue Right Now
This audio series accompanies the controversial yet necessary 1619 Project funded by The New York Times and conceptualized by journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones. The 1619 Project launched in August 2019 and marked the 400th year after the first enslaved people arrived from Africa to the U.S. It is a journalistic endeavor that includes interactive articles, photo journals, a children’s book, and a namesake podcast. The 1619 Project Podcast currently has six episodes, each of which are less than an hour long. The series begins with the founding of the U.S. as an independent democracy and journeys through the impacts of chattel slavery, capitalism, Black music, health care discrimination, and housing discrimination.
The 1619 Project as a whole aims to draw connections between enslavement and its lasting effects on American systems and culture. The reality is that American society continues to function and profit from the institutionalized legacy of slavery. It’s a heavy reality but one that we can’t ignore. The 1619 Project Podcast is an important listen because it directly confronts the ramifications of slavery, putting everything on the table in a clear, digestible format. If you’ve ever wondered what “institutionalized racism” means, this is the podcast for you.
Released a few months after its predecessor, Pod Save America, Pod Save the People examines current political issues from the perspective of people of color. This podcast doesn’t necessarily recount Black history, per se. Instead, it provides historical context to present-day issues, particularly ones that disproportionately affect communities of color. Hosted by well-known social justice activist DeRay Mckesson, each episode includes conversations with experts, scholars, or historians with extensive knowledge about the episode’s subject matter.
Pod Save the People also features internationally-recognized personalities like Reverend Al Sharpton and soccer superstar Megan Rapinoe. With hundreds of recorded episodes, no topic is off limits. And there is likely an episode for anything you can think of—the criminal legal system, #MeToo, Black mental health, COVID-19, voting rights, and Eurocentric beauty norms, just to name a few. New episodes are released every Tuesday, and they don’t follow any chronological order. So listeners can dive right in wherever they’d like.
3. Code Switch
National Public Radio (NPR) is one of few media outlets that remains relatively unbiased on the political spectrum, making its podcasts some of the best in terms of credibility and accuracy. Code Switch is NPR’s podcast that examines “how race affects every part of society.” The Code Switch production team is one of the most culturally diverse teams you could ask for, with multiple ethnic and gender identities represented. Code Switch truly exemplifies the saying “representation matters” because the diversity of the team lends itself to robust, well-rounded conversations about topics ranging from the school-to-prison pipeline to racial undertones in veganism and vegetarianism.
Code Switch began as a blog on NPR’s website in 2013, with occasional broadcast segments on local NPR affiliates. It became its own dedicated podcast outlet in 2016. With the self-prescribed commitment to put race in your face, this podcast is ideal for those who are already somewhat versed in racial issues and enjoy culturally significant conversations.
In the Black community, there is a growing emphasis on learning about the generations of people who came before us—our ancestors. This focus stems from the fact that enslavement makes it difficult for Black Americans to trace their lineage. When enslaved Africans were brought to America, their identities were erased. And they were forced to take on the names of their white owners. Companies like Ancestry and 23andMe help us understand where we come from but not who we come from. The Good Ancestor podcast, hosted by New York Times bestselling author and anti-racism educator Layla F. Saad, covers racial issues with this unfortunate fact in mind. It explores what it means to be a “good ancestor”—that is, someone who leaves a legacy of equity and improvement for the Black community. Many “good ancestors” of the past are nameless, and their efforts are often unknown and unrecognized.
This podcast highlights people who are doing the work and putting in the effort to dismantle racism and discrimination. Episode topics include motherhood, natural hair, spirituality, class, health and wellness, and feminism. For non-POC listeners, Good Ancestor is a crucial listen for understanding the everyday struggles and triumphs of people of color in America.
5. Seeing White
What does it mean to be white? That’s the question that the Seeing White podcast seeks to answer. This podcast takes a deep dive into the origins of the concept of “race” and its legacy of bigotry and white supremacy. Hosted by Duke University audio program director John Biewen, the episodes are a raw examination of the role whiteness has played in the world’s history of violence and destruction. Highlighting that the idea of “race” was a social construct based in the unethical and racist practice of eugenics, the podcast tackles assassination of Native Americans, citizenship discrimination against Asian immigrants, and the ways that white people—not ethnic minorities—have most benefited from affirmative action.
While sometimes unnerving, this podcast is necessary. Because the fact is, parts of American history are unnerving. And they don’t become any less so by sweeping people’s real experiences under the rug. The first step of healing is acceptance, and acceptance can only come from truth. Tune in to Seeing White to get some truth.
Black + Southern. That’s what the Blackbelt podcast is all about. Blackness isn’t a unitary experience, and geography—domestic and international—shapes the Black experience differently. The Blackbelt podcast discusses all things Black and Southern, focusing on stories of families in small, rural towns throughout the U.S. South. The term “Black Belt” initially referenced a region in Alabama that was known for its dark, rich soil, and eventually, it was used to describe Southern communities that were predominantly Black.
This podcast expands what typically comes to mind when thinking about what’s “Southern.” And it amplifies Black voices in an area of the country that boasts more than half of the U.S. Black population. Hosts Adena, Kara, and Katrina leave no stone unturned, covering topics that disproportionately impact Southern Black Americans. Including voting rights, protests and demonstrations, and hair discrimination. For a glimpse into a particularized community of Blackness that is a major part of larger Southern culture, give Blackbelt a listen.
For those of you who enjoy book clubs and movie reviews, this podcast is perfect for you. Noire Histoir features reviews of books, movies, and museums that are related to Black history. It’s a trifecta of entertainment, intellectual discussion, and resonant Black history and culture. Host Natasha McEachron shares detailed reviews and relevant context for some of the most recognized books and movies in Black culture, from Spike Lee’s School Daze film to Angela Davis’s book Women, Race & Class. The podcast episodes range in length—some are 30 minutes and some are five—but each of them honor Black history while celebrating the multitude of art forms in which Black people tell our stories. If you’re a media and culture enthusiast, you’ll be even more of one after listening to Noire Histoir.
Black History Buff is the ultimate Black history podcast. U.K.-based host Kur Lewis started the podcast in 2019 as a way to teach his young son about Black history from across the world. Many of the episodes highlight lesser-known Black history. Like Yasuki, the first Black samurai to serve in the Japanese military during the 1500s. Black history is as vast as the African Diaspora, that is, African peoples’ lineage across the world’s continents as a result of the transatlantic slave system.
The Black History Buff podcast gives prominence to the stories that don’t get told, spotlighting people of African heritage who persevered despite being forcibly brought to various foreign lands. If you like an added visual component, the podcast episodes are also uploaded to the Black History Buff YouTube page, where the narratives are accompanied by photos and stories of present-day history makers are sprinkled throughout. History and trivia lovers, this one’s for you.
Our ability to learn doesn’t stop once formal education ends. Fortunately, educational resources like podcasts exist so that we can be continuous, socially aware learners. With so many tools at our disposal that raise our awareness and consciousness, ignorance can no longer be an excuse for cultural barriers. People often wonder what they can do to contribute to change in our society. And an easy first step is simply listening.