As February and Black History Month come to a close, I have a great list of books readers of all ages can use to keep the celebration of black history going all year long!
By Kitty Kelley, Photographer: Stanley Tretick
Atheneum Books for Young Readers | January 3, 2017 | Ages: 5 and up
Bestselling author and journalist Kitty Kelley combines her elegant storytelling with Stanley Tretick’s iconic photographs to transport readers to the 1963 March on Washington, bringing that historic day vividly to life for a new generation.
Martin Luther King Jr. was nervous.
Standing at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial, he was about to address 250,000 people with what would become known as his “I Have a Dream Speech”—the most famous speech of his life.
This day—August 28, 1963—was a momentous day in the Civil Rights Movement. It was the culmination of years spent leading marches, sit-ins, and boycotts across the South to bring attention to the plight of African Americans. Years spent demanding equality for all. Years spent dreaming of the day that black people would have the same rights as white people, and would be treated with the same dignity and respect. It was time for Martin to share his dream.
By Cynthia Levinson, Illustrated by: Vanessa Brantley Newton
Atheneum Books for Young Readers | January 17, 2017 | Ages: 5 - 10
Meet the youngest known child to be arrested for a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963, in this moving picture book that proves you’re never too little to make a difference.
Nine-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks intended to go places and do things like anybody else.
So when she heard grown-ups talk about wiping out Birmingham’s segregation laws, she spoke up. As she listened to the preacher’s words, smooth as glass, she sat up tall. And when she heard the plan—picket those white stores! March to protest those unfair laws! Fill the jails!—she stepped right up and said, I’ll do it! She was going to j-a-a-il!
Audrey Faye Hendricks was confident and bold and brave as can be, and hers is the remarkable and inspiring story of one child’s role in the Civil Rights Movement.
by Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon
Atheneum Books for Young Readers | January 24, 2017 | Ages: 4 – 8
Celebrate the life of Lena Horne, the pioneering African American actress and civil rights activist, with this inspiring and powerful picture book from award-winning author Carole Boston Weatherford.
You have to be taught to be second class; you’re not born that way.
Lena Horne was born into the freedom struggle, to a family of teachers and activists. Her mother dreamed of being an actress, so Lena followed in her footsteps as she chased small parts in vaudeville, living out of a suitcase until MGM offered Lena something more—the first ever studio contract for a black actress.
But the roles she was considered for were maids and mammies, stereotypes that Lena refused to play. Still, she never gave up. “Stormy Weather” became her theme song, and when she sang “This Little Light of Mine” at a civil rights rally, she found not only her voice, but her calling.
By Jeannine Atkins
Atheneum Books for Young Readers | January 10, 2017 | Ages: 12 up
From critically acclaimed author Jeannine Atkins comes a gorgeous, haunting biographical novel in verse about a half Native American, half African American sculptor working in the years following the Civil War.
A sculptor of historical figures starts with givens but creates her own vision. Edmonia Lewis was just such a sculptor, but she never spoke or wrote much about her past, and the stories that have come down through time are often vague or contradictory. Some facts are known: Edmonia was the daughter of an Ojibwe woman and an African-Haitian man. She had the rare opportunity to study art at Oberlin, one of the first schools to admit women and people of color, but lost her place after being accused of poisoning and theft, despite being acquitted of both. She moved to Boston and eventually Italy, where she became a successful sculptor.
But the historical record is very thin. The open questions about Edmonia’s life seem ideally suited to verse, a form that is comfortable with mysteries. Inspired by both the facts and the gaps in history, author Jeannine Atkins imagines her way into a vision of what might have been.
By Misty Copeland
Aladdin | December 06, 2016 | Ages: 8 - 12
Determination meets dance in this middle grade adaptation of the New York Times bestselling memoir by the first African-American principal dancer in American Ballet Theatre history, Misty Copeland.
As the first African-American principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, Misty Copeland has been breaking down all kinds of barriers in the world of dance. But when she first started dancing—at the late age of thirteen—no one would have guessed the shy, underprivileged girl would one day make history in her field.
Her road to excellence was not easy—a chaotic home life, with several siblings and a single mother, was a stark contrast to the control and comfort she found on stage. And when her home life and incredible dance promise begin to clash, Misty had to learn to stand up for herself and navigate a complex relationship with her mother, while pursuing her ballet dreams.
Life in Motion is a story for all the kids who dare to be different, dream bigger, and want to break stereotypes in whatever they do.
By Jason Reynolds
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books | August 30, 2016 | Ages: 10 and up
Ghost wants to be the fastest sprinter on his elite middle school track team, but his past is slowing him down in this first electrifying novel of a brand-new series from Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award–winning author Jason Reynolds.
Ghost. Lu. Patina. Sunny. Four kids from wildly different backgrounds with personalities that are explosive when they clash. But they are also four kids chosen for an elite middle school track team—a team that could qualify them for the Junior Olympics if they can get their acts together. They all have a lot to lose, but they also have a lot to prove, not only to each other, but to themselves.
Ghost has a crazy natural talent, but no formal training. If he can stay on track, literally and figuratively, he could be the best sprinter in the city. But Ghost has been running for the wrong reasons—it all starting with running away from his father, who, when Ghost was a very little boy, chased him and his mother through their apartment, then down the street, with a loaded gun, aiming to kill. Since then, Ghost has been the one causing problems—and running away from them—until he meets Coach, an ex-Olympic Medalist who blew his own shot at success by using drugs, and who is determined to keep other kids from blowing their shots at life.
Shackles from the Deep: Tracing the Path of a Sunken Slave Ship, a Bitter Past, and a Rich Legacy (January 2017, ages 10+) by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Cottman, delivers a tale that is “part mystery, part history, part self-discovery” (Booklist starred review) in this unique true story of the Henrietta Marie, a slave ship that was wrecked off the coast of Florida at the turn of the 18th century. Cottman retraces the ship’s route around the world: from England to West Africa, from the Henrietta Marie’s departing port in Senegal to the Jamaican plantation where the slaves it carried were sent to work. Cottman draws from his own experience as a diver and an African American, sharing his emotional journey of walking the steps of his ancestors and reliving the traumatic, treacherous and heartbreaking ordeal of these enslaved men, women – and children – who died on its final journey.
The March Against Fear: The Last Great Walk of the Civil Rights Movement and the Emergence of the Black Power (January 2017, 12+) by Sibert-honor winning author Ann Bausum, delivers a timely tale of what has been called the final march of the civil rights era. The story powerfully parallels the modern fight for social justice and is hailed by Kirkus in a starred review as “an exceptionally well-written and researched chronicle of a crucial civil rights turning point.” On June 5, 1966, James Meredith set out to confront racial fears and to peacefully protest for voter registration for African Americans, but was shot in an assassination attempt the very next day. His cause was taken up by two leaders of the era, Martin Luther King Jr. and Stokely Carmichael – swelling one man’s walk into a historic march of more than 15,000 people, resulting in 4,000 black voter registrations in Mississippi. The different approaches of King and Carmichael caused tension that ultimately drove a wedge between their organizations and fueled the Black Power movement, which was derided by the media and resented by many others at the time – a haunting echo of contemporary tension with the Black Lives Matter movement. Bausum met Meredith in the course of her research and his first-hand account, combined with historical photographs and quotes from key figures on both sides, brings to life a significant moment in history that will resonate with modern readers as the fight for equal rights continues today. In addition to the starred review from Kirkus, March has also received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal.