Black History Month: Literature Connections

Students all over America study Black History Month every February. Different teachers have different methods for imparting wisdom and helping students understand the significance that many African Americans have had on our current world.

TCI is all about engaging the students and keeping them interested throughout the entirety of every lesson and activity, and our recommendations for Black History Month follow suit. While we are always fans of incorporating hands-on activities and researching important African American figures in our country’s history, we sometimes like to make it simple and straightforward. That’s why this year for Black History Month, we are recommending a handful of amazing books to read to your students.

Students of all ages enjoy being read to, and you’ll probably be surprised at how engaged your older students will be when you read to them. Even picture books are a big hit with high school and middle school students, as it allows them to get new information in a simple, easy-to-understand format. Take a look at our list of books to read to your students during Black History Month.

The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA by Brenda Woods

Best for middle school students and older, this book tells the story of a black man named Meriwether who is a WWII veteran. He saves a young white boy named Gabriel during a bicycle accident and strikes up and unlikely friendship with the young boy and his family. Despite the blatant racism of the south in the 1940s, their friendship grows and is later tested when Meriwether is threatened and the future is uncertain.

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison

This is a powerful book about 40 black women who made a huge impact on the world. From poets to filmmakers to athletes to academics, each woman featured in this book took a stand for her beliefs in a world where she was often viewed in a negative light. Some of these stories are well-known, but many lesser-known women are profiled as well, showing young students of both genders that anyone can make a difference. There is an all-male version as well, called Little Leaders: Exceptional Men in Black History, also by Vashti Harrison

Martin Luther King: The Peaceful Warrior by Ed Clayton

Written by a close friend of the family, this book about the life and legacy of Martin Luther King is a must-read for anyone even remotely interested in the civil rights movement and black history. This book is informative and inspirational, and it takes readers behind the scenes of MLK’s young life to show a powerful example of what a true leader looks like. This book was originally published in 1964 but has since been updated and added to by the author’s widow.

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

The true heart and soul of our country lies in the liberty and justice available to all. However, many people groups had to fight long and hard to get a taste of that liberty and justice, and this book does a fantastic job of giving an overview of the journey of African Americans. Narrated by a 100-year-old African American woman, Heart and Soul outlines the harsh realities of our nation’s past, as well as the discrimination, broken promises, determination, and victories of African Americans who played an important role in making America what it is today.

Child of the Dream (A Memoir of 1963) by Sharon Robinson

Written by the daughter of baseball great Jackie Robinson, this book tells the personal story of Sharon Robinson’s thirteenth year. A lot was going on in 1963, particularly in the areas of segregation and civil rights, and Sharon and her family were right in the heart of it all. She was one of the only black children in her wealthy neighborhood, and she struggled to find her place in the civil rights movement and in the world around her.

Starstruck: The Cosmic Journey of Neil deGrasse Tyson by Kathleen Krull

Best suited for early elementary students, this book is a biography of the amazing Neil deGrasse Tyson in picture book form. It tells of young Neil’s amazement at a planetarium and how his love of space blossomed into a full-blown career, leading him to become one of the most respected and well-known astrophysicists in the world.

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

An unbelievable true story about a slave who mails himself in a crate, Henry’s Freedom Box is sure to pull at the heartstrings and keep students interested in how the story ends. Henry was a slave who didn’t know his birthday and was torn away from his family more than once. He eventually decides to mail himself from the warehouse he is enslaved in to a place up north to finally have a “birthday,” which is his first day as a free man.