by HCLS Elkridge staff
Black History Month has been observed during February in the United States since 1976, when it was first officially recognized by President Gerald Ford. Ford invited Americans to, “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” We invite you to join us in celebrating the talent of Black authors and honoring the history of Black Americans by taking a look at some of the titles selected below. You can find more on our website.
My Hair Is a Garden written and illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera
When young MacKenzie is teased about her hair, she turns to her neighbor. Miss Tillie lavishes her with an abundance of wisdom, encouragement, and practical care that empowers the girl to take care of herself with love and skill. Like the beautiful garden Miss Tillie cultivates in her yard, MacKenzie’s beautiful Black hair is tended with love. The appreciation of self-care grows to an inspiring and powerful message of self-love. An afterword provides many specific techniques and recipes for caring for Black hair.
Jabari is definitely ready to jump off the diving board: he’s finished his swimming lessons, passed his swim test, and is a great jumper, so he’s not scared at all. But when his dad squeezes his hand, Jabari squeezes back. In a sweetly appealing tale of overcoming your fears, newcomer Gaia Cornwall captures a moment between a patient and encouraging father and a determined little boy you can’t help but root for.
Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton, illustrated by Raul Colón
Author Paula Young Shelton, daughter of civil rights leader Andrew Young, brings you along to her childhood experiences in Georgia during Jim Crow, in the heart of the civil rights movement. Shelton shares vivid memories of swimming with Martin Luther King Jr. and marching from Selma to Montgomery. Connect with your little one as you read this moving and poignant picture book.
With a title that references the late Lorraine Hansberry’s phrase “young, gifted and black,” this exuberant collected biography is one readers won’t want to miss. Children are invited to explore one- and two-page vignettes of compelling figures in Black culture worldwide. Discover how their childhood dreams and experiences influenced their adult achievements. This book inspires the next generation to chase their dreams!
The Fierce 44: Black Americans Who Shook Up the World by the staff of The Undefeated
Get to know 44 of America’s most impressive heroes with this engrossing and beautifully illustrated collection of mini-biographies. With notable figures such as musician Jimi Hendrix and gymnast Simone Biles, and somewhat lesser-known figures like newspaper publisher Robert Abbott and dancer Alvin Ailey, this book exposes you to the brief histories of both household names and little-known heroes who influenced the world.
For her twelfth birthday, small-town girl Amara gets her wish to visit her father’s side of the family for the first time in Harlem, New York City. Looking for roots to her personal heritage as well as Black culture, Amara is surprised by how overwhelming it all is at first. Through earnest and heartfelt exploration, the help of her loving family, and a school assignment to gather family history, she comes to understand more about herself than she had imagined. Love, forgiveness, and connection shine through in this tender and moving coming-of-age story.
An astounding work of historical fiction, this book is heartbreaking and graphically authentic in its depiction of violence. Following the burning of Atlanta in 1864, teenage Caleb, a pontooner in Sherman’s army, finds Mariah, an enslaved young woman, searching for rations in an abandoned slave labor camp. She and others join Sherman’s march. As Caleb and Mariah begin to dream of a better future, the horrific true events of the Massacre at Ebenezer Creek unfold. For ages 12+.
Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America edited by Ibi Zoboi. Also available as an eAudiobook.
This contemporary fiction anthology examines the different experiences of Black youth in America. Some of the best Black young adult authors explore a spectrum of the intersectionality of wealth, status, LGBT+, class, rural/urban/suburban, and immigration that impact and represent Black youth today.
The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed
A coming-of-age story, this book filters issues of systemic racism, class, generational mental health, privilege, and racial justice through the perspective of Ashley Bennett, a wealthy, Black teenager attending a predominantly white school. When graphic video evidence of Rodney King’s horrific beating by the LAPD goes viral and the riots following the officers’ lack of accountability, Ashley goes on a personal journey of growth and identity and awareness.
This collection of short stories is a wonderful introduction to one of the most innovative and celebrated authors of science fiction and fantasy writing today. Jemisin is unafraid to use her work to explore themes of trauma, prejudice, and oppression, while also creating richly-imagined worlds and unforgettable characters, whose voices have been missing from speculative fiction for far too long.
Reading historical fiction is a great way to immerse yourself in a life different from yours. Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing offers a deep look into the effects of imperialism and enslavement, and considers how the long shadows of their repercussions affect individuals and their families. Generation after generation of two half-sisters’ descendants guide us through the long-lasting consequences of systemic and systematic racism on separate continents an ocean apart.
Another Country by James Baldwin
I’d implore everyone to read anything – and everything – by James Baldwin, whom some have called America’s George Orwell. Perhaps it’s because of his contemplative and introspective essay style, but I think it refers to him as a political and social artist. My understanding is that the title refers to Baldwin’s wish for another country where one’s race or sexual preference aren’t defining characteristics, but sadly, this book is very much about this country. Another Country presents an engaging, well-crafted story about the intersection of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation in the 1950s, well before most authors thought so broadly. Art, such as excellent fiction with characters everyone can relate to in some way, is a great way to explore these concepts.
The Elkridge Branch + DIY Education Center opened the doors of its new building in March 2018. All our staff wish that we could see you in person, but we are happy to help you discover new reads while we are apart.