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Black History Month, or African American History Month, began as a weeklong celebration in 1926. Since the 1890s, Black communities celebrated the birthdays of two people considered to have a big impact on Black history in the US: Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and Frederick Douglass (February 14). In 1915, Dr. Carter G. Woodson was one of many people who traveled to Washington, DC, to participate in a national celebration of the 50th anniversary of nationwide emancipation. He was inspired by experiences from his trip to create an organization to promote the study of Black life and history. Soon after he helped to form what is now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the sponsors of Black History Month. -- nps.gov
Explore the identities of the African-American diaspora through our suggested reading list. Although this list is not meant to be exhaustive, we aim to share some of the perspectives of Black Americans today and how their stories have been shaped by history.
To request a book, click on the title or cover to use the Library Catalog to request items for pick-up.
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Just Like a Mama by
Call Number: E DUN
Celebrate the heart connection between adopted children and the forever families who welcome them with kindness, care, and unconditional love in this powerful picture book from the author of Honey Baby Sugar Child. Carol Olivia Clementine lives with Mama Rose. Mama Rose is everything--tender and sweet. She is also as stern and demanding as any good parent should be. In the midst of their happy home, Carol misses her mother and father. She longs to be with them.
I Have a Dream (Book and CD) by
Call Number: E KIN
In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews raves, "An award-winning artist captures the passion and purpose of this most notable 20th century American speech.... A title for rememberance and for re-dedication to the dream." On August 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, Martin Luther King gave one of the most powerful and memorable speeches in our nation's history. His words, paired with Caldecott Honor winner Kadir Nelson's magificent paintings, make for a picture book certain to be treasured by children and adults alike.
Have You Thanked an Inventor Today? by
Call Number: NEW E MCL
Have You Thanked an Inventor Today? is a journey into the often forgotten contributions of African-American inventors, that contributed to the American landscape. It chronicles the school day of a little boy, highlighting different inventions that he uses throughout the day, all of which were invented by African-Americans. The book comes complete with brief biographies about each inventor as well as fun activities to promote and encourage reading comprehension. "Have You Thanked an Inventor Today?" was selected by Microsoft as a book that inspires STEM and also received a 5 Star Rating from Reader's Favorite
Antiracist Baby Picture Book by
Call Number: E KEN
How to Be an Antiracist comes a new picture book that empowers parents and children to uproot racism in our society and in ourselves, with added discussion prompts; help readers recognize and reflect on bias in their daily lives. Take your first steps with Antiracist Baby! Or rather, follow Antiracist Baby's nine easy steps for building a more equitable world. With bold art and thoughtful yet playful text, Antiracist Baby introduces the youngest readers and the grown-ups in their lives to the concept and power of antiracism.
I Got the Rhythm by
Call Number: E CON
On a simple trip to the park, the joy of music overtakes a mother and daughter. The little girl hears a rhythm coming from the world around her- from butterflies, to street performers, to ice cream sellers everything is musical! She sniffs, snaps, and shakes her way into the heart of the beat, finally busting out in an impromptu dance, which all the kids join in on! Award-winning illustrator Frank Morrison and Connie Schofield-Morrison, capture the beat of the street, to create a rollicking read that will get any kid in the mood to boogie.
Henry's Freedom Box by
Call Number: E LEV
A stirring, dramatic story of a slave who mails himself to freedom by a Jane Addams Peace Award-winning author and a Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist.Henry Brown doesn't know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves' birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market.
Child of the Dream by
Call Number: J BIO ROBINS
An incredible memoir from Sharon Robinson about one of the most important years of the civil rights movement. In January 1963, Sharon Robinson turns thirteen the night before George Wallace declares on national television "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" in his inauguration speech as governor of Alabama. It is the beginning of a year that will change the course of American history. As the daughter of baseball legend Jackie Robinson, Sharon has opportunities that most people would never dream of experiencing.
Changing the Equation by
Call Number: J 920 BOL
A celebratory and inspiring look at some of the most important Black women in STEM Award-winning author Tonya Bolden explores Black women who have changed the world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) in America. Including groundbreaking computer scientists, doctors, inventors, physicists, pharmacists, mathematicians, aviators, and many more, this book celebrates more than 50 women who have shattered the glass ceiling, defied racial discrimination, and pioneered in their fields.
The Undefeated by
Call Number: E ALE / E PEO ALE
Originally performed for ESPN's The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world's greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present.
Crowning Glory by
Call Number: J 811.54 THO
hair a gift wrapped ribboned curled tied With these joyous poems, National Book Award-winning author Joyce Carol Thomas lovingly celebrates the beauty and distinction of African-American hair. Accompanied by artist Brenda Joysmith's soft, lush portraits of women and girls of all ages, Thomas's lyrical language shares what is special about hair that-is dreadlocked, braided, adorned, or worn free. The poems and images rejoice in the spirit of individuality that comes from having your unique crowning glory.
Of Thee I Sing by
Barack Obama delivers a tender, beautiful letter to his daughters in this powerful picture book illustrated by award-winner Loren Long that's made to be treasured! In this poignant letter to his daughters, Barack Obama has written a moving tribute to thirteen groundbreaking Americans and the ideals that have shaped our nation. From the artistry of Georgia O'Keeffe to the courage of Jackie Robinson, to the patriotism of George Washington, Obama sees the traits of these heroes within his own children, and within all of America's children.
The Talk by
Call Number: J 305.8 HUD
In the powerful follow-up to We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices, thirty diverse and award-winning authors and illustrators capture frank discussions about racism, identity, and self-esteem. Here is an invitation to all families to be advocates and allies for change.
All Boys Aren't Blue by
Call Number: BIO JOHNSON / B JOHNSON
In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to going to flea markets with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.
Black Girl Unlimited by
Call Number: YA F BROWN
Heavily autobiographical and infused with magical realism, Black Girl Unlimited fearlessly explores the intersections of poverty, sexual violence, depression, racism, and sexism--all through the arc of a transcendent coming-of-age story for fans of Renee Watson's Piecing Me Together and Ibi Zoboi's American Street. Echo Brown is a wizard from the East Side, where apartments are small and parents suffer addictions to the white rocks. Yet there is magic . . . everywhere. New portals begin to open when Echo transfers to the rich school on the West Side, and an insightful teacher becomes a pivotal mentor.
Black Enough by
Call Number: YA F BLACK
Black Enough is an essential collection of captivating stories about what it's like to be young and Black in America. Black is...sisters navigating their relationship at summer camp in Portland, Oregon, as written by Renée Watson. Black is...three friends walking back from the community pool talking about nothing and everything, in a story by Jason Reynolds. Black is...Nic Stone's high-class beauty dating a boy her momma would never approve of. Black is...two girls kissing in Justina Ireland's story set in Maryland. Black is urban and rural, wealthy and poor, mixed race, immigrants, and more--because there are countless ways to be Black enough.
Anger Is a Gift by
Call Number: YA F OSHIRO
Moss Jeffries is many things--considerate student, devoted son, loyal friend, and affectionate boyfriend, enthusiastic nerd. But sometimes Moss still wishes he could be someone else--someone without panic attacks, someone whose father was still alive, someone who hadn't become a rallying point for a community because of one horrible night. And most of all, he wishes he didn't feel so stuck. Moss can't even escape at school--he and his friends are subject to the lack of funds and crumbling infrastructure at West Oakland High, as well as constant intimidation by the resource officer stationed in their halls. That was even before the new regulations--it seems sometimes that the students are treated more like criminals.
You Brought Me the Ocean by
Call Number: GN YOU
Jake Hyde doesn't swim--not since his father drowned. Luckily, he lives in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, which is in the middle of the desert, yet he yearns for the ocean and is determined to leave his hometown for a college on the coast. But his best friend, Maria, wants nothing more than to make a home in the desert, and Jake's mother encourages him to always play it safe. Yet there's nothing "safe" about Jake's future--not when he's attracted to Kenny Liu. But Jake is full of secrets, including the strange blue markings on his skin that glow when in contact with water. What power will he find when he searches for his identity, and will he turn his back to the current or dive headfirst into the waves?
Survival Math by
Call Number: NEW 305.896 JAC
An electrifying, dazzlingly written reckoning and an essential addition to the national conversation about race and class, Survival Math takes its name from the calculations award-winning author Mitchell S. Jackson made to survive the Portland, Oregon of his youth. This dynamic book explores gangs and guns, near-death experiences, sex work, masculinity, composite fathers, the concept of "hustle," and the destructive power of addiction--all framed within the story of Jackson, his family, and his community. Lauded for its breathtaking pace, its tender portrayals, its stark candor, and its luminous style, Survival Math reveals on every page the searching intellect and originality of its author.
Ordinary Light by
Call Number: BIO SMITH
A quietly potent memoir that explores coming-of-age and the meaning of home against a complex backdrop of race, faith, and the unbreakable bond between a mother and daughter. The youngest of five children, Tracy K. Smith was raised with limitless affection and a firm belief in God by a stay-at-home mother and an engineer father. But just as Tracy is about to leave home for college, her mother is diagnosed with cancer, a condition she accepts as part of God's plan. Ordinary Light is the story of a young woman struggling to fashion her own understanding of belief, loss, history, and what it means to be black in America.
The Hemingses of Monticello by
Call Number: 973.4 GOR
This epic work--named a best book of the year by the Washington Post, Time, the Los Angeles Times, Amazon, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a notable book by the New York Times--tells the story of the Hemingses, whose close blood ties to our third president had been systematically expunged from American history until very recently. Now, historian and legal scholar Annette Gordon-Reed traces the Hemings family from its origins in Virginia in the 1700s to the family's dispersal after Jefferson's death in 1826.
Call Number: B WILDERSON
A seminal work that strikingly combines groundbreaking philosophy with searing flights of memoir, Afropessimism presents the tenets of an increasingly influential intellectual movement that theorizes blackness through the lens of perpetual slavery. Rather than interpreting slavery through a Marxist framework of class oppression, Frank B. Wilderson III, "a truly indispensable thinker" (Fred Moten), demonstrates that the social construct of slavery, as seen through pervasive, anti-black subjugation and violence, is hardly a relic of the past but an almost necessary force in our civilization that flourishes today, and that Black struggles cannot be conflated with the experiences of any other oppressed group.
Incognegro Graphic Mystery by
This tenth-anniversary edition of the acclaimed and fearless graphic novel features enhanced toned art, an afterword by Mat Johnson, character sketches, and other additional material. In the early 20th Century, when lynchings were commonplace throughout the American South, a few courageous reporters from the North risked their lives to expose these atrocities. They were African-American men who, due to their light skin color, could "pass" among the white folks. They called this dangerous assignment going "incognegro."
Redefining Realness by
Call Number: BIO MOCK
In 2011, Marie Claire magazine published a profile of Janet Mock in which she publicly stepped forward for the first time as a trans woman. Since then, Mock has gone from covering the red carpet for People.com to advocating for all those who live within the shadows of society. Redefining Realness offers a bold new perspective on being young, multiracial, economically challenged and transgender in America.
Sister Outsider by
Call Number: 814.54 LOR
Presenting the essential writings of black lesbian poet and feminist writer Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider celebrates an influential voice in twentieth-century literature. "[Lorde's] works will be important to those truly interested in growing up sensitive, intelligent, and aware."--The New York Times. In this charged collection of fifteen essays and speeches, Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change. Her prose is incisive, unflinching, and lyrical, reflecting struggle but ultimately offering messages of hope.
Freedom Is a Constant Struggle by
Call Number: 323 DAV
In these newly collected essays, interviews, and speeches, world-renowned activist and scholar Angela Y. Davis illuminates the connections between struggles against state violence and oppression throughout history and around the world. Reflecting on the importance of black feminism, intersectionality, and prison abolitionism for today's struggles, Davis discusses the legacies of previous liberation struggles, from the Black Freedom Movement to the South African anti-Apartheid movement. She highlights connections and analyzes today's struggles against state terror, from Ferguson to Palestine.
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