Black History Month

Black History Month, also known as African-American History Month in America, is an annual observance in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom for remembrance of important people and events in the history of the African people.

Books for Primary Grades:

Going North (350428)

Janice N. Harrington; Lexile: AD700L; multiple books, P

A young African American girl and her family leave their home in Alabama and head for Lincoln, Nebraska, where they hope to escape segregation and find a better life.


Satchel Paige (350308)

Lesa Cline-Ransome; Lexile: 900L; multiple books, P

No one pitched like Leroy "Satchel" Paige. Fans packed the stands to see how many batters he could strike out in one game. He dazzled them with his unique pitching style, and he even gave nicknames to some of his trademark pitches -- there was the "hesitation," his magic slow ball, and the "bee ball," named because it would always "be" where he wanted it to be. Follow Satch's career through these beautiful illustrations as he begins playing in the semipros and goes on to become the first African American to pitch in a major League World Series, and the first Negro Leaguer to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.


The Watsons Go to Birmingham --1963 (350028)

Christopher Paul Curtis; Lexile: 1000L; multiple books, IJS

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. A hilarious, touching, and tragic novel about civil rights and the impact of violence on one African American family.


Frederick Douglass: The Last Day of Slavery (350557)

William Miller; Lexile: 760L; multiple books, PI

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 People Could Fly: The Picture Book (350578)

Virginia Hamilton; Lexile: AD480L; multiple books, PIJS

In this retelling of a folktale, a group of slaves, unable to bear their sadness and starvation any longer, calls upon the African magic that allows them to fly away.


Stealing Home: The Story of Jackie Robinson (350357)

Barry Denenburg; Lexile: 930L; multiple books, PI

On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson stepped onto Ebbets Field as a Brooklyn Dodger and changed American baseball forever. The first black man to play in the white major leagues, he had the courage to confront racism and fight for the rights of all black people, on and off the baseball diamond. He shattered the color barrier, and with tremendous skill and determination, he became not only one of the most legendary baseball players of all time, but also a great American hero. Half a century later, Jackie Robinson's extraordinary story remains an important contribution to America's favorite pastime and to American history.

Books for Intermediate & Middle Grades:

We've Got A Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March (350392)

Cynthia Levinson; Lexile: 1020L; multiple books, IJ

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.


A Nation's Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis (350182)

Matt De La Peña; Lexile: NP; multiple books, IJ

On the eve of World War II, African American boxer Joe Louis fought German Max Schmeling in a bout that had more at stake than just the world heavyweight title; for much of America their fight came to represent America's war with Germany. This elegant and powerful picture book biography centers around the historic fight in which Black and White America were able to put aside prejudice and come together to celebrate our nation's ideals.


Brown Girl Dreaming (350579)

Jacqueline Woodson; Lexile: 990L; multiple books, IJ

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.


Little Rock Girl 1957: How a Photograph Changed the Fight for Integration (350525)

Shelley Tougas; Lexile: 1010L; multiple books, I

Nine African American students made history when they defied a governor and integrated an Arkansas high school in 1957. It was the photo of one of the nine trying to enter the school a young girl being taunted, harassed and threatened by an angry mob that grabbed the worlds attention and kept its disapproving gaze on Little Rock, Arkansas. In defiance of a federal court order, Governor Orval Faubus called in the National Guard to prevent the students from entering all white Central High School. The plan had been for the students to meet and go to school as a group on September 4, 1957. But one student, Elizabeth didn't, didn't hear of the plan and tried to enter the school alone. A chilling photo by newspaper photographer Will Counts captured the sneering expression of a girl in the mob and made history. Years later Counts snapped another photo, this one of the same two girls, now grownup, reconciling in front of Central High School.


Escape from Slavery: Five Journeys to Freedom (350153)

Doreen Rappaport; Lexile: 750L; multiple books, IJ

Eliza and her baby, running across the ice. Selena and Cornelia Jackson, masquerading as boys. Henry Box Brown, shipping himself north in a wooden crate. Jane Johnson, risking everything to testify against her former owner in court. Ellen Craft, posing as her husband's owner. Escaping from slavery against overwhelming odds, these people were helped by courage, ingenuity, and the informal network known as the Underground Railroad. Here are their gripping stories, told by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Charles Lilly, and accompanied by information about slave laws of the era, key Underground Railroad leaders, and a bibliography.


The Legend of Bass Reeves (350455)

Gary Paulsen; Lexile: 950L; multiple books, IJ

Born into slavery, Bass Reeves became the most successful US Marshal of the Wild West. Many "heroic lawmen" of the Wild West, familiar to us through television and film, were actually violent scoundrels and outlaws themselves. But of all the sheriffs of the frontier, one man stands out as a true hero: Bass Reeves.He was the most successful Federal Marshal in the US in his day. True to the mythical code of the West, he never drew his gun first. He brought hundreds of fugitives to justice, was shot at countless times, and never hit. Bass Reeves was a black man, born into slavery. And though the laws of his country enslaved him and his mother, when he became a free man he served the law, with such courage and honor that he became a legend.


Elijah of Buxton (350535)

Christopher Paul Curtis; Lexile: 1070L; multiple books, IJ

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.


Chains (350592)

Laurie Halse Anderson; Lexile: 780L; multiple books, IJ

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.

Books for Junior & Senior Grades:

Forgotten Bones: Uncovering a Slave Cemetery (350194)

Lois Miner Huey; Lexile: 1030L; multiple books, IJS

When a skeleton's head rolled off a dirt pile, all work came to a halt at a construction project in upstate New York. Archaeologists began excavating and found thirteen skeletons. Further investigation revealed that the bones were those of eighteenth-century African American slaves who had worked at the nearby Schuyler farm. Find out what these skeletons tell us about slavery and daily life long ago.


The Port Chicago 50: disaster, mutiny, and the fight for civil rights (350574)

Steve Sheinkin; Lexile: 950L; multiple books, IJS

Presents an account of the 1944 civil rights protest involving hundreds of African-American Navy servicemen who were unjustly charged with mutiny for refusing to work in unsafe conditions after the deadly Port Chicago explosion.


Twelve Years A Slave (350514)

Solomon Northup; Lexile: NC1200; multiple books, JS

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.


Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science (350558) Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos; Lexile: 1130L; multiple books, JS

When this award-winning husband-and-wife team discovered that they each had sugar in their family history, they were inspired to trace the globe-spanning story of the sweet substance and to seek out the voices of those who led bitter sugar lives. The trail ran like a bright band from religious ceremonies in India to Europe’s Middle Ages, then on to Columbus, who brought the first cane cuttings to the Americas. Sugar was the substance that drove the bloody slave trade and caused the loss of countless lives but it also planted the seeds of revolution that led to freedom in the American colonies, Haiti, and France. With songs, oral histories, maps, and over 80 archival illustrations, here is the story of how one product allows us to see the grand currents of world history in new ways.


We Were There, Too!: Young People in U.S. History (350491)

Phillip M. Hoose; Lexile: 950L; multiple books, IJS

From the boys who sailed with Columbus to today's young activists, this unique book brings to life the contributions of young people throughout American history. Based on primary sources and including 160 authentic images, this handsome over-sized volume highlights the fascinating stories of more than 70 young people from diverse cultures. Young readers will be hooked into history as they meet individuals their own age who were caught up in our country's most dramatic moments-Olaudah Equiano, kidnapped from his village in western Africa and forced into slavery, Anyokah, who helped her father create a written Cherokee language, Johnny Clem, the nine-year-old drummer boy who became a Civil War hero, and Jessica Govea, a teenager who risked joining Cesar Chavez's fight for a better life for farm workers.


The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told by Alex Haley (350409)

Malcom X; Lexile: N/A; multiple books, S

The personal story of the man who rose from hoodlum, thief, dope peddler, and pimp to become a leader of the Black Revolution of the 1960s.


A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School (350580) Carlotta Walls Lanier; Lexile: N/A; multiple books, JS,

When fourteen-year-old Carlotta Walls walked up the stairs of Little Rock Central High School on September 25, 1957, she and eight other black students only wanted to make it to class. But the journey of the “Little Rock Nine,” as they came to be known, would lead the nation on an even longer and much more turbulent path, one that would challenge prevailing attitudes, break down barriers, and forever change the landscape of America.


Monster (350144)

Walter Dean Myers; Lexile: 670L; multiple books, JS

While on trial as an accomplice to a murder, sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon records his experiences in prison and in the courtroom in the form of a film script as he tries to come to terms with the course of his life has taken.

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