Posts Tagged Black History month

Celebrating Black History Month

Dr. Carter G._Woodson

“Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.”
~Dr. Mae Jemison, first African-American female astronaut

As we near the end of Black History Month, I hope everyone has been following the Brown Bookshelf, which spends every day in February posting about fabulous books by authors of color. What an awesome way to celebrate!

Another great way to celebrate the month with your children or students is to research the history of this month-long celebration. One of the first people to realize the need to honor black culture and history, Carter G. Woodson (1875–1950), along with the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASALH), came up with the idea of Negro History Week in 1926. They chose the second week of February because it fell between the birthdays of Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) and Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865).

Frederick Douglass
Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [reproduction number, LC-USZ62-15887]

Fifty years later in 1976, the first presidential proclamation declared February as Black History Month. Every year, a theme is established to focus attention on an important historical topic central to the black experience. For 2020, ASALH chose the theme “African Americans and the Vote.” Their website provides additional information about the history of the month and the themes, and includes a downloadable pdf.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Fifteenth Amendment (1870), which gave black men the right to vote. Fifty years later, women received that right, so in 2020, we’re also recognizing the centennial of the Nineteenth Amendment. Because both of these landmark celebrations occur this year, the emphasis on the right to vote is important. This month’s celebration also honors “the rise of black elected and appointed officials at the local and national levels, campaigns for equal rights legislation, as well as the role of blacks in traditional and alternative political parties,” according to the ASALH.

The Fifteenth Amendment and its results / drawn by G.F. Kahl
Credit: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USZ62-90145

Some websites to explore with middle graders include:’s “Voting Rights Act of 1965”

Library of Congress’s primary source document: “15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution”

Pathways to Freedom

Rosa Parks: How I Fought for Civil Rights

Timeline of African American History

Top Ten African American Inventors

African American History Challenge

African American Inventors

Biographies of Great African Americans

Black History from A to Z

Black Inventors Online Museum


“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.”

~Langston Hughes

Literary Activities for African American History Month

African American History Month starts next week, and schools across the country have a variety of activities planned to celebrate. In addition to being a middle grade writer and blogger, I am the PTA President at my kids’ elementary school, and so I’ve had the good fortune to be involved in our school’s planning for this special time. Of course, reading had to be a big part of it!

We decided to welcome parents into the classroom to read works by and about African Americans. First, we met with principal, and discussed our mutual goal of enhancing kids’ understanding of the breadth of the contribution of African Americans to American history. Often, kids point to the same five or seven famous African Americans, without a sense of how many more people have shaped our society in a broad range of ways. We then put together a list of books that included biography, fiction, poetry, and more, all by or about African Americans. We worked with the librarian to find out which of those titles our library already contains, and created an Amazon wishlist of the remaining. We will send that out to parents, to see if anyone would like to contribute. The librarian will collect the selected books onto a few shelves of the library for parents to choose from when they come in to do their reading at the appointed time.

As we planned, we came across a number of other ideas and resources for those putting together literary activities for African American History Month. Here are a few:

I hope this African American History Month is filled with fun, discovery, and plenty of great books!

A Black History Month Book List

February is Black History Month, so I thought it would be a great time to share some of my favorite middle-grade books written by black authors.

Nominated for the 2017 National Book Award, Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia enchants readers with gorgeous musicality. Full of family loyalty, loss, and the blues, it tells the story of Clayton Byrd, an aspiring musician and devoted grandson, and a day he spends “underground” processing the loss of his beloved grandfather.


Jewell Parker-Rhodes never shies away from tough topics. From oil rig explosions to hurricane Katrina, to 9/11, she writes about the impact that these major events have on the physical world and on the minds and hearts of the children who experience them. Towers Falling follows one girl’s journey to make sense of September 11 and its aftermath.


John Lewis is a national treasure and so is his graphic novel series, March. An integral part first of the Civil Rights Movement and now our government, Lewis brings his experiences in the turbulent 60s to life in this amazing series of graphic novels. Gripping and poignant, these books make an important chapter of American history accessible to the younger generation.


Kwame Alexander’s award-winning novel in verse, The Crossover, remains on of  this basketball fan’s all-time favorites. His new one, Booked, introduces us to another sport (soccer) and twelve-year-old Nick, another middle schooler struggling to find his place in the world. This one is particularly well-suited to audiobook format and is read by the author.


It wouldn’t be a booklist from me if it didn’t include a little bit of fantasy. So I’m thrilled to include author Tracey Baptiste’s Rise of the Jumbies. In this follow-up to The Jumbies, we rejoin Corinne de la Mer as she confronts Mama D’Leau, the jumbie who rules the ocean. Read more about the creation of Rise of the Jumbies in our interview with Tracey Baptiste.


Do you have a favorite that isn’t on this list? Do you know of an up-coming title that we should be watching out for? Leave us a comment and let us know. And don’t forget to check out The Brown Bookshelf’s 28 Days Later series to meet even more amazing black authors who write pictures books, middle grade, and young adult books.