8 Educational Book Recommendations for Black History Month

Honor Black History Month by expanding your knowledge with these educational books.

Get involved with Black History Month by reading an informative book.

The United States celebrates Black History Month every February. Initiated by historian Carter G. Woodson, Black History Month aims to recognize African Americans and their role in U.S. history. Honoring Black communities means continually educating ourselves on what we can do today. Here are some informative reading materials to acknowledge Black history.

My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King and Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds

Age Group: Adults

Genre: Autobiographical Nonfiction

Summary: While many people are familiar with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, his wife, Coretta, was another highly involved civil rights activist. This autobiography contains stories recorded shortly before her passing in 2006. It shares her life, contributions to activism, and of course, her relationship with Dr. King. After becoming a widow and single mother of four children, Coretta passionately lobbied for a U.S. holiday in her husband’s name for fifteen years. She founded the King Center and became a continual advocate for the rights of underrepresented communities.

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

Age Group: Adults

Genre: Personal Narrative

Summary: Despite being published in 1963, James Baldwin’s classic essay remains relevant, honest, and thought-provoking. Known for works like If Beale Street Could Talk and Giovanni’s Room, Baldwin discusses his relationships with other civil rights activists. He also provides his thoughts on America at the time it was written. Growing up in a religious community, Baldwin also recounts his complicated relationship with faith and the future he sees for upcoming generations. Baldwin’s passionate candor and plea for advocacy make The Fire Next Time essential reading for everyone.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Age Group: Young Adult

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Summary: Winner of several awards, including the Coretta Scott King Honor, the William C. Morris award, and the Printz Honor, The Hate U Give has become a modern literary classic. It follows the story of Starr Carter, who attends a suburban prep school while living in a financially insecure neighborhood. These two worlds collide when she witnesses the fatal shooting of her unarmed childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer. As his death makes headlines, Starr must make a difficult decision that could threaten her life and upend her community.

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Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Age Group: Adults

Genre: Fiction

Summary: Originally published in 1952 when it won the National Book Award, Ralph Ellison’s classic novel resonates with modern audiences. It follows the story of an unnamed narrator experiencing various stages of his young adult life, from a Black community in the south to the streets of New York City. After being expelled from college, the narrator eventually becomes a spokesperson for a group in Harlem known as “the Brotherhood.” After an eruption of violence and chaos, the narrator faces introspective questions about society and the United States in the 1950s.

Four-Hundred Souls by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain

Age Group: Adults

Genre: Historical Nonfiction

Summary: Edited by celebrated authors Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain, Four-Hundred Souls tells the story of ninety people over 400 years. The novel starts in 1619, following five-year periods recollected through short stories, essays, and personal vignettes. The editors shared varying perspectives on Black history to showcase the past and understand how to approach the future. Four-Hundred Souls honors and celebrates Black history by featuring themes of resistance, hope, and endurance.

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Age Group: Adult

Genre: Historical Fiction

Summary: Famous for her stellar prose, Toni Morrison’s classic novel won the Pulitzer Prize, educating readers years after it was initially published. It tells the story of Slethe, a woman born into slavery before escaping to Ohio. Eighteen years into freedom, Slethe still grapples with the trauma of her experiences at Sweet Farm, where she was enslaved. Now living with her daughter Denver and mother-in-law Baby Suggs, Slethe’s home becomes haunted by the ghost of a person named Beloved. This apparition forces Slethe to confront the past and symbolizes the most horrific moments of America’s history.

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The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X by Les Payne and Tamara Payne

Age Group: Adult

Genre: Biographical Nonfiction

Summary: Winner of the 2021 National Book Award and awarded the Pulitzer Prize, this biography discusses some lesser-known aspects of Malcolm X’s life. In a novel 31 years in the making, investigative journalist Les Payne attempted to gather every detail about the civil rights activist. Payne effortlessly includes rare glimpses of Malcolm X, everything from his experiences during the Great Depression to the moments leading up to his assassination in 1965. Although Les Payne passed away in 2018 before finishing the novel himself, his daughter Tamara completed the biography posthumously.

We March, Written and Illustrated by Shane W. Evans

Age Group: Children

Genre: Historical Children’s Literature

Summary: While everyone should get involved with Black History Month, it’s just as essential to keep young readers educated about its significance. Perfect for children between the ages of 4–8, We March uses simple but stunning illustrations to teach young readers about the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. On August 28, 1963, more than 250,000 people assembled at the U.S. capital to peacefully protest, beginning at the Washington Monument and ending at the Lincoln Memorial. It was here that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr presented his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. This inspired thousands to get involved with the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.

Although Black History Month is a time to honor African American communities, it’s crucial to incorporate that passion into everyday choices. Educate yourself daily by learning about Black history, culture, and advocacy.

EveryLibrary aims to provide diverse resources for Black History Month and beyond. Visit everylibrary.org to learn more about what libraries are doing to support BIPOC communities and what you can do to help!

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