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Alison Gowans
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Feb. 21, 2024 – In honor of Black History Month, Cedar Rapids Public Library Materials Librarian Kim Martens-Tyo curated a list of books for children that celebrate Black history.

"The books I have chosen each have a unique voice in understanding African American's journey to great achievement! They are brilliantly written, beautifully illustrated and are shared celebrations for all of us to learn," she said.

Browse the book list below and put titles on hold in our catalog by clicking on their covers. Book descriptions are excerpted from the catalog and information provided by publishers.

"28 Days: Moments in Black History That Changed the World" by Charles R. Smith, Jr. (2015)

 A picture book look at many of the men and women who revolutionized life for African Americans throughout history.

"Holding Her Own: The Exceptional Life of Jackie Ormes" by Traci N. Todd (2022)

When Jackie Ormes sees an opportunity, she takes it. She's a journalist, cartoonist, fashionista, philanthropist, and activist – and she wants to use her artistry to bring joy and hope to Black people everywhere. But in post-World War II America, Black people are still being denied their civil rights, and Jackie has a dilemma: How can her art remain true to her signature Jackie joy, while also staying honest about the inequalities Black people have been fighting against? Traci N. Todd and Shannon Wright have crafted a gorgeous and moving tribute to the indelible legacy of America's first Black woman cartoonist

"You are My Pride: A Love Letter from Your Motherland" by Carole Boston Weatherford (2023)

Written in the voice of Mother Africa, who speaks to her children – human beings – this stunning picture book thrums with the love between mother and child as it celebrates humanity's common roots. Before words or tools or fire, Mother Africa's caves sheltered us and her forests fed us. She could not protect us from all dangers, but, like mothers everywhere, she gave her children all she could and sent us into the world with confidence and love. Told in the ringing, singing language of a creation story, this book is a love letter from mother to child that honors our shared history.

"To Boldly Go: How Nichelle Nichols and Star Trek Helped Advance Civil Rights" by Angela Dalton (2023)

"To Boldly Go" tells the true story of Nichelle Nichols and how she used her platform on Star Trek to inspire and recruit a new generation of diverse astronauts and many others in the space and STEM fields.

"Justice Rising: 12 Amazing Black Women in the Civil Rights Movement" by Katheryn Russell-Brown (2023)

A celebration of twelve Black women who were pivotal to the civil rights movement and the fight for justice and equal rights in America. You've heard the names Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King, but what about the many other women who were crucial to the civil rights movement?

"Love is Loud: How Diane Nash Led the Civil Rights Movement" by Sandra Neil Wallace (2023)

A picture book biography of Diane Nash, a Civil Rights Movement leader at the side of Martin Luther King and John Lewis. Born in the 1940s in Chicago, Diane went on to take command of the Nashville Movement, leading lunch counter sit-ins and peaceful marches. Diane decides to fight not with anger or violence, but with love. With her strong words of truth and actions, she works to stop segregation

"The Davenports" by Krystal Marquis (2023)

The first in a breathless YA series set in 1910 Chicago, The Davenports offers a glimpse into a period of African American history often overlooked, while delivering a totally escapist, swoon-worthy read. The Davenports are one of the few Black families of immense wealth and status in a changing United States, their fortune made through the entrepreneurship of William Davenport, a formerly enslaved man who founded the Davenport Carriage Company years ago. Now the Davenports live surrounded by servants, crystal chandeliers, and endless parties, finding their way and finding love, even where they're not supposed to. Inspired by the real-life story of C.R. Patterson and his family, The Davenports is the tale of four determined and passionate young Black women discovering the courage to steer their own path in life and love.

"You Gotta Meet Mr. Pierce!: The Storied Life of Folk Artist Elijah Pierce" by Chiquita Mullins Lee (2023)

Based on the true story of artist Elijah Pierce and his community barbershop, this picture book biography is a new and engaging offering on a hidden figure in Black art history.

"That Flag" by Tameka Fryer Brown (2023)

Bianca is Keira's best friend. At school, they are inseparable. But Keira questions their friendship when she learns more about the meaning of the Confederate flag hanging from Bianca's front porch. Will the two friends be able to overlook their distinct understandings of the flag? Or will they reckon with the flag's effect on yesterday and today? In "That Flag," Tameka Fryer Brown and Nikkolas Smith graciously tackle the issues of racism, the value of friendship, and the importance of understanding history so that we move forward together in a thought-provoking, stirring, yet ultimately tender tale.

"The Story of the Saxophone" by Lesa Cline-Ransome (2023)

The award winners behind "Before She Was Harriet" explore the story of the saxophone, from its beginnings in 1840s Belgium all the way to New Orleans, where an instrument in a pawn shop caught the eye of musician Sidney Bechet and became the iconic symbol it is today.

"Opal Lee and What it Means to be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth" by Alice Faye Duncan (2021)

The true story of Black activist Opal Lee and her vision of Juneteenth as a holiday for everyone celebrates Black joy and inspires children to see their dreams blossom. Growing up in Texas, Opal knew the history of Juneteenth, but she soon discovered that many Americans had never heard of the holiday that represents the nation's creed of "freedom for all." At the age of 89, she walked from Fort Worth, Texas to Washington, D.C., in an effort to gain national recognition for Juneteenth. 

"My Red, White, and Blue" Alana Tyson (2023)

A powerful story about the mixture of pride and pain that one Black family finds in the American flag and an invitation for each of us to choose how we relate to America, its history, and the flag that means so many things to so many people

"Ice Cream Man: How Augustus Jackson Made a Sweet Treat Better" by Glenda Armand (2023)

This picture book biography recounts the extraordinary life of Augustus Jackson, an African American entrepreneur who is known as the "Father of Ice Cream."

"How Do You Spell Unfair?: MacNolia Cox and the National Spelling Bee" by Carole Boston Weatherford (2023)

A true story of determination and groundbreaking achievement follows eighth-grade African American spelling champion MacNolia Cox, who left Akron, Ohio, in 1936 to compete in the prestigious National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C., only to be met with prejudice and discrimination.

"The Green Piano: How Little Me Found Music" by Roberta Flack (2023)

Legendary singer Roberta Flack reflects on her early childhood and her love of music

"A Flag for Juneteenth" by Kim Taylor (2023)

"A Flag for Juneteenth" depicts a close-knit community of enslaved African Americans on a plantation in Texas, the day before the announcement is to be made that all enslaved people are free. Young Huldah, who is preparing to celebrate her tenth birthday, can't possibly anticipate how much her life will change that Juneteenth morning. The story follows Huldah and her community as they process the news of their freedom and celebrate together by creating a community freedom flag.

"Dear Yesteryear" by Kimberly Annece Henderson (2023)

Drawing from her Instagram-based archival image repository, a historical curator and researcher presents this stunning picture book showcasing everyday African Americans from the late 1800s and early 1900s who made the present possible.

"All Aboard the Schooltrain: A Little Story from the Great Migration" by Glena Armand (2023)

During the Great Migration in 1930s Louisiana, eight-year-old Jenny tries to understand why a man named Jim Crow is making trouble for her family.

"An American Story" by Kwame Alexander (2023)

A picture book in verse that threads together past and present to explore the legacy of slavery during a classroom lesson.