Black History Month: Histories

Will Harlan | February 19, 2021



Black History Month: Histories

We are celebrating Black History Month with weekly reading recommendation lists throughout February! This week we’re highlighting books about Black history for readers of all ages. Check out this week’s recommendations, or browse through our lists from previous weeks. Each book is available through the Minuteman Library Network. All you need is your library card!

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Black History Month: Histories — books, movies, and more which examine the history of Black people and their lives, including but not limited to Black Americans.


Black Futures

Kimberly Drew

What does it mean to be black and alive right now? Black Futures is a collection of work--art, photos, essays, memes, dialogues, recipes, tweets, poetry, and more--that tells the story of the radical, imaginative, bold, and beautiful world that black artists, high and low, are producing today. The book presents a succession of brilliant and provocative pieces--from both emerging and renowned creators of all kinds--that generates an entrancing rhythm: Readers will go from conversations with hackers and street artists to memes and Instagram posts, from powerful prose to dazzling paintings and insightful infographics. A generational document that captures this fast-moving generation in its own dynamic and expansive language. While shaped in the tradition of other generational statements, from The New Negro to Black Fire to Toni Morrison's landmark The Black Book, Black Futures does not have a retrospective air. It showcases the present, but points to the future. We live at a time when black culture--whether it's created by Ava DuVernay or Donald Glover, Kendrick Lamar or Cardi B, meme-makers or YouTubers--is opening our imaginations and offering new paths forward, a multi-voiced, utopian alternative to a world of walls and white nationalism. Black Futures captures this expansive vision and energy and makes it available to any reader, of any color, who wants to explore this exciting cultural moment and see the next one coming.

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Black on Earth

Kimberly N. Ruffin

American environmental literature has relied heavily on the perspectives of European Americans, often ignoring other groups. In Black on Earth, Kimberly Ruffin expands the reach of ecocriticism by analyzing the ecological experiences, conceptions, and desires seen in African American writing. Ruffin identifies a theory of “ecological burden and beauty” in which African American authors underscore the ecological burdens of living within human hierarchies in the social order just as they explore the ecological beauty of being a part of the natural order. Blacks were ecological agents before the emergence of American nature writing, argues Ruffin, and their perspectives are critical to understanding the full scope of ecological thought. Ruffin examines African American ecological insights from the antebellum era to the twenty-first century, considering WPA slave narratives, neo–slave poetry, novels, essays, and documentary films, by such artists as Octavia Butler, Alice Walker, Henry Dumas, Percival Everett, Spike Lee, and Jayne Cortez. Identifying themes of work, slavery, religion, mythology, music, and citizenship, Black on Earth highlights the ways in which African American writers are visionary ecological artists.

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A Black Women’s History of the United States

Daina Ramey Berry, Kali Nicole Gross

A vibrant and empowering history that emphasizes the perspectives and stories of African American women to show how they are—and have always been—instrumental in shaping our country In centering Black women’s stories, two award-winning historians seek both to empower African American women and to show their allies that Black women’s unique ability to make their own communities while combatting centuries of oppression is an essential component in our continued resistance to systemic racism and sexism. Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross offer an examination and celebration of Black womanhood, beginning with the first African women who arrived in what became the United States to African American women of today. A Black Women’s History of the United States reaches far beyond a single narrative to showcase Black women’s lives in all their fraught complexities. Berry and Gross prioritize many voices: enslaved women, freedwomen, religious leaders, artists, queer women, activists, and women who lived outside the law. The result is a starting point for exploring Black women’s history and a testament to the beauty, richness, rhythm, tragedy, heartbreak, rage, and enduring love that abounds in the spirit of Black women in communities throughout the nation.

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Barracoon

Zora Neale Hurston

New York Times Bestseller • TIME Magazine’s Best Nonfiction Book of 2018 • New York Public Library’s Best Book of 2018 • NPR’s Book Concierge Best Book of 2018 • Economist Book of the Year • SELF.com’s Best Books of 2018 • Audible’s Best of the Year • BookRiot’s Best Audio Books of 2018 • The Atlantic’s Books Briefing: History, Reconsidered • Atlanta Journal Constitution, Best Southern Books 2018 • The Christian Science Monitor’s Best Books 2018 • “A profound impact on Hurston’s literary legacy.”—New York Times “One of the greatest writers of our time.”—Toni Morrison “Zora Neale Hurston’s genius has once again produced a Maestrapiece.”—Alice Walker A major literary event: a newly published work from the author of the American classic Their Eyes Were Watching God, with a foreword from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker, brilliantly illuminates the horror and injustices of slavery as it tells the true story of one of the last-known survivors of the Atlantic slave trade—abducted from Africa on the last "Black Cargo" ship to arrive in the United States. In 1927, Zora Neale Hurston went to Plateau, Alabama, just outside Mobile, to interview eighty-six-year-old Cudjo Lewis. Of the millions of men, women, and children transported from Africa to America as slaves, Cudjo was then the only person alive to tell the story of this integral part of the nation’s history. Hurston was there to record Cudjo’s firsthand account of the raid that led to his capture and bondage fifty years after the Atlantic slave trade was outlawed in the United States. In 1931, Hurston returned to Plateau, the African-centric community three miles from Mobile founded by Cudjo and other former slaves from his ship. Spending more than three months there, she talked in depth with Cudjo about the details of his life. During those weeks, the young writer and the elderly formerly enslaved man ate peaches and watermelon that grew in the backyard and talked about Cudjo’s past—memories from his childhood in Africa, the horrors of being captured and held in a barracoon for selection by American slavers, the harrowing experience of the Middle Passage packed with more than 100 other souls aboard the Clotilda, and the years he spent in slavery until the end of the Civil War. Based on those interviews, featuring Cudjo’s unique vernacular, and written from Hurston’s perspective with the compassion and singular style that have made her one of the preeminent American authors of the twentieth-century, Barracoon masterfully illustrates the tragedy of slavery and of one life forever defined by it. Offering insight into the pernicious legacy that continues to haunt us all, black and white, this poignant and powerful work is an invaluable contribution to our shared history and culture.

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Lifting as We Climb

Evette Dionne

For African American women, the fight for the right to vote was only one battle. This Coretta Scott King Author Honor book tells the important, overlooked story of black women as a force in the suffrage movement--when fellow suffragists did not accept them as equal partners in the struggle. Susan B. Anthony. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Alice Paul. The Women's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls. The 1913 Women's March in D.C. When the epic story of the suffrage movement in the United States is told, the most familiar leaders, speakers at meetings, and participants in marches written about or pictured are generally white. That's not the real story. Women of color, especially African American women, were fighting for their right to vote and to be treated as full, equal citizens of the United States. Their battlefront wasn't just about gender. African American women had to deal with white abolitionist-suffragists who drew the line at sharing power with their black sisters. They had to overcome deep, exclusionary racial prejudices that were rife in the American suffrage movement. And they had to maintain their dignity--and safety--in a society that tried to keep them in its bottom ranks. Lifting as We Climb is the empowering story of African American women who refused to accept all this. Women in black church groups, black female sororities, black women's improvement societies and social clubs. Women who formed their own black suffrage associations when white-dominated national suffrage groups rejected them. Women like Mary Church Terrell, a founder of the National Association of Colored Women and of the NAACP; or educator-activist Anna Julia Cooper who championed women getting the vote and a college education; or the crusading journalist Ida B. Wells, a leader in both the suffrage and anti-lynching movements. Author Evette Dionne, a feminist culture writer and the editor-in-chief of Bitch Media, has uncovered an extraordinary and underrepresented history of black women. In her powerful book, she draws an important historical line from abolition to suffrage to civil rights to contemporary young activists--filling in the blanks of the American suffrage story. "Dionne provides a detailed and comprehensive look at the overlooked roles African American women played in the efforts to end slavery and then to secure the right to vote for women." --Kirkus Reviews, starred review

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The Life of Frederick Douglass

David F. Walker

A graphic novel biography of the escaped slave, abolitionist, public speaker, and most photographed man of the nineteenth century, based on his autobiographical writings and speeches, spotlighting the key events and people that shaped the life of this great American. Recently returned to the cultural spotlight, Frederick Douglass's impact on American history is felt even in today's current events. Comic book writer and filmmaker David F. Walker joins with the art team of Damon Smyth and Marissa Louise to bring the long, exciting, and influential life of Douglass to life in comic book form. Taking you from Douglass's life as a young slave through his forbidden education to his escape and growing prominence as a speaker, abolitionist, and influential cultural figure during the Civil War and beyond, The Life of Frederick Douglass presents a complete illustrated portrait of the man who stood up and spoke out for freedom and equality. Along the way, special features provide additional background on the history of slavery in the United States, the development of photography (which would play a key role in the spread of Douglass's image and influence), and the Civil War. Told from Douglass's point of view and based on his own writings, The Life of Frederick Douglass provides an up-close-and-personal look at a history-making American who was larger than life.

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Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You

Jason Reynolds, Ibram X. Kendi

The #1 New York Times bestseller and a USAToday bestseller! A timely, crucial, and empowering exploration of racism--and antiracism--in America This is NOT a history book. This is a book about the here and now. A book to help us better understand why we are where we are. A book about race. The construct of race has always been used to gain and keep power, to create dynamics that separate and silence. This remarkable reimagining of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi's National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning reveals the history of racist ideas in America, and inspires hope for an antiracist future. It takes you on a race journey from then to now, shows you why we feel how we feel, and why the poison of racism lingers. It also proves that while racist ideas have always been easy to fabricate and distribute, they can also be discredited. Through a gripping, fast-paced, and energizing narrative written by beloved award-winner Jason Reynolds, this book shines a light on the many insidious forms of racist ideas--and on ways readers can identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their daily lives. Download the free educator guide here: https://www.hachettebookgroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Stamped-Educator-Guide.pdf

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March: Book One

John Lewis, Andrew Aydin

Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper's farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president. Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents March, a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell (winner of the Eisner Award and LA Times Book Prize finalist for Swallow Me Whole). March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis' lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis' personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement. Book One spans John Lewis' youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall. Many years ago, John Lewis and other student activists drew inspiration from the 1958 comic book Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story. Now, his own comics bring those days to life for a new audience, testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.

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Changing the Equation

Tonya Bolden

A celebratory and inspiring look at some of the most important black women in STEM Award-winning author Tonya Bolden explores the black women who have changed the world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) in America. Including groundbreaking computer scientists, doctors, inventors, physicists, pharmacists, mathematicians, aviators, and many more, this book celebrates more than 50 women who have shattered the glass ceiling, defied racial discrimination, and pioneered in their fields. In these profiles, young readers will find role models, inspirations, and maybe even reasons to be the STEM leaders of tomorrow. These stories help young readers to dream big and stay curious. The book includes endnotes, a bibliography, and an index.

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Never Caught

Erica Armstrong Dunbar

A startling and eye-opening look into America’s First Family, Never Caught is the powerful story about a daring woman of “extraordinary grit” (The Philadelphia Inquirer). When George Washington was elected president, he reluctantly left behind his beloved Mount Vernon to serve in Philadelphia, the temporary seat of the nation’s capital. In setting up his household he brought along nine slaves, including Ona Judge. As the President grew accustomed to Northern ways, there was one change he couldn’t abide: Pennsylvania law required enslaved people be set free after six months of residency in the state. Rather than comply, Washington decided to circumvent the law. Every six months he sent the slaves back down south just as the clock was about to expire. Though Ona Judge lived a life of relative comfort, she was denied freedom. So, when the opportunity presented itself one clear and pleasant spring day in Philadelphia, Judge left everything she knew to escape to New England. Yet freedom would not come without its costs. At just twenty-two-years-old, Ona became the subject of an intense manhunt led by George Washington, who used his political and personal contacts to recapture his property. “A crisp and compulsively readable feat of research and storytelling” (USA TODAY), historian and National Book Award finalist Erica Armstrong Dunbar weaves a powerful tale and offers fascinating new scholarship on how one young woman risked everything to gain freedom from the famous founding father.

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Race Against Time

Sandra Neil Wallace, Rich Wallace

Scipio Africanus Jones -- a self-taught attorney who was born enslaved -- leads a momentous series of court cases to save twelve Black men who'd been unjustly sentenced to death. In October 1919, a group of Black sharecroppers met at a church in an Arkansas village to organize a union. Bullets rained down on the meeting from outside. Many were killed by a white mob, and others were rounded up and arrested. Twelve of the sharecroppers were hastily tried and sentenced to death. Up stepped Scipio Africanus Jones, a self-taught lawyer who'd been born enslaved. Could he save the men's lives and set them free? Through their in-depth research and consultation with legal experts, award-winning nonfiction authors Sandra and Rich Wallace examine the complex proceedings and an unsung African American early civil rights hero.

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Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance

Nikki Grimes

From Children's Literature Legacy Award-winning author Nikki Grimes comes a feminist-forward new collection of poetry celebrating the little-known women poets of the Harlem Renaissance--paired with full-color, original art from today's most talented female African-American illustrators. For centuries, accomplished women--of all races--have fallen out of the historical records. The same is true for gifted, prolific, women poets of the Harlem Renaissance who are little known, especially as compared to their male counterparts. In this poetry collection, bestselling author Nikki Grimes uses "The Golden Shovel" poetic method to create wholly original poems based on the works of these groundbreaking women-and to introduce readers to their work. Each poem is paired with one-of-a-kind art from today's most exciting female African-American illustrators: Vanessa Brantley-Newton, Cozbi A. Cabrera, Nina Crews, Pat Cummings, Laura Freeman, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, Ebony Glenn, April Harrison, Vashti Harrison, Ekua Holmes, Cathy Ann Johnson, Keisha Morris, Daria Peoples-Riley, Andrea Pippins, Erin Robinson, Shadra Strickland, Nicole Tadgell, and Elizabeth Zunon. Legacy also includes a foreword, an introduction to the history of the Harlem Renaissance, author's note, and poet biographies, which make this a wonderful resource and a book to cherish. Acclaim for One Last Word A Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor winner A New York Public Library Best Kids Book of the Year A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year, Middle Grade A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Nonfiction

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Like Vanessa

Tami Charles

Middle graders will laugh and cry with thirteen-year-old Vanessa Martin as she tries to be like Vanessa Williams, the first black Miss America. In this semi-autobiographical debut novel set in 1983, Vanessa Martin's real-life reality of living with family in public housing in Newark, New Jersey is a far cry from the glamorous Miss America stage. She struggles with a mother she barely remembers, a grandfather dealing with addiction and her own battle with self-confidence. But when a new teacher at school coordinates a beauty pageant and convinces Vanessa to enter, Vanessa's view of her own world begins to change. Vanessa discovers that her own self-worth is more than the scores of her talent performance and her interview answers, and that she doesn't need a crown to be comfortable in her own skin and see her own true beauty. "It's such an honor to be the focal point of this wonderful book! Without a doubt, it will be inspiring to a new generation of young, talented girls well on their way to promising careers." --Vanessa Williams, Multi-Platinum Recording Artist, New York Times Best-Selling Author, Fashion Designer and star of Television, Film and the Broadway Stage "Like Vanessa has it all and then some! Gritty, poetic, emotionally true, Tami Charles wrings out every hope, every stumble and every triumph of a girl on an uneasy road to possessing her self, her strength and her own beauty. An unforgettable debut." --Rita Williams-Garcia, author of One Crazy Summer and P.S. Be Eleven ♦ "This debut is a treasure: a gift to every middle school girl who ever felt unpretty, unloved, and trapped by her circumstances."— Kirkus Reviews STARRED REVIEW ♦ "Charles evades the clichés and imbues Vanessa with an inner life that's so real and personal it's hard to deny the charm, heartbreak, and triumph of her story. . . . Superb."— Booklist STARRED REVIEW ♦ "Like Vanessa is an emotionally potent, engaging young adult story with a heroine whom it is impossible not to root for. The life lessons that Nessy learns are relevant and worthwhile for everyone."— Foreword Reviews STARRED REVIEW

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The Book Itch

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Lewis's dad said he had an itch he needed to scratch?a book itch. How to scratch it? He started the National Memorial African Bookstore. It became a center of black culture and a home to activists like Malcolm X.

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Streetcar to Justice

Amy Hill Hearth

Bestselling author and journalist Amy Hill Hearth uncovers the story of a little-known figure in U.S. history in this fascinating biography. In 1854, a young African American woman named Elizabeth Jennings won a major victory against a New York City streetcar company, a first step in the process of desegregating public transportation in Manhattan. This illuminating and important piece of the history of the fight for equal rights, illustrated with photographs and archival material from the period, will engage fans of Phillip Hoose’s Claudette Colvin and Steve Sheinkin’s Most Dangerous. One hundred years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, Elizabeth Jennings’s refusal to leave a segregated streetcar in the Five Points neighborhood of Manhattan set into motion a major court case in New York City. On her way to church one day in July 1854, Elizabeth Jennings was refused a seat on a streetcar. When she took her seat anyway, she was bodily removed by the conductor and a nearby police officer and returned home bruised and injured. With the support of her family, the African American abolitionist community of New York, and Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Jennings took her case to court. Represented by a young lawyer named Chester A. Arthur (a future president of the United States) she was victorious, marking a major victory in the fight to desegregate New York City’s public transportation. Amy Hill Hearth, bestselling author of Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years, illuminates a lesser-known benchmark in the struggle for equality in the United States, while painting a vivid picture of the diverse Five Points neighborhood of Manhattan in the mid-1800s. Includes sidebars, extensive illustrative material, notes, and an index.

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A Child’s Introduction to African American History

Jabari Asim

A comprehensive, entertaining look at heroes, heroines, and critical moments from African American history -- from the slave trade to the Black Lives Matter movement -- by award-winning author Jabari Asim. Jabari Asim goes beyond what's taught in the classroom to reveal a fact-filled history of African American history through politics, activism, sports, entertainment, music, and much more. You'll follow the road to freedom beginning with the slave trade and the middle passage through the abolitionist movement and the Civil War where many African Americans fought as soldiers. You'll learn how slave songs often contained hidden messages and how a 15-year-old Jamaican-born young man named Clive Campbell helped to create hip-hop in the early 1970's. You'll experience the passionate speeches, marches, and movements of the Civil Rights era along with and the sacrifices of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers, and many others. Along the way there are dozens of profiles of political trailblazers like Shirley Chisholm, the first black women elected to Congress in 1968; dominants athletes like Tiger Woods who, in 1995, was only the second African American to play in a Master's Golf Tournament which he went on to win in 1997; popular musicians like Miles Davis, one the most influential artists of the twentieth century; and inspiring writers like Toni Morrison, the first African American to win the Nobel Prize in literature. Filled with beautiful illustrations by Lynn Gaines that bring these figures and events to life, plus a removable historical timeline poster, A Child's Introduction to African American History is a fascinating and comprehensive guide to this often overlooked yet immensely important part of American history.

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Looking for more resources? We have you covered. Check out our entire list of Black History Month: Histories recommendations. For more personalized recommendations, fill out our recommendation form.

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Black History Month: Friendship, Family, and Romance

Black History Month: Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror