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The Best Black History Month Books

Looking to teach the kids in your life about Black History Month, but not sure how to do it? How about a book? If you need a recommendation, Wade and Cheryl Hudson can help.
The Hudsons, authors and owners of Just Us Books in East Orange, founded the independent publishing company in the 1980s when they couldn’t find African American-oriented books for their children; so they decided to create their own instead. “Diversity in children’s and young adult literature continues to be a major issue in book publishing,” Wade Hudson said, via email correspondence with Best of NJ. “The percentage of books written and/or illustrated by people of color accounts for a very small percentage of the thousands of books for children and young adults published every year.”
The Hudsons are compiling a list of children’s and young adult books published industry-wide in 2015 that have been written or illustrated by people of color, and wish to share that list with whoever needs it, from teachers to librarians to parents. The list includes a number of books about notable African American people and events, which makes them perfect reads during Black History Month. Though Wade Hudson adds, “These books are valuable not only during Black History Month, but year round.”
If you’re interested in seeing the whole list, which should be completed within a few weeks, email justusbook@aol.com or visit their website. Below, you’ll find a selection of relevant reading for children of all age groups looking to learn about African American culture for Black History Month.

Picture Books

Lillan's Right to Vote BookLillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965: Written by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Shane W. Evans, ages 5-9 (Schwartz & Wade). Winter and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner Evans tell the story of America’s battle for civil rights through the eyes of one elderly woman on her way to vote.
Frederick’s Journey: The Life of Frederick Douglass: Written by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by London Ladd, ages 6-9 (Jump at the Sun). Rappaport, an author of multiple non-fiction and historical fiction books, tells the story of Frederick Douglass’ journey from slavery to international renown as writer and lecturer.
Trombone Shorty BookPoet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton: Written and illustrated by Don Tate, ages 4-8 (Peachtree Publishers). George Moses Horton, a slave in North Carolina, taught himself to read and began to write poetry, becoming the first African American to be published in the South.
Trombone Shorty: Written by Troy Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier, ages 4-8, Randolph Caldecott Honor & Coretta Scott King Book Award (Harry N. Abrams). Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews tells the story of how he rose from New Orleans musical prodigy to Grammy-nominated artist.
The Book ItchThe Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore: Written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, ages 5-9, Coretta Scott King Honor Book (Carolrhoda Picture Books). In the 1930s, Lewis Michaux Sr. opened a bookstore in Harlem and named it the National Memorial African Bookstore, using it to help people stand up for what they believed in.
Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America: Written by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Jamey Christoph, ages 5-8 (Albert Whitman & Company). Gordon Parks bought a camera, taught himself photography and took a series of famous pictures showing how segregation affected people.

Middle Grade
March Book TwoMarch: Book Two: Written by John Lewis, illustrated by Nate Powell, ages 12 and up (IDW Top Shelf). This graphic novel is the second volume chronicling Congressman John Lewis’ experiences with the civil rights movement, from his time with the Freedom Riders to the 1963 March on Washington.
Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound: Written by Andrea Davis Pinkney, ages 10-14 (Roaring Brook Press). Pinkney tells how Berry Gordy founded the influential Motown recording studio and launched such musical legends as Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye.
Chasing Freedom BookVoice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement: Written by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes, ages 9-12, Randolph Caldecott Honor Books & Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Author Award (Candlewick Press). The story of civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer, who pushed past prejudice, hardship and cruelty to speak out on voter discrimination and other issues.
Chasing Freedom: The Life Journey of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony: Written by Nikki Grimes and Michele Wood, grades 3-6 (Orchard Books). Grimes imagines a conversation over tea between Tubman, conductor on the Underground Railroad, and Anthony, suffragette leader, as they remember their separate fights for freedom.

Young Adult
Drowned City BookDrowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans: Written by Don Brown, ages 12 and up, Robert F. Sibert Honor Book (HMH Books for Young Readers). Brown uses words and illustrations to tell of the devastation and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Part of the proceeds from this book have been donated to Habitat for Humanity New Orleans.
X: A Novel: Written by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon, ages 12 and up, Coretta Scott King Honor Book (Candlewick). The novel, co-written by Malcolm X’s daughter, follows him through his troubled childhood to his eventual rebirth as a civil rights leader.

Hero (Top) Feature Image: © erllre / Dollar Photo Club
Additional Images (in order) Courtesy:
Lillian’s Right to Vote Front Cover / Amazon
Trombone Shorty Front Cover / Amazon
The Book Itch Front Cover / Amazon
March: Book Two Front Cover / Amazon
Chasing Freedom Front Cover / Amazon
Drowned City Front Cover / Amazon