Celebrate Black History Month with These 31 Picks

It’s always a good time to learn about Black History as a way to educate yourself and expand your knowledge about the contributions of Black people in American history. In celebration of Black History Month in February, our librarians have rounded up 31 books and other resources to guide your learning. Here are several recommendations for kids, teens, and adults—all available at Grand Forks Public.

Picture Books

1. Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston by Alicia D. Williams, Illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara

This shimmering picture book shines the light on Zora Neale Hurston, the extraordinary writer and storycatcher extraordinaire who changed the face of American literature.

2. Dream Street by Tricia Elam Walker, Illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Visit a truly special street bursting with joy, hope, and dreams. Inspired by the neighborhood where they grew up as cousins, this gorgeous picture book from an award-winning illustrator and critically acclaimed author is the perfect gift or keepsake for every generation.

3. I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick D. Barnes, Illustrated by Gordon C. James

The confident Black narrator of this book is proud of everything that makes him who he is. He’s got big plans, and no doubt he’ll see them through–as he’s creative, adventurous, smart, funny, and a good friend. Sometimes he falls, but he always gets back up.

4. Charlotte and the Nutcracker: The True Story of a Girl Who Made Ballet History by Charlotte Nebres, Illustrated by Alea Marley

A reimagined and modern take on the holiday favorite, this picture book weaves together the classic Christmas tale of The Nutcracker and the true-life story of 12-year-old ballerina Charlotte Nebres, the first Black girl to play Marie in the New York City Ballet’s production.

5. Boogie Boogie, Y’all by C. G. Esperanza

Author-illustrator C. G. Esperanza delivers a celebratory ode to graffiti and the Boogie Down Bronx through an infectious read-aloud beat and colorful illustrations that leap right off the page!

Middle Grade

6. Fast Pitch by Nic Stone

From the New York Times bestselling author of Clean Getaway, comes a challenging and heartwarming coming-of-age story about a softball player looking to prove herself on and off the pitch.

7. Black Boy Joy edited by Kwame Mbalia

Celebrate the joys of Black boyhood with stories from seventeen bestselling, critically acclaimed Black authors—including Jason Reynolds, Jerry Craft, and Kwame Mbalia!

8. The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert

From award-winning YA author Brandy Colbert comes a debut middle-grade novel about the only two Black girls in town who discover a collection of hidden journals revealing shocking secrets of the past.

9. Miles Morales: Shock Waves by Justin A. Reynolds

Miles Morales is a normal kid who happens to juggle school at Brooklyn Visions Academy while swinging through the streets of Brooklyn as Spider-Man. After a disastrous earthquake strikes his mother’s birthplace of Puerto Rico, Miles springs into action to help set up a fundraiser for the devastated island. But when a new student’s father goes missing, Miles begins to make connections between the disappearance and a giant corporation sponsoring Miles’ fundraiser.

10. Being Clem by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Clem can make anybody, even his grumpy older sisters, smile with his jokes. But when his family receives news that his father has died in the infamous Port Chicago disaster, everything begins to fall apart. Clem’s mother is forced to work long, tough hours as a maid for a wealthy white family. Soon Clem can barely recognize his home–and himself. Can he live up to his father’s legacy?

Young Adult

11. Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.

12. Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, Nicola Yoon

Six critically acclaimed, bestselling, and award-winning authors bring the glowing warmth and electricity of Black teens in love to this charming, hilarious, and heartwarming novel that shines a bright light through the dark.

13. The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates

An exceptional father-son story from the National Book Award-winning author of Between the World and Me about the reality that tests us, the myths that sustain us, and the love that saves us.

14. Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant

Sixteen-year-old Tessa Johnson has never felt like the protagonist in her own life. She’s rarely seen herself reflected in the pages of the romance novels she loves. The only place she’s a true leading lady is in her own writing—in the swoony love stories she shares only with Caroline, her best friend and #1 devoted reader.

15. Love is a Revolution by Renée Watson

From New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Renée Watson comes a love story about not only a romantic relationship but how a girl finds herself and falls in love with who she really is.

Adult Fiction

16. Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Gifty is a fifth-year candidate in neuroscience at Stanford School of Medicine studying reward-seeking behavior in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. Her brother, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died of a heroin overdose after a knee injury left him hooked on OxyContin. Her suicidal mother is living in her bed. Gifty is determined to discover the scientific basis for the suffering she sees all around her.

17. Deacon King Kong by James McBride

In September 1969, a fumbling, cranky old church deacon known as Sportcoat shuffles into the courtyard of the Cause Houses housing project in south Brooklyn, pulls a .38 from his pocket, and in front of everybody shoots the project’s drug dealer at point-blank range. In Deacon King Kong, McBride brings to vivid life the people affected by the shooting: the victim, the African-American and Latinx residents who witnessed it, the white neighbors, the local cops assigned to investigate, the members of the Five Ends Baptist Church where Sportcoat was deacon, the neighborhood’s Italian mobsters, and Sportcoat himself.

18. Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

From the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys, a gloriously entertaining novel of heists, shakedowns, and rip-offs set in Harlem in the 1960s.

19. Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

For fans of Sorry to Bother You and The Wolf of Wall Street—a crackling, satirical debut novel about a young man given a shot at stardom as the lone Black salesman at a mysterious, cult-like, and wildly successful startup where nothing is as it seems.

20. Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick by Zora Neale Hurston

In 1925, Barnard student Zora Neale Hurston—the sole black student at the college—was living in New York, “desperately striving for a toe-hold on the world.” During this period, she began writing short works that captured the zeitgeist of African American life and transformed her into one of the central figures of the Harlem Renaissance. Nearly a century later, this singular talent is recognized as one of the most influential and revered American artists of the modern period.

Nonfiction & Biography

21. Just as I am by Cicely Tyson

Just as I Am is my truth. It is me, plain and unvarnished, with the glitter and garland set aside. Here, I am indeed Cicely, the actress who has been blessed to grace the stage and screen for six decades. Yet I am also the church girl who once rarely spoke a word. I am the teenager who sought solace in the verses of the old hymn for which this book is named. I am a daughter and mother, a sister, and a friend.

22. Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain.

Four Hundred Souls is a unique one-volume “community” history of African Americans. The editors, Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain, have assembled ninety brilliant writers, each of whom takes on a five-year period of that four-hundred-year span. The writers explore their periods through a variety of techniques: historical essays, short stories, personal vignettes, and fiery polemics. They approach history from various perspectives: through the eyes of towering historical icons or the untold stories of ordinary people; through places, laws, and objects.

23. Black Man in a White Coat by Damon Tweedy

When Damon Tweedy begins medical school, he envisions a bright future where his segregated, working-class background will become largely irrelevant. Instead, he finds that he has joined a new world where race is front and center. The recipient of a scholarship designed to increase black student enrollment, Tweedy soon meets a professor who bluntly questions whether he belongs in medical school, a moment that crystallizes the challenges he will face throughout his career.

24. The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

From the New York Times-bestselling author of Stony the Road and one of our most important voices on the African-American experience, a powerful new history of the Black church in America as the Black community’s abiding rock and its fortress.

25. Dressed in Dreams by Tanisha Ford

From sneakers to leather jackets, a bold, witty, and deeply personal dive into Black America’s closet In this highly engaging book, fashionista and pop culture expert Tanisha C. Ford investigates Afros and dashikis, go-go boots and hotpants of the sixties, hip hop’s baggy jeans and bamboo earrings, and the #BlackLivesMatter-inspired hoodies of today.

26. Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking by Toni Tipton-Martin

Throughout her career, Toni Tipton-Martin has shed new light on the history, breadth, and depth of African American cuisine. She’s introduced us to black cooks, some long forgotten, who established much of what’s considered to be our national cuisine. After all, if Thomas Jefferson introduced French haute cuisine to this country, who do you think actually cooked it?

Movies

27. Tulsa: The Fire and the Forgotten (PBS)

Although rarely mentioned in textbooks, there is no question that the Tulsa Race Massacre was one of the most horrific incidents of racial violence in American history. This documentary, directed by Jonathan Silvers, examines this deadly assault on humanity on the 100th anniversary of the crime.

28. Respect (starring Jennifer Hudson)

Following the rise of Franklin’s career from a child singing in her father’s church’s choir to her international superstardom, Respect is the remarkable true story of Aretha Franklin’s journey to find her voice, in the midst of the turbulent social and political landscape of 1960s America.

29. Judas and the Black Messiah

Offered a plea deal by the FBI, William O’Neal infiltrates the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party to gather intelligence on Chairman Fred Hampton.

30. One Night in Miami…

A fictional account of one incredible night where icons Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown gathered discussing their roles in the Civil Rights Movement and cultural upheaval of the 60s.

31. King Richard (Releases February 8, 2022)

A look at how tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams became who they are after the coaching from their father Richard Williams.

Check out one of these titles at Grand Forks Public, browse our online catalog, or explore our digital collection for ebook and audiobook options.

Celebrate the pioneers, leaders, and innovators within the Black community by reviewing the stories offered in this curated film collection by Kanopy for Black History Month.

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