Favorite Titles for Black History Month

What do you get when you ask members of the Mixed-Up Files for some of their favorite books for Black History Month? A much longer, can’t-wait-to-get-my-hands-on-them reading list, that’s what! In addition to freshly-awarded titles, such as One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia and Zora and Me by Victoria Bond, and Jacqueline Woodson’s classic Feathers, we’ve got favorites from childhood, a memoir, award-winning non-fiction, stories torn from the headlines and more!

Favorites from Childhood: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is Mildred D. Taylor’s Newbery-Medal winning account of the Logan family’s fight to persevere in the 1930’s American South in the face of racism, poverty and betrayal. Philip Hall Likes Me, I Reckon Maybe, by Bette Greene, humorously depicts Beth Lambert’s struggle to reconcile her own competitive spirit with her romantic feelings for the slightly infuriating Philip Hall.

Torn from the Headlines: Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes refers to the hardest hit area of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Lanesha, who has the gift of seeing the dead (including her mother), must use all her strength to survive when her caretaker Mama Ya-Ya envisions a powerful storm with an ominous outcome. Drita, My Homegirl follows the friendship of Maxie, an African-American girl who is mourning the loss of her mother, and Drita, an Albanian-Muslim refugee from Kosovo.

It Happened One Summer: In The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis Curtis’ amazing debut novel marries the very funny voice of tortured younger brother Kenny with the tragic 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that killed four girls.  In the summer of 1976, the titular character of The Liberation of Gabriel King by K.L. Going needs to be liberated from his various fears and his friend Frita Wilson is the one to do it; Frita knows something about being brave as she is the  only black student in a town with an active Ku Klux Klan.

Memoir and Meaning: Jacqueline Woodson and Walter Dean Myers have many beloved books to choose from; our members pointed out Show Way by Woodson and Bad Boy by Myers.  Show Way introduces readers to the idea of a quilt pattern with secret meaning, and its significance for an African-American family through many generations.  Clocking in at 48 pages, it’s a great Newbery Honor-winning choice for a younger reader.  Fans of Myers will enjoy his memoir of growing up in 1940’s Harlem and his ensuing adventures.

Contemporary Favorite: The Skin I’m In by Sharon G. Flake garnered many nods from Files members.  Maleeka is taunted by her classmates about her homemade clothes and the fact that her skin is too black.  When a new teacher, Ms. Saunders, comes on the scene with a startling white patch on her face, Maleeka thinks it’s more trouble, but instead, learns a lesson about self-acceptance.

Non-Fiction Treasure: It’s hard to imagine any child being able to resist Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U. S. Marshal by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, the true story of a former slave who escaped to the Indian Territories, and then went on to become the most successful deputy U.S. marshal in the Old West.

Share your favorite book to celebrate Black History Month in the comments below.

  1. THE SKIN I’M IN is a very hot book around my classroom right now. It’s been loaned to several girls in my classes already. They love it!

  2. Chains and Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson are amazing!

  3. Fantastic post. I loved Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.
    A fantastic book is Day of Tears by Julius Lester, a heartbreakingly beautiful account of a slave auction.

  4. Thanks for this great list!

  5. I loved Christopher Paul Curtis’ novel ELIJAH OF BUXTON (a humorous, historical novel about an ex-slave colony in Canada).

    A wonderful African immigrant story is HOME OF THE BRAVE by Katherine Applegate (it’s also told in verse–so great for reluctant readers).

  6. Mr. Touchdown by Lyda Phillips

  7. I just enthralled two hard-to-crack fourth grade classes with Vaunda Nelson’s Bad News for Outlaws. It has everything a child wants in a book: action, excitement, danger, social justice, and reality in one extremely well-told narrative that’s always moving forward. Show Way and The Liberation of Gabriel King are two other favorites that always are hits in the classroom.

  8. My daughter’s absolutely favorite book for a while was the Scholastic NF publication Ruby Bridges Goes to School about the brave Ruby – who was the little girl immortalized by Norman Rockwell on that first, frightening day US Marshalls escorted her into a previously all white school. My 6yo is fascinated with the little Ruby’s bravery and the fact that she was a real first grader, like her! I wrote about it a while back: http://storiesaregoodmedicine.blogspot.com/2010/09/story-rx-reading-about-racism.html