Ready to turn the pages of Black history?
Each February, Americans across the United States commemorate Black History Month, a month-long national celebration of the contributions and achievements that Black people have made throughout U.S. and world history.
As our nation begins to recover and rebuild from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Black History Month remains as vital as it has ever been to our national discourse. The pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color across the country, and much of the scholarship, narrative, and history discussed throughout Black History Month helps us all to understand how and why while also providing a blueprint for change. In fact, this year, many organizations that are commemorating Black History Month this year are highlighting Black health and wellness throughout their programming as part of a greater call to action to dismantle the deep-rooted inequities that continue to take their toll on the outcomes of Black and other communities of color across the country.
To help kick off Black History Month, we collected the following book suggestions regarding Black history and the Black experience that families and educators can read with their students in grades 3-K through 12 this month and beyond. It is our hope that you, your family, and City students across the five boroughs will enjoy and learn from these outstanding titles—some are historical and non-fiction by nature, while others are original works of fiction that feature Black characters and perspectives that are not normally reflected in other popular works.
Many of these books are readily available via New York’s public libraries, as well as through the Citywide Digital Library available on Sora for City public school students—check them out at your convenience, and let us know about your reading experiences this month in the comments section below!
We thank the DOE’s Office of Teaching & Learning, as well as the New York, Queens, and Brooklyn Public Libraries for their title suggestions this year.
Black History Month Booklist for Young Readers
Early Elementary School (Grades 3-K through 2)
- All Because You Matter by Tami Charles; art by Bryan Collier
- Another by Christian Robinson
- Boogie Boogie, Y’all by C.G. Esperanza
- Dream Street by Tricia Elam Walker; art by Ekua Holmes
- I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes; art by Gordon C. James
- I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison; art by Frank Morrison
- Liberty’s Civil Rights Road Trip by Michael W. Waters; art by Nicole Tadgell
- Me & Mama by Cozbi A. Cabrera
- Off to See the Sea by Nikki Grimes; art by Elizabeth Zunon
- Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o; art by Vashti Harrison
- Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold
- Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora
Elementary School (Grades 3–5)
- The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson; art by R. Nikkolas Smith
- For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe in a Better World by Michael W. Waters, art by Keisha Morris
- The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson; art by R. Gregory Christie
- Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson
- Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison
- Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History by Vashti Harrison with Kwesi Johnson
- Miss Crandall’s School for Young Ladies & Little Misses of Color by Elizabeth Alexander and Marilyn Nelson; art by Floyd Cooper
- Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Gwen Strauss; art by Floyd Cooper
- The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander; art by Kadir Nelson
- Young, Gifted, and Black: Meet 52 Heroes from Past and Present by Jamia Wilson; art by Andrea Pippins
Middle School (6–8)
- Blended by Sharon M. Draper
- Fortune’s Bones: The Manumission Requiem by Marilyn Nelson
- A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée
- King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender
- My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich by Ibi Zoboi
- The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert
- Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes
- Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
- Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library by Carole Boston Weatherford; art by Eric Velasquez
- The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore
- Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice by Mahogany L. Browne, Elizabeth Acevedo, and Olivia Gatwood; art by Theodore Taylor III
- The Year I Flew Away by Marie Arnold
High School (Grades 9–12)
- Ain’t Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds; art by Jason Griffin
- Black AF: America’s Sweetheart by Kwanza Osajyefo; art by Jennifer Johnson
- Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
- On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
- One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite
- Passenger on the Pearl: The True Story of Emily Edmonson’s Flight from Slavery by Winifred Conkling
- Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People by Kekla Magoon
- She Came to Slay: The Life and Times of Harriet Tubman by Erica Armstrong Dunbar
- The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass
- Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles
- Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan
We hope this booklist helps students and families helps commemorate and understand Black identity, experience, and history throughout February and beyond! For more Black History Month coverage, follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to The Morning Bell below.
On behalf of the NYC Department of Education, we wish all of our families a wonderful Black History Month.