Great Books to Celebrate Black History Month (Post I of II)

We all know raising kids can be tricky–we want to give them every opportunity to experience all that the world can offer them, the knowledge to move forward and create their own path, to learn, live, and develop into strong, independent people who will change the world, free from any preconceived notions and bias we may carry.

It is our nature to protect them, hide them from harm, and to work as much as possible so that they don’t have to know the hardships we have encountered. At the same time, we need them to know not just our story and our past, but the history of our communities and society–how far through time we have come, and how much farther there is to go–so that they may take up the challenge of further advancing the world around them for the benefit of their children, their children’s children, and beyond. Such is the reason for and importance of reflective and educating observances throughout the year.

As we’re sure you know, the theme of Black History Month this year is At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington. We hope that you have taken the opportunity to attend many of our great programs and read-in chains, and that you and your family can make time to join us for a few more before the end of the month. For those of you looking to continue learning at home, this week and next we’ll present a collection of books that celebrate the theme. Even more titles can be found in the back of the St. Louis Public Library Black History Month Brochure, available at any of your favorite St. Louis Public Library Locations.

And now, the list:

Busing Brewster by Richard Michelson; illustrations by R.G. Roth


Brewster is ready for first grade–until his mom tells him that he and his older brother will no longer be attending the neighborhood school. They’ll head across town to Central–a white school. In simple terms and storyline, Richard Michelson tells the story of school integration and that we shouldn’t fear what we don’t know.

Freedom’s Gifts: a Juneteenth Story by Valerie Wesley with illustrations by Sharon Wilson


Set in Texas during the Second World War, Valerie Wesley’s story provides a basic explanatory primer for the reasons Juneteenth is celebrated, and outlines that freedom still has a distance to be earned.

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson; illustrations by E.B. Lewis


In this simple tale, a young Caucasian girl is told not to cross the fence that separates the white from the black part of town. Still, she wants to befriend her neighbor. The solution? A fence they can share, but can that fence ever come down?

A Thousand Never Evers by Shana Burg


Set in 1963 Mississippi, Shana Burg’s excellent and gripping novel follows young Addie Ann Picket as she comes of age in one of the most tense and potentially dangerous periods of the 20th century.

Numbering All the Bones by Ann Rinaldi


Eulinda is a young teenaged slave during the waning of the American Civil War, and her life is a wreck: one brother sold off the plantation, another ran away to fight with the Union and is potentially a prisoner of war in the notorious Andersonville Prison just down the way. Can Eulinda make sense of anything? Can she ever move forward with her life, even with the help of Clara Barton?

Marching to the Mountaintop: How Poverty, Labor Fights and Civil Rights Set the Stage for Martin Luther King Jr’s Final Hours by Ann Bausum


Ann Bausum provides an excellent nonfiction account of the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike, and how it fit seamlessly into the national Civil Rights Movement of the era–where a near perfect storm of the political, social, and even economic unrest brought about what would be Dr. King’s final speech, and ultimately his assassination.

Black & White: The Confrontation between Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene “Bull” Connor by Larry Dane Brimner


Larry Dane Brimner provides readers with factual, easily absorbed information and back-story on two icons of the Civil Rights Movement: Rev. Shuttlesworth who practiced and preached non-violence and “Bull” Connor, the Birmingham, Alabama Public Safety Commissioner whose tactics were anything but. Lots of photographs and original document primary sources clearly depict each as an individual, as well as when their paths collided.


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