Posted tagged ‘Black History Month’

A Must-Read Book for African American History Month

February 20, 2020


Long before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, there was another African American woman who fought for the right to have a seat on a streetcar. Lizzie Demands a Seat!  Elizabeth Jennings Fights for Streetcar Rights is written by Beth Anderson and illustrated by award-winning E. B. Lewis. The year is 1854 and Elizabeth “Lizzie” Jennings, an African American woman living in New York City, is late for choir practice. She boards the first streetcar that comes along, but the conductor stops her and tells her to wait for another car coming “for your people.” Even though Lizzie is a respected school teacher, church organist, and born a “free black” in a “free state,” she has never been treated as an equal. Lizzie sees plenty of empty seats on the streetcar and no one is objecting to her riding it, but when she stands her ground, the conductor is infuriated. He calls the driver for help, and Lizzie is roughly thrown off the car. She picks herself up and climbs back on. The angry conductor tells the driver to go and not to stop until he sees a police officer. The officer removes Lizzie from the streetcar with a harsh warning. She is left shaken and hurt. Lizzie’s parents are abolitionists, fighting for the abolishment of slavery in the South, and Lizzie joins them in their fight for equal rights for black Americans living in the North. After her streetcar incident, Lizzie is more determined than ever to right injustice not only for herself but for all. She decides the only way to accomplish this is in the courtroom. A meeting is called in Lizzie’s African American community where she tells her story. A committee is formed and they retain a white lawyer to represent Lizzie. Her father speaks in churches and writes letters and articles asking for public support. Newspapers run Lizzie’s story. Seven months later, Lizzie appears with her lawyer in court. The case of Elizabeth Jennings v. The Third Avenue Railroad Company begins. Beth Anderson’s rhythmic language and pacing will engage readers and keep them turning the pages to learn the verdict in Lizzie’s court dispute. Along with E. B. Lewis’ appealing illustrations that transport readers back to an earlier era in American history, Beth Anderson’s captivating story and author’s note demonstrate the tenacity of Lizzie Jennings as she champions dignity, justice, and equality.





Black History Month

February 2, 2017

February is Black History Month. It’s a time to honor the accomplishments of black Americans and the and contributions they have made to our country.

Below are some wonderful nonfiction picture books to read and share.


Freedom in Congo Square written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie


Freedom Over Me written and illustrated by Ashley Bryan


 Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Ekua Holmes


The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks written by Cynthia Levinson and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton


Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis written by Jabari Asim and illustrated by E. B. Lewis


Martin and Mahalia: His Words Her Song written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney


Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of  Florence Mills written by Renee Watson and illustrated by Christian Robinson


Marvelous Cornelius: Hurrican Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleanwritten by Phil Bildner and illustrated by John Parra


My Name Is James Madison Hemings written and illustrated by Jonah Winter

America has a rich history of accomplishments made by African Americans and by many others who are a part of our diverse population. That’s what makes this country so great!

In Celebration of Black History Month

February 4, 2016

February is Black History Month.  There are many excellent books dealing with the tragedies, triumphs, and accomplishments of African-Americans. Below is a short list of fiction and non-fiction picture books to share with young readers. Enjoy them, discuss them, and celebrate the successes Black Americans have made and how they have helped shape the history and culture of our country.


The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch written by Chris Barton and illustrated by Don Tate

Brick by Brick written by Charles R. Smith, Jr. and illustrated by Floyd Cooper

The Cart That Carried Martin written by Eve Bunting and illustrated by Don Tate

Freedom in Congo Square written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

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

I Lay My Stitches Down: Poems of American Slavery by Cynthia Grady, illustrated by Michele Wood

Jazz Age Josephine written by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone written by Katheryn Russell-Brown and illustrated by Frank Morrison

Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence written by Gretchen Woelfle and illustrated by Alix Delinois

Queen of the Track: Alice Coachman: Olympic High-Jump Champion written by Heather Lang and illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Two Friends:  Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass written by Dean Robbins and illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko

Words Set Me Free: The Story of Young Frederick Douglass by Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by James E. Ransome


A Dance Like Starlight written by Kristy Dempsey and illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Firebird written by Misty Copeland and illustrated by Christopher Myers

The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen written by Thelma Lynne Godin and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Frank Morrison

White Water: inspired by a true story written by Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein and illustrated by Shadra Strickland

Wind Flyers written by Angela Johnson and illustrated by Loren Long

“We should emphasize not Negro History, but the Negro in history. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice.” ~ Carter Woodson



Celebrating the African-American Music Culture

February 5, 2015

I grew up in a house that was filled with music. Even though none of us sings well or plays an instrument, we listened to all types of music and wrapped our heads and hearts around the many melodies we heard. One of the newest members of our immediate family – our one and only favorite son-in-law – plays the guitar and sings. His preferred music genre is the blues. The guest bedroom in my daughter and son-in-law’s home features prints of talented blues legends who greatly influenced the world of music.

From left to right there’s Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley, B.B. King,

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Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf, and Albert Collins

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Blues have been a part of the African-American music culture since slavery times. It has been said that to know the blues, you have to feel the blues.

The great Mahalia Jackson noted, “When black people stop singing the blues, then there’ll be no more nothin’! Because the blues has made American music and they will still be around when all the rock and stuff has gone. The blues is always around.”

Male artists such as those pictured above and women such as Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Ma Rainey, Ethel Waters, and many others helped shape and define blues music and the music beyond.

February is Black History Month. This year’s theme is A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture. Take some time to educate yourself on the life and times of African Americans and the numerous contributions they have made to our society.

If you like blues, check this book out. It’s great for all ages.


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The Blues Singers: Ten Who Rocked the World written by Julius Lester and illustrated by Lisa Conen

Other suggestions for young music enthusiasts:

Jimi Sounds Like a Rainbow: A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix written by Gary Golio and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe

When Louis Armstrong Taught Me Scat written by Muriel Harris Weinstein and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Black History Month

February 21, 2013

I couldn’t let Black History Month pass by without mentioning a wonderful book written by award-winning poet, Arnold Adoff with paintings by the very talented R. Gregory Christie.

Roots and Blues A Celebration is a book filled with poems that speak of the difficult journey of African American slaves and how the joys and sorrows in their lives were intertwined with the rhythm and music of the world around them.


Adoff’s word choice and placement of words create rhythmic patterns that flow off the page and sing to the reader. With his unique style, Adoff introduces the history and culture of the blues to readers. References to such music greats as Muddy Waters, Bessie Smith, W.C. Handy, Ma Rainey, and others are made. Interspersed throughout the book are paintings by R. Gregory Christie, a Coretta Scott King Honor Award-winner, that capture the suffering and joy of African American life.

This is a book to be savored.

One of the Last Buffalo Soldiers

February 21, 2012

An article in our local newspaper made me pause and rethink events in American history that we too often tend to push aside. The article was about a man named Robert Wallace. He was a Buffalo Soldier and one of the last living WWII veterans who was part of the all-black 92nd  Infantry Division. He died on February ninth at the age of 91.

The Buffalo Soldiers were put in dangerous situations, fought equally as hard as their white counterparts, but were treated like second-class citizens. It wasn’t until 1948 that President Truman ordered armed forces to integrate.

The article, “A Buffalo Soldier in the Heart of Wisconsin,” is an eye-opening and telling piece. In 1999, Robert Wallace participated in a taped interview for the Wisconsin Veterans Museum Oral History Project, which documented his experiences while serving in WWII. He spoke of whites using racial slurs, death of his friends, not having the same opportunities as the white units, and feeling like he had more freedom overseas than in America.

This brings to mind a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”

With determination and perseverance, Robert Wallace was able to overcome some of the objectionable experiences African Americans endured to live a very long and successful life.

Some books of Interest:

The Buffalo Saga:  A Story of WWII U.S. Army 92nd Infantry Division Known as the Buffalo Soldiers by James Harden Daugherty (Xlibris, Corp., 2009)

Black Warriors: The Buffalo Soldiers of World War II Memories of the Only Negro Infantry Division to Fight in Europe during World War II by Ivan J. Houston with contributor Gordon Cohn (iUniverse Star, 2011)

Black History Month Authors and Illustrators

February 17, 2012

Black History Month is ticking away, and my library students are busy celebrating the African American experience with books. They have discovered a wide variety of genres written and illustrated by some awesome African American writers and artists.

Picture books, poetry, folktales, historical fiction, biographies, and nonfiction have been discussed, passed around, checked out, and enjoyed. It’s heartwarming to see students get excited about books they wouldn’t ordinarily choose. They’re learning to step outside of the box for a new literary experience.

What we’ve come to know during our author/illustrator study is that being exposed to different cultures and ethnic backgrounds enhances our knowledge of the world around us.

We grooved to the rhythmic words in Jazz written by Walter Dean Myers and illustrated by Christopher Myers. We tapped our toes to Leo & Diane Dillon’s Rap A Tap Tap Here’s Bojangles – Think Of That! We learned what it’s like if you have a passion to succeed in For the Love of the Game written by Eloise Greenfield and illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist. Lessons of love and acceptance came our way in The Other Side written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis and Show Way also by Woodson and illustrated by Hudson Talbott. Richard Wright and the Library Card written by William Miller and illustrated by Gregory Christie and SitIn How Four Friend Stood Up by Sitting Down written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney demonstrated the hardships black Americans were up against in their struggle for equal rights.

We’ve looked at works by Jerry Pinkney, Virginia Hamilton, Nikki Giovanni, Bryan Collier, Patricia and Fredrick McKissack, Floyd Cooper, and Rita Williams-Garcia. We’ve been wowed by their talent and impressed by their numerous literary awards.

Celebrate Black History Month. Read. Learn. Enjoy.

“We should emphasize not Negro History, but the Negro in history. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice.” ~Carter Woodson, 1926

Illustrations by Kadir Nelson

February 10, 2012

Whenever I see a book written or illustrated by Kadir Nelson, it immediately goes on my wish list for our library collection. I am captivated by his talent as an artist. Kadir Nelson’s illustrations are so life-like you want to reach out and touch them. His ability to reveal the joy, pain, and sadness in the faces of his subjects is uncanny.


Kadir Nelson celebrates his heritage in art and words. His work has been acclaimed by many. In the children’s publishing industry he has been honored with the Coretta Scott King Author and Illustrator Awards, the Robert F. Sibert Award, the Caldecott Honor Award, and the NAACP Image Award to name a few.


In January, Nelson’s Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans won the Coretta Scott King Author Award and was the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book. He is a talent not to be overlooked.

February is Black History Month. Kadir Nelson and his illustrated books are two perfect ways to commemorate this event. Get one from your library today!

Books for Black History Month

February 18, 2011

It was a library miracle! My usually restless fifth graders amazed me with their rapt attention as I read SIT-IN How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down. This book written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney proved to be a catalyst for an excellent discussion on the Civil Rights Movement.

What I like about this book is that it’s told in a straightforward manner and speaks of the nonviolent approach four African American college students took in order to be served at a WHITE ONLY lunch counter in 1960. All they wanted was “a doughnut and coffee, with cream on the side” – a phrase that is repeated throughout the book. Poignant quotes and life messages in large font and bold colors appear in the story. “We must… meet hate with love.” “Demonstrate calm dignity.” This book reveals how objectives can be achieved by quiet determination and nonviolence. In the back of the book, there is a Civil Rights Timeline and a note by the author which aids in class discussions.

Throughout the year I pull many different types of books to provide students with a variety of reading choices, but Black History Month offers the opportunity to concentrate on reintroducing names, faces, issues, ideas, and achievements of African Americans.

Below are several other books I like to use with different grade levels during this time.

Henry’s Freedom Boxa Caldecott Honor Book, written by Ellen Levine and illustrated by Kadir Nelson is a true story about the Underground Railroad. Kadir Nelson’s fabulous illustrations reach out and pull you into Ellen Levine’s story about Henry “Box” Brown, a slave, who mails himself in a wooden box from Richmond, Virginia to freedom in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This book is a perfect segue into discussions about the Underground Railroad.

Jacqueline Woodson’s Newbery Honor Book, Show Way, highlights the generations of women in her family, spanning from slave times to the present time, and how the quilt-making tradition was passed down from generation to generation. Woodson’s poetic use of words tells the history of her family and the history of star, moon, and road patterns sewn into the quilts that contained secret codes, a show way, for those slaves escaping to freedom in the North. From the unique cut out design on the cover of the book to Hudson Talbott’s distinctive use of muslin and quilt patterns in his illustrations, Show Way is perfect for sharing during Black History Month.

Another book written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis is The Other Side. It’s about two girls – one black, one white – and a fence that separates the black side of town from the white side of town. It’s about those two girls who choose not to see their difference in color and become friends by sitting together on that fence. The story ends on a perfect note when one of the girls says, “Someday somebody’s going to come along and knock this old fence down.”

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