Library Recommends: Black History Month Books and Documentaries for Adults, Teens and Kids

By Laura, Reference Librarian

Black History Month was conceived by Carter G. Woodson, a Harvard historian who is widely recognized as the founder of African American academic studies. He chose the week coinciding with the birthdays of abolitionists Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. By the 1940s, organizers began expanding to a month-long celebration and since 1976, Black History Month has been officially recognized by every sitting United States president. 

Learn more about Black history with these reads and resources:

  • “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey” by Kamala Harris
    Vice President Kamala Harris, our nations first black, female, and South Asian American Vice President, talks about leading during challenging times and the values that bring Americans together.  
  • “The Black Panther Party: A Graphic History” by David F. Walker, art and colors by Marcus Kwame Anderson
    An illustrated history of the Black Panther party. Learn how the Black Panthers worked for economic, educational, and healthcare justice for their community in addition to speaking out against police brutality. 
  • “How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir” by Saeed Jones
    An award-winning memoir in verse about a young, black, gay man from the South as he fights to carve out a place for himself, within his family, within his country, within his own hopes, desires, and fears. 
  • “Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights by Gretchen Sorin
    Learn how the invention of the automobile brought both freedom and dangers to the African American community in the 20th century. Gretchen Sorin recovers a forgotten history of black motorists and recounts their creation of a parallel, unseen world of travel guides, black-only hotels, and informal communications networks that kept black drivers safe.   

Adult and Teen Documentaries: 

  • “Being Serena”
    Get a behind-the-scenes look into the life of tennis star Serena Williams, both on and off the court. This series dives into Williams’ marriage, pregnancy, motherhood, and her return to the tennis court. 
  • “Don’t Be Nice”
    Follow the Bowery Slam Poetry Team, including five young African American, Afro-Hispanic, and queer poets, on their journey to the national championships. 
  • “John Lewis: Good Trouble” 
    Learn about John Lewis’ more than 60 years of social activism and legislative action. Includes interviews with Lewis, colleagues, and other major figures from his life. 
  • “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am”
    Explore the life and work of novelist Toni Morrison, through a discussion of race, history, and humanity with her peers, colleagues, and critics. 

Kids’ Books: 

  • “Henry’s Freedom Box” 
    Go back in time with this fictionalized account of how in 1849 a Virginia slave, Henry “Box” Brown, escaped to freedom by shipping himself in a wooden crate from Richmond to Philadelphia. 
  • “Hair Love” 
    A little girl’s daddy steps in to help her arrange her curly, coiling, wild hair into styles that allow her to be her natural, beautiful self.  
  • “The Undefeated” 
    With references to lyrics and lines originally shared by our most celebrated heroes, this poem digs into the not-so-distant past to underline the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present.  
  • “The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963″ 
    When Kenny’s 13-year-old brother, Byron, gets to be in too much trouble, they head South to Birmingham to visit Grandma, the one person who can shape him up. And they happen to be in Birmingham when Grandma’s church is blown up.  
  • “Brown Girl Dreaming” 
    Jacqueline Woodson tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse, sharing what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. 
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Library Recommends: Black History Month Books and Documentaries for Adults, Teens and Kids

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