21 Nonfiction Books For Black History Month

Parks & Recreation to host a 'Southfield Celebrates Black History Month' kick-off event February 1 | City of Southfield

February is Black History Month, an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. Here are 21 nonfiction books in the CA Library collection that recognize those achievements, as well as document the 400-year struggle for equal rights for all African Americans — a struggle that continues to this day.


Across The Tracks: Remembering Greenwood, Black Wall Street, and the Tulsa Race Massacre by Alverne Ball — Introduces readers to the businesses and townsfolk who flourished in this unprecedented time of prosperity for Black Americans. We learn about Greenwood and why it is essential to remember the great achievements of the community as well as the 1921 tragedy which nearly erased it. With additional supplementary materials, this is a thorough examination of the rise, fall, and rebirth of Black Wall Street. “An essential purchase” (School Library Journal)

Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates — Coates takes readers along on his journey through America’s history of race and its contemporary resonances through a series of awakenings — moments when he discovered some new truth about our long, tangled history of race. “Will be hailed as a classic of our time” (Publishers Weekly). Get the eBook | Get the Audiobook

The Beautiful Struggle: A Memoir by Ta-Nehisi Coates — A memoir from author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates, in which he details the challenges on the streets and within one’s family, especially the eternal struggle for peace between a father and son and the important role family plays in such circumstances. “An accessible and enlightening edition of an extraordinary book” (Shelf Awareness). Get the eBook

Black Birds in the Sky: The Story and Legacy of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre by Brandy Colbert — The Tulsa Race Massacre is one of the most devastating acts of racial violence in US history. But how did it come to pass? What exactly happened? And why are the events unknown to so many of us today? These are the questions that award-winning author Brandy Colbert seeks to answer in this unflinching account of this dark period in America’s past. “Necessary reading for any student of history” (Booklist). Get the eBook | Get the Audiobook

The Burning: Black Wall Street and the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 by Tim Madigan, adapted by Hilary Beard — An adaptation of Madigan’s The Burning, documenting the true story of Black Wall Street and the Tulsa Race Massacre, with updates that connect the historical significance of the massacre to the ongoing struggle for racial justice in America. “Eye-opening and unforgettable” (Booklist). Get the eBook | Get the Audiobook

Call and Response: The Story of Black Lives Matter by Veronica Chambers — This timely book covers the rise of Black Lives Matter and how it has been shaped by United States history, telling the story of how a hashtag became a movement. “Comprehensive, propulsive, and packed with quotes and source material” (Booklist).

Dark Sky Rising: Reconstruction and the Dawn of Jim Crow by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. — The story of America during and after Reconstruction, one of history’s most pivotal and misunderstood chapters. Here, you will come face-to-face with the people and events of Reconstruction’s noble democratic experiment, its tragic undermining, and the drawing of a new “color line” in the long Jim Crow era that followed. “A first purchase for YA nonfiction collections, especially to support history curriculums” (School Library Journal). Get the Audiobook

A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riots of 1919 by Claire Hartfield — Racial conflict on a Chicago beach in July of 1919 erupted into days of urban violence that shook the city of Chicago to its foundations. This mesmerizing narrative draws on contemporary accounts as it traces the roots of the explosion that had been building for decades in race relations, politics, business, and clashes of culture. “A comprehensive, careful account” (Kirkus Reviews).

42 Is Not Just A Number: The Odyssey of Jackie Robinson, American Hero by Doreen Rappaport — An eye-opening look at the life and legacy of Jackie Robinson, the man who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball and became an American hero. “An excellent biography that humanizes its legendary subject” (School Library Journal). Get the eBook

Freedom Summer: The Savage Season of 1964 That Made Mississippi Burn and Made America A Democracy by Bruce Watson, adapted by Rebecca Stefoff — A detailed history of the attempt in 1964 to register African-Americans in Mississippi and the over seven hundred college students from both southern and northern schools who descended upon the state to help in the cause for freedom and civil rights. “An in-depth look that contributes to understanding a violent painful chapter in recent history” (Kirkus Reviews).

Lest We Forget: The Passage From Africa To Slavery and Emancipation by Velma Maia Thomas — A companion guide to the Black Holocaust Exhibit in Atlanta, Georgia, containing essays that provide information on various aspects of slavery and the slave trade, and including reproductions of authentic documents related to slavery. “The images and the words in this book will have a firm impact on its audience” (School Library Journal).

Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir by Nikki Grimes — Author and poet Nikki Grimes, winner of the 2022 Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, explores the truth of a harrowing childhood in a compelling and moving memoir in verse. “A must-read for aspiring writers” (Horn Book). Get the eBook | Get the Audiobook

Paul Robeson: No One Can Silence Me by Martin Duberman — The life and legacy of vocal artist and civil rights icon Paul Robeson — one of the most important public figures in the twentieth century — adapted for young adults by the acclaimed Robeson biographer. “A powerful tribute to this #BlackLivesMatter predecessor” (Booklist). Get the eBook | Get the Audiobook

The Rebellious Life of Rosa Parks by Jeanne Theoharis, adapted by Brandy Colbert — This biography of Rosa Parks examines her six decades of activism, challenging readers perceptions of her as an accidental actor in the civil rights movement. “A nuanced exploration of a woman with a lifelong commitment to social change” (Kirkus Reviews). Get the eBook

Revolution In Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise To The People by Kekla Magoon — In this comprehensive, inspiring, and all-too-relevant history of the Black Panther Party, Magoon introduces readers to the Panthers’ community activism, grounded in the concept of self-defense, which taught Black Americans how to protect and support themselves in a country that treated them like second-class citizens. “This compelling work would be invaluable for both individual and classroom reading” (Horn Book). Get the eBook | Get the Audiobook

Run: Book One by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin — The continuation of the life story of the late John Lewis and the struggles seen across the United States after the Civil Rights Movement. Starting with the tragic death of Martin Luther King Jr., Run tells the story of how Lewis entered politics, working within the community, and organizing a campaign that has taken him to one of the most important seats in Congress. “An intimate, powerfully revealing look at a crucial, complex time, through the eyes of a true American hero” (Kirkus Reviews). Get the eBook

Separate No More: The Long Road to Brown v. Board of Education by Lawrence Goldstone — In this examination of the path to Brown v. Board of Education, Constitutional law scholar Lawrence Goldstone highlights the key trials and players in the fight for public school integration. “Crucial historical information wrapped in well-written, inviting prose” (Kirkus Reviews). Get the eBook

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi — A history of racist and antiracist ideas in America, from their roots in Europe until today, adapted from National Book Award winner Stamped from the Beginning. “Kendi and Reynolds’ volume is essential, meaningfully accessible reading” (Publishers Weekly). Get the eBook | Get the Audiobook

Stolen Justice: The Struggle For African American Voting Rights by Lawrence Goldstone — In this vivid portrait of the systematic suppression of the African American vote, critically acclaimed author Lawrence Goldstone traces the injustices of the post-Reconstruction era through the eyes of incredible individuals, both heroic and barbaric, and examines the legal cases that made the Supreme Court a partner of white supremacists in the rise of Jim Crow. ” A richly informative resource on an all-too-relevant topic” (Booklist). Get the Audiobook

This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons On How To Wake Up, Take Action and Do The Work by Tiffany Jewel — Learn about social identities, the history of racism and resistance against it, and how you can use your anti-racist lens and voice to move the world toward equity and liberation. “A visually exciting and well-crafted antiracist guide” (School Library Journal). Get the eBook | Get the Audiobook

We Are Not Yet Equal: Understanding Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson — Presents the argument that since the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, when African Americans make advances toward full participation in our democracy, white reaction feeds deliberate and relentless rollback of their progress. “This is a book that should absolutely be included in the curriculum” (School Library Connection). Get the eBook


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