Recommended Reads for Black History Month

The following is a list of recommended materials for Black History Month and beyond. Our librarians and staff have shared their favorite reads related to this topic with hopes that you will enjoy them too. All of these materials are available at the Davenport Public Library. The descriptions have been provided by the publishers. If any of these titles sound like something you would like to check out, comment below or click on the links to be taken to the catalog to place a hold.

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JUVENILE BOOKS

The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S.K. Ali and illustrated by Hatem Aly

A powerful, vibrantly illustrated story about the first day of school–and two sisters on one’s first day of hijab–by Olympic medalist and social justice activist Ibtihaj Muhammad.

With her new backpack and light-up shoes, Faizah knows the first day of school is going to be special. It’s the start of a brand new year and, best of all, it’s her older sister Asiya’s first day of hijab–a hijab of beautiful blue fabric, like the ocean waving to the sky. But not everyone sees hijab as beautiful, and in the face of hurtful, confusing words, Faizah will find new ways to be strong.

Paired with Hatem Aly’s beautiful, whimsical art, Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad and Morris Award finalist S.K. Ali bring readers an uplifting, universal story of new experiences, the unbreakable bond between siblings, and of being proud of who you are.

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Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry and illustrated by Vashti Harrison

When mommy is away, it’s up to daddy to do his daughter’s hair in this ode to self-confidence and the love between fathers and daughters from former NFL wide receiver Matthew A. Cherry and New York Times bestseller Vashti Harrison.

Zuri’s hair has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way. Zuri knows it’s beautiful. When mommy does Zuri’s hair, she feels like a superhero. But when mommy is away, it’s up to daddy to step in! And even though daddy has a lot to learn, he LOVES his Zuri. And he’ll do anything to make her—and her hair—happy.

Tender and empowering, Hair Love is an ode to loving your natural hair—and a celebration of daddies and daughters everywhere.

This book is also available in the following formats:

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Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment by Parker Curry & Jessica Curry; illustrated by Brittany Jackson

A visit to Washington, DC’s National Portrait Gallery forever alters Parker Curry’s young life when she views First Lady Michelle Obama’s portrait.

When Parker Curry came face-to-face with Amy Sherald’s transcendent portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama at the National Portrait Gallery, she didn’t just see the First Lady of the United States. She saw a queen—one with dynamic self-assurance, regality, beauty, and truth who captured this young girl’s imagination. When a nearby museum-goer snapped a photo of a mesmerized Parker, it became an internet sensation. Inspired by this visit, Parker, and her mother, Jessica Curry, tell the story of a young girl and her family, whose trip to a museum becomes an extraordinary moment, in a moving picture book.

Parker Looks Up follows Parker, along with her baby sister and her mother, and her best friend Gia and Gia’s mother, as they walk the halls of a museum, seeing paintings of everyone and everything from George Washington Carver to Frida Kahlo, exotic flowers to graceful ballerinas. Then, Parker walks by Sherald’s portrait of Michelle Obama…and almost passes it. But she stops…and looks up!

Parker saw the possibility and promise, the hopes and dreams of herself in this powerful painting of Michelle Obama. An everyday moment became an extraordinary one…that continues to resonate its power, inspiration, and indelible impact. Because, as Jessica Curry said, “anything is possible regardless of race, class, or gender.”

This book is also available in the following formats:

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We March by Shane W. Evans

On August 28, 1963, a remarkable event took place–more than 250,000 people gathered in our nation’s capital to participate in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The march began at the Washington Monument and ended with a rally at the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech, advocating racial harmony. Many words have been written about that day, but few so delicate and powerful as those presented here by award-winning author and illustrator Shane W. Evans. When combined with his simple yet compelling illustrations, the thrill of the day is brought to life for even the youngest reader to experience.

 

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Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat  by Javaka Steptoe

Winner of the Randolph Caldecott Medal and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award

Jean-Michel Basquiat and his unique, collage-style paintings rocketed to fame in the 1980s as a cultural phenomenon unlike anything the art world had ever seen. But before that, he was a little boy who saw art everywhere: in poetry books and museums, in games and in the words that we speak, and in the pulsing energy of New York City. Now, award-winning illustrator Javaka Steptoe’s vivid text and bold artwork echoing Basquiat’s own introduce young readers to the powerful message that art doesn’t always have to be neat or clean–and definitely not inside the lines–to be beautiful.

 

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Young, Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present by Jamia Wilson and illustration by Andrea Pippins

Join us on a journey across borders, through time and even through space to meet 52 icons of color from the past and present in a celebration of achievement.

Meet figureheads, leaders, and pioneers such as Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Rosa Parks, as well as cultural trailblazers and sporting heroes, including Stevie Wonder, Oprah Winfrey, and Serena Williams.

Discover how their childhood dreams and experiences influenced their adult achievements. This book will help the next generation to chase their own dream . . . whatever it may be.

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Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o and illustrated by Vashti Harrison

From Academy Award–winning actress Lupita Nyong’o comes a powerful, moving picture book about colorism, self-esteem, and learning that true beauty comes from within.

Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything.

In this stunning debut picture book, actress Lupita Nyong’o creates a whimsical and heartwarming story to inspire children to see their own unique beauty.

This book is also available in the following formats:

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Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History by Vashti Harrison

New York Times bestselling author-illustrator Vashti Harrison shines a bold, joyous light on black men through history.

An important book for readers of all ages, this beautifully illustrated and engagingly written volume brings to life true stories of black men in history.

Among these biographies, readers will find aviators and artists, politicians and pop stars, athletes and activists. The exceptional men featured include artist Aaron Douglas, civil rights leader John Lewis, dancer Alvin Ailey, filmmaker Oscar Micheaux, musician Prince, photographer Gordon Parks, tennis champion Arthur Ashe, and writer James Baldwin.

The legends in this book span centuries and continents, but what they have in common is that each one has blazed a trail for generations to come.

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Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters  by Andrea David Pinkney and illustrated by Stephen Alcorn

Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus and sparked a boycott that changed America. Harriet Tubman helped more than three hundred slaves escape the South on the Underground Railroad. Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

The lives these women led are part of an incredible story about courage in the face of oppression; about the challenges and triumphs of the battle for civil rights; and about speaking out for what you believe in–even when it feels like no one is listening. Andrea Davis Pinkney’s moving text and Stephen Alcorn’s glorious portraits celebrate the lives of ten bold women who lit the path to freedom for generations. Includes biographies of Sojournor Truth, Biddy Mason, Harriet Tubman, Ida B.Wells-Barnett, Mary McLeod Bethune, Ella Josephine Baker, Dorothy Irene Height, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Shirley Chisholm.

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Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison

Featuring 18 trailblazing black women in American history, Dream Big, Little Leader is the irresistible board book adaptation of Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History.

Among these women, you’ll find heroes, role models, and everyday women who did extraordinary things — bold women whose actions and beliefs contributed to making the world better for generations of girls and women to come. Whether they were putting pen to paper, soaring through the air or speaking up for the rights of others, the women profiled in these pages were all taking a stand against a world that didn’t always accept them.

The leaders in this book may be little, but they all did something big and amazing, inspiring generations to come.

 

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A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech That Inspired a Nation by Barry Wittenstein and Jeery Pinkney

Much has been written about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the 1963 March on Washington. But there’s little on his legendary speech and how he came to write it. Find out more in this gripping book with illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was once asked if the hardest part of preaching was knowing where to begin. No, he said. The hardest part is knowing where to end. “It’s terrible to be circling up there without a place to land.”

Finding this place to land was what Martin Luther King, Jr. struggled with, alongside advisors and fellow speech writers, in the Willard Hotel the night before the March on Washington, where he gave his historic “I Have a Dream” speech. But those famous words were never intended to be heard on that day, not even written down for that day, not even once.

Barry Wittenstein teams up with legendary illustrator Jerry Pinkney to tell the story of how, against all odds, Martin found his place to land.

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The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson

The Newbery Award-winning author of The Crossover pens an ode to black American triumph and tribulation, with art from a two-time Caldecott Honoree.

This poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present.

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YOUNG ADULT MATERIALS

New Kid by Jerry Craft

A graphic novel about starting over at a new school where diversity is low and the struggle to fit in is real.

Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade.

As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds—and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself?

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Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

Stamped traces the history of racism and the many political, literary, and philosophical narratives that have been used to justify slavery, oppression, and genocide. Framed through the ideologies and thoughts of segregationists, assimilationists, and antiracists throughout history, the book demonstrates that the “construct of race has always been used to gain and keep power, whether financially or politically,” and that this power has been used to systemically and systematically oppress Black people in the United States for more than four hundred years.

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.

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The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

Just when seventeen-year-old Matt thinks he can’t handle one more piece of terrible news, he meets a girl who’s dealt with a lot more—and who just might be able to clue him in on how to rise up when life keeps knocking him down—in this wry, gritty novel from the author of When I Was the Greatest.

Matt wears a black suit every day. No, not because his mom died—although she did, and it sucks. But he wears the suit for his gig at the local funeral home, which pays way better than the Cluck Bucket, and he needs the income since his dad can’t handle the bills (or anything, really) on his own. So while Dad’s snagging bottles of whiskey, Matt’s snagging fifteen bucks an hour. Not bad. But everything else? Not good. Then Matt meets Lovey. She’s got a crazy name, and she’s been through more crazy than he can imagine. Yet Lovey never cries. She’s tough. Really tough. Tough in the way Matt wishes he could be. Which is maybe why he’s drawn to her, and definitely why he can’t seem to shake her. Because there’s nothing more hopeful than finding a person who understands your loneliness—and who can maybe even help take it away.

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Same But Different: Teen Life on the Autism Express by Holly robinson Peete, Ryan Elizabeth Peete, RJ Peete

Being a teen is hard enough. But when you have autism–or when your sibling is struggling with the condition–life can be a topsy-turvy ride. What happens when you come face-to-face with dating, parties, sports, body changes, school, and kids who just don’t get you? Where do you turn when your sibling with autism is the butt of jokes, the victim of misunderstood social cues, and the one everyone thinks is weird? Through alternating narratives based on their own lives, Ryan Elizabeth Peete and her twin brother, RJ, who has autism, bravely and honestly reveal what it means to be a teen living with the disorder. With insight and humor, Same But Different explores the many aspects of teen autism, while daring to address issues and feelings nobody talks about. This powerfully rendered, timely book is the only one of its kind. It paints an important story of hope for teens and families living with autism—and lets us see that everybody’s unique rhythm is worth dancing to.

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ADULT FICTION

March by John Lewis

March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

Book One spans John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.

Many years ago, John Lewis and other student activists drew inspiration from the 1950s comic book Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story. Now, his own comics bring those days to life for a new audience, testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.

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Hot Comb by Ebony Flowers

Hot Comb offers a poignant glimpse into Black women’s lives and coming of age stories as seen across a crowded, ammonia-scented hair salon while ladies gossip and bond over the burn. The titular story “Hot Comb” is about a young girl’s first perm–a doomed ploy to look cool and to stop seeming “too white” in the all-black neighborhood her family has just moved to. In “Virgin Hair” taunts of “tender-headed” sting as much as the perm itself. It’s a scenario that repeats fifteen years later as an adult when, tired of the maintenance, Flowers shaves her head only to be hurled new put-downs. Realizations about race, class, and the imperfections of identity swirl through Flowers’ stories and ads, which are by turns sweet, insightful, and heartbreaking.

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The Mothers by Brit Bennett

Set within a contemporary black community in Southern California, Brit Bennett’s mesmerizing first novel is an emotionally perceptive story about community, love, and ambition. It begins with a secret.

“All good secrets have a taste before you tell them, and if we’d taken a moment to swish this one around our mouths, we might have noticed the sourness of an unripe secret, plucked too soon, stolen and passed around before its season.”

It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. Luke Sheppard is twenty-one, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it’s not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance—and the subsequent cover-up—will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently? The possibilities of the road not taken are a relentless haunt.

In entrancing, lyrical prose, The Mothers asks whether a “what if” can be more powerful than an experience itself. If, as time passes, we must always live in servitude to the decisions of our younger selves, to the communities that have parented us, and to the decisions we make that shape our lives forever.

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The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her — but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he’s ever known.

So begins an unexpected journey that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia’s proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the deep South to dangerously utopic movements in the North. Even as he’s enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, Hiram’s resolve to rescue the family he left behind endures.

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Out of Darkness, Shining Light by Petina Gappah

“This is how we carried out of Africa the poor broken body of Bwana Daudi, the Doctor, David Livingstone, so that he could be borne across the sea and buried in his own land.”

So begins Petina Gappah’s powerful novel of exploration and adventure in nineteenth-century Africa—the captivating story of the loyal men and women who carried explorer and missionary Dr. Livingstone’s body, his papers and maps, fifteen hundred miles across the continent of Africa, so his remains could be returned home to England and his work preserved there. Narrated by Halima, the doctor’s sharp-tongued cook, and Jacob Wainwright, a rigidly pious freed slave, this is a story that encompasses all of the hypocrisy of slavery and colonization—the hypocrisy at the core of the human heart—while celebrating resilience, loyalty, and love.

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The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

In 1925, Josephine is the proud owner of a thriving farm. As a child, she channeled otherworldly power to free herself from slavery. Now, her new neighbor, a white woman named Charlotte, seeks her company, and an uneasy friendship grows between them. But Charlotte has also sought solace in the Ku Klux Klan, a relationship that jeopardizes Josephine’s family.

Nearly one hundred years later, Josephine’s descendant, Ava, is a single mother who has just lost her job. She moves in with her white grandmother Martha, a wealthy but lonely woman who pays her grandchild to be her companion. But Martha’s behavior soon becomes erratic, then even threatening, and Ava must escape before her story and Josephine’s converge.

The Revisioners explores the depths of women’s relationships—powerful women and marginalized women, healers and survivors. It is a novel about the bonds between a mother and a child, the dangers that upend those bonds. At its core, The Revisioners ponders generational legacies, the endurance of hope, and the undying promise of freedom.

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Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

In Jesmyn Ward’s first novel since her National Book Award–winning Salvage the Bones, this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first-century America. Drawing on Morrison and Faulkner, The Odyssey and the Old Testament, Ward gives us an epochal story, a journey through Mississippi’s past and present that is both an intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle. Ward is a major American writer, multiply awarded and universally lauded, and in Sing, Unburied, Sing she is at the height of her powers.

Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie’s children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise.

Sing, Unburied, Sing grapples with the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power, and limitations, of the bonds of family. Rich with Ward’s distinctive, musical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic new work and an essential contribution to American literature.

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American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson

What if your sense of duty required you to betray the man you love? One woman struggles to choose between her honor and her heart in this enthralling espionage drama that deftly hops between New York and West Africa.

It’s 1986, the heart of the Cold War, and Marie Mitchell is an intelligence officer with the FBI. She’s brilliant, but she’s also a young black woman working in an old boys’ club. Her career has stalled out, she’s overlooked for every high-profile squad, and her days are filled with monotonous paperwork. So when she’s given the opportunity to join a shadowy task force aimed at undermining Thomas Sankara, the charismatic, revolutionary president of Burkina Faso whose Communist ideology has made him a target for American intervention, she says yes. Yes, even though she secretly admires the work Thomas is doing for his country. Yes, even though she is still grieving over the mysterious death of her sister, whose example led Marie to this career path in the first place. Yes, even though a furious part of her suspects she’s being offered the job because of her appearance and not her talent.

In the year that follows, Marie will observe Thomas, seduce him, and ultimately have a hand in the coup that will bring him down. But doing so will change everything she believes about what it means to be a spy, a lover, a sister, and a good American.

Inspired by true events — Thomas Sankara is known as “Africa’s Che Guevara” — this novel knits together a gripping spy thriller, a heartbreaking family drama, and a passionate romance. This is a face of the Cold War you’ve never seen before, and it introduces a powerful new literary voice.

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Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

Moving forward and backward in time, Jacqueline Woodson’s taut and powerful new novel uncovers the role that history and community have played in the experiences, decisions, and relationships of these families, and in the life of the new child.

As the book opens in 2001, it is the evening of sixteen-year-old Melody’s coming of age ceremony in her grandparents’ Brooklyn brownstone. Watched lovingly by her relatives and friends, making her entrance to the music of Prince, she wears a special custom-made dress. But the event is not without poignancy. Sixteen years earlier, that very dress was measured and sewn for a different wearer: Melody’s mother, for her own ceremony– a celebration that ultimately never took place.

Unfurling the history of Melody’s parents and grandparents to show how they all arrived at this moment, Woodson considers not just their ambitions and successes but also the costs, the tolls they’ve paid for striving to overcome expectations and escape the pull of history. As it explores sexual desire and identity, ambition, gentrification, education, class and status, and the life-altering facts of parenthood, Red at the Bone most strikingly looks at the ways in which young people must so often make long-lasting decisions about their lives–even before they have begun to figure out who they are and what they want to be.

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ADULT NONFICTION

Ida B. the Queen: The Extraordinary Life and Legacy of Ida B. Wells by Michelle Duster

Called “a dangerous negro agitator” by the FBI, and a “brave woman” by Frederick Douglass, an inspiring biography of the American pioneer by Ida B. Wells’s great-granddaughter, Michelle Duster.

Winner of a 2020 Pulitzer Prize Special Citation, Ida B. Wells was born enslaved in Holly Springs, Mississippi, in 1862. In this inspiring and accessible biography, Duster tells the incredible story of Wells’s life, including stories from her childhood in Mississippi, her famous refusal to give up her seat on a ladies’ train car in Memphis, and her later work as a pioneering journalist and anti-lynching crusader.

Overlooked and underestimated, Wells would single-handedly change the course of American history and come to inspire millions. Ida B. the Queen shines a bright light on one of the most extraordinary women in history.

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Daughter of the Boycott: Carrying on a Montgomery Family’s Civil Rights Legacy by Karen Gray Houston

In 1950, before Montgomery, Alabama, knew Martin Luther King Jr., before Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat to a white passenger, before the city’s famous bus boycott, a Negro man named Hilliard Brooks was shot and killed by a white police officer in a confrontation after he tried to board a city bus. Thomas Gray, who had played football with Hilliard when they were kids, was outraged by the unjustifiable shooting. Gray protested, eventually staging a major downtown march to register voters, and standing up to police brutality.

Five years later, he led another protest, this time against unjust treatment on the city’s segregated buses. On the front lines of what became the Montgomery bus boycott, Gray withstood threats and bombings alongside his brother, Fred D. Gray, the young lawyer who represented Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and the rarely mentioned Claudette Colvin, a plaintiff in the case that forced Alabama to desegregate its buses.

An incredible story of family in the pivotal years of the civil rights movement, Daughter of the Boycott is the reflection of Thomas Gray’s daughter, award-winning broadcast journalist Karen Gray Houston, on how her father’s and uncle’s selfless actions changed the nation’s racial climate and opened doors for her and countless other African Americans.

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Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All by Martha S. Jones

According to conventional wisdom, American women’s campaign for the vote began with the Seneca Falls convention of 1848 and ended with the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. The movement was led by storied figures such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. But this women’s movement was an overwhelmingly white one, and it secured the constitutional right to vote for white women, not for all women. In Vanguard, acclaimed historian Martha Jones offers a sweeping history of African American women’s political lives in America, recounting how they fought for, won, and used the right to the ballot and how they fought against both racism and sexism. From 1830s Boston to the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 and beyond to Shirley Chisholm, Stacey Abrams, and Kamala Harris, Jones excavates the lives and work of Black women who, although in many cases suffragists, were never single-issue activists. She recounts the lives of Maria Stewart, the first American woman to speak about politics before a mixed audience of men and women; African Methodist Episcopal preacher Jarena Lee; Reconstruction-era advocate for female suffrage Frances Ellen Watkins Harper; Boston abolitionist, religious leader, and women’s club organizer Eliza Ann Gardner; and other hidden figures who were pioneers for both gender and racial equality.

Revealing the ways Black women remained independent in their ideas and their organization, Jones shows how Black women were again and again the American vanguard of women’s rights, setting the pace in the quest for justice and collective liberation. In the twenty-first century, Black women’s power at the polls and in politics is evident. Vanguard reveals that this power is not at all new, but is instead the culmination of two centuries of dramatic struggle.

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Driving While Black: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights by Gretchen Sorin

It’s hardly a secret that mobility has always been limited, if not impossible, for African Americans. Before the Civil War, masters confined their slaves to their property, while free black people found themselves regularly stopped, questioned, and even kidnapped. Restrictions on movement before Emancipation carried over, in different forms, into Reconstruction and beyond; for most of the 20th century, many white Americans felt blithely comfortable denying their black countrymen the right to travel freely on trains and buses. Yet it became more difficult to shackle someone who was cruising along a highway at 45 miles per hour.

In Driving While Black, the acclaimed historian Gretchen Sorin reveals how the car—the ultimate symbol of independence and possibility—has always held particular importance for African Americans, allowing black families to evade the many dangers presented by an entrenched racist society and to enjoy, in some measure, the freedom of the open road. She recounts the creation of a parallel, unseen world of black motorists, who relied on travel guides, black only businesses, and informal communications networks to keep them safe. From coast to coast, mom and pop guest houses and tourist homes, beauty parlors, and even large hotels—including New York’s Hotel Theresa, the Hampton House in Miami, or the Dunbar Hotel in Los Angeles—as well as night clubs and restaurants like New Orleans’ Dooky Chase and Atlanta’s Paschal’s, fed travelers and provided places to stay the night. At the heart of Sorin’s story is Victor and Alma Green’s famous Green Book, a travel guide begun in 1936, which helped grant black Americans that most basic American rite, the family vacation.

As Sorin demonstrates, black travel guides and black-only businesses encouraged a new way of resisting oppression. Black Americans could be confident of finding welcoming establishments as they traveled for vacation or for business. Civil Rights workers learned where to stay and where to eat in the South between marches and protests. As Driving While Black reminds us, the Civil Rights Movement was just that—a movement of black people and their allies in defiance of local law and custom. At the same time, she shows that the car, despite the freedoms it offered, brought black people up against new challenges, from segregated ambulance services to unwarranted traffic stops, and the racist violence that too often followed.

Interwoven with Sorin’s own family history and enhanced by dozens of little known images, Driving While Black charts how the automobile fundamentally reshaped African American life, and opens up an entirely new view onto one of the most important issues of our time.

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The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton with Lara Love Hardin

In 1985, Anthony Ray Hinton was arrested and charged with two counts of capital murder in Alabama. Stunned, confused, and only twenty-nine years old, Hinton knew that it was a case of mistaken identity and believed that the truth would prove his innocence and ultimately set him free.

But with no money and a different system of justice for a poor black man in the South, Hinton was sentenced to death by electrocution. He spent his first three years on Death Row at Holman State Prison in agonizing silence—full of despair and anger toward all those who had sent an innocent man to his death. But as Hinton realized and accepted his fate, he resolved not only to survive, but find a way to live on Death Row. For the next twenty-seven years he was a beacon—transforming not only his own spirit, but those of his fellow inmates, fifty-four of whom were executed mere feet from his cell. With the help of civil rights attorney and bestselling author of Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson, Hinton won his release in 2015.

With a foreword by Stevenson, The Sun Does Shine is an extraordinary testament to the power of hope sustained through the darkest times. Destined to be a classic memoir of wrongful imprisonment and freedom won, Hinton’s memoir tells his dramatic thirty-year journey and shows how you can take away a man’s freedom, but you can’t take away his imagination, humor, or joy.

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The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein

In this groundbreaking history of the modern American metropolis, Richard Rothstein, a leading authority on housing policy, explodes the myth that America’s cities came to be racially divided through de facto segregation—that is, through individual prejudices, income differences, or the actions of private institutions like banks and real estate agencies. Rather, The Color of Law incontrovertibly makes clear that it was de jure segregation—the laws and policy decisions passed by local, state, and federal governments—that actually promoted the discriminatory patterns that continue to this day.

Through extraordinary revelations and extensive research that Ta-Nehisi Coates has lauded as “brilliant” (The Atlantic), Rothstein comes to chronicle nothing less than an untold story that begins in the 1920s, showing how this process of de jure segregation began with explicit racial zoning, as millions of African Americans moved in a great historical migration from the south to the north.

As Jane Jacobs established in her classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities, it was the deeply flawed urban planning of the 1950s that created many of the impoverished neighborhoods we know. Now, Rothstein expands our understanding of this history, showing how government policies led to the creation of officially segregated public housing and the demolition of previously integrated neighborhoods. While urban areas rapidly deteriorated, the great American suburbanization of the post–World War II years was spurred on by federal subsidies for builders on the condition that no homes be sold to African Americans. Finally, Rothstein shows how police and prosecutors brutally upheld these standards by supporting violent resistance to black families in white neighborhoods.

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited future discrimination but did nothing to reverse residential patterns that had become deeply embedded. Yet recent outbursts of violence in cities like Baltimore, Ferguson, and Minneapolis show us precisely how the legacy of these earlier eras contributes to persistent racial unrest. “The American landscape will never look the same to readers of this important book” (Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund), as Rothstein’s invaluable examination shows that only by relearning this history can we finally pave the way for the nation to remedy its unconstitutional past.

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How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

Ibram X. Kendi’s concept of antiracism reenergizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America–but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. In How to be an Antiracist, Kendi asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it.

In this book, Kendi weaves together an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science, bringing it all together with an engaging personal narrative of his own awakening to antiracism. How to Be an Antiracist is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond an awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a truly just and equitable society.

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White Fragility: Why it’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin Diangelo

The New York Times best-selling book exploring the counterproductive reactions white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged, and how these reactions maintain racial inequality.

Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. In this in-depth exploration, anti-racist educator Robin DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what can be done to engage more constructively.

The Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz

The world right now is uncertain. I find myself longing for times when family and friends could get together without care or worries. In an effort to feel more of that carefree spirit(without actually getting close to people), I have been searching for more books to read about families. Cue: literary generational fiction.

The Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz tells the story of Ellie and Brick. In the 1950s, Ellie and Brick are growing up in Clayton Valley, Ohio. Ellie wants to marry Brick McGinty. She wants to go to nursing school. It seems Ellie has finally figured out how she can get what she wants, even if her grandparents don’t approve.

Brick may be a basketball star at his high school, but he has big plans to go to college on a scholarship to play basketball. That is his chance to escape his abusive father, to be the first in his family to attend college, and to become a man that he can be proud of. Ellie and Brick are determined to succeed together and start a new life in a new place.

Their plans fall apart when Ellie finds out she is pregnant. Realizing that their big dreams will have to be put on hold, the two switch gears and begin to build their family. Ellie and Brick quickly discover that this new life is full of ups and downs. They have to rely on each other and work together to provide a stable and loving home for everyone. Just as they seem to settle back into a rhythm, someone knocks on their front door and delivers news that has the power to destroy their lives.

The Daughters of Erietown follows the evolution of women’s lives over fifty years. While each person in this story may have their own secrets, others have the power to reach out and destroy the precious balance that they have created. This novel discusses the known and the unknown, the whispers that may be true or not, and how you choose to deal with them.

This book is also available in the following formats:

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

all the bright placesAll the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven handles difficult topics for teens, from emotional problems and mental illness to death and suicide, but in such a way that everything is written eloquently and seriously, showing the consequences of all actions, no matter how big or small. Niven’s characters are beautifully written. The story really captures the heartbreaking yearning for everything to end up alright by showcasing a compelling search for hope when all seems lost.

All the Bright Places is told from the points of view of two high school students, Theodore Finch and Violet Markey. Theodore and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at their school. Finch is fascinated with death, chronicling ways to kill himself. Something good stops him from hurting himself every time. Violet has a countdown until graduation, when she can finally leave Indiana and start a new life away from the aftermath of her older sister’s death.

That first meeting is the start of a very unlikely relationship between the freak, outcast boy, Finch, and the popular, yet damaged girl, Violet. This book weaves an exhilarating and  charming, yet simultaneously heartbreaking, love story between the two that immediately draws you in. When Violet and Finch then pair up on a class project to discover the natural wonders of their state, they learn more about each other than they initially thought. Death-fascinated Finch and future-focused Violet find hope and help by working with each other. Their lives will be forever changed.

This book is also available as an audiobook. If you use RiverShare OverDrive, our e-book and audiobook service, you can check out All the Bright Places as an e-book, as well as an audiobook.