Looking for books to read for Black History Month for both kids and adults? I’ve got you covered!
I’m black all year round, and I love to celebrate my blackness. Last year, I shared How You Can Celebrate Black History Month all Year Long, and my stance on this hasn’t changed. If you’re wondering how to introduce Black History Month to your kids, I have a post for that too. Many may not know this, but my great-grandmother was a caucasian woman from Portugal, and last year, I visited Portugal to learn a bit more about my history and my Portuguese heritage. However, the one thing I’ve learned having lived in the US for many many years is that as long as you’re mixed or have any part of black in your system, you’re automatically considered black, no matter how white you may look. Case in point: Princess Meghan.
With that being said, I always try and support my black brothers and sisters all year long. That can mean anything from buying their products, attending their events, or even going to the movies to support their latest project. You’ll always find me at a Tyler Perry show, no matter how predictable the script is going to be. However, today is all about books.
Reading is fundamental, and I believe that reading brings knowledge and enhances vocabulary. I generally write my posts so that the average third-grader can understand, which is why you won’t find a lot of “big words” in my posts, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t know or understand how to use them in context. In a professional setting, where I have to write an email or letter, it’s an entirely different story. I’ve always encouraged reading to your children and have written many posts on the benefits of reading and how to motivate your kids to read. Today, however, I want to share with you a few books to read for Black History Month, books I recommend, written by black authors, and ones that you should have in your library.
Here is my list of 15 books to read for Black History Month for both kids and adults alike.
1. FREEDOM OVER ME
In his gentle yet deeply powerful way, Ashley Bryan goes to the heart of how a slave is given a monetary value by the slave owner, tempering this with the one thing that CAN’T be bought or sold—dreams. Inspired by the actual will of a plantation owner that lists the worth of each and every one of his “workers”, Bryan has created collages around that document, and others like it. Through fierce paintings and expansive poetry he imagines and interprets each person’s life on the plantation, as well as the life their owner knew nothing about—their dreams and pride in knowing that they were worth far more than an Overseer or Madam ever would guess. Visually epic, and never before done, this stunning picture book is unlike anything you’ve seen.
2. BLACK ENOUGH
Black is…sisters navigating their relationship at summer camp in Portland, Oregon, as written by Renée Watson.
Black is…three friends walking back from the community pool talking about nothing and everything, in a story by Jason Reynolds.
Black is…Nic Stone’s high-class beauty dating a boy of whom her momma would never approve.
Black is…two girls kissing in Justina Ireland’s story set in Maryland.
Black is urban and rural, wealthy and poor, mixed race, immigrants, and more – because there are countless ways to be black enough.
3. ON THE COME UP
Insightful, unflinching, and full of heart, On the Come Up is an ode to hip hop from one of the most influential literary voices of a generation. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; and about how, especially for young black people, freedom of speech isn’t always free.
4. THE HATE U GIVE
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
5. PIECING ME TOGETHER
Jade believes she must get out of her poor neighborhood if she’s ever going to succeed. Her mother tells her to take advantage of every opportunity that comes her way. And Jade has: every day she rides the bus away from her friends and to the private school where she feels like an outsider, but where she has plenty of opportunities. But some opportunities she doesn’t really welcome, like an invitation to join Women to Women, a mentorship program for “at-risk” girls. Just because her mentor is black and graduated from the same high school doesn’t mean she understands where Jade is coming from. She’s tired of being singled out as someone who needs help, someone people want to fix. Jade wants to speak, to create, to express her joys and sorrows, her pain and her hope. Maybe there are some things she could show other women about understanding the world and finding ways to be real, to make a difference.
6. WE RISE, WE RESIST, WE RAISE OUR VOICES
What do we tell our children when the world seems bleak and prejudice and racism run rampant? With 96 lavishly designed pages of original art and prose, fifty diverse creators lend their voices to young activists.
Featuring poems, letters, personal essays, art, and other works from such industry leaders as Jacqueline Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming), Jason Reynolds (All American Boys), Kwame Alexander (The Crossover), Andrea Pippins (I Love My Hair), Sharon Draper (Out of My Mind), Rita Williams-Garcia (One Crazy Summer), Ellen Oh (co-founder of We Need Diverse Books), and artists Ekua Holmes, Rafael Lopez, James Ransome, Javaka Steptoe, and more, this anthology empowers the nation’s youth to listen, learn, and build a better tomorrow.
7. HIDDEN FIGURES
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 beautifully 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.
8. ONE CRAZY SUMMER
Eleven-year-old Delphine is like a mother to her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern. She’s had to be, ever since their mother, Cecile, left them seven years ago for a radical new life in California. But when the sisters arrive from Brooklyn to spend the summer with their mother, Cecile is nothing like they imagined.
While the girls hope to go to Disneyland and meet Tinker Bell, their mother sends them to a day camp run by the Black Panthers. Unexpectedly, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern learn much about their family, their country, and themselves during one truly crazy summer.
9. MARTIN’S BIG WORDS: THE LIFE OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING
This picture-book biography is an excellent and accessible introduction for young readers to learn about one of the world’s most influential leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Doreen Rappaport weaves the immortal words of Dr. King into a captivating narrative to tell the story of his life. With stunning art by acclaimed illustrator Bryan Collier, Martin’s Big Words is an unforgettable portrait of a man whose dream changed America-and the world-forever.
10. LET THE CHILDREN MARCH
In 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, thousands of African American children volunteered to march for their civil rights after hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak. They protested the laws that kept black people separate from white people. Facing fear, hate, and danger, these children used their voices to change the world. Frank Morrison’s emotive oil-on-canvas paintings bring this historical event to life, while Monica Clark-Robinson’s moving and poetic words document this remarkable time.
11. HEART AND SOUL: THE STORY OF AMERICA AND AFRICAN AMERICANS
The story of America and African Americans is a story of hope and inspiration and unwavering courage. This is the story of the men, women, and children who toiled in the hot sun picking cotton for their masters; it’s about the America ripped in two by Jim Crow laws; it’s about the brothers and sisters of all colors who rallied against those who would dare bar a child from an education. It’s a story of discrimination and broken promises, determination, and triumphs.
Told through the unique point of view and intimate voice of a one-hundred-year-old African American female narrator, this inspiring book demonstrates that in gaining their freedom and equal rights, African Americans helped our country achieve its promise of liberty and justice—the true heart and soul of our nation.
12. VOICE OF FREEDOM: FANNIE LOU HAMER: THE SPIRIT OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT
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 vibrant mixed-media art full of intricate detail, Voice of Freedom celebrates Fannie Lou Hamer’s life and legacy with a message of hope, determination, and strength.
13. THE UNDEFEATED
The Undefeated, is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present. Robust back matter at the end provides valuable historical context and additional detail for those wishing to learn more.
14. ALL DIFFERENT NOW: JUNETEENTH, THE FIRST DAY OF FREEDOM
Experience the joy of Juneteenth in this celebration of freedom. Through the eyes of one little girl, All Different Now tells the story of the first Juneteenth, the day freedom finally came to the last of the slaves in the South. Since then, the observance of June 19 as African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond. All Different Now is a joyous portrait of the dawn breaking on the darkest time in our nation’s history.
15. WELL-READ BLACK GIRL: FINDING OUR STORIES, DISCOVERING OURSELVES
Remember that moment when you first encountered a character who seemed to be written just for you? That feeling of belonging remains with readers the rest of their lives—but not everyone regularly sees themselves in the pages of a book. In this timely anthology, Glory Edim brings together original essays by some of our best black women writers to shine a light on how important it is that we all—regardless of gender, race, religion, or ability—have the opportunity to find ourselves in literature.
From collections of poems to classics, these books to read for Black History Month on our list are a testament to the world of how creative we are in the black community. Now the hardest decision you may have to make is which one to read first. But don’t be too concerned because Black History Month doesn’t have to be limited to one month; you can make it an all-year event. So pick up any your heart desires and let them inspire, educate and thrill you no matter the month you read them in.
Let’s celebrate Black History Month by reading these stories of African-Americans overcoming adversity and leaving their mark on the world. Together, we can do anything! You can purchase these books directly from my Amazon Storefront where I’ve made it easy for you by putting them together along with thirty-five other books I thought you might like.