Celebrate Black history this month and every month with a shelf full of the inspiring stories of Black men and women who changed their worlds.

First Published African-American Poet (1798-1884)

Teacher’s Guide
Poetry Workshop
Poster

★ “[Tate’s] decision to illuminate this remarkable man’s life offers a new perspective with remarkable clarity.” ―Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

 “Stirring.”Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

★ “A lovely introduction to an inspirational American poet.” ―School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award winner 
Carter G. Woodson Book Award (Elementary) winner – National Council for the Social Studies 

George loved words, but he was also enslaved. Forced to work long hours, he was unable to attend school or learn how to read. But he was determined―he listened to the white children’s lessons and learned the alphabet. Then he taught himself to read.

Soon, he began composing poetry in his head and reciting it as he sold fruits and vegetables on a nearby college campus. News of the slave poet traveled quickly among the students, and before long, George had customers for his poems. But George was still enslaved. Would he ever be free?

In this 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.

Nonfiction / Ages 6 – 10

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Stories of the Underground Railroad (1800s)

Excerpt
Teacher’s Guide

“An intriguing new angle on an important story.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“A plausible, powerful vision of ingenuity and daring in action.” ―Publishers Weekly

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.

Pa works hard as a blacksmith. But he’s got another important job to do as well: using his anvil to pound out the traveling rhythm―a message to travelers on the Underground Railroad. His son wants to help, but Pa keeps putting him off. Then one day, Pa falls ill and the boy has to take over.

A powerful story of rhythm and craft in nineteenth century America with beautiful oil paintings and back matter that includes more information about the Underground Railroad.

Historical Fiction / Ages 6 – 10

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Father of the Underground Railroad (1821-1902)

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Teacher’s Guide
Poster

 “Brings deserved attention to the life of a man who dedicated himself to recording the lives of others.” ―Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

★ “An illuminating picture book biography of a lesser-known hero.” —Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

★ “Inspirational.” ―School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

William Still’s parents escaped slavery but had to leave two of their children behind, a tragedy that haunted the family. As a young man, William went to work for the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, where he raised money, planned rescues, and helped freedom seekers who had traveled north. And then one day, a strangely familiar man came into William’s office, searching for information about his long-lost family. Could it be?

Motivated by his own family’s experience, William began collecting the stories of thousands of other freedom seekers. As a result, he was able to reunite other families and build a remarkable source of information, including encounters with Harriet Tubman, Henry “Box” Brown, and William and Ellen Craft.

Award-winning author-illustrator Don Tate brings to life the incredible true story of William Still, a man who dedicated his life to recording the stories of enslaved people fleeing to freedom. Tate’s powerful words and artwork are sure to inspire young readers in this first-ever picture book biography of the Father of the Underground Railroad.

Nonfiction / Ages 6 – 10

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Journalist & Civil Rights Activist (1862-1931)

Teacher’s Guide

★ “Alcorn’s striking, symbol-infused hand-colored prints on creamy vellum get star billing… Author notes, a timeline and more enhance this age-appropriate introduction to difficult issues and the woman who educated the world about them.” ―Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“This handsomely packaged introduction to one of the most important progenitors of the Civil Rights Movement is just the ticket for young readers not yet ready to tackle the Fradins’ definitive profile.” ―Kirkus Reviews

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”?

Author Philip Dray tells the inspirational story of Ida B. Wells and her lifelong commitment to end injustice. Award-winning illustrator Stephen Alcorn’s remarkable illustrations recreate the tensions that threatened to upend a nation while paying tribute to a courageous American hero.

Nonfiction / Ages 10 – 14

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Stories of the Civil War (1864)

Excerpt
Teacher’s Guide

“At the core of this stirring historical novel is the question of what freedom means…The boy’s first-person, present-tense narrative brings close the thrilling horse racing—on the plantation, at the race course, and in the war—and the African American history in all its complexity.” ―Booklist

Twelve-year-old Gabriel loves to help his father―one of the best horse trainers in Kentucky―care for the thoroughbred racehorses on Master Giles’s farm. But the violence of war disrupts the familiar routine of daily life on the farm. When Gabriel’s father enlists in a Colored Battalion, Gabriel is both proud and worried. But the absence of his father brings the arrival of Mr. Newcastle, a white horse trainer with harsh, cruel methods for handling horses and people.

Now it is up to Gabriel to protect the horses he loves from Mr. Newcastle and keep them safely out of the clutches of Confederate raiders.

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. Background historical material and photos are included.

Historical Fiction / Ages 8 – 12

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Father of Black History Month (1875-1950)

Teacher’s Guide
Poster
Endpapers

“An important and inspiring tale well told.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Young readers will be caught up in his story…. Quotes are seamlessly woven into the narrative, and a time line, list of sources, and bibliography add research appeal. Of special note are the illustrations, which include more than 40 portraits of black leaders… Their images and one-line biographies will pique further interest, making this a valuable resource for school and public libraries.” ―Booklist

Carter G. Woodson was born to two formerly enslaved people ten years after the end of the Civil War. Though his father could not read, he believed in being an informed citizen, so Carter read the newspaper to him every day. As a teenager, Carter went to work in the coal mines, and there he met Oliver Jones, who did something important: he asked Carter not only to read to him and the other miners, but also research and find more information on the subjects that interested them.

“My interest in penetrating the past of my people was deepened,” Carter wrote. His journey would take him many more years, traveling around the world and transforming the way people thought about history.

From an award-winning team of author Deborah Hopkinson and illustrator Don Tate, 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.

Nonfiction / Ages 6 – 10

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Discovery of the North Pole (1909)

Teacher’s Guide

“Henson’s story is dramatic, although the narrative voice is soft as velvet, while Stephen Alcorn’s artwork appears both washed in bitter cold and defrosted by its hand-tinted quality.” ―Kirkus Reviews

This stunning picture book offers a riveting account of African-American explorer Matthew Henson’s 1909 journey to the North Pole with Admiral Peary.

Matthew Henson was born just after the Civil War, a time when slavery had been abolished, but few opportunities were available for black people. As a child, Henson exhibited a yearning for adventure, embarking at age thirteen on a five-year voyage sailing the seven seas. Henson’s greatest adventure began when Robert Peary invited him to join an expedition to the North Pole. After many storms, injuries, and unimaginable cold, on April 1, Peary, Henson, and four Inuit men began the final 133-mile push to the Pole.

Award-winning author Deborah Hopkinson pays tribute to a great but under-recognized figure from America’s past in this remarkable story. Illustrator Stephen Alcorn’s large-format, stylized ink-and-watercolor illustrations capture all the action. Excerpts from Henson’s expedition diaries, a time line, and an epilogue place the story in its historical context.

Historical Fiction / Ages 6 – 10

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Civil Rights Activists (1939)

“Brings deserved attention to Chapman and underscores the very worthwhile message that one does not need to be a star to make a difference.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Jenkins’ powerful, bright, mixed-media collages show and tell the connections, past, present, and future, as the politician remembers his childhood experience and his works for civil rights.” ―Booklist

This inspiring story of little-known civil rights champion Oscar Chapman reminds readers that one person can truly make a difference.

On Easter Sunday 1939, Marian Anderson performed at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial for a crowd of over 75,000 people. The person largely responsible for putting her there was a white man, Oscar Chapman. When Chapman learned that Marian Anderson was not allowed to sing at Constitution Hall because of the color of her skin, Chapman helped produce a landmark concert that―for at least one evening―bridged the color divide to bring a city and much of the nation together.

Award-winning author Deborah Hopkinson tells the inspirational story of Oscar Chapman’s lifelong commitment to ending bigotry. Illustrator Leonard Jenkins’s remarkable illustrations recreate a bygone era and pay tribute to remarkable real-life people and a magical moment in modern history. An author’s note provides additional historical context.

Historical Fiction / Ages 6 – 10

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Tribute to First Black Player in Major League Baseball (1947)

Excerpt
Teacher’s Guide

“An affecting tribute to Robinson, to a dedicated son and to a thoughtful, deep-feeling father. And, of course, to baseball.” ―Publishers Weekly

“Genuinely affecting… Bootman’s realistic, wonderfully expressive watercolor paintings capture the fashions and flavor of 1940’s New York in muted brows and greens. The endpapers, an actual scrapbook of old newspaper articles about Robinson, provide a satisfying context for this ultimately upbeat, multi-dimensional story.” ―Kirkus Reviews

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. His father begins to keep a scrapbook, clipping photos and articles about Jackie. Finally one day the father delivers some big news: they are going to Ebbets Field to watch Jackie play!

Author Myron Uhlberg offers a nostalgic look back at 1947, and pays tribute to Jackie Robinson, the legendary athlete and hero. Illustrator Colin Bootman’s realistic, full-color illustrations capture the details of the period and the excitement of an entire city as Robinson and the Dodgers won the long-awaited pennant, and brought an entire New York community together for one magical summer.

Historical Fiction / Ages 4 – 8

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Civil Rights Activists (1963)

Excerpt
Teacher’s Guide
Poster

★ “A moving record of young people rising at a pivotal historical moment, based on original interviews and archival research as well as published sources.” ―Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

★ “Yet the most compelling component is Levinson’s dramatic recreation of the courageous children’s crusade and the change it helped bring about in the face of widespread prejudice and brutality. Powerful period photos and topical sidebars heighten the story’s impact.” ―Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March was a turning point in American history. African Americans had had enough of segregation and police brutality, but with their lives and jobs at stake, most adults were hesitant to protest the city’s racist culture. So the fight for civil rights lay in the hands of children like Audrey Hendricks, Wash Booker, James Stewart, and Arnetta Streeter.

We’ve Got a Job tells the little-known story of the 4,000 Black elementary, middle, and high school students who answered Dr. Martin Luther King’s call to “fill the jails.” Between May 2 and May 11, 1963, these young people voluntarily went to jail, drawing national attention to the cause, helping bring about the repeal of segregation laws, and inspiring thousands of other young people to demand their rights.

Combining extensive research and in-depth interviews with protesters, award-winning author Cynthia Levinson recreates the events of the Birmingham Children’s March from a new and very personal perspective. Archival photography and informational sidebars throughout. Backmatter includes an afterword, author’s note, timeline, map, and bibliography.

Nonfiction / Ages 10+

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A Celebration of Black Families (2000s)

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Teacher’s Guide
Poster

★ “A warm, loving, necessary reminder of the power in families coming together.”Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Set at one young boy’s annual family reunion, this Caldecott Honor-winning picture book by Kelly Starling Lyons and Daniel Minter is a rich and moving celebration of Black history, culture, and the power of family traditions.

Down home is Granny’s house. Down home is where Lil Alan and his parents and sister will gather with great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Down home is where Lil Alan will hear stories of the ancestors and visit the land that has meant so much to all of them. And down home is where all of the children will find their special way to pay tribute to their family history. All the kids have to decide what they’ll share, but what will Lil Alan do?

Kelly Starling Lyons’ eloquent text explores the power of history and family traditions, and stunning illustrations by Coretta Scott King Honor- and Caldecott Honor-winner Daniel Minter reveal the motion and connections in a large, multi-generational family.

Fiction / Ages 4 – 8

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