February is Black History Month and while we think it’s great to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions made by African Americans, we also believe that Black history is American history and should be celebrated and taught all year long. But this month can be a great time to shine a spotlight on favorite books or freshen up a dated collection with new titles. Here are ten of our favorite Black History Month Books for middle school:
- The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby, by Crystal Hubbard and illustrated by Robert McGuire: Jimmy “Wink” Winkfield grew up loving horses, and he would stop at nothing to make it as a jockey. Though his path to success was wrought with obstacles both on the track and off, he carved out a lasting legacy as one of history’s finest horsemen and the last African American ever to win the Kentucky Derby. See the Teacher’s Guide.
- Dear Mrs. Parks: A Dialogue with Today’s Youth, by Rosa Parks: Mrs. Parks received 500 to 1,000 letters a month from children throughout the United States and the world. This book grew out of Rosa Parks’ desire to share her legacy with all “her children,” and perpetuate a dialogue that will be recorded for generations to come. See the Teacher’s Guide.
- I and I, by Tony Medina and illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson: Here is a multifaceted tribute befitting the international musical legend Bob Marley. Soulful, sun-drenched paintings transport readers to Jamaica, while uniquely perceptive poems bring to life his fascinating journey from boy to icon. See the Teacher’s Guide.
- John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement, by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson, and illustrated by Benny Andrews: This story celebrates the life of a living legend of American history. Lewis’s passionate belief in justice is a beacon for all who wish to make the country a better place to live. See the Teacher’s Guide.
- Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet, by Andrea Cheng: Sometime around 1815, an enslaved young man named Dave was brought to Edgefield, South Carolina, where he was taught how to turn pots and jars on a pottery wheel by one of his first owners. Dave began to sign his jars and carve many of them with sayings and poems that reflected his daily life and experiences. He spoke out against slavery not by protesting or revolting, but by daring to write at all. See the Teacher’s Guide.
- i see the rhythm, by Toyomi Igus and illustrated by Michele Wood: Beginning with the roots of black music in Africa and continuing on to contemporary hip hop, i see the rhythm takes us on a musical journey through time. See the Teacher’s Guide.
- Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas, by Gwendolyn Hooks and illustrated by Colin Bootman: Overcoming racism and resistance from his colleagues, Vivien Thomas ushered in a new era of medicine—children’s heart surgery. This book is the compelling story of this incredible pioneer in medicine. See the Teacher’s Guide.
- Game, Set, Match, Champion Arthur Ashe, by Crystal Hubbard and illustrated by Kevin Belford: From the start, Arthur Ashe was an unlikely tennis player, but with patience, hard work, and humility, Arthur pursued his dream. He blazed a path on the once all-white tennis courts, becoming the first African American man to win a Grand Slam tournament. Throughout his career, he fought to overcome adversity, opening doors in his sport and promoting human rights. See the Lesson Plan courtesy of the Library of Virginia.
Purchase the full collection here.