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Celebrating Black History Month: Children’s Picks

Check out these inspiring titles in honor of Black History Month.

February 3, 2021

Check out these inspiring titles in honor of Black History Month.

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28 Days: Moments in Black History That Changed the World
by Charles R. Smith Jr.

Each day features a different influential figure in African-American history, from Crispus Attucks, the first man shot in the Boston Massacre, sparking the Revolutionary War, to Madame C. J. Walker, who after years of adversity became the wealthiest black woman in the country, as well as one of the wealthiest black Americans, to Barack Obama, the country’s first African-American president.

With powerful illustrations by Shane Evans, this is a completely unique look at the importance and influence of African Americans on the history of this country.

Library Catalog

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Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer
by Carole Boston Weatherford
A stirring collection of poems and spirituals, accompanied by stunning collage illustrations, recollects the life of Fannie Lou Hamer, a champion of equal voting rights.
“I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Despite fierce prejudice and abuse, even being beaten to within an inch of her life, Fannie Lou Hamer was a champion of civil rights from the 1950s until her death in 1977. Integral to the Freedom Summer of 1964, Ms. Hamer gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention that, despite President Johnson’s interference, aired on national TV news and spurred the nation to support the Freedom Democrats. Featuring luminous mixed-media art both vibrant and full of intricate detail, Singing for Freedom celebrates Fannie Lou Hamer’s life and legacy with an inspiring message of hope, determination, and strength.
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Rosa
by Nikki Giovanni
She had not sought this moment but she was ready for it. When the policeman bent down to ask “Auntie, are you going to move?” all the strength of all the people through all those many years joined in her. She said, “No.”
A picture book account of Rosa Park’s historic choice.

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The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage
by Selina Alko

For most children these days it would come as a great shock to know that before 1967, they could not marry a person of a race different from their own. That was the year that the Supreme Court issued its decision in Loving v. Virginia.

This is the story of one brave family: Mildred Loving, Richard Perry Loving, and their three children. It is the story of how Mildred and Richard fell in love, and got married in Washington, D.C. But when they moved back to their hometown in Virginia, they were arrested (in dramatic fashion) for violating that state’s laws against interracial marriage. The Lovings refused to allow their children to get the message that their parents’ love was wrong and so they fought the unfair law, taking their case all the way to the Supreme Court – and won!

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The Talk: Conversations about Race, Love & Truth
edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson
This short story collection is a call-to-action that invites all families to be anti-racist and advocates for change. Thirty diverse, authors and illustrators engage young people in frank discussions about racism, identity, and self-esteem.
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Overground Railroad
by Lesa Cline-Ransome
A window into a child’s experience of the Great Migration from the award-winning creators of Before She Was Harriet and Finding Langston .
James Ransome’s mixed-media illustrations are full of bold color and texture, bringing Ruth Ellen’s journey to life, from sprawling cotton fields to cramped train cars, the wary glances of other passengers and the dark forest through which Frederick Douglass traveled towards freedom. Overground Railroad is, as Lesa notes, a story “of people who were running from and running to at the same time,” and it’s a story that will stay with readers long after the final pages.
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A Place to Land
by Barry Wittenstein
Much has been written about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the 1963 March on Washington. But there’s little on his legendary speech and how he came to write it. Find out more in this gripping book with illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was once asked if the hardest part of preaching was knowing where to begin. No, he said. The hardest part is knowing where to end. “It’s terrible to be circling up there without a place to land.”  Finding this place to land was what Martin Luther King, Jr. struggled with, alongside advisors and fellow speech writers, in the Willard Hotel the night before the March on Washington, where he gave his historic “I Have a Dream” speech. But those famous words were never intended to be heard on that day, not even written down for that day, not even once.
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She Persisted: Harriet Tubman
by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Inspired by the #1 New York Times bestseller She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger comes a chapter book series about women who stood up, spoke up and rose up against the odds!  Born enslaved, Harriet Tubman rose up to become one of the most successful, determined and well-known conductors of the Underground Railroad. With her family’s love planted firmly in her heart, Harriet looked to the North Star for guidance–and its light helped guide her way out of slavery. Her courage made it possible for her to help others reach freedom too.

In this chapter book biography by bestselling and award-winning author Andrea Davis Pinkney, readers learn about the amazing life of Harriet Tubman–and how she persisted. Complete with an introduction from Chelsea Clinton!

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race
by Margot Lee Shetterly

Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden were good at math…really good.  They participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes, like providing the calculations for America’s first journeys into space. And they did so during a time when being black and a woman limited what they could do. But they worked hard. They persisted. And they used their genius minds to change the world.

In this illustrated picture book edition, we explore the story of four female African American mathematicians at NASA, known as “colored computers,” and how they overcame gender and racial barriers to succeed in a highly challenging STEM-based career.

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Genesis Begins Again
by Alicia D. Williams

This is the story of a thirteen-year-old girl who is filled with self-loathing and must overcome internalized racism and a verbally abusive family to finally learn to love herself.

There are ninety-six things Genesis hates about herself. She knows the exact number because she keeps a list. Like #95: Because her skin is so dark, people call her charcoal and eggplant—even her own family. And #61: Because her family is always being put out of their house, belongings laid out on the sidewalk for the world to see. When Genesis reaches #100 on the list of things she hates about herself, will she continue on, or can she find the strength to begin again?

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Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
by Doreen Rappaport
Acclaimed author Doreen Rappaport and Coretta Scott King Award winner Bryan Collier, who previously collaborated on Freedom River, have pooled their talents yet again in a stunning tribute to civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. An extraordinary picture-book biography, Martin’s Big Words consists of Rappaport’s own words interwoven with quotes from Dr. King…all powerfully brought to life by Collier’s striking, glorious art.
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From the Desk of Zoe Washington
by Janae Marks
Zoe Washington isn’t sure what to write. What does a girl say to the father she’s never met, hadn’t heard from until his letter arrived on her twelfth birthday, and who’s been in prison for a terrible crime?  A crime he says he never committed.
Could Marcus really be innocent? Zoe is determined to uncover the truth. Even if it means hiding his letters and her investigation from the rest of her family. Everyone else thinks Zoe’s worrying about doing a good job at her bakery internship and proving to her parents that she’s worthy of auditioning for Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge.  But with bakery confections on one part of her mind, and Marcus’s conviction weighing heavily on the other, this is one recipe Zoe doesn’t know how to balance. The only thing she knows to be true: Everyone lies.
Lift Every Voice and Sing
by James Weldon Johnson
Written by civil rights leader and poet James Weldon Johnson in 1899, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” is sung in schools and churches throughout America. The popular, timeless song is recognized as a testimonial to the struggle and achievements of African-American people past, present, and future.
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Black is a Rainbow Color
by Angela Joy
A child reflects on the meaning of being Black in this moving and powerful anthem about a people, a culture, a history, and a legacy that lives on.
Red is a rainbow color.
Green sits next to blue.
Yellow, orange, violet, indigo,
They are rainbow colors, too, but
My color is black . . .
And there’s no BLACK in rainbows.
From the wheels of a bicycle to the robe on Thurgood Marshall’s back, Black surrounds our lives. It is a color to simply describe some of our favorite things, but it also evokes a deeper sentiment about the incredible people who helped change the world and a community that continues to grow and thrive. Stunningly illustrated by Caldecott Honoree and Coretta Scott King Award winner Ekua Holmes, Black Is a Rainbow Color is a sweeping celebration told through debut author Angela Joy’s rhythmically captivating and unforgettable words.
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Lift As You Climb: Ella Baker
by Patricia Hruby Powell
Learn about the civil rights activist Ella Baker in this picture book biography.
Long before the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, Ella Baker worked to lift others up by fighting racial injustice and empowering poor African Americans to stand up for their rights. Her dedication and grassroots work in many communities made her a valuable ally for leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and she has been ranked as one of the most influential women in the civil rights movement. In the 1960s she worked to register voters and organize sit-ins, and she became a teacher and mentor to many young activists.
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Look Both Ways
by Jason Reynolds

In each of 10 stories, kids reentering the neighborhood from their school day reveal their unique narratives.

BFFs T.J. and Jasmine find their years long friendship getting them through parental separation, illness, and foster care. A group of four, all children of cancer survivors, has been brought together by a school counselor. A female skateboarder is the target of a bully—to the relief of his usual victim. A teen with the signs of OCD meets a street musician who changes her outlook. Two ardent gamers are caught up in the confusion of sexual questioning, and there’s an odd couple of friends whose difference in size is no barrier to their bond. A teen with a fear of dogs devises an elaborate plan to get past his neighbor’s new pet, and the class clown tries to find a way to make her overworked mother laugh. Three boys work to make their friend presentable enough to tell a classmate that he likes her. An accident sustained by the school crossing guard causes her son significant anxiety. There are connections among some of the stories: places, people, incidents. However, each story has its own center, and readers learn a great deal about each character in just a few lines. Reynolds’ gift for capturing the voices and humanity of urban teens is on full display. The cast adheres to a black default.

The entire collection brims with humor, pathos, and the heroic struggle to grow up.

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Henry’s Freedom Box
by Ellen Levine

A stirring, dramatic story of a slave who mails himself to freedom by a Jane Addams Peace Award-winning author and a Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist.

Henry Brown doesn’t know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves’ birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: He will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday — his first day of freedom.

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Brown Girl Dreaming
by Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson, one of today’s finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

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She Was the First: The Trailblazing Life of Shirley Chisholm
by Katheryn Russell-Brown
A timely, inspiring picture book biography of the dynamic twentieth-century educator, activist, and politician Shirley Chisholm.
Even as a young child growing up in the 1920s, Shirley Chisholm was a leader. At the age of three, older children were already following her lead in their Brooklyn neighborhood.
Shirley Chisholm, a woman of many firsts, was an unforgettable political trailblazer, a candidate of the people and catalyst of change who opened the door for women in the political arena and for the first Black president of the United States
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Freedom in Congo Square
by Carole Boston Weatherford
Chosen as a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2016, this poetic, nonfiction story about a little-known piece of African American history captures a human’s capacity to find hope and joy in difficult circumstances and demonstrates how New Orleans’ Congo Square was truly freedom’s heart.
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Young, Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present
by Jamia Wilson

Join us on a journey across borders, through time and even through space to meet 52 icons of color from the past and present in a celebration of achievement.

Meet figureheads, leaders, and pioneers such as Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Rosa Parks, as well as cultural trailblazers and sporting heroes, including Stevie Wonder, Oprah Winfrey, and Serena Williams.  Discover how their childhood dreams and experiences influenced their adult achievements. This book will help the next generation to chase their own dream . . . whatever it may be.

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Child of the Dream: A Memoir of 1963
by Sharon Robinson
An incredible memoir from Sharon Robinson about one of the most important years of the civil rights movement.

In January 1963, Sharon Robinson turns thirteen the night before George Wallace declares on national television “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” in his inauguration speech as governor of Alabama. It is the beginning of a year that will change the course of American history.This is the story of how one girl finds her voice in the fight for justice and equality.

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Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History
by Walter Dean Myers

In this picture book biography, the late New York Times bestselling author Walter Dean Myers and acclaimed artist Floyd Cooper take readers on an inspiring journey through the life of Frederick Douglass.

Frederick Douglass was a self-educated slave in the South who grew up to become an icon. He was a leader of the abolitionist movement, a celebrated writer, an esteemed speaker, and a social reformer, proving that, as he said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

The story of one of America’s most revered figures is brought to life by the text of award-winning author Walter Dean Myers and the sweeping, lush illustrations of artist Floyd Cooper.

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Trombone Shorty
by Troy Andrews
Hailing from the Tremé neighborhood in New Orleans, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews got his nickname by wielding a trombone twice as long as he was high. A prodigy, he was leading his own band by age six, and today this Grammy-nominated artist headlines the legendary New Orleans Jazz Fest.
Along with esteemed illustrator Bryan Collier, Andrews has created a lively picture book autobiography about how he followed his dream of becoming a musician, despite the odds, until he reached international stardom. Trombone Shorty is a celebration of the rich cultural history of New Orleans and the power of music.
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Mae Among the Stars
by Roda Ahmed
Inspired by the life of the first African American woman to travel in space, Mae Jemison.
When Little Mae was a child, she dreamed of dancing in space. She imagined herself surrounded by billions of stars, floating, gliding, and discovering.  She wanted to be an astronaut.
Her mom told her, “If you believe it, and work hard for it, anything is possible.”  Little Mae’s curiosity, intelligence, and determination, matched with her parents’ encouraging words, paved the way for her success at NASA as the first African American woman to travel in space.
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The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963
by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Newbery Honor-winning American classic, The Watsons Go to Birmingham–1963 , celebrates 20 years with this anniversary edition featuring a special letter from Christopher Paul Curtis and an introduction by noted educator Dr. Pauletta Bracy.
Enter the hilarious world of ten-year-old Kenny and his family, the Weird Watsons of Flint, Michigan. There’s Momma, Dad, little sister Joetta, and brother Byron, who’s thirteen and an “official juvenile delinquent.” When Momma and Dad decide it’s time for a visit to Grandma, Dad comes home with the amazing Ultra-Glide, and the Watsons set out on a trip like no other. They’re heading South to Birmingham, Alabama, toward one of the darkest moments in America’s history.
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Clean Getaway
by Jason Reynolds

From New York Times bestselling author Nic Stone comes a middle grade road-trip story through American race relations past and present perfect for fans of Jacqueline Woodson and Jason Reynolds.

Set against the backdrop of the segregation history of the American South, take a trip with New York Times bestselling Nic Stone and an eleven-year-old boy who is about to discover the world hasn’t always been a welcoming place for kids like him, and things aren’t always what they seem–his G’ma included.

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All Because You Matter
by Tami Charles
A lyrical, heart-lifting love letter to Black and brown children everywhere: reminding them how much they matter, that they have always mattered, and they always will, from powerhouse rising star author Tami Charles and esteemed, award-winning illustrator Bryan Collier.
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Ghost Boys
by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing. Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances. Emmett helps Jerome process what has happened, on a journey towards recognizing how historical racism may have led to the events that ended his life. Jerome also meets Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, who grapples with her father’s actions.

Once again Jewell Parker Rhodes deftly weaves historical and socio-political layers into a gripping and poignant story about how children and families face the complexities of today’s world, and how one boy grows to understand American blackness in the aftermath of his own death.

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Harriet Tubman: Secret Agent: How Daring Slaves and Free Blacks Spied for the Union During the Civil War
by Thomas B. Allen

You are about to enter the undercover world of African-American spies—enslaved and free—risking everything in the name of freedom. How were the Underground Railroad and slave songs used to pass secret messages? What were “contrabands” and “Black Dispatches?” What did Harriet have in common with the Secret Six and a maidservant in the home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis? You’ll discover these answers and more as the action unfolds.

Thomas B. Allen, author of the award-winning George Washington, Spymaster, has sifted through military and intelligence archives, diaries, and little-known memoirs from ex-slaves to bring to light new facts about the role Harriet and other black spies played in helping the Union win the war.

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Pathfinders: The Journey of 16 Extraordinary Black Souls
by Tonya Bolden
Over the centuries, untold numbers of black men and women in America have achieved great things against the odds. Pathfinders is a collective biography of sixteen diverse American men and women of African descent who made their mark on American history in the 18th to 20th centuries. People who dared to dream, take risks, and create goals not only for themselves, but for others and the betterment of their society, too. Award-winning author Tonya Bolden offers an insightful look at these figures, from Venture Smith, who bought his freedom; to Sadie Alexander, who contributed to the Civil Rights movement in the United States; to Katherine Johnson, who helped the United States land on the moon.
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This Is Your Time
by Ruby Bridges
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER – Civil rights icon Ruby Bridges–who, at the age of six, was the first black child to integrate into an all-white elementary school in New Orleans–inspires readers and calls for action in this moving letter. Her elegant, memorable gift book is especially uplifting in the wake of Kamala Harris making US history as the first female, first Black, and first South Asian vice president-elect.