Do you know why we celebrate Black History Month in February? It's because Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln were both born in the second month of the year. In the 1920s, Carter G. Woodson, credited with starting the celebration of African American contributions throughout history, originally chose the second week of February because it encompassed the birthdays of both notable men. In 1976, President Gerald Ford made Black History Month a national observance.
From one week to a whole month, you can celebrate Black History any time by enjoying the many stories written by, for, and about African Americans. These are just a few of the titles we've added in the past year! If you're reading this on a computer, you can click the links to listen to the stories. If you're reading this on your phone or tablet, search for the titles in your app.
Purple Hibiscus by Ngozi Adichie
In Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie recounts the story of a young Nigerian girl searching for freedom. Although her father is greatly respected within their community, 15-year-old Kambili knows a frighteningly strict and abusive side to this man. In many ways, she and her family lead a privileged life, but Kambili and her brother, Jaja, are often punished for failing to meet their father's expectations. After visiting her aunt and cousins, Kambili dreams of being part of a loving family. But a military coup brings new tension to Nigeria and her home, and Kambili wonders if her dreams will ever be fulfilled. Adichie's striking and poetic language reveals a land and a family full of strife, but fighting to survive. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a 2003 O Henry Prize winner, and was shortlisted for the 2002 Caine Prize for African Writing and the 2004 Orange Prize.
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
Unfolding over 12 days, the story follows a poor family living on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. With Hurricane Katrina bearing down on them, the Batistes struggle to maintain their community and familial bonds amid the storm and the stark poverty surrounding them. Best-selling author Jesmyn Ward won the National Book Award for this poignant and poetic novel.
Between the Lines by Nikki Grimes
Darrian dreams of writing for the New York Times. To hone his skills and learn more about the power of words, he enrolls in Mr. Ward's class, known for its open-mic poetry readings and boys vs. girls poetry slam. Everyone in class has something important to say, and in sharing their poetry, they learn that they all face challenges and have a story to tell-whether it's about health problems, aging out of foster care, being bullied for religious beliefs, or having to take on too much responsibility because of an addicted parent. As Darrian and his classmates get to know one another through poetry, they bond over the shared experiences and truth that emerge from their writing, despite their private struggles and outward differences... This thought-provoking companion to Nikki Grimes' Coretta Scott King Award-winning Bronx Masquerade shows the capacity poetry has to express ideas and feelings, and connect us with ourselves and others.
Last year, we posted about Freedom Quilts and the ways they were used to guide members and travelers on the Underground Railroad. We've also posted lesson plans for introducing elementary students to the topics of slavery, abolition, and other historical movements. For even more ideas, visit our Black History Month Pinterest board.