Black History Month is a time to celebrate African American people, events, and achievements, as well as a time to recognize the pivotal role of African Americans in the history of the United States. We’ve rounded up a few teachable books to help you and your students learn about and celebrate Black History Month. If you have any book or lesson suggestions, let us know! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy, and keep reading!
Parents and grandparents will delight in sharing this exuberant book with the children in their lives. Find a partner for hand claps such as “Eenie, Meenie, Sassafreeny,” or form a group for circle games like “Little Sally Walker.” Gather as a family to sing well-loved songs like “Amazing Grace” and “Oh, Freedom,” or read aloud the poetry of such African American luminaries as Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, and Paul Laurence Dunbar. And snuggle down to enjoy classic stories retold by the author, including Aesop’s fables and tales featuring Br’er Rabbit and Anansi the spider. This is a songbook, a storybook, and a poetry collection, all rolled into one, filled with the joy of childhood and ready to inspire a new generation to play.
Poignant, moving, and hopeful, this is an intimate look at the birth of the civil rights movement. In this Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of the Year, Paula Young Shelton, daughter of civil rights activist Andrew Young, brings a child’s unique perspective to an important chapter in America’s history. Paula grew up in the Deep South, in a world where whites had and blacks did not. With an activist father and a community of leaders surrounding her, including Uncle Martin (Martin Luther King), Paula watched and listened to the struggles, eventually joining her family—and thousands of others—in the historic march from Selma to Montgomery.
In this evocative first-person account accompanied by exquisite artwork, Winter and Widener tell the story of a boy who was both a slave and a son and, in doing so, illuminate the many contradictions in Jefferson’s life and legacy. Though Jefferson lived in a mansion, Hemings and his siblings lived in a one-room shack. While Jefferson doted on his white grandchildren, he never showed affection to his slave children. Though he kept the Hemings boys from hard field labor—instead sending them to work in the carpentry shop—Jefferson nevertheless listed the children in his “Farm Book” along with the sheep, hogs, and other property he owned. Here is a profound and moving account of one family’s history, which is also America’s history.
As Lillian, a one-hundred-year-old African American woman, makes a “long haul up a steep hill” to her polling place, she sees more than trees and sky—she sees her family’s history. She sees the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment and her great-grandfather voting for the first time. She sees her parents trying to register to vote. And she sees herself marching in a protest from Selma to Montgomery. Veteran bestselling picture book author Winter and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award–winning Evans vividly recall America’s civil rights battle in this lyrical, poignant account of one woman’s fierce determination to make it up the hill and make her voice heard.
Yeboah’s story—which was turned into the film Emmanuel’s Gift, narrated by Oprah Winfrey—is nothing short of remarkable. Born in Ghana, West Africa, with one deformed leg, he was dismissed by most people—but not his mother, who taught him to reach for his dreams. As a boy, Emmanuel hopped to school over two miles each way, learned to play soccer, left home at age thirteen to provide for his family, and eventually became a cyclist. He rode an astonishing four hundred miles across Ghana in 2001, spreading his powerful message: disability is not inability. Today, Emmanuel continues to work on behalf of the disabled through organizations and scholarship funds. Thompson’s lyrical prose and Qualls’s bold collage illustrations offer a powerful celebration of triumphing over adversity.
Zora and Langston. Billie and Bessie. Eubie and Duke. If the Harlem Renaissance had a court, they were its kings and queens. But there were other, lesser known individuals whose contributions were just as impactful, such as Florence Mills. Born to parents who were former slaves, Florence knew early on that she loved to sing. And that people responded to her sweet, birdlike voice. Her dancing and singing catapulted her all the way to the stages of 1920s Broadway, where she inspired songs and even entire plays! Yet with all this success, she knew firsthand how bigotry shaped her world. And when she was offered the role of a lifetime from Ziegfeld himself, she chose to support all-black musicals instead.
For generations, the women of Gee’s Bend have made quilts for practical reasons—to keep families warm, as a pastime during which to share and sing, or to memorialize loved ones. Today, those same quilts hang on museum walls as modern masterpieces of color and design. Inspired by these quilts and the women who made them, author Patricia McKissack, recipient of a Newbery Honor and the Coretta Scott King Award, traveled to Alabama to learn their stories. The lyrical rite-of-passage story that was the result of her journey seamlessly weaves together the familial, cultural, and spiritual currents that run through this community.