Celebrate Black History Month with books by Black authors and writing focusing on Black characters, history, and culture. We hope these selections serve to educate and encourage a dialogue on topics of Black history and experiences, as well as highlight authors and stories from a variety of genres.

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell

This biography of Josephine Baker, explores the life of this passionate performer and civil rights advocate. Baker worked her way from the slums of St. Louis to the grandest stages in the world. Meticulously researched by both author and artist, Josephine’s powerful story of struggle and triumph is an inspiration and a spectacle, just like the legend herself.

Available formats: Book

Blues Journey by  Walter Dean Myers

This collection of  verses is a beautiful tribute to the poetry and art of the blues. Each original blues-style verse on a page calls out a response from the artist in striking tones of brown, black, white, and blue. Together, the poems and illustrations come together to create the enchanting story of the creation of the blues through the experiences of African Americans from the end of slavery through the beginning of the civil rights movement.

Available formats: Book

Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Langston’s mother has just died, and now they’re leaving the rest of his family and friends to move to Chicago. He misses everything–Grandma’s Sunday suppers, the red dirt roads, and the magnolia trees his mother loved.  At home he’s lonely, his father always busy at work; at school he’s bullied for being a country boy. But Langston’s new home has one fantastic thing. Unlike the whites-only library in Alabama, the Chicago Public Library welcomes everyone. There, hiding out after school, Langston discovers another Langston–a poet whom he learns inspired his mother enough to name her only son after him.

Available formats: Book, eBook (Overdrive Media on Demand), Playaway, Audiobook (Hoopla), Audiobook (Overdrive Media on Demand)

Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace by Ashley Bryan

In May of 1942, at the age of eighteen, Ashley Bryan was drafted to fight in World War II. For the next three years, he would face the horrors of war as a black soldier in a segregated army. He endured the terrible lies white officers told about the black soldiers to isolate them from anyone who showed kindness—including each other. He received worse treatment than even Nazi POWs. He was assigned the grimmest, most horrific tasks, like burying fallen soldiers…but was told to remove the black soldiers first because the media didn’t want them in their newsreels. And he waited and wanted so desperately to go home, watching every white soldier get safe passage back to the United States before black soldiers were even a thought. Bryan’s poignant memoir is filled with the trials, hopes, and art created by this amazing author.

Available formats: Book

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe

Mufaro’s two daughters react in different ways to the King’s search for a wife – one is aggressive and selfish, the other kind and dignified. The king disguises himself to learn the true nature of both the girls and chooses Nyasha, the kind and generous daughter, to be the queen.

Available formats: Book

Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper 

When a burning cross set by the Klan causes panic and fear in 1932 Bumblebee, North Carolina, fifth-grader Stella must face prejudice and find the strength to demand change in her segregated town.

Available formats: Book, eBook (Overdrive Media on Demand), Audiobook (Hoopla), Audiobook (Overdrive Media on Demand), Audiobook

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson

This is about the men, women, and children who toiled in the hot sun picking cotton for their masters; it’s about the America ripped in two by Jim Crow laws; it’s about the brothers and sisters of all colors who rallied against those who would dare bar a child from an education. It’s a story of discrimination and broken promises, determination, and triumphs.

Available formats: Book, Audiobook (Overdrive Media on Demand)

Who Was Rosa Parks? by Yona Zeldis McDonough

In 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give her bus seat to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama. This seemingly small act triggered civil rights protests across America and earned Rosa Parks the title “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.” This biography is one of many in the Who Was Series. Filled with black and white illustrations that add dimension to this account of Rosa Parks’ life.  This series also has biographies on Martin Luther King Jr., Louis Armstrong, and more prominent African American artists, activist, and scientists.

Available formats: Book, eBook (Overdrive Media on Demand), eBook (CloudLibrary)

The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales by Virginia Hamilton

Author Virginia Hamilton has created a collection of American Black Folktales. Her retelling of these Afro-American folktales of animals, fantasy, the supernatural, and the desire for freedom, stories that were born of the sorrow of the slaves, but passed on in hope, are given added depth by full page illustrations.

Available formats:  Audiobook (Overdrive Media on Demand)

What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 

This nonfiction collection looks at the contributions of  black inventors and innovators, which include several unsung heroes who shared a desire to improve people’s lives. Offering profiles with fast facts on flaps and framed by a funny contemporary story featuring two feisty twins, here is a nod to the minds behind the gamma electric cell and the ice-cream scoop, improvements to traffic lights, open-heart surgery, and more. The lives of the inventors whose ingenuity and perseverance against great odds made our world safer, better, and brighter, have been collected in this fun and thought provoking collection.

Available formats: eBook (Hoopla), eBook (Overdrive Media on Demand)

Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes

For centuries, accomplished women–of all races–have fallen out of the historical records. The same is true for gifted, prolific, women poets of the Harlem Renaissance who are little known, especially as compared to their male counterparts.
In this poetry collection, poet and author Nikki Grimes, creates wholly original poems based on the works of these groundbreaking women. Each poem is paired with a full color illustration by a female African-American Illustrator.

Available formats: Book

The Watsons go to Birmingham–1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

When the Watson family—ten-year-old Kenny, Momma, Dad, little sister Joetta, and brother Byron—sets out on a trip south to visit Grandma in Birmingham, Alabama, they don’t realize that they’re heading toward one of the darkest moments in America’s history. The Watsons’ journey reminds us that even in the hardest times, laughter and family can help us get through anything.

Available formats: Book, Audiobook (Overdrive Media on Demand), eBook (Overdrive Media on Demand)

Answering the Cry for Freedom: Stories of African Americans and the American Revolution by Gretchen Woelfle

The thirteen stories featured in this collection spotlight charismatic individuals who answered the cry for freedom, focusing on the choices they made and how they changed America both then and now. Even as American Patriots fought for independence from British rule during the Revolutionary War, oppressive conditions remained in place for the thousands of enslaved and free African Americans living in this country. But African Americans took up their own fight for freedom by joining the British and American armies; preaching, speaking out, and writing about the evils of slavery; and establishing settlements in Nova Scotia and Africa.

Available formats: Book, eBook (CloudLibrary)

Becoming Mohammad Ali by Kwame Alexander

Before he was a household name, Cassius Clay was a kid with struggles like any other. This novel, inspired by his childhood and teen years, vividly depicts his life up to age seventeen in both prose and verse, including his childhood friends, struggles in school, the racism he faced, and his discovery of boxing. Readers will learn about Cassius’ family and neighbors in Louisville, Kentucky, and how, after a thief stole his bike, Cassius began training as an amateur boxer at age twelve. Before long, he won his first Golden Gloves bout and began his transformation into the unrivaled Muhammad Ali.

Available formats: Book

The Hero Two Doors Down by Sharon Robinson

Eight-year-old Steve Satlow is thrilled when Jackie Robinson moves into his Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn in 1948, although many of his neighbors are not. When Steve actually meets his hero he is even more excited and worried that a misunderstanding over a Christmas tree could damage his new friendship.

Available formats: Book, eBook (Overdrive Media on Demand), eBook (Hoopla), Audiobook (Overdrive Media on Demand)

Martin Rising: Requiem for a King by Andrea Davis Pinkney

In a rich embroidery of visions, musical cadence, and deep emotion, Andrea and Brian Pinkney convey the final months of Martin Luther King’s life and of his assassination through metaphor, spirituality, and multilayers of meaning. Andrea’s stunning poetic requiem, illustrated with Brian’s lyrical and colorful artwork, brings a fresh perspective to Martin Luther King, the Gandhi-like, peace-loving activist whose dream of equality  and whose courage to make it happen changed the course of American history. Even in his death, he continues to transform and inspire all of us who share his dream.

Available formats: Book

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis

With love and determination befitting the “world’s greatest family,” twelve-year-old Deza Malone, her older brother Jimmie, and their parents endure tough times in Gary, Indiana, and later Flint, Michigan, during the Great Depression. This wonderful novel is a follow up to Bud, Not Buddy.

Available formats: Book, eBook (Overdrive Media on Demand), Audiobook (Overdrive Media on Demand)

Take Back the Block by Chrystal D. Giles

Wes Henderson wants to focus on hanging out with his crew (his best friends since little-kid days) and playing video games at the start of the school year, not the protests his parents are always dragging him to. But when a real estate developer makes an offer to buy Kensington Oaks, the neighborhood Wes has lived his whole life, everything changes. The grownups are supposed to have all the answers, but all they’re doing is arguing. Even Wes’s best friends are fighting. And some of them may be moving. Wes isn’t about to give up the only home he’s ever known. Wes has always been good at puzzles, and he knows there has to be a missing piece that will solve this puzzle and save the Oaks.

Available formats: Book

Betty before X by Ilyasah Shabazz

This novel was inspired by childhood of Betty Shabazz. In Detroit, 1945, eleven-year-old Betty’s house doesn’t quite feel like home. She believes her mother loves her, but she can’t shake the feeling that her mother doesn’t want her. Church helps those worries fade, if only for a little while. 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. Soon, the American civil rights icon we now know as Dr. Betty Shabazz is born.

Available formats: Book, eBook (Overdrive Media on Demand), eBook (CloudLibrary), Audiobook, Audiobook (Overdrive Media on Demand), Audiobook (Hoopla)


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