Black History Month: Moving Forward

“History has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.”

– Michelle Obama, First Black First Lady

This month we take time to highlight the contributions and achievements of Black Individuals in history. Understanding their stories can help us see how far we have come, as well as how far we need to go. Listed below are some titles that can inspire us to do what we can to help each other.


Lifting as we climb : Black women’s battle for the ballot box / Evette Dionne

For African American women, the fight for the right to vote was only one battle.

An eye-opening book that 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.

The real story isn’t monochromatic. 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.

Dark Sky Rising by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

This is a story about America during and after Reconstruction, one of history’s most pivotal and misunderstood chapters. In a stirring account of emancipation, the struggle for citizenship and national reunion, and the advent of racial segregation, the renowned Harvard scholar delivers a book that is illuminating and timely. Real-life accounts drive the narrative, spanning the half century between the Civil War and Birth of a Nation. Here, you will come face-to-face with the people and events of Reconstruction’s noble democratic experiment, its tragic undermining, and the drawing of a new “color line” in the long Jim Crow era that followed. In introducing young readers to them, and to the resiliency of the African American people at times of progress and betrayal, Professor Gates shares a history that remains vitally relevant today.

Separate no more : the long road to Brown v. Board of Education / Lawrence Goldstone

Since 1896, in the landmark outcome of Plessy v. Ferguson, the doctrine of “separate but equal” had been considered acceptable under the United States Constitution. African American and white populations were thus segregated, attending different schools, living in different neighborhoods, and even drinking from different water fountains. However, as African Americans found themselves lacking opportunity and living under the constant menace of mob violence, it was becoming increasingly apparent that segregation was not only unjust, but dangerous.

Fighting to turn the tide against racial oppression, revolutionaries rose up all over America, from Booker T. Washington to W. E. B. Du Bois. They formed coalitions of some of the greatest legal minds and activists, who carefully strategized how to combat the racist judicial system. These efforts would be rewarded in the groundbreaking cases of 1952-1954 known collectively as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, in which the US Supreme Court would decide, once and for all, the legality of segregation — and on which side of history the United States would stand.

Stamped : racism, antiracism, and you / written by Jason Reynolds

Stamped traces the history of racism and the many political, literary, and philosophical narratives that have been used to justify slavery, oppression, and genocide. Framed through the ideologies and thoughts of segregationists, assimilationists, and antiracists throughout history, the book demonstrates that the “construct of race has always been used to gain and keep power, whether financially or politically,” and that this power has been used to systemically and systematically oppress Black people in the United States for more than four hundred years.


African Americans in the Civil War 
/ by Kari A. Cornel

“This title examines the experiences of African Americans during the Civil War, including enslaved people, free men and women, and those who contributed to the Union war effort.”–Publisher’s website.

Harlem Hellfighters / by Shannon Baker Moore

This title examines the black troops of World War I and the way their contributions shaped their perceptions back home in the United States. Compelling narrative text and well-chosen historical photographs and primary sources make this book perfect for report writing. Features include a glossary, a selected bibliography, websites, source notes, and an index, plus a timeline and essential facts. Aligned to Common Core Standards and correlated to state standards. Essential Library is an imprint of Abdo Publishing, a division of ABDO

Pushout : the criminalization of Black girls in schools / Monique W. Morris

In a work that has rapidly become “imperative reading” (Lisa Delpit) on education, gender, and juvenile justice, Monique W. Morris (Black StatsToo Beautiful for Words) chronicles the experiences of Black girls across the country whose intricate lives are misunderstood, highly judged–by teachers, administrators, and the justice system–and degraded by the very institutions charged with helping them flourish. Equally “compelling” and “thought-provoking” (Kirkus Reviews), Pushout exposes a world of confined potential and supports the rising movement to challenge the policies, practices, and cultural illiteracy that push countless students out of school and into unhealthy, unstable, and often unsafe futures.

Called a book “for everyone who cares about children” by the Washington Post, Morris’s illumination of these critical issues is “timely and important” (Booklist) at a moment when Black girls are the fastest growing population in the juvenile justice system. Praised by voices as wide-ranging as Gloria Steinem and Roland Martin, and highlighted for the audiences of Elle and Jet right alongside those of EdWeek and the Leonard Lopate ShowPushout is a book that “will stay with you long after you turn the final page” 

Strange fruit. Volume 1, Uncelebrated narratives from Black history 

Strange Fruit, Volume I is a collection of stories from African American history that exemplifies success in the face of great adversity. This unique graphic anthology offers historical and cultural commentary on nine uncelebrated heroes whose stories are not often found in history books. Among the stories included are: Henry “Box” Brown, who escaped from slavery by mailing himself to Philadelphia; Alexander Crummel and the Noyes Academy, the first integrated school in America, established in the 1830s; Marshall “Major” Taylor, a.k.a. the Black Cyclone, the first black champion in any sport; and Bass Reeves, the most successful lawman in the Old West. Written and illustrated by Joel Christian Gill, the diverse art beautifully captures the spirit of each remarkable individual and opens a window into an important part of American history.

Strange fruit. Volume II, More uncelebrated narratives from Black history / words and pictures by Joel Christian Gil

Like all legends, people fade away, but not before leaving an incredible legacy. Strange Fruit, Volume II: More Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History is a collection of stories from early African American history that represent the oddity of success in the face of great adversity. Each of the eight illustrated chapters chronicles an uncelebrated African American hero or event. Joel Christian Gill offers historical and cultural commentary on heroes whose stories are not often found in history books, such as Cathay Williams, the only known female Buffalo Soldier, and Eugene Bullard, a fighter pilot who flew for France during World War I. These beautifully illustrated stories offer a refreshing look at remarkable African Americans. 

The stories included in Volume II are: Jourdan Anderson who requested payment from his former slave owner; Stagecoach Mary Fields, the first African-American female star route mail carrier; Willie Kennard, the Sheriff of the Colorado gold mining town of Yankee Hill; Cathay Williams, the only known female Buffalo Soldier; Blind Tom Wiggins, an autistic musical prodigy; Millie and Christine McCoy, conjoined twins known as “The Two-Headed Nightingale”; Victor Green, the creator and publisher of “The Green Book for the Negro Motorist”; and Eugene Bullard, a fighter pilot who flew for France during WWI.

Into the streets : a young person’s visual history of protest in the United States / Marke Bieschke

This lively book guides readers through the art and history of significant protests, sit-ins, and collective acts of resistance throughout US history. Photos, artwork, signs, and other visual elements highlight the history of social action, from American Indian resistance to colonists through Black Lives Matter and Women’s Marches.

Into the Streets introduces the personalities and issues that drove these protests, as well as their varied aims and accomplishments, from spontaneous hashtag uprisings to highly planned strategies of civil disobedience. Perfect for young adult audiences, this book highlights how teens are frequently the ones protesting and creating the art of the resistance

African American art : the long struggle / Crystal A. Britton

Offers an illustrated survey of African American art from its beginnings in the era of slavery to the paintings, sculpture, and prints of the late twentieth-century.

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