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, 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.
1. Standing in the Need of Prayer: A Modern Retelling of the Classic Spiritual by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Frank Morrison
Visually stunning and incredibly timely, this book reckons with a painful history while serving as a testament to the human spirit’s ability to persevere in even the most hopeless of circumstances. Its universal message of faith, strength, and resilience will resonate with readers of all ages.
2. Sweet Justice: Georgia Gilmore and the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
Georgia Gilmore was cooking when she heard the news Mrs. Rosa Parks had been arrested—pulled off a city bus and thrown in jail all because she wouldn’t let a white man take her seat. To protest, the radio urged everyone to stay off city buses for one day: December 5, 1955. Throughout the boycott and throughout the struggle for justice, Georgia served up her mouth-watering fried chicken, her spicy collard greens, and her sweet potato pie, eventually selling them to raise money to help the cause.
3. The Talk by Alicia D. Williams, illustrated by Briana Mukodiri Uchendu
As a little boy grows into a bigger boy, ready to take on the world, he first must have that very difficult conversation far too familiar to so many Black and Brown Americans in this gentle and ultimately hopeful picture book. All Black and Brown kids get The Talk—the talk that could mean the difference between life and death in a racist world.
4. The Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States by Alliah L. Agostini, illustrated Sawyer Cloud
With colorful illustrations and a timeline, this introductory history of Juneteenth for kids details the evolution of the holiday commemorating the date the enslaved people of Texas first learned of their freedom.
5. Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement by Angela Joy, illustrated by Janelle Washington
Mamie Till-Mobley is the mother of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old boy who was brutally murdered while visiting the South in 1955. His death became a rallying point for the civil rights movement, but few know that it was his mother who was the catalyst for bringing his name to the forefront of history. In Choosing Brave, Angela Joy and Janelle Washington offer a testament to the power of love, the bond of motherhood, and one woman’s unwavering advocacy for justice.
6. Freewater by Amina Luqman-Dawson
Under the cover of night, twelve-year-old Homer flees Southerland Plantation with his little sister Ada, unwillingly leaving their beloved mother behind. Much as he adores her and fears for her life, Homer knows there’s no turning back, not with the overseer on their trail. Through tangled vines, secret doorways, and over a sky bridge, the two find a secret community called Freewater, deep in the swamp. Deeply inspiring and loosely based on the history of maroon communities in the South, this is a striking tale of survival, adventure, friendship, and courage.
7. Unlawful Orders: A Portrait of Dr. James B. Williams, Tuskegee Airman, Surgeon, and Activist by Barbara Binns
The Tuskegee Airmen heroically fought for the right to be officers of the US military so that they might participate in World War II by flying overseas to help defeat fascism. However, after winning that battle, they faced their next great challenge at Freeman Field, Iowa, where racist white officers barred them from entering the prestigious Officers’ Club that their rank promised them. The Freeman Field Mutiny, as it became known, would eventually lead to the desegregation of the US armed forces, forever changing the course of American history and race relations.
8. Black Heroes of the Wild West by James Otis Smith
This graphic novel celebrates the extraordinary true tales of three Black heroes who took control of their destinies and stood up for their communities in the Old West. Born into slavery in Tennessee, Mary Fields became famous as “Stagecoach Mary,” a cigar-chomping, card playing coach driver who never missed a delivery. Bass Reeves, the first black Deputy US Marshal west of the Mississippi, was one of the wiliest lawmen in the territories, bringing thousands of outlaws to justice with his smarts. Bob Lemmons lived to be 99 years old and was so good with horses that the wild mustangs on the plains of Texas took him for one of their own.
9. Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler by Ibi Zoboi
Acclaimed novelist Ibi Zoboi illuminates the young life of the visionary storyteller Octavia E. Butler in poems and prose. Born into the Space Race, the Red Scare, and the dawning Civil Rights Movement, Butler experienced an American childhood that shaped her into the groundbreaking science-fiction storyteller whose novels continue to challenge and delight readers fifteen years after her death.
10. Call Him Jack: The Story of Jackie Robinson, Black Freedom Fighter by Yohuru Williams and Michael G. Long
According to Martin Luther King, Jr., Jackie Robinson was “a sit-inner before the sit-ins, a freedom rider before the Freedom Rides.” According to Hank Aaron, Robinson was a leader of the Black Power movement before there was a Black Power movement. According to his wife, Rachel Robinson, he was always Jack, not Jackie—the diminutive form of his name bestowed on him in college by white sports writers. And throughout his whole life, Jack Robinson was a fighter for justice, an advocate for equality, and an inspiration beyond just baseball.
11. We Are All So Good at Smiling by Amber McBride
Whimsy is back in the hospital for treatment of clinical depression. When she meets a boy named Faerry, she recognizes they both have magic in the marrow of their bones. And when Faerry and his family move to the same street, the two start to realize that their lifelines may have twined and untwined many times before.
12. The Davenports by Krystal Marquis
The Davenports are one of the few Black families of immense wealth and status in a changing United States, their fortune made through the entrepreneurship of William Davenport, a formerly enslaved man who founded the Davenport Carriage Company years ago. Now it’s 1910, and the Davenports live surrounded by servants, crystal chandeliers, and endless parties, finding their way and finding love—even where they’re not supposed to. Inspired by the real-life story of the Patterson family, The Davenports is the tale of four determined and passionate young Black women discovering the courage to steer their own path in life—and love.
13. Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert
Bradley Graeme is pretty much perfect. He’s a star football player, manages his OCD well (enough), and comes out on top in all his classes . . . except the ones he shares with his ex-best friend, Celine.
Celine Bangura is conspiracy-theory-obsessed. Social media followers eat up her takes on everything from UFOs to holiday overconsumption—yet, she’s still not cool enough for the popular kids’ table. Which is why Brad abandoned her for the in-crowd years ago. (At least, that’s how Celine sees it.)
These days, there’s nothing between them other than petty insults and academic rivalry. So when Celine signs up for a survival course in the woods, she’s surprised to find Brad right beside her.
14. Friday I’m in Love by Camryn Garrett
Mahalia Harris wants. She wants a big Sweet Sixteen like her best friend Naomi. She wants the super cute new girl Siobhan to like her back. She wants a break from worrying–about money, snide remarks from white classmates, pitying looks from church ladies . . . all of it.
Then inspiration strikes: It’s too late for a Sweet Sixteen, but what if she had a Coming Out Party? A singing, dancing, rainbow-cake-eating celebration of queerness on her own terms.
15. You Truly Assumed by Laila Sabreen Sabriya has her whole summer planned out in color-coded glory, but those plans go out the window after a terrorist attack near her home. When the terrorist is assumed to be Muslim and Islamophobia grows, Sabriya turns to her online journal for comfort. You Truly Assumed was never meant to be anything more than an outlet, but the blog goes viral as fellow Muslim teens around the country flock to it and find solace and a sense of community.
16. Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson
In present-day California, Eleanor Bennett’s death leaves behind a puzzling inheritance for her two children, Byron and Benny: a black cake, made from a family recipe with a long history, and a voice recording. In her message, Eleanor shares a tumultuous story about a headstrong young swimmer who escapes her island home under suspicion of murder. The heartbreaking tale Eleanor unfolds, the secrets she still holds back, and the mystery of a long-lost child challenge everything the siblings thought they knew about their lineage and themselves. Charmaine Wilkerson’s debut novel is a story of how the inheritance of betrayals, secrets, memories, and even names can shape relationships and history.
17. Jackal by Erin Adams
A young Black girl goes missing in the woods outside her white Rust Belt town. But she’s not the first—and she may not be the last… It’s watching.
As a Black woman, Liz doesn’t exactly have fond memories of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a predominantly white town. But her best friend is getting married, so she braces herself for a weekend of awkward and passive-aggressive reunions. Liz has grown, though; she can handle whatever awaits her. But on the day of the wedding, somewhere between dancing and dessert, the bride’s daughter, Caroline, goes missing—and the only thing left behind is a piece of white fabric covered in blood.
As Liz starts to dig through the town’s history, she uncovers a horrifying secret about the place she once called home. Children have been going missing in these woods for years. All of them Black. All of them girls.
18. Things Past Telling by Sheila Williams
Things Past Telling is a remarkable historical epic that charts one unforgettable woman’s journey across an ocean of years as vast as the Atlantic that will forever separate her from her homeland.
Born in West Africa in the mid-eighteenth century, Maryam Prescilla Grace–a.k.a “Momma Grace” will live a long, wondrous life marked by hardship, oppression, opportunity, and love. Though she will be “gifted” various names, her birth name is known to her alone. Over the course of 100-plus years, she survives capture, enslavement by several property owners, the Atlantic crossing when she is only eleven years of age, and a brief stint as a pirate’s ward, acting as both a spy and a translator.
19. Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Inspired by true events that rocked the nation, a profoundly moving novel about a Black nurse in post-segregation Alabama who blows the whistle on a terrible wrong done to her patients, from the New York Times bestselling author of Wench.
20. The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb
Ray McMillian loves playing the violin more than anything, and nothing will stop him from pursuing his dream of becoming a professional musician. Not his mother, who thinks he should get a real job, not the fact that he can’t afford a high-caliber violin, not the racism inherent in the classical music world. And when he makes the startling discovery that his great-grandfather’s fiddle is actually a priceless Stradivarius, his star begins to rise. Then with the international Tchaikovsky Competition—the Olympics of classical music—fast approaching, his prized family heirloom is stolen. Ray is determined to get it back. But now his family and the descendants of the man who once enslaved Ray’s great-grandfather are each claiming that the violin belongs to them. With the odds stacked against him and the pressure mounting, will Ray ever see his beloved violin again?
21. Driving the Green Book: A Road Trip Through the Living History of Black Resistance by Alvin Hall
For countless Americans, the open road has long been a place where dangers lurk. In the era of Jim Crow, Black travelers encountered locked doors, hostile police, and potentially violent encounters almost everywhere, in both the South and the North. From 1936 to 1967, millions relied on The Negro Motorist Green Book, the definitive guide to businesses where they could safely rest, eat, or sleep.
22. The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story by Nikole Hannah-Jones
In late August 1619, a ship arrived in the British colony of Virginia bearing a cargo of twenty to thirty enslaved people from Africa. Their arrival led to the barbaric and unprecedented system of American chattel slavery that would last for the next 250 years. This is sometimes referred to as the country’s original sin, but it is more than that: It is the source of so much that still defines the United States.
This book expands on the original “1619 Project, “weaving together eighteen essays that explore the legacy of slavery in present-day America with thirty-six poems and works of fiction that illuminate key moments of oppression, struggle, and resistance.
23. My America: Recipes from a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi
What is American food? In his first cookbook, Kwame Onwuachi, the acclaimed author of Notes from a Young Black Chef, shares the dishes of his America; dishes that show the true diversity of American food. Featuring more than 125 recipes, My America is a celebration of the food of the African Diaspora, as handed down through Onwuachi’s own family history, spanning Nigeria to the Caribbean, the South to the Bronx, and beyond. Interwoven throughout the book are stories of Onwuachi’s travels, illuminating the connections between food and place, and food and culture.
24. Gathering Blossoms Under Fire: The Journals of Alice Walker, 1965–2000 by Alice Walker, Valerie Boyd (Editor)
For the first time, the edited journals of Alice Walker are gathered together to reflect the complex, passionate, talented, and acclaimed Pulitzer Prize winner of The Color Purple. She intimately explores her thoughts and feelings as a woman, a writer, an African-American, a wife, a daughter, a mother, a lover, a sister, a friend, a citizen of the world. A powerful blend of Walker’s personal life with political events, this revealing collection offers rare insight into a literary legend.
25. The Love You Save: A Memoir by Goldie Taylor
Aunt Gerald takes in anyone who asks, but the conditions are harsh. For her young niece Goldie Taylor, abandoned by her mother and coping with trauma of her own, life in Gerald’s East St. Louis comes with nothing but a threadbare blanket on the living room floor.
But amid the pain and anguish, Goldie discovers a secret. She can find kinship among writers like James Baldwin and Toni Morrison. She can find hope in a nurturing teacher who helps her find her voice. And books, she realizes, can save her life.
Goldie Taylor’s debut memoir shines a light on the strictures of race, class, and gender in a post–Jim Crow America while offering a nuanced, empathetic portrait of a family in a pitched battle for its very soul.
26. Righteous Troublemakers: Untold Stories of the Social Justice Movement in America By Al Sharpton
While the world may know the major names of the Civil Rights movement, there are countless lesser-known heroes fighting the good fight to advance equal justice for all, heeding the call when no one else was listening, often risking their lives and livelihoods in the process.
Righteous Troublemakers shines a light on everyday people called to do extraordinary things—like Pauli Murray, whose early work informed Thurgood Marshall’s legal argument for Brown v. Board of Education, Claudette Colvin, who refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus months before Rosa Parks did the same, and Gwen Carr, whose private pain in losing her son Eric Garner stoked her public activism against police brutality.
Till is a profoundly emotional and cinematic film about the true story of Mamie Till Mobley’s relentless pursuit of justice for her 14-year-old son, Emmett Till, who, in 1955, was lynched while visiting his cousins in Mississippi. In Mamie’s poignant journey of grief turned to action, we see the universal power of a mother’s ability to change the world.
28. The Woman King
This is the remarkable story of the Agojie, the all-female unit of warriors who protected the African Kingdom of Dahomey in the 1800s with skills and a ferocity unlike anything the world has ever seen. Inspired by true events, it follows the emotionally epic journey of General Nanisca as she trains the next generation of recruits and prepares them for battle against an enemy determined to obliterate their way of life. Some things are worth fighting for.
29. The Inspection (February 21, 2023)
In Elegance Bratton’s deeply moving film inspired by his own story, a young, gay Black man, rejected by his mother and with few options for his future, decides to join the Marines, doing whatever it takes to succeed in a system that would cast him aside. But even as he battles deep-seated prejudice and the grueling routines of basic training, he finds unexpected camaraderie, strength, and support in this new community, giving him a hard-earned sense of belonging that will shape his identity and forever change his life.
30. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
In Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Queen Ramonda, Shuri, M’Baku, Okoye and the mighty Dora Milaje fight to protect their nation from intervening world powers after the death of beloved King T’Challa. Banding together with War Dog Nakia and Everett Ross, the heroes strive to forge a new path.
31. Devotion (February 28, 2023)
Devotion, an aerial war epic based on the bestselling book of the same name, tells the harrowing true story of two elite US Navy fighter pilots during the Korean War. Their heroic sacrifices would ultimately make them the Navy’s most celebrated wingmen.
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.