It is Black History Month, and we are very excited to share some of our favorite titles that serve as great tools to remember and learn from the history and heritage of our country, not just in February but throughout the year.
Carter Reads the Newspaper
Written by Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrated by Don Tate
Each Februrary we celebrate Black History Month. It’s a time to honor heroes like harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Dr. Martin Luther Kind Jr. But there’s one hero we sometimes forget. Carter G. Woodson didn’t help people escape from slavery, start a bus strike, or lead a movement of millions. Yet without him, we might not have Black History Month. Born to two formerly enslaved people ten years after the end of the Civil War and encouraged to be an informed citizen by his father, Carter read the newspaper every day. Later when we went to work in the coal mines, Carter became interested in finding more information about the history of his people.
This first-ever picture book biography of Carter G. Woodson emphasizes the importance of pursuing curiosity and encouraging a hunger for knowledge of stories and histories that have not been told. Check out a copy of the teacher’s guide and download your own poster.
Going Down Home with Daddy
Written by Kelly Starling Lyons
Illustrated by Daniel Minter
Down Home is Granny’s house, where Lil’ Alan and his parents and sister will join grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in a rich celebration of family history. They will share stories of their ancestors and visit the land that has meant so much to all of them. Each of the children will find their special way to pay tribute to family history. Sis will sing “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” Granny’s favorite song. Isaiah will read Mother to Son by Langston Hughes. Devin has made a scrapbook in Granny’s favorite color blue. But what will Lil’ Alan do?
This rich and moving celebration of Black family history, culture, and ritual explores the power of family traditions and reveals the connections of a large, multigenerational family.
Written by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk
Illustrated by Anna Rich
The son of an enslaved blacksmith learns that his father is using the rhythm of his hammering to communicate with travelers on the Underground Railroad. When Pa falls ill, it is up to him to help others along the journey―and also lead his family’s escape.
This powerful story of rhythm and craft in nineteenth-century America offers an intriguing angle on an important story in Black history. For more information about Blacksmithing, Slavery in America, and Underground Railroad Folklore, check out our blog post.
Dad, Jackie, and Me
Written by Myron Uhlberg
Illustrated by Colin Bootman
It is the summer of 1947 and a highly charged baseball season is underway in New York. Jackie Robinson is the new first baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers―and the first black player in Major League Baseball. A young boy listens eagerly to the Dodgers games on the radio, each day using sign language to tell his deaf father about the games. Finally one day the father delivers some big news: they are going to Ebbets Field to watch Jackie play!
A testament to how bonds can be created despite race, color, or disabilities, this touching picture book takes a nostalgic look back at 1947 and pays tribute to Jackie Robinson, who brought an entire New York community together for one magical summer. Read an excerpt and see our teacher’s guide here.
The Story of Matthew Henson, Co-discoverer of the North Pole
Written by Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrated by Stephen Alcorn
This stunning picture book tells the story of the under-recognized Matthew Henson who joined Robert Peary’s great 1909 expedition to reach the North Pole. The team endured storms, shifting ice, wind, injuries, accidents, and unimaginable cold. Finally, on April 1, Peary, Henson, and four Inuit men began the final 133-mile push to the Pole. Excerpts from Henson’s expedition diaries, a time line, and an epilogue place the story in its historical context.
For more resources, check out our teacher’s guide here.
In a powerful biography of George Moses Horton, the first southern African-American man to be published, Don Tate tells an inspiring and moving story of talent and determination in Poet. George was forced to work long hours; he could not attend school, but he taught himself to read. Soon, he began composing poetry and reciting it as he sold fruits and vegetables on a nearby college campus. News of the slave poet traveled quickly, and George soon had customers for his poems. But he was still enslaved. Would be ever be free?
A Storm Called Katrina
Written by Myron Uhlberg
Illustrated by Colin Bootman
Louis Daniel hates it when Mama treats him like a baby. But when Hurricane Katrina blows through the Gulf Coast, Louis feels like a little kid again. With no time to gather their belongings―except Louis’s beloved horn―the family heads into an unfamiliar, watery world of floating debris, lurking critters, and desperate neighbors. Taking shelter in the already-crowded Superdome, Louis and his parents wait…and wait. Conditions continue to worsen and when Daddy fails to return from a scouting mission within the Dome, Louis knows it’s up to him to find his father―with the help of his prized cornet.
This sensitively portrayed fictional story based on the real events of Hurricane Katrina highlights resilience and hope of the people who were affected by the tragedy in New Orleans. Find the teacher’s guide here.
This series tells the journey of a young Kentucky slave who becomes a talented jockey and eventually a solider in the Civil War. Alison Hart mines the complex relationships of the Civil War in this gripping work of historical fiction. Young readers will experience the danger and drama of a time when war split the country and human beings were segregated into owner and owned based on the color of their skin.
Full of historical material and details about horses, these fast-paced stories provide a raw look into Black contributions in American history. Read excerpts of Gabriel’s Horses, Gabriel’s Triumph, and Gabriel’s Journey, and check out the teacher’s guide for Gabriel’s Horses here.
Learn about of one of the greatest moments in civil rights history as seen through the eyes of four young people who were at the center of the action. This inspiring story tells how Audrey Hendricks, Wash Booker, James Stewart, Arnetta Streeter and 4,000 black elementary, middle, and high school students succeeded where adults had failed in desegregating one of the most racially violent cities in America.
By combining in-depth, one-on-one interviews and extensive research, author Cynthia Levinson recreates the events of the Birmingham Children’s March from a new and very personal perspective. Check out our teacher’s guide here and download your own poster.
In 1863, when Ida B. Wells was not yet two years old, the Emancipation Proclamation freed her from the bond of slavery. Blessed with a strong will, an eager mind, and a deep belief in America’s promise of “freedom and justice for all,” young Ida held her family together, defied society’s conventions, and used her position as a journalist to speak against injustice. But Ida’s greatest challenge arose after one of her friends was lynched. How could one headstrong young woman help free America from the looming “shadow of lawlessness”?
This inspirational story of a courageous American hero covers her early encounters with racism to her lifelong commitment to end injustice. Check out the teacher’s guide for this wonderful book here.
The Other Side of Free
Written by Krista Russell
This action-packed historical fiction chapter book brings to life the story of fourteen-year-old Jem, who has escaped a cruel master in 1739 St. Augustine. However, the threat of war between England and Spain becomes more real and Jem continues to suffer under the custody of a difficult and angry woman. As Jem decides what he believes and who he trusts, he starts to understand the meaning of freedom and the complex connections that make a community.
We hope you enjoy these wonderful and inspirational stories, and feel free to share your favorite books in honor of Black History Month! Find these titles and more at your local library, indie bookstore, or Barnes & Noble.