February is African American History Month, paying tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society.
The month of celebration began when Harvard-trained historian Carter G. Woodson conceived and announced Negro History Week in 1925. The event was first celebrated during a week in February 1926 that encompassed the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The sentiment took off from there.
By the time Woodson died in 1950, Negro History Week had helped expand the understanding of the importance of Black history, the Civil Rights movement, and the contributions of African Americans to our history and culture.
The celebration expanded to a month in 1976. President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” That year, fifty years after the first celebration, the association held the first African American History Month.
Here are eight books you can read to learn more about African American history.
By Katheryn Russell-Brown | $18.99 | Viking Books for Young Readers | Ages: 4-8
This picture book tells the story about 12 Black women who were pivotal to the civil rights movement and the fight for justice and equal rights in America. These are stories about women who weren’t really highlighted like Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King.
By Alana Tyson | $18.99 | Penguin Random House | Ages: 4-8
What does the American Flag mean to you? Some see vision of hope and opportunity. For others, it represents pain and loss. What is it to you? Think about this question as you read about Black American history through the eyes of a young Black boy’s conversation that he has with his grandfather.
By Kirby Howell-Baptiste | $18.99 | Nancy Paulsen Books | Ages: 4-8 years
These books follows the lives of a little Black boy and girl as they aim to accomplish their wildest dreams.
Growing up in th southside of Chicago, Diane was shocked to see that segregation went beyond schools during her visit to Tennessee State Fair in 1959. She decided to fight back by using strong words of truth and peaceful action. Diane took command of the Nashville Movement — eating at lunch counters where only white people were allowed and got arrested, day after day until a change was made. She also took on the Freedom Rides to integrate bus travel.
By Raphael G. Warnock | $19.99 | Philomel Books | Ages: 4-8
This book is based on a true-story about the first Black senator of Georgia Raphael Warnock, who is also a pastor. The book shows young readers how they can find the power to be themselves and make a difference by finidng the right shoes to help carry them toward their dreams.
By Amina Luqman-Dawson | $16.99 | Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | Ages: 8-12
With his eys set on freedom, twelve-year-old Homer flees Southerland Plantation with his little sister Ada, unwillingly leaving their beloved mother behind. Much as he adores her and fears for her life, Homer knows there’s no turning back, not with the overseer on their trail. Through tangled vines, secret doorways, and over a sky bridge, the two find a secret community created by formerly enslaved people called Freewater, deep in the swamp. Everything seems good until a threat that could destory the community approaches. Read to see what plan Homer crafts to find his mother and help his new home.
By Ilyasah Shabazz, with Renee Watson | $17.99 | Macmillan Young Listeners | Ages: 10-14
In Detroit, 1945, eleven-year-old struggles with life at hoime and finds a little hope and purpose at Church. The singing, the preaching, the speeches from guest activists like Paul Robeson and Thurgood Marshall stir African Americans in her community to stand up for their rights. Betty quickly finds confidence and purpose in volunteering for the Housewives League, an organization that supports black-owned businesses. Based on the life of American civil rights icon Dr. Betty Shabazz.
By Jason Reynolds | $16.99 | Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books | Ages: 10 and up
Four kids with wildly different backgrounds are chosen for their elite middle school track team — a team that couuld qualify them for the Junior Olympics. However, the kids can’t see to get along. They all have a lot to prove to themselves and everyone else. Book #1 tells the story of Ghost, who could potentially be the best runner in the city, if only he’d start running for the right reasons instead of his past.