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Books to Read for Black History Month

Celebrate Black achievement, innovation, and history during Black History Month! Our collection of picture books bring alive the stories of little-known Black heroes who have fought for justice, made new scientific discoveries, created great art and music, and made this world a better place to live.

Garvey in the Dark by Nikki Grimes

Capturing the shock and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic through the eyes of Garvey, a beloved character, Nikki Grimes’s newest novel in verse shows readers how to find hope in difficult times.

Mermaid Kenzie: Protector of the Deeps by Charlotte Watson Sherman, illustrated by Geneva Bowers

Beautifully written in African American Vernacular English, this poetic picture book includes back matter with information about how plastic winds up in our oceans and examples of people–some of them kids, like Kenzie–who have worked to protect the sea. Mermaid Kenzie celebrates the ways that all of us, no matter how small, can make a difference.

You Are My Pride: A Love Letter from Your Motherland by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by E. B. Lewis

In this powerfully written and beautifully illustrated picture book by award-winning author and illustrator team Carole Boston Weatherford and E. B. Lewis, Mother Africa addresses her offspring of all colors in all corners of the earth, reminding us of our timeless bond.

Evicted! The Struggle for the Right to Vote by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by Charly Palmer – With a story told through the eyes of a child, this critical civil rights book for middle-graders examines Tennessee’s Fayette County Tent City Movement in the late 1950s and reveals what is possible when people unite and fight for the right to vote. Powerfully conveyed through interconnected stories, Evicted! combines poetry, prose, and stunning illustrations to shine light on this forgotten history.

Brown Sugar Babe by Charlotte Watson Sherman, illustrated by Akem – The inspiration for the story comes from an actual experience the author had with her daughter, who once claimed as a toddler she wanted to be pink. Brownness is a topic every parent of Black and Brown children knows they must discuss eventually. This book is an affirmation that this topic doesn’t have to be explored alone, but instead with the guidance and love of a trusted guardian.

Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes – This memoir in verse by Printz Honor and Sibert Honor-winning author Nikki Grimes takes place during Grimes’s tumultuous childhood in the 1950s and 1960s. It gives young readers a first-person perspective to the drama of Grimes’s family’s life as it unfurls during critical moments in the Civil Rights-era New York City area. 

Born to Swing: Lil Hardin Armstrong’s Life in Jazz by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Michele Wood – Award-winning author Mara Rockliff and acclaimed illustrator Michele Wood brilliantly capture the rhythms and passions of “Hot Miss Lil” Hardin Armstrong, legendary jazz pianist, composer, and bandleader—and a female pioneer on the music stage.

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie – This multiple award-winning picture book will help young readers understand the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It tells the story of a nine-year-old girl who in 1968 witnessed the Memphis sanitation strike—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final stand for justice before his assassination—when her father, a sanitation worker, participated in the protest.

The Teachers March! How Selma’s Teachers Changed History by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace, illustrated by Charly Palmer – In the 1960s, Reverend F.D. Reese was a leader of the Voting Rights Movement in Selma, Alabama. As a teacher and principal, he recognized that his colleagues were greatly respected in the city. But, could he convince them to risk their jobs—and perhaps their lives—by organizing a teachers-only march to the county courthouse to demand their right to vote? Demonstrating the power of protest and standing up for a just cause, this acclaimed picture book is an exciting tribute to the educators who participated in the 1965 Selma Teachers’ March.

Lizzie Demands a Seat!: Elizabeth Jennings Fights for Streetcar Rights by Beth Anderson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis – This book focuses on the bravery and integrity of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Jennings, a Black schoolteacher, who in 1854 fought back when she was unjustly denied entry to a New York City streetcar, sparking the beginnings of the long struggle to gain equal rights on public transportation.

Carver: A Life in Poems by Marilyn Nelson – This biography in verse was awarded a Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Author Honor award. George Washington Carver is associated with the creation of peanut butter, yet his true motivations and achievements are often left unsaid. Carver was driven by scientific curiosity, devotion to the betterment of Black Americans, and his Christian faith to discover better ways to farm. Beautiful prose and photographs throughout give readers a detailed look at Carver as a scientist, as well as the tools he used and the world he lived in.

Seeking Freedom: The Untold Story of Fortress Monroe and the Ending of Slavery in America written by Selene Castrovilla, illustrated by E.B. Lewis – In this dramatic Civil War story, a courageous enslaved fugitive teams up with a cunning Union general to save a Union fort from the Confederates–and triggers the end of slavery in the United States. This is the first children’s nonfiction book about the unsung Black hero who remains relevant today and to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Buzzing with Questions: The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner by Janice N. Harrington, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III – Called “understated, fully realized, deftly written, and utterly absorbing” in a starred School Library Journal, this nonfiction picture book focuses on the life and discoveries of Charles Henry Turner, the first Black entomologist, and his discoveries about ants, bees, and other insects.

Molly, by Golly!: The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighter by Dianne Ochiltree, illustrated by Kathleen Kemly – This legendary tale introduces young readers to Molly Williams, an African American cook for New York City’s Fire Company 11, who is considered to be the first known female firefighter in U.S. history. One winter day in 1818, when many of the firefighting volunteers are sick with influenza and a small wooden house is ablaze, Molly jumps into action and helps stop the blaze, proudly earning the nickname Volunteer Number 11.

Voices from the March on Washington by George Ella Lyon and J. Patrick Lewis – A poignant collection of powerful poems weaves together multiple voices to tell the story of the March on Washington, DC, in 1963. Each character in the book brings a unique perspective to their experience of being at the march—walking shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers, hearing Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech, heading home inspired.