Great Books to Celebrate Black History Month (Post II 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 second half of the list:

Children of the Emancipation by Wilma King


Photos and first hand accounts tell the story of youth growing up and gaining freedom during the tumultuous time in American history.

Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport with illustrations by Bryan Collier


An excellent picture-book biography of Dr. King, Doreen Rappaport uses his speeches within her own text to tell the story as vibrantly as it is depicted by Mr. Collier’s illustrations.

John Lewis in the Lead by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson; illustrations by Benny Andrews


In 1963, John Lewis was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington. This book tells the story of how he began a lifetime of civil rights and public service work (in part because he was denied a library card as a teen!) and the accomplishments he has helped bring about to date.

Free at Last: Stories and Songs of Emancipation by Doreen Rappaport with illustrations by Shane Evans


Doreen Rappaport and Shane Evans truly illuminated the good, bad, and ugly brought about by the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Movement. Also check out No More! Stories and Songs of Slave Resistance, also by Rappaport and Evans.

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson


If Kadir Nelson’s illustrative skills were not enough, in Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans, Mr. Nelson deftly displays his writing abilities as well, using broad strokes and storylines to weave together an encompassing (good, bad, and the in-between) story of our past.

Days of Jubilee by Patricia and Frederick McKissack; illustrations by Diane and Leo Dillon


Another story of the road to freedom worth reading, Patricia and Frederick McKissack (aided by Diane and Leo Dillon) tell the story of Emancipation–though they do not limit themselves to the Emancipation Proclamation alone. Using primary sources and originals documents, they tell the story of the many people who found freedom before, with, and after the Proclamation’s release.


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