Black History Month

Books that celebrate black history and culture

Origins of Black History Month

Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of blacks in U.S. history.


Black History Month 2020 Theme


Since 1976, every American president has designated February as Black History Month and endorsed a specific theme.


The Black History Month 2020 theme, “African Americans and the Vote,” is in honor of the centennial anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment (1920) granting women’s suffrage and the sesquicentennial of the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) giving black men the right to vote.


In the Radical Reconstruction period that followed the Civil War, newly freed black men made great political gains, winning office in Southern state legislatures and even Congress. The Southern backlash was swift and marked by the passage of “black codes” designed to intimidate black voters, prompting a call for formal, national legislation on the right to vote.

What is available for Elementary students?

Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold 250077 Big Book

A young girl flies above her apartment building rooftop, which is her "tar beach," and looks down on her neighborhood. Includes big book, teacher guide, audio cassette and 6 classroom copies.


A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr by David Adler 350043 Multiple Book

A brief, illustrated, biography of the Baptist minister and civil rights leader whose philosophy and practice of non-violent civil disobedience helped American blacks win many battles for equal rights.


Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport 350100 Multiple Book

Martin Luther King, Jr., grew up in a place where people used words that made him feel bad. This beautifully illustrated, award-winning book shows how Martin used words to fight for equal rights for black people. When Martin was growing up, he saw the words "Whites Only" all over town. But he remembered the words of his mother, "You are as good as anyone." Doreen Rappaport has taken the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. and woven in her own to create a captivating yet completely accessible book for young readers. This definitive picture book biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is an unforgettable portrait of a man whose dream changed America — and the world — forever. 2002 Caldecott Honor Book.


As Fast As Words Could Fly by Pamela Tuck 350631 Multiple Book

14-year-old Mason Steel takes pride in turning his father's excited ramblings about the latest civil rights incidents into handwritten business letters. One day Pa comes home with a gift from his civil rights group: a typewriter. Mason spends all his free time teaching himself to type. When a civil rights group wins a school desegregation case, Mason learns that now he will be attending a formerly all-white high school. Despite the injustice he faces, Mason takes a stand, enters a typing tournament and uses his skills to triumph over suspicions and racial prejudice.


Frederick Douglass: The Last Day of Slavery by William Miller 350557 Multiple Book

Born into slavery young Frederick dreams of the day he and his people will be free. Yet until that day comes, his only escape is through the books he reads, which take him to worlds far from his own. When a menacing overseer named Covey sees that Frederick is different from the others, he sets out to "break" the young reader. But Frederick's surprising response to Covey's brutality is an act of courage that frees forever what no person can hold captive: his spirit


The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba 350369 Multiple Book

When 14-year-old William Kamkwamba's Malawi village was hit by a drought in 2001, everyone's crops began to fail. His family didn't have enough money for food, let alone school, so William spent his days in the library. He came across a book on windmills and figured out how to build a windmill that could bring electricity to his village. Everyone thought he was crazy but William persevered and managed to create a functioning windmill out of junkyard scraps. Several years later he figured out how to use the windmill for irrigation purposes.

What is available for middle grades?

We've Got A Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March by Cynthia Levinson 350392 Multiple Book

We’ve Got a Job tells the little-known story of the 4,000 black elementary-, middle-, and high school students who voluntarily went to jail in Birmingham, Alabama, between May 2 and May 11, 1963. Fulfilling Mahatma Gandhi s and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. s precept to fill the jails, they succeeded where adults had failed in desegregating one of the most racially violent cities in America. Focusing on four of the original participants who have participated in extensive interviews, We’ve Got a Job recounts the astonishing events before, during, and after the Children’s March.


Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis 350535 Multiple Book

Eleven-year-old Elijah lives in Buxton, Canada, a settlement of runaway slaves near the American border. He's the first child in town to be born free, and he ought to be famous just for that. Unfortunately, all that most people see is a "fra-gile" boy who's scared of snakes and talks too much. But everything changes when a former slave steals money from Elijah's friend, who has been saving to buy his family out of captivity in the South. Now it's up to Elijah to track down the thief--and his dangerous journey just might make a hero out of him, if only he can find the courage to get back home.


The Watsons Go to Birmingham --1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis 350028 Multiple Book

Enter the world of ten-year-old Kenny and his family, the Weird Watsons of Flint, Michigan. When Momma and Dad decide it's time for a visit to Grandma, Dad comes home with the amazing Ultra-Glide, and the Watsons head South to Birmingham, Alabama...toward one of the darkest moments in America's history.


Black and White: The Confrontation between Reverend Fred L Shuttlesworth and Eugene "Bull" Connor by Larry Danee Brimner 350343 Multiple Book

In the nineteen fifties and early sixties, Birmingham, Alabama, became known as Bombingham. At the center of this violent time in the fight for civil rights, and standing at opposite ends, were Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene "Bull" Connor. From his pulpit, Shuttlesworth agitated for racial equality, while Commissioner Connor fought for the status quo. Relying on court documents, police and FBI reports, newspapers, interviews, and photographs, author Larry Dane Brimner first covers each man's life and then brings them together to show how their confrontation brought about significant change to the southern city. The author worked closely with Birmingham's Civil Rights Institute as well as with Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and his wife to bring together this Robert F. Sibert Honor Book, ALA Notable Children’s book, and Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Book of the Year.


One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia 350294 Multiple Book

In the summer of 1968, after traveling from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to spend a month with the mother they barely know, eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters arrive to a cold welcome as they discover that their mother, a dedicated poet and printer, is resentful of the intrusion of their visit and wants them to attend a nearby Black Panther summer camp.


Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney 350371 Multiple Book

In 1936, three children meet at the Mercy Home for Negro Orphans in New York State, and while not all three are orphans, they are all dealing with grief and loss which together, along with the help of a sympathetic staff member and the boxing matches of Joe Louis, they manage to overcome.


Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis 350052 Multiple Book

It's 1936, in Flint, Michigan. Times may be hard, and ten-year-old Bud may be a motherless boy on the run, but Bud's got a few things going for him. 1. He has his own suitcase full of special things. 2. He's the author of Bud Cardwell's Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself. 3. His momma never told him who his father was, but she left a clue: flyers advertising Herman E. Calloway and his famous band, the Dusky Devastators of the Depression! Bud's got an idea that those flyers will lead him to his father. Once he decides to hit the road and find this mystery man, nothing can stop him, not hunger, not fear, not vampires, not even Herman E. Calloway himself.


Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson 350579 Multiple Book

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.


The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis 350524 Multiple Book

The Mighty Miss Malone is one Deza Malone--dedicated student and member of a close-knit family whose motto is “we are a family on a journey to a place called Wonderful.” Unfortunately, the Great Depression is taking a toll that journey, and when Deza’s father leaves in search of work, the rest of the family soon has no choice but to follow. Despite the hardships, loss, and racism that defined the times, Deza never loses faith in her dreams or flags in her devotion to bringing her family together again.


Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America by Sharon Robinson 350345 Multiple Book

Sharon Robinson shares memories of her famous father in this warm loving biography of the man who broke the color barrier in baseball. Jackie Robinson was an outstanding athlete, a devoted family man and a dedicated civil rights activist. The author explores the fascinating circumstances surrounding Jackie Robinson's breakthrough. She also tells the off-the-field story of Robinson's hard-won victories and the inspiring effect he had on his family, his community. . . his country! Includes never-before-published letters by Jackie Robinson, as well as photos from the Robinson family archives.


Hidden Figures (Young Readers Edition) by Margot Lee Shetterly 350614 Multiple Book

Now in a special new edition perfect for young readers, this is the amazing true story of four African-American female mathematicians at NASA who helped achieve some of the greatest moments in our space program. 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 book 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.

What is available for High School?

March: Book One by John Lewis 350393 Multiple Book

The groundbreaking graphic novel memoir of a living legend of the civil rights movement, MARCH: BOOK ONE has swiftly become an iconic work. Created by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, this #1 New York Times bestseller is also a Coretta Scott King Honor book, a required text in classrooms across America, and the first graphic novel to win a Robert F. Kennedy Book Award.


The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas 350613 Multiple Book

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gang banger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil?s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does?or does not?say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.


Dear Martin by Nic Stone 350498 Multiple Book

Justyce McAllister is top of his class at Braselton Prep, captain of the debate team, and set for an Ivy League school next year- but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. He's eventually released without charges (or an apology), but the incident rattles him. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood, he can't seem to escape the scorn of his former peers or the attitude of his new classmates. The only exception: Sarah Jane, Justyce's gorgeous -and white- debate partner he wishes he didn't have a thing for. Justyce has studied the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. But do they hold up now? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out. Then Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up. Much to the fury of the white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly, Shots are fired. And Justyce and Manny are caught in the cross-hairs In the media fallout, it's Justyce who is under attack.


Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass 350466 Multiple Book

The impassioned abolitionist and eloquent orator provides graphic descriptions of his childhood and horrifying experiences as a slave as well as a harrowing record of his dramatic escape to the North and eventual freedom. Published in 1845 to quell doubts about his origins, the Narrative is admired today for its extraordinary passion, sensitive descriptions, and storytelling power. A selection of the Common Core State Standards Initiative.


The Help by Kathryn Stockett 350329 Multiple Book

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women--mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends--view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.


12 Years A Slave by Solomon Northup 350514 Multiple Book

Solomon Northup tells about being kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South after having been a free citizen in New York during the mid-1800s.


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot 350405 Multiple Book

Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells were —taken without her knowledge and— became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’'d weigh more than 50 million metric tons- —as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions.


Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson 350592 Multiple Book

As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight...for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom. From acclaimed author Laurie Halse Anderson comes this compelling, impeccably researched novel that shows the lengths we can go to cast off our chains, both physical and spiritual.


Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly 350269 Multiple Book

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. Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.


The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander 350121 Multiple Book

Once in a great while a book comes along that changes the way we see the world and helps to fuel a nationwide social movement. The New Jim Crow is such a book. Praised by Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier as "brave and bold," this book directly challenges the notion that the election of Barack Obama signals a new era of colorblindness. With dazzling candor, legal scholar Michelle Alexander argues that "we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it." By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control—relegating millions to a permanent second-class status—even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. In the words of Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, this book is a "call to action."

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