African Heritage

“I am where I am because of the bridges that I crossed. Sojourner Truth was a bridge. Harriet Tubman was a bridge. Ida B. Wells was a bridge. Madame C. J. Walker was a bridge. Fannie Lou Hamer was a bridge.” – Oprah Winfrey

NOVELS

Claiming Georgia Tate

Amateau Gigi. Claiming Georgia Tate. Cambridge, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2005.

 “Twelve-year-old Georgia Tate feels loved and safe living with Nana and Granddaddy, until her sexually abusive father tries to win her custody.” – FVRL. Sent to live with her father in Florida, Georgia escapes with the help of a transsexual living in a neighbouring apartment. On the long bus journey back home to Mississippi, she meets an African-American on his way home after being falsely imprisoned. This 196-page novel told from the first-person point of view is recommended for readers 13-years-old and up.  Shorter and easier to read than The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine, it is similar in its depiction of a character who learns to stand up for what is right. [Abuse; Courage; Custody of children; Fathers and daughters; Grandparents; Incest; Mississippi; Racism] 

Elijah

Armstrong, William H. Sounder.
Codell, Esme Raji. Sahara Special.
Codell, Esme Raji. Viva la Paris.
Curtis, Christopher Paul. Bud, Not Buddy.
Curtis, Christopher Paul. Elijah of Buxton.
Curtis, Christopher Paul. The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963.
Draper, Sharon M. Double Dutch.
Fenner, Carol. Yolanda’s Secret.
Flake, Sharon G. The Skin I’m In.

Greene, Bette. Get On Out of Here, Philip Hall.
Greene, Bette. Philip Hall Likes Me, I Reckon Maybe.
Holt, Kimberly Willis. Mister and Me.
Hamilton, Virginia. M.C. Higgins, the Great.
Hamilton, Virginia. The Planet of Junior Brown.
Hamilton, Virgina. Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush.
Hamilton, Virginia. Zeely.

Witness
Hesse, Karen. Witness.
Holt, Kimberly Willis. Mister and Me.
Johnson, Angela. Heaven.

Night on Fire

Kidd, Ronald. Night on Fire. Chicago: Albert Whitman & Company, 2015.

Hoping that the arrival of Freedom Riders in her town will help her community shed its antiquated views, thirteen-year-old Billie is forced to confront her own mindset when things turn tragic.” – CIP. [Alabama; Civil rights movements; Courage; Freedom Rides, 1961; Friendship; Racism; Violence]

Kidd, Sue Monk. The Secret Life of Bees.
Konigsburg, E.L. Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth.

LaFaye, A. The Strength of Saints.
Lasky, Kathryn. True North.
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird.

Levine, Gail Carson. Dave at Night.

Levine, Kristin. The Lions of Little Rock.
Twelve-year-old Marlee is shy. She likes thinking and she likes math, but she doesn’t like talking so much. And she is not courageous. But when high schools are closed in her home town because local officials oppose integration, Marlee learns to speak up. Well-researched and based on true events from 1959, this novel will appeal to readers twelve years old and up. [Arkansas; African Americans; Racism; Schools; Family life; Mothers and daughters; Historical fiction; Friendship; Courage; Mathematics; Faith]

Lord, Bette Bao. In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson.
Lunn, Janet. The Root Cellar.
Mathis, Sharon Bell. Sidewalk Story.
McMullan, Margaret. Sources of Light.

The Baptism
Moses, Sheila P. The Baptism.

Picture 27

Myers, Walter Dean. Fallen Angels.
Myers, Walter Dean. Lockdown.
Myers, Walter Dean. Scorpions.
Myers, Walter Dean. Sunrise over Fallujah.
Napoli, Donna Jo. North.

Picture 4

Rhodes, Jewell Parker. Sugar. New York : Little, Brown, 2013.
“In 1870, Reconstruction brings big changes to the Louisiana sugar plantation where spunky ten-year-old Sugar has always lived, including her friendship with Billy, the son of her former master, and the arrival of workmen from China.” – CIP  [African Americans; Chinese Americans; Courage; Friendship; Historical fiction; Individuality; Louisiana; Orphans; Race relations; Racism]

 

Picture 1

Scattergood, Augusta. Glory Be. New York: Scholastic, 2012.
“In the summer of 1964 as she is about to turn twelve, Glory’s town of Hanging Moss, Mississippi, is beset by racial tension when town leaders close her beloved public pool rather than desegregating it.” FVRL [Courage; Friendship; Historical fiction; Mississippi; Racism; Segregation; Sisters; Summer]

Staples, Suzanne Fisher. Dangerous Skies.

If I Grow Up
Strasser,  Todd. If I Grow Up. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2009. 
“Growing up in the inner-city projects, DeShawn is reluctantly forced into the gang world by circumstances beyond his control.” – CIP. [African Americans; Gangs; Inner cities; Poverty; Violence]

Taylor, Mildred D. The Gold Cadillac.
Taylor, Mildred D. The Land.
Taylor, Mildred D. Let the Circle be Unbroken.
Taylor, Mildred D. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.
Taylor, Mildred D. Song of the Trees.
Taylor, Mildred D. The Well.

Paperboy

Vawter, Vince. Paperboy. New York: Delacorte, 2013.
“When an eleven-year-old boy takes over a friend’s newspaper route in July 1959, in Memphis, his debilitating stutter makes for a memorable month.” – CIP.  A Newbery Honor Book, highly recommended for readers 10 to 15 years old. [Bullying; Family life; Newspaper carriers; Race relations; Stuttering; Tennessee]

Voigt, Cynthia. Come a Stranger. 

Walters, Eric. Black and White.

If You Come Softly
Woodson, Jacqueline. Behind You.
Woodson, Jacqueline. Feathers.
Woodson, Jacqueline. Hush.
Woodson, Jacqueline. If You Come Softly.
Woodson, Jacqueline. Locomotion.
Woodson, Jacqueline. Peace, Locomotion.

FOLKTALES

Old Mikamba

Aardema, Verna. Who’s in Rabbit’s House.
Aardema, Verna. Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears.
Grifalconi, Ann. The Village of Round and Square Houses.
Isadora, Rachel. Hansel and Gretel.
Isadora, Rachel. The Princess and the Pea.
Isadora, Rachel. Rapunzel.
Isadora, Rachel. The Twelve Dancing Princesses.
McDermott, Gerald. Anansi the Spider.
Steptoe, John. Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters.

Hansel and Gretel

PICTURE BOOKS

Angelou, Maya. Life Doesn’t Frighten Me.

love twelve miles long

Armand, Glenda. Love Twelve Miles Long. New York: Lee & Low Books, 2011.

“In 1820s Maryland, Frederick’s mother, who is a slave on a different plantation, walks twelve miles each way for a nighttime visit with her son, during which she recounts what each mile of the journey represents. Based on the childhood of Frederick Douglass.” – CIP.

A Splash of Red
Bryant, Jen. A Splash of Red: the Life and Art of Horace Pippin.

Night Running

Carbone, Elisa. Night Running: How James Escaped with the Help of His Faithful Dog: Based on a True Story. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008.

“A runaway slave makes a daring escape to freedom with the help of his faithful hunting dog, Zeus. Based on the true story of James Smith’s journey from Virginia to Ohio in the mid-1800s.” – CIP.

  Unspoken
Cole, Henry. Unspoken: Story from the Underground RailroadNew York: Scholastic Press, 2012.

“In this wordless picture book, a young Southern farm girl discovers a runaway slave hiding behind the corn crib in the barn and decides to help him.” – FVRL.


de la Peña, Matt. Last Stop on Market Street. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2015

“A young boy rides the bus across town with his grandmother and learns to appreciate the beauty in everyday things.” – CIP.  “Sometimes when you’re surrounded by dirt…you’re a better witness for what’s beautiful.”  [Buses; City and town life; Grandmothers]

Bird

Elliott, Zetta. Bird. New York: Lee & Low Books, 2008.

A young African American boy draws the world around him while trying to understand his older brother’s drug addiction. This gentle picture book will be appreciated by children and adults. Teachers might like to use it for lessons on reading between the lines as readers will easily see that they understand far more than the main character. The book is also useful for discussions on writing in free verse and ways of dealing with drug abuse. [Brothers; Family life; Drug abuse; Drawing; Novels in verse; Death; Style, Literary – Study and teaching]

Underground

Evans, Shane W. Underground. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2011. 

“A pivotal moment in American history is shared with young readers by following a slave family’s escape to the North by crawling on the ground, running barefoot through the woods, sleeping beneath bushes and eventually reaching freedom.” – Baker & Taylor. Highly recommended as a read-aloud: read the very brief story aloud without showing the book; discuss inferences and connections; read the story again so that listeners can see the illustrations; discuss the power of pictures to tell a story. [Abolitionists; Runaways; Slavery; Underground Railroad]

Evans, Shane W. We March. New York : Roaring Brook Press, 2012.

Short sentences accompany the full-page illustrations telling the story of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech in 1963. Highly recommended as a read-aloud introduction to this famous historical event. 

Hesse, Karen. Come On, RainNew York: Scholastic, 1999. 

Click HERE to listen and watch the story on YouTube.

Mr. George Baker

Hest, Amy. Mr. George Baker. Cambridge, MA.: Candlewick Press, 2004.

“Harry sits on the porch with Mr. George Baker, an African American who is one hundred years old but can still dance and play the drums, waiting for the school bus that will take them both to the class where they are learning to read.” – CIP. An elegant font and illustrations by Jon J. Muth combine to tell this touching story for readers of all ages. 

Hopkinson, Deborah. Steamboat School: Inspired by a True Story. Los Angeles: Disney•Hyperion, 2016. 

A law against educating African Americans was established in Missouri in 1847. But a minister – John Meachum – found a way around this restriction by creating a school in the middle of the Mississippi River. Ron Hubbard, the first African American animator at Disney Studios, provides vivid illustrations for this moving story useful as a read-aloud for readers 9 years old and up. An afterward provides additional information including recommended websites and books. [Historical fiction; Missouri;  Racism; Schools]

Hughes, Langston. My People.
Keats, Ezra Jack. Peter’s Chair.
Keats, Ezra Jack. Apt. 3.
Keats, Ezra Jack. The Snowy Day.

Way Up

McGill, Alice. Way Up and Over Everything. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008.

“In this retelling of a folktale, five Africans escape the horrors of slavery by simply disappearing into thin air.” – CIP. Recommended for readers 10-years-old and up. 

Miller, William. Richard Wright and the Library Card.

Amiri and Odette

Myers, Walter Dean. Amiri and Odette: A Love Story: A Poem.
Myers, Walter Dean. Blues Journey.
Myers, Walter Dean. Looking Like Me.

Night Boat

Raven, Margot Theis. Night Boat to Freedom. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006. New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006.

“At the request of his fellow slave Granny Judith, Christmas John risks his life to take runaways across a river from Kentucky to Ohio. Based on slave narratives recorded in the 1930s.” – CIP. [Fugitive slaves; Slavery; Underground Railroad]

A Place Called Freedom

Sanders, Scott Russell. A Place Called Freedom. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1997.

“After being set free from slavery in 1832, young James Starman and his family journey from Tennessee to Indiana to start a new life and over the years they are joined by so many blacks that they start their own town.” – CIP. 

Satchmo's Blues

Schroeder, Alan. Satchmo’s Blues.

Steptoe, Javaka. Radiant Child: the Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2016.
Brilliant double-page illustrations help tell the true story of a collage-style New York artist who died of a drug overdose in 1988 at the age of only 27. The colour, energy, and detail in Steptoe’s paintings are astonishing.  An afterward tells more about both Basquiat and Steptoe and could be used to start all sorts of discussions on the effect of childhood experiences and the nature of creativity. This sophisticated picture book – winner of the Caldecott Medal – is highly recommended for artists of all ages. [Artists; Biographies; Caldecott Medal; Creativity; New York (City)]

Patchwork Path

Stroud, Bettye. The Patchwork Path: A Quilt Map to Freedom. Cambridge, Mass.: Candlewick Press, 2005.

“While her father leads her toward Canada and away from the plantation where they have been slaves, a young girl thinks of the quilt her mother used to teach her a code that will help guide them to freedom.” – CIP. 

My Name is Truth

Turner, Ann.  My Name is Truth: the Life of Sojourner TruthNew York: Harper, 2015.

“A vibrantly illustrated story of how former slave Isabella Baumfree transformed herself into the preacher and orator Sojourner Truth, one of the most inspiring and important figures of the abolitionist and women’s rights movements.” – CIP. Illustrated by the acclaimed James Ransome and accompanied by historical information at the end, this biography – told from the first person point of view – is highly recommended for readers 8-years-old and up.

Freedom Song

Walker, Sally M. Freedom Song: The story of Henry ‘Box’ Brown. New York: Harper, 2012.

“Henry Brown copes with slavery by singing, but after his wife and children are sold away he is left with only his freedom song, which gives him strength when friends put him in a box and mail him to a free state.” – CIP [Singing; Slavery; Underground Railroad] 

Viola Desmond Won't Be Budged

Warner, Jody Nyasha. Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged! Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2010.

The true story of an African Canadian who refused to give up her seat in a movie theatre and move to the balcony reserved for black patrons. This courageous act in Nova Scotia in 1946 started the move to end racial segregation in Canada. Illustrated by Richard Rudnicki and accompanied by additional historical information at the end, this picture book is recommended for readers 8-years-old and up. 

Whelan, Gloria. Friend on Freedom River. Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press, 2004.

“On a cold December night, Louis must decide whether to brave the treacherous Detroit River to take a slave family to freedom.” – CIP. [Courage; Fugitive slaves; Slavery; Underground Railroad]

 Show Way

Woodson, Jacqueline. Coming on Home Soon.
Woodson, Jacqueline. The Other Side.
Woodson, Jacqueline. Show Way.
In Show Way, Soonie’s great-grandmother was sold when she was 7 to be a slave without being paid because she was a black person. She sewed a quilt that showed maps to freedom, to a place where there was no slavery. Even now, when there’s no slavery, Soonie’s family makes family tree quilts which show the family from generation to generation. The author, Jacqueline Woodson, created a very excellent book that makes readers wonder if Soonie’s great-grandmother is ever going to get to the freedom place without being caught. The book is also excellent because it is filled with historical facts about the civil war and slavery. (Gwilim) 

Do You Know What I'll Do?

Zolotow, Charlotte.  Do You Know What I’ll Do?  New York: HarperCollinsPublishers, 2000.

“A little girl delights her brother with a series of promises about all the wonderful things she’ll do to make him happy as they both grow up.” – CIP. The question is repeated over and over in this hopeful story illustrated by Javaka Steptoe. Recommended for readers of all ages. 

Nonfiction

Farris, Christine King. March On!: The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World. New York: Scholastic Press, 2008.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s sister tells the story of her brother’s famous speech: “I Have A Dream”. Full-page coloured illustrations by London Ladd enhance the dignity and drama of this informative picture book for readers 9 years old and up. 

Watkins, Angela Farris. Love Will See You Through: Martin Luther King’s Jr.’s Six Guiding Beliefs (As Told by His Niece). New York : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2015.

Brightly illustrated by Sally Wern Comport, this picture book described the civil rights leader’s six principles: have courage; love your enemies; fight problems, not people; when innocents are hurt, others help; resist violence; and “the universe honors love”. Recommended for readers 9 years old and up.

Click HERE for more outstanding books.

Print Friendly