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  • Writer's pictureAlways Upper Elementary

10 Books for Black History Month

Updated: Jan 21

February is Black History Month. Before we dive in, I am going to state what should be obvious: we should recognize and appreciate leaders from the Civil Rights Movement at all times of the year, not just in February.

In my own classroom, I am very intentional about incorporating social justice education into my teaching throughout the entire year. To create this list, I looked back at my year-long lesson plans to find books that I have read in the past two or three years my students.

These books can be used specifically for Black History month OR at any other time of the year! These are truly some fantastic reads…. You need to check them out! :)

1. Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine

This book left me completely speechless and my eyes filled with tears. This book is unbelievable. It really puts things into perspective and helps you to understand the horrifying reality of being a slave. This book is about Henry “Box” Brown who literally shipped himself in a box to the north to escape slavery. Simply put: you HAVE to read this book. Click here to buy this book on Amazon!

2. Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison

Vashti Harrison actually came up with the concept for this book when she started posting on social media every day for Black History Month. She started posting daily about powerful women in Black history and that is how this book was born! In my own classroom, I plan on reading about one of these bold women every day until we finish the book, which will last longer than Black History Month. The book contains summaries about 40 different Black women and their accomplishments in history. This book is a phenomenal resource! Click here to buy this book on Amazon!

3. Richard Wright and the Library Card by William Miller

This book tells the story of Richard Wright, who used a white man’s library card to secretly check out books and learn to read. Richard Wright went on to become an author himself and published multiple books. He had everything stacked against him, but he was determined to read. This book helps students to understand how racism impacted every single area of life for people--even the simple act of checking out a book. This story provides a powerful learning moment for students as they read about Richard's perseverance, resilience, and courage. Click here to get this book on Amazon!

4. Say Their Names by Caroline Brewer

This story is a short, but powerful read. The book is about a young black girl who sees discrimination happening around her and she dreams of change. The illustrations and words fit together like a masterpiece as they are packed with thought-provoking details and power. In the story, the main character is grappling with the reality of discrimination in our modern day. The message is clear: this must change. We still have so much work to do... and we all need to take a stand. Click here to get this book on Amazon!

5. Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport

This book is all about the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior. The story starts in his childhood and goes through his entire life. Dr. King’s quotes are woven into the story throughout the whole book. The book is not very long, but tells the story of MLK Jr. in a child-friendly, direct manner, with beautiful illustrations to bring the overall story together. Click here to get this book on Amazon!

6. Teammates by Peter Golenbock

Teammates is about Jackie Robinson and his impact on history. This book illustrates the horrifying reality of what segregation looked like, which sticks with my students year after year. We had discussions in class about using courage to stand up against injustice and how there is still SO much work to do. Our discussions after this read aloud are always so rich and impactful. Click here to get this book on Amazon!

7. Something Happened in Our Town by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, & Ann Hazzard

This book is absolutely INCREDIBLE. The children in the story are grappling with a recent shooting and processing what happened by asking thoughtful questions and starting discussions with their parents. This book answers the questions our children have stirring around in their minds in a very honest, concise way. Every year, this book sparks incredible conversations in my classroom because my students can relate to the questions and thoughts the main characters have in the story. This book is a must read! Click here to get this book on Amazon!

8. Just Like Jesse Owens by Andrew Young

This book is all about perseverance, grit, & nonviolence! This story is told from the perspective of a young boy growing up in Louisiana in the 1930s. There was prevalent racism in the south, but also across the globe as Hitler was spreading his racist ideology. In the story, the boy watches Jesse Owens run track in the 1936 Olympics. Jesse made history by winning 4 gold medals, and stood up against racism & white supremacy in nonviolent ways. This book is transparent, inspiring, and eyeopening. Overall, an excellent read! Click here to get this book on Amazon!

9. Barack Obama: A Hip Hop Tale of King’s Dream Come True by Caroline Brewer

Caroline Brewer wrote this incredible book in a poetic manner that amplifies the message of the overall story. This book highlights Barack Obama’s journey to becoming president, which was really Martin Luther King Junior’s dream becoming a reality. This story highlights determination, perseverance, and hope. This story is inspirational and provides readers with a call to action to stand up against discrimination and never give up. Click here to get this book on Amazon!

10. Black Gold by Laura Obuobi

This book is beautifully written and has gorgeous illustrations. The content of the book doesn’t really go into the history of discrimination, but rather talks about the idea of being made for a purpose, being beautiful inside & out, and black excellence. The words and illustrations of this book are magic. When I got done reading this book for the first time, I just wanted to flip back to the first page and read it again. It truly is a work of art! Click here to get this book on Amazon!

If you end up reading any of these books with your class, let me know what you think by sending me a message over on Instagram @always.upper.elementary or tagging me in your posts! I would love to hear your thoughts! Also, if you choose to purchase any of the books on this list, I appreciate you using my affiliate links embedded into this blog post–thank you in advance for your support! :)

Also, make sure to follow me on Teachers Pay Teachers at this link! You will be the first to know about my sales, freebies, and newest products.

Happy teaching!

Ms. Ringold

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