February is Black History Month, the time we celebrate all the achievements and accomplishments of black men and women. We should always celebrate the important acts of many African-Americans but this is time we really take the time to reflect on them. But unfortunately, many figures and events are missing from the history textbooks. Fortunately, there are great books out there, including the list here, that delve more into black history and open our eyes to the history makers we did not know exist. Discover the defining moments that made Black History Month such an important month to celebrate.
Meet the youngest known child to be arrested for a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963, in this moving picture book that proves you’re never too little to make a difference.
Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African-Americans by Kadir Nelson
Told through the unique point of view and intimate voice of a one-hundred-year-old African-American female narrator, this inspiring book demonstrates that in gaining their freedom and equal rights, African-Americans helped our country achieve its promise of liberty and justice—the true heart and soul of our nation.
Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America by Andrea Davis Pinkney
HAND IN HAND presents the stories of ten men from different eras in American history, organized chronologically to provide a scope from slavery to the modern-day. The stories are accessible, fully-drawn narratives offering the subjects’ childhood influences, the time and place in which they lived, their accomplishments and motivations, and the legacies they left for future generations as links in the “freedom chain.” This book will be the definitive family volume on the subject, punctuated with dynamic full color portraits and spot illustrations by two-time Caldecott Honor winner and multiple Coretta Scott King Book Award recipient Brian Pinkney. Backmatter includes a civil rights timeline, sources, and further reading.
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison
Featuring forty trailblazing black women in American history, Little Leaders educates and inspires as it relates true stories of breaking boundaries and achieving beyond expectations…Among these biographies, readers will find heroes, role models, and everyday women who did extraordinary things – bold women whose actions and beliefs contributed to making the world better for generations of girls and women to come.
Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney
This picture book is a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the momentous Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in, when four college students staged a peaceful protest that became a defining moment in the struggle for racial equality and the growing civil rights movement.
Middle Grade & YA Books
Before John Glenn orbited the earth or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space. This audiobook brings to life the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, four African-American women who lived through the Civil Rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the movement for gender equality, and whose work forever changed the face of NASA and the country.
Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the Selma Voting Rights March by Lynda Blackmon Lowery
As the youngest marcher in the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Albama, Lynda Blackmon Lowery proved that young adults can be heroes. Jailed nine times before her fifteenth birthday, Lowery fought alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. for the rights of African-Americans. In this memoir, she shows today’s young readers what it means to fight nonviolently (even when the police are using violence, as in the Bloody Sunday protest) and how it felt to be part of changing American history.
The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin
On July 17, 1944, a massive explosion rocked the segregated Navy base at Port Chicago, California, killing more than 300 sailors who were at the docks, critically injuring off-duty men in their bunks, and shattering windows up to a mile away. On August 9th, 244 men refused to go back to work until unsafe and unfair conditions at the docks were addressed. When the dust settled, fifty were charged with mutiny, facing decades in jail and even execution. This is a fascinating story of the prejudice that faced black men and women in America’s armed forces during World War II, and a nuanced look at those who gave their lives in service of a country where they lacked the most basic rights.
Through the powerful stories of five enslaved people who were “owned” by four of our greatest presidents, this book helps set the record straight about the role slavery played in the founding of America. From Billy Lee, valet to George Washington, to Alfred Jackson, faithful servant of Andrew Jackson, these dramatic narratives explore our country’s great tragedy—that a nation “conceived in liberty” was also born in shackles.
Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance by Simone Biles and Michelle Burford
There is more to Simone than the nineteen medals—fourteen of them gold—and the Olympic successes. Through years of hard work and determination, she has relied on her faith and family to stay focused and positive, while having fun competing at the highest level and doing what she loves. Here, in her own words, Simone takes you through the events, challenges, and trials that carried her from an early childhood in foster care to a coveted spot on the 2016 Olympic team.
The Light of Truth by Ida B. Wells-Barnett edited by Mia Bay and Henry Louis Gates Jr.
In this collection, Wells’s anti-lynching crusade comes alive. Through brilliant social analysis, she exposed lynching as part of a larger framework of subjugation in which white people used violence as a deliberate tactic to combat black economic progress in the southern USA. Wells won international renown for her investigative journalism, leading her on lecture tours around the Northern States and Europe, where she rallied support against lynching.
The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Hollis Robbins
This collection comprises work from forty-nine writers arranged into sections of memoir, poetry and essays on feminism, education and the legacy of black women writers. Many of these pieces engage with social movements like abolition, women’s suffrage, temperance and civil rights, but the thematic centre is black women’s intellect and personal ambition. The diverse selection includes well-known writers like Sojourner Truth, Hannah Crafts and Harriet Jacobs, as well as lesser-known writers like Ella Sheppard, who offers a firsthand account of life in a world-famous singing group. Taken together, these incredible works insist that the writing of black women writers be read, remembered and addressed.
Discover the beautiful complexity, rich cultural traditions, and bountiful contributions of some of today’s most powerful black women with this one-of-a-kind celebration of their diversity, power, fortitude, spirituality, and tenacity! Packed with anecdotes, affirmations, and inspirational essays from women of diverse backgrounds, Black Girls Rock! will empower and inspire you to be your best self.
We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates
“We were eight years in power” was the lament of Reconstruction-era black politicians as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of white supremacist rule in the South. Now Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the tragic echoes of that history in our own time: the unprecedented election of a black president followed by a vicious backlash that fueled the election of the man Coates argues is America’s “first white president.”
The Original Black Elite: Daniel Murray and the Story of a Forgotten Era by Elizabeth Dowling Taylor
In this outstanding cultural biography, the author of the New York Times bestseller A Slave in the White House chronicles a critical yet overlooked chapter in American history: the inspiring rise and calculated fall of the black elite, from Emancipation through Reconstruction to the Jim Crow Era—embodied in the experiences of an influential figure of the time, academic, entrepreneur, and political activist and black history pioneer Daniel Murray.