21 More Books for Black History Month

The importance of remembering one’s history can never be overstated. Choreographer and director Debbie Allen—who is also a children’s author—said, “When a child opens a book and sees a face that looks like them, they know that they matter.” That sentiment is especially vital when it comes to children learning about the history of this country—and the world. The history that children must learn about may be cultural or universal and involves accomplishments in literature, the arts, science, education, the military, politics, business, sports, or religion. When Carter G. Woodson, the ”Father of Black History,” began Negro History week in 1926, his mission was to instill racial pride in people whose history and contributions to society had been systematically eliminated from books. “21 More Books” is the second part of our Black History Month selections. These books are enjoyable, informative, and valuable resources for homes, classrooms, or community centers. For more selections not listed in this article or Part I, click on the tab “Genres, Themes, and…” Our stories matter.

Delivering Justice: W.W. Law and the Fight for Civil Rights – Jim Haskins, Illustrator – Benny Andrews 

Determined to make a difference in his community, W.W. Law assisted blacks in registering to vote, joined the NAACP and trained protesters in the use of nonviolent civil disobedience, and, in 1961, led the Great Savannah Boycott. In that famous protest, blacks refused to shop in downtown Savannah. When city leaders finally agreed to declare all of its citizens equal, Savannah became the first city in the south to end racial discrimination. 

Rock of Ages: A Tribute to the Black Church – Tonya Bolden, Illustrator – R. Gregory Christie 

From times when slaves worshipped secretly in fields at night to the grand city churches of today, the church has been there to help its community, inspire its congregants, and teach us what is possible when people join together. 

Oprah: The Little Speaker – Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrator – London Ladd 

At age three, Oprah began performing in churches, becoming known to adoring crowds as the Little Speaker. When she was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, she answered, “I want to be paid to talk.” Here is the story of Oprah Winfrey’s childhood, a story about a little girl on a Mississippi pig farm who grew up to be the “Queen of Talk.”  

Major Taylor: Champion Cyclist – Lesa Cline-Ransome, Illustrator – James E. Ransome 

Marshall Taylor could ride his bike forward, backward, even perched on the handlebars. When his stunts landed him a job at the famous Indiana bike shop Hay and Willits, folks were amazed that a thirteen-year-old black boy in 1891 could be such a crackerjack cyclist…Here is the story of a kid who turned pro at the age of eighteen, went on to win the world championship title just three years later, and battled racism and the odds to become a true American hero.

Ida B. Wells: Let the Truth Be Told – Walter Dean Myers, Illustrator – Bonnie Christensen 

Ida B. Wells was an extraordinary woman. Long before boycotts, sit-ins, and freedom rides, Ida B. Wells was hard at work to better the lives of African Americans. An activist, educator, writer, journalist, suffragette, and pioneering voice against the horror of lynching, she used fierce determination and the power of the pen to educate the world about the unequal treatment of blacks in the United States.

The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby: The Story of Jimmy Winkfield – Crystal Hubbard, Illustrator – Robert McGuire 

Born into an African American sharecropping family in 1880s Kentucky, Jimmy Winkfield grew up loving horses. The large, powerful animals inspired little Jimmy to think big. Looking beyond his family’s farm, he longed for a life riding on action-packed racetracks around the world…Though his path to success was wrought with obstacles both on the track and off, Wink faced each challenge with passion and a steadfast spirit. Along the way he carved out a lasting legacy as one of history’s finest horsemen and the last African American ever to win the Kentucky Derby. 

Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills – Renee Watson, Illustrator – Christian Robinson

Born to parents who were both former slaves, Florence Mills knew at an early age that she loved to sing, and that her sweet, bird-like voice, resonated with those who heard her. Performing catapulted her all the way to the stages of 1920s Broadway where she inspired everyone from songwriters to playwrights. Yet with all her success, she knew firsthand how prejudice shaped her world and the world of those around her. As a result, Florence chose to support and promote works by her fellow black performers while heralding a call for their civil rights. 

Fifty Cents and a Dream – Jabari Asim, Illustrator – Bryan Collier 

Born into slavery, young Booker T. Washington could only dream of learning to read and write. After emancipation, Booker began a five-hundred-mile journey, mostly on foot, to Hampton Institute, taking his first of many steps towards a college degree. When he arrived, he had just fifty cents in his pocket and a dream about to come true.

Talkin’ About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman – Nikki Grimes, Illustrator – E. B. Lewis 

Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman was always being told what she could & couldn’t do. In an era when Jim Crow laws and segregation were a way of life, it was not easy to survive. Bessie didn’t let that stop her. Although she was only 11 when the Wright brothers took their historic flight, she vowed to become the first African -American female pilot. Her sturdy faith and determination helped her overcome obstacles of poverty, racism, and gender discrimination. 

Amistad Rising: A Story of Freedom – Veronica Chambers, Illustrator – Paul Lee 

Joseph Cinqué is afraid he’ll never see his family again. Kidnapped by slave traders and sold at auction, he finds himself chained in the hull of a cramped ship, Amistad, with more than fifty other Africans–including a few children. Cinqué must do something. But what? In this truly epic adventure, Joseph Cinqué wants only one thing: freedom. But what he achieves, with the help of former president John Quincy Adams, is far, far greater–Joseph Cinqué makes history.

Mary McLeod Bethune – Eloise Greenfield, Illustrator – Jerry Pinkney 

“The drums of Africa still beat in my heart. They will not let me rest.” These are the words of Mary McLeod Bethune. She worked her whole life to make the world a better place. As a child, she loved to read. As a woman, she loved to teach. She started a school; she founded a hospital. Everywhere she saw a need, she searched for a solution.

Through My Eyes – Ruby Bridges 

In November 1960, all of America watched as a tiny six-year-old black girl, surrounded by federal marshals, walked through a mob of screaming segregationists and into her school. An icon of the civil rights movement, Ruby Bridges chronicles each dramatic step of this pivotal event in history through her own words.

Sweet Words So Brave: The Story of African American Literature – Barbara R. Curry & James Michael Brodie, Illustrator – Jerry Butler  

“Tell me a story,” says a little girl to her grandfather. So begins this one-of-a-kind look at the history of African American literature. from the first slave narratives and the poetry of Phillis Wheatley, through Langston Hughes and Richard Wright, to Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou, Sweet Words So Brave puts the literature in the context of American history and brings the lives, the times, and the extraordinary literary accomplishments of African American writers vividly to life.

Mary Church Terrell: Speaking Out for Civil Rights – Cookie Lommel 

Traces the life and achievements of the black civil rights worker whose greatest accomplishment, the integration of restaurants in Washington, D.C., came when she was nearly ninety years old.

A Black, Blue & Gray: African Americans in the Civil War – Jim Haskins 

Four-time Coretta Scott King Honor Award winner Jim Haskins brings readers face-to-face with the African Americans who fought in the War Between the States. Excerpts from letters and government documents introduce the names and places that set the stage for the war’s unfolding. Vintage photographs offer a vivid look at the brave soldiers who risked their lives in the fight for human equality

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball – Kadir Nelson 

The story of Negro League baseball is the story of gifted athletes and determined owners; of racial discrimination and international sportsmanship; of fortunes won and lost; of triumphs and defeats on and off the field. It is a perfect mirror for the social and political history of black America in the first half of the twentieth century. But most of all, the story of the Negro Leagues is about hundreds of unsung heroes who overcame segregation, hatred, terrible conditions, and low pay to do the one thing they loved more than anything else in the world: play ball. 

Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound – Andrea Davis Pinkney 

Berry Gordy began Motown in 1959 with an $800 loan from his family. He converted the garage of a residential house into a studio and recruited teenagers from the neighborhood-like Smokey Robinson, Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Diana Ross-to sing for his new label. Meanwhile, the country was on the brink of a cultural revolution, and one of the most powerful agents of change in the following decade would be this group of young black performers from urban Detroit. 

A Journey for the Ages: Matthew Henson and Robert Peary’s Historic North Pole Expedition – Matthew Henson 

In an era when segregation thrived and Jim Crow reigned supreme, adventurer Matthew A. Henson defied racial stereotypes. During his teenage years, Henson sailed on vessels that journeyed across the globe, and it is those experiences that caught the attention of famed arctic explorer Matthew Peary. Operating as Peary’s “first man” on six expeditions that spanned over a quarter of century, Henson was an essential member of all of Peary’s most famous expeditions. His unparalleled skills as a craftsman and his mastery of the dialects of native Northern peoples, Henson was indispensable to the success of these missions.

Discovering Black America: From the Age of Exploration to the Twenty-First Century – Linda Tarrant-Reid 

Discovering Black America offers readers an unprecedented account of more than 400 years of African American history set against a background of American and global events. The book begins with a black sailor aboard the Niña with Christopher Columbus and continues through the colonial period, slavery, the Civil War, Jim Crow, and civil rights to [President Barack Obama]. Including first-person narratives from diaries and journals, interviews, and archival images, Discovering Black America will give readers an intimate understanding of this extensive history

The Book of African American Women: 150 Crusaders, Creators, and Uplifters – Tonya Bolden 

Right from the beginning, women of African descent have played an important and noteworthy role in American experience. The Book of African-American Women explores the trials and tribulations, but most of all the accomplishments, of 150 women who have made major contributions to American history and culture. Some of these women are well known, while others will be a welcome addition to this emerging history. These are women who-knowingly or unknowingly-have changed American’s destiny through their contributions as writers, artists, teachers, civic leaders, medical professionals, or entrepreneurs.

On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker – A’Lelia Bundles   

The daughter of slaves, Madam C. J. Walker was orphaned at seven, married at fourteen and widowed at twenty. She spent the better part of the next two decades laboring as a washerwoman for $1.50 a week. Then—with the discovery of a revolutionary hair care formula for black women—everything changed. By her death in 1919, Walker managed to overcome astonishing odds: building a storied beauty empire from the ground up, amassing wealth unprecedented among black women and devoting her life to philanthropy and social activism.


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