It's African American History Month. Here's a list of books about African American history that AREN'T about slavery or the Civil Rights movement. Now, I already covered One Crazy Summer, Mare's War, and The Rock and the River when I talked about my favorite Coretta Scott King Award winners. When I rounded up this year's Youth Media Award winners, I talked about No Crystal Stair.
Zora!: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston by Dennis Brindell Frandin and Judith Bloom Frandin. Zora Neale Hurston is now often studied in schools, but none of her books ever sold more than 1000 copies in her lifetime. This engaging biography captures her fire and spirit and her resistance to write the type of novel she was told she should be writing. Along the way, we get a fascinating picture of the time and places she lived, from Eatonville to Harlem, from Haiti and back to Florida.
Harlem Stomp!: A Cultural History Of The Harlem Renaissance by Laban Carrick Hill. Part history, part anthology, part art book, this is an accessible and interesting introduction to the Harlem Renaissance. It's a good one to browse-- you can easily dip in and out, but many teens will find themselves sucked in by the design and content, and will end up reading the whole thing through.
Shimmy Shimmy Shimmy Like My Sister Kate: Looking At The Harlem Renaissance Through Poems edited by Nikki Giovanni. More than a collection of Harlem Renaissane poetry, Giovanni adds her own commentary to each selection. Rather than being dry and scholarly, Giovanni's comments are relevant, but chatty and enjoyable.
Best Shot in the West: The Adventures of Nat Love by Patricia C. McKissack and Frederick L. McKissak, illustrated by Randy Duburke. A full-color graphic novel treatment of the life and exploits of Nat Love, also known as Deadwood Dick, the most famous black cowboy in the Wild West.
Black Frontiers: A History of African American Heroes in the Old West by Lillian Schlissel. This short, photo-heavy book covers the wide range of African American experiences during westward expansion, from homesteading to cowboys, legends to every day people.
Fire in the Streets by Kekla Magoon. In Chicago, 1968, 14-year-old Maxie lives in poverty with her mother and older brother. She believes in the work of the Black Panthers and desperately wants to be a member, but is constantly told that she's too young to do anything besides help out in the office.
Harlem Summer by Walter Dean Myers. In 1925, Mark wants to practice with his jazz band so he can make it big, but he needs a job. He gets one working for WEB DuBois's paper, The Crisis, with a side in bootlegging. However, when he loses the booze, Mark's in bigger trouble than he can imagine.
Daddy Was a Number Runner by Louise Meriwether. A classic coming-of-age about growing up in Harlem in the 1930s. Francie's parents are fighting and she attracts unwanted attention from old men. One brother is turning towards the street, the other wants to be a chemist, but knows the color of his skin won't let him get there. While darker and grittier than A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, there's a reason the books are often compared, and like Brookyln's Francie, Harlem's Francie will find a place in the hearts of a new generation of readers.
What are your favorite books that deal with the under-covered aspects of African American history?
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