History, biographies, and historical fiction are among my favorite things to read, so I'm excited to tell you about some of my favorite books that are perfect for Black History Month. If you're looking for a book to fulfill a Black History Month assignment, or just want some awesome recommendations for personal reading, these books will definitely engage, entertain, and inspire readers from many ages and backgrounds. All books highlighted were published in 2014 or early 2015.
I haven't read this brand-spanking new 2015 book because it's been checked out so many times! (Yaaaay!) 28 Days: Moments in Black History That Changed the World covers history-making African-Americans from Crispus Atticus to Barack Obama.
Russell Freedman (1988 Newbery Medal winner for Lincoln: A Photobiography) is a champion writer of young people's nonfiction. Throughout his 85 years, he has created outstanding biographies on Benjamin Franklin, Babe Didrikson Zacharias, Confucius, Lafayette, Crazy Horse, Louis Braille, Marian Anderson, Marco Polo, and the Wright Brothers. His history titles cover well-known aspects of history such as the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and World War I, but also investigate the plight of children during the Great Depression, the daily lives of children during the Western Expansion, early 20th century Asian immigration, the vaqueros (Mexican cowboys) in the southwest, the fight against child labor, and pre-Columbus explorers of North America. The man is a giant and pioneer in children's informational books, and many of his history books focus on everyday heroes in extraordinary moments in history. Because They Marched: The People's Campaign for Voting Rights That Changed America is an eye-opening and powerful look at the struggle to ensure that African-Americans have equal representation at the voting booth. Although it's written for children, teens and adults who have seen Selma and want to learn more about the fight for voting rights will definitely benefit from reading this. If you want more titles about African-American history by Freedman, check out his 2006 account of the Montgomery bus boycott and his Marian Anderson biography (mentioned above).
I've discussed Brown Girl Dreaming many times on this blog; if you haven't read this memoir-in-verse about Jacqueline Woodson's childhood experiences in Ohio, South Carolina, and New York during the days of Jim Crow, you are missing out! It's won the National Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, is one of two 2015 Newbery Honor books, and a spot on the New York Times Bestsellers list.
A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream is a gorgeously illustrated and told tribute to Janet Collins, the first African-American prima ballerina. Told through the perspective of a seamstress's daughter, this is a touching and memorable look at a little-known pioneer.
If you want Virginia history as well as African-American history, look for The Girl From the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement. (It's also on the Middle School Battle of the Books list.) Barbara Rose Johns was a teenager when she organized a protest against the deplorable conditions of her segregated school in Prince Edward County. As part of Brown v. Board of Education, the community's fight against segregation helped to bring about integration in the public schools.
Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker is a brilliantly (and dazzlingly!) created biography of the fascinating dancer/actress, Josephine Baker. Although Baker was stunningly sophisticated, her poverty-stricken childhood in St. Louis was a far cry from Paris. The enormous racism during her lifetime is sensitively and factually presented for young readers.
Pre-civil rights history intrigues me. I'm automatically interested in any black history title that's NOT about slavery or the 1960s civil rights movement (as important as it is to keep learning about those eras). The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, And the Fight for Civil Rights is a sobering and difficult read at times, but an important one to read. I reviewed it last August.
We have a number of related 2015 titles on order or just recently received:
Capital Days: Michael Shiner's Journal and the Growth of Our Nation's Capital
The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage
Mae Jemison (a biography of the first African-American female astronaut)
Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the Selma Voting Rights March
X: A Novel (YA novel about Malcolm X co-written by daughter Ilyasah Shabazz and acclaimed YA author Kekla Magoon)
For recommendations of pre-2014 books on black history, see these posts.
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library