February is a time of celebration, a time when we honor and remember the achievements, contributions, and accomplishments of black Americans in history and culture. Below are ten books to help you celebrate Black History Month. From courageous activists to extraordinary citizens, it’s a wonderful time to share these stories with your children.
by Doreen Rappaport
An inspirational picture book for children and adults that brings the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to life in his own words. Author Doreen Rappaport has pulled together some of Dr. King’s most remarkable and influential quotes that take us on a vivid journey through history. Powerful watercolor illustrations detail how he used words, not weapons, to fight injustice and spearhead civil rights.
by Mary Hoffman
Grace is a girl who loves stories, and her colorful imagination knows no boundaries. When her teacher announces that her class will be performing the play Peter Pan, Grace’s heart swells with excitement. All the kids want to play the lead role, including Grace. But when the other children tell her she can’t play Peter Pan because of the way she looks, she begins to question her identity and limits. Her grandmother reminds her that strength, courage, and hope can help anyone achieve their dreams.
by Robert Coles
Crowds of angry white parents lashing out. Children staring in indifference. Walking alone through unfamiliar halls. Ruby Bridges was the first African-American child to integrate into the public-school system back in 1960s New Orleans. Her struggle and bravery are chronicled in this powerful book narrated by Robert Coles.
by Nikki Giovanni
Long after her courageous refusal to give up a seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus, Rosa Parks remains one of the most honored and central figures of the American civil rights movement. “Rosa,” a 2006 Caldecott Honor Book and the winner of the 2006 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, is the retelling of this historic event in a haunting narrative from award-winning writer Nikki Giovanni.
by Carole Boston Weatherford
A 2016 Caldecott Honor Book, Robert F. Sibert Honor Book, and John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award Winner, “Voice of Freedom” retells the life of Fannie Lou Hamer, a vocal champion of equal voting rights. Hamer, one of twenty children, had to drop out of school to work in the cotton fields. But that didn’t stop her from taking on this important mission.
by Deborah Hopkinson
Born into slavery, Clara dreams about one day reuniting with her mother who lives on another plantation. There are days when she evens dreams about running away. When she learns about a passage north, via the Underground Railroad, her skills as a seamstress lead her down an important road. With cloth and a needle, she makes a patchwork map—a freedom quilt—to help guide escaping slaves. Based on a true story, “Publisher’s Weekly” says, “This first-rate book is a triumph of the heart."
by Renee Watson
Set during the Harlem Renaissance, author Renee Watson details the life of Florence Mills, an African-American born with a bird-like voice. Her gift lands her on the 1920s Broadway stage, where she inspires fellow singers and playwrights, particularly fellow African Americans. “Featuring a moving text and colorful illustrations, “Harlem's Little Blackbird” is a timeless story about justice, equality, and the importance of following one's heart and dreams,” says Watson.
by Ellen Levine
A Jane Addams Peace Award-winning author, Ellen Levine recounts the true story of Henry “Box” Brown, “a slave that mailed himself to freedom.” Brown endures the agony of having been torn from his mother as a child and then later taken away from his wife and children. Desperate and heartbroken, he conspires with abolitionists and travels to Philadelphia tucked away in a packing crate. Will he be able to keep his secret hidden? “…the evolution of a self-possessed child into a determined and fearless young man,” says Catherine Threadgill of the Charleston County Public Library.
by Kadir Nelson
“Heart and Soul” perfectly describes this collection of stories about America and the African Americans who shaped history. The stories show the courage, determination, and unwavering commitment of the men, women, and children who suffered and fought to have a better, more equal tomorrow. Although there is still much work to be done, “Heart and Soul” shows how far one step can take us on a journey to freedom and equal rights.
by Jacqueline Woodson
Clover, a young African-American girl, lives near a fence separating her segregated town. On the other side, lives Anna, a young white girl. One summer they form an endearing friendship, never breaking the sacred law of crossing the fence. Their days are spent sitting atop the wooden structure, as their bond becomes stronger and the fence becomes the only thing that seems out of place. “The Other Side” contains a powerful lesson blended with the artistic beauty of the masterful illustrations.
Do you have a favorite book to add to the list? Share in the comments!