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Black History Month can be quite the page-turner.

Every February, Americans across the United States commemorate Black History Month, a month-long national celebration, commemoration, and remembrance of the contributions, experiences, and achievements that Black people have made throughout U.S. and world history. We’ve been celebrating Black History Month since 1976, but the beginnings of this annual event date back even further to 1926, when the first “Negro History Week,” was created by historian, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, and held in the second week of February. Dr. Woodson, founder of an organization then-called the Association for Negro Life and History, sought to bring awareness to often overlooked historical events and important figures from the Black community, especially given the fact that most of this history was largely absent from textbooks and schools.

At the time, Dr. Woodson and his colleagues at the Association chose the second week of February to build upon the then-existing Black traditions of celebrating the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass—together, they aimed to reform and expand the focus of these singular celebrations from beyond those two men towards a broader recognition of the entire Black community.

Today, Black History Month is not only recognized in the United States, but it is also a month-long celebration in countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, and Germany. This wider recognition of Black history not only provides us with a powerful sign of how far things have come since Dr. Woodson’s time, but it also serves as a reminder of the progress we still have yet to make.

Banner that reads, "Celebrate Black History Month," featuring young students wearing astronaut and medical uniforms.

For 2023, the Association for the Study of the African American Life and History (ASALH), as Dr. Woodson’s original organization is now called, is centering its Black History Month commemorations this year around the theme of “Black Resistance” in recognition of the countless ways that Black people have fought for the right to live dignified and self-determined lives in the Americas since the 1600s. ASALH is calling on “everyone… to study the history of Black Americans’ responses to establish safe spaces, where Black life can be sustained, fortified, and respected.”

In celebration of Black History Month and in light of ASALH’s call to action for the year, we’ve collected the following list of suggested books regarding Black experience and history that families and educators can read with their students in grades 3-K through 12 throughout February and beyond. We hope that you and your family will enjoy and learn from these outstanding titles—some are historical and non-fiction, while others are original works of fiction that feature Black characters and perspectives that are not normally reflected in other works that are traditionally shared and discussed in the classroom.

Many of these books are readily available at 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!

Black History Month Booklist for Young Readers

Early Elementary School (Grades 3-K through 2)

  • The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson; art by R. Nikkolas Smith
  • Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams by Lesa Cline-Ransome; art by James E. Ransome
  • Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry; art by Vashti Harrison
  • Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine; art by Kadir Nelson
  • My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by Martin Luther King III; art by A.G. Ford
  • Nina: Jazz Legend and Civil Rights Activist by Alice Briére-Haquet; art by Bruno Liance
  • Princess and the Peas by Rachel Himes
  • Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Gwen Strauss; art by Floyd Cooper
  • Shirley Chisholm is a Verb by Veronica Chambers
  • Sugar Hill: Harlem’s Historic Neighborhood by Carole Boston Weatherford; art by R. Gregory Christie
  • This is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration by Jacqueline Woodson; art by James Ransome
  • The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson; art by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Cover for the book, "Hair Love," by Matthew A. Cherry.

Elementary School (Grades 3–5)

  • As Brave as You by Jason Reynolds
  • The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth, and Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Michaux Nelson; art by R. Gregory Christie
  • Circle Unbroken by Margot Theis Raven; art by E.B. Lewis
  • Ice Breaker: How Mabel Fairbanks Changed Figure Skating by Rose Viña; art by Clair Almon
  • The Magic in Changing Your Stars by Leah Henderson
  • The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales by Virginia Hamilton; art by Leo and Diane Dillon
  • Root Magic by Eden Royce
  • Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler by Ibi Zoboi
  • The United States vs. Jackie Robinson by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
  • We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball Words and Paintings by Kadir Nelson

Cover for the book, "Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler" by Ibi Zoboi

Middle School (6–8)

  • Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewel Parker Rhodes
  • The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
  • The Girl from the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement by Teri Kanefield
  • In the Key of Us by Mariama J. Lockington
  • Making Our Way Home: The Great Migration and the Black American Dream by Blair Imani; art by Rachelle Baker
  • Ophie’s Ghosts by Justina Ireland
  • Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
  • Streetcar to Justice: How Elizabeth Jennings Won the Right to Ride in New York by Amy Hearth Hill
  • Swim Team by Johnnie Christmas
  • Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia
  • Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the Selma Voting Rights March by Lynda Blackmon Lowery, Elspeth Leacock, and Susan Buckley; art by P.J. Loughran
  • We Were the Fire: Birmingham 1963 by Sheila P. Moses

Cover for Jewell Parker Rhodes' book, "Black Brother, Black Brother"

High School (Grades 9–12)

  • 1919 by Eve L. Ewing
  • Angel of Greenwood by Randi Pink
  • Black Birds in the Sky: The Story and Legacy of the Tulsa Race Massacre by Brandy Colbert
  • Chlorine Sky by Mahogany L. Browne
  • The Cost of Knowing by Britney Morris
  • Dear Martin by Nic Stone
  • Kneel by Candace Buford
  • Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson
  • Pride by Ibi Zoboi
  • Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
  • The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus

Cover for the book, "Angel of Greenwood," by Randi Pink


We hope that this booklist not only helps students and families to commemorate Black History Month, but that it also helps you find your next favorite page-turner! For more Black History Month coverage, check out our official Black History Month webpage, 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 and memorable Black History Month!

Banner photo by monkeybusinessimages. All rights reserved. Original can be found on iStock.

Official blog for the NYC Department of Education, home of a million students across 1,800+ schools

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