10 Favorite Books for Black History Month
Learning about black history is important for kids of all backgrounds, races, and ages. Black History Month focuses on the numerous contributions of African Americans throughout our nation’s history. Getting children involved will instill respect and appreciation for all races in the people who will soon take the reins of this nation.
Check out these 10 favorite chapter books for Black History Month:
by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell
In the first book of the March graphic novel trilogy, Congressman John Lewis retells the story of the March on Washington, which took place in 1963. On August 28, 1963, more than 250,000 Americans converged on Washington, D.C. to raise awareness regarding the political and social challenges that persisted for African American citizens.
Speakers at this demonstration included Congressman Lewis, Josephine Baker, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and Mahalia Jackson. The event culminated with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Tweens will find the graphic novel format (think comic book) easy to read and the content of this book riveting.
by Rita Williams-Garcia
When she was four years old, Delphine’s mother Cecile abandoned her and her two younger sisters for a new life. Now, seven years later, Papa and Big Ma (their grandmother) are sending the girls to spend the summer with their mother in California.
The girls’ dream of visiting Disneyland is immediately squashed when Cecile takes the money they brought with them in order to feed them a diet of takeout food. Every day, the girls are shuttled off to a day camp run by the Black Panther Party, where they learn about Civil Rights, injustice, racial prejudice and black pride before heading home to Brooklyn.
by Elspeth Leacock, Susan Buckley and Lynda Blackmon Lowery
At just 15 years old, Lynda Blackmon Lowery made the five-day, 54-mile march from Selma, Alabama to the state capitol in Montgomery to demand voting rights for black people. This gripping book tells the story of this event from her point of view as the youngest person in the group of demonstrators.
Lowery’s first-person account conveys her experience as part of a peaceful group of demonstrators, many of whom were met with violence and brutality at the hands of local police and sheriff’s deputies. She also explains how it felt to be personally involved with changing our nation’s history.
by Ruby Bridges
In 1960, a six-year-old little girl became the first black child to attend class in a formerly all-white New Orleans public elementary school. Although several books have been written about her story, but this one is written from Ruby’s personal perspective.
Tweens who read this book will discover that things did not go smoothly during this integration. The white parents pulled their children from school and the teachers refused to perform their jobs. That is, all of the teachers but one. A teacher named Barbara Henry showed up every day to educate the brave little girl who had to walk past adults spewing hateful, racist insults at the child on a daily basis during this pivotal point in black history.
by Mildred D. Taylor
It’s October, but Cassie Logan and her brothers have just started starting the new school year, as many poor African American kids living in the rural South in the 1930s. Since their help is needed on the family farm, their school year is shortened. They hear about the lynchings and burnings of several local black men on their way to school.
Soon, Mama begins to organize a boycott of a major store in town due to the store owner's hand in the brutality. Things go downhill from there. Papa is attacked, Mama loses her job and the family’s farm is at stake. Tween readers will discover the effects of racism in the South in the early 20th century and the importance of standing up for your beliefs.
by Augusta Scattergood
Eleven-year-old Gloriana (Glory) June Hemphill is a preacher’s daughter in Hanging Moss, Mississippi in 1964. Shortly before her July 4 birthday, the city closes the community pool where she had plans to celebrate. Although the reason given for the closure is repairs, Glory soon learns that it is actually because the council would rather close the pool than allow African Americans to use it.
Glory is forced to evaluate her beliefs and decide whether she ought to stand up against inequality and hatred and defend the rights of others.
by Laurie Halse Anderson
Miss Mary Finch promised Isabel and Ruth that she would free them in her will, but because of the recent uprising, Miss Mary’s attorney is unable to make it to the funeral. Miss Mary’s brother sells the sisters to a wealthy British couple living in New York City.
The pair treats the girls cruelly. After Isabel finds her little sister crying one day, she vows to find a way to earn their freedom. Bravely, she becomes a spy, reporting on her Loyalist owners, which could result in freedom or death. This historical fiction novel illustrates life for slaves during the Revolutionary War.
by Christopher Paul Curtis
Even though she is the smartest girl in her class, life is not promising for 12-year-old Deza Malone. It is the Great Depression and the Malone family lives in Gary, Indiana where employment is hard to come by, especially for black men such as Deza’s father. Depressed, Mr. Malone leaves for Flint, Michigan to find work.
When her father does not return, Deza’s mother packs up the family and they head off in search of him. Instead, they find themselves living in a shantytown trying to find a way to support themselves, but Deza never loses hope. Tweens will read about the strength of family and the power of believing in yourself.
by Sharon Draper
Amari has everything she wants: life in a beautiful place with a loving family and a handsome fiancé. Her world is shattered when strange, pale men attack the village. After killing her parents and her little brother, the pale men shackle the survivors and force them on a days-long walk to the coast with no food or rest.
After a horrific voyage at sea, Amari is sold to a rice grower as a slave. Eventually, she befriends Polly, a white indentured and orphaned girl, and together they work to find a better life and perhaps even freedom. This book illustrates the appalling nature of slavery and has dark, adult content that may not be appropriate for all tweens.
by Maya Angelou
Celebrated American author and poet Maya Angelou had a sad and challenging childhood. In this autobiography, she describes what her young life was like, beginning with her mother’s abandonment when Maya was just three years old.
By the time she was 16, Maya had been subjected to hostile racism, instability, and rape. Now, she was a young mother trying to rise above her painful past, learn to love herself and find her purpose in life.
Any or all of these books would make a great addition to your home library.
Do you have a favorite book that celebrates black history? Share the title with us!
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