Established on the coattails of the Civil Rights Movement and Negro History Week, President Gerald Ford officially recognized February as Black History Month in 1976 with the hope that the public would “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor through our history.” This is a great opportunity to celebrate and remember the acts of courage and resilience that took place in spite of overwhelming prejudice and intolerance, as well as introduce students to some lesser known figures and moments in black history. Here are some amazing titles that tell stories of everyday Americans overcoming obstacles by relying on hope to achieve great heights.


Recommended Black History Month Titles for Grades K-2:


Recommended Black History Month titles Grades K-2

Top Pick: Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Grades P-3, Lexile AD670)

Winner of a Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Honor for illustrations, this nonfiction story in prose tells of Congo Square: a little known moment in African-American history. In 19th century Louisiana, the book works its way through the days of the week leading up to Sunday where the slaves were allowed the opportunity to forget their struggles for a time and set up a market, play music, sing and dance in Congo Square. This book does a great job outlining the slave experience with the detailing of their duties and truly captures their ability to find joy despite their circumstance.



More Recommended Titles:

As Good as Anybody by Richard Michelson, illustrated by Raul Colon (Grades 1-4, Level S, Lexile 680)

Back of the Bus by Aaron Reynolds, Illustrated by Floyd Cooper (Grades 1-3, Level O, Lexile AD720)

Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Bryan Collier (Grades 1-5, Lexile AD630)

Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier (Grades 1-4, Level S, Lexile 410)


Recommended Black History Month Titles for Grades 3-5:


Recommended Black History Month Titles Grades 3-5

Top Pick: Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life written and illustrated by Ashley Bryan (Grades 4-6)

What’s the value of a human being? Is it more or less than an object?  How is it possible for people to be sold as things? Ashley Bryan’s Newbery and Coretta Scott King Honors winning title uses primary source documents such as auction and plantation estate documents to grapple with the topic of the slave trade. Through poetry and collage artwork, Bryan paints a picture of what each person’s life on the plantation was like from slave to the slave owner. In stark contrast to the monetary value applied to the slaves, he expresses their dreams and experiences, which are utterly priceless and can never be taken away.



More Recommended Titles: 

28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World by Charles R. Smith, Jr., illustrated by Shane W. Evans (Grades 2-5, Level V, Lexile NC1080)

All Different Now: Juneteenth, The First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis (Grades 2-5, Lexile AD830)

Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Grades 1-5 Level Q, Lexile AD380)

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (Grades 4-7, Level W, Lexile 750)


Recommended Black History Month Titles for Grades 6-8:


Recommended Black History Month Titles Grades 6-8

Top Pick: Hidden Figures Young Readers Edition written by Marot Lee Shetterly (Grades 4-7)

Follow the lives of four female African American mathematicians, also known as “human computers,” as they battle for civil rights and gender equality in the 1960s. Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden are the ground-breaking women who helped NASA achieve some of their greatest moments in the space program’s history.

Covering curriculum appropriate topics such as history, math and science, this biography delves into a piece of history that isn’t widely known of the people behind the men exploring space. To help send legends like John Glenn into orbit and enable Neil Armstrong to walk on the moon, these ladies used pencils, slide rulers, adding machines and complex mathematics they sometimes had to create themselves to launch these rockets into space. This title would make a great visual pairing with the award-winning film of the women who changed the face of NASA.

More Recommended Titles: 

Black Diamond: The Story of the Negro Baseball Leagues by Patricia and Fredrick McKissack (Grades 4-7, Level W, Lexile 1100)

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Grades 4-8, Level W, Lexile 1100)

Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper, illustrated by Sarah Jane Coleman (Grades 4-8, Level W, Lexile 740)

The Voice That Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights by Russell Freedom (Grades 5-9, Level Y, Lexile 1180)


Recommended Black History Month Titles for Grades 9-12:

Top Pick: The March Trilogy written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell (Grades 7-A, Lexile GN760)


Recommended Black History Month Titles Grades 9-12

Explore the history of the Civil Rights Movement in this award-winning graphic novel memoir through the eyes of Congressman and Civil Rights Leader John Lewis. This trilogy recounts his life and struggle for civil and human rights from his days on the farm in rural Alabama to taking a seat in Congress, and from Jim Crow and segregation to receiving the Medal of Freedom.

Reflecting on the highs and lows of the movement, March: Book One depicts Lewis’ childhood up until his days as a nonviolent student activist along-side Martin Luther King Jr., while March: Book Two captures him as the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Freedom Rider registering voters in the Deep South.  The stunning conclusion in March: Book Three depicts the pinnacle of the movement with the 1963 March on Washington. More relevant than ever, this series will inspire and spark discussions about race, injustice and what it means to be an activist.

More Recommended Titles: 

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (Grades 5-10, Lexile 990) 

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (Grades 5-10, Level Z, Lexile 780) 

Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America’s First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone (Grades 5-12, Level Z, Lexile 1090)

X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon (Grades 8-12, Lexile HL580)