Top Library Resources for African American History Month

Library Resources | February 04, 2020

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February is African American History Month, a time devoted to recognizing the African American struggle for freedom and equality in the United States.

Since many schools, libraries and organizations observe African American History Month, we’ve curated a list of resources to support collection development, curriculum delivery and programming.

Collection Development

NoveList® Plus can help librarians find a variety of fiction and nonfiction celebrating African-American characters and culture. Check out the Recommended Reads Lists, including African American Historical Fiction in Historical Fiction and African American Life Stories in Biography and Memoir. Also try these sample searches.

For libraries looking to add new books by and about African Americans to their shelves, Core Collections™ has great recommendations. Here are just a few:

  • “The Crossover” by Kwame Alexander, art by Dawud Anyabwile
    Alexander’s Newbery-winning verse novel about talented and basketball-obsessed twins Josh and JB gets a graphic novel from Anyabwile, who also did the art for the adaptation of Walter Dean Myers’ Monster.
     
  • “Josephine” by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Christian Robinson
    Powell and Robinson assemble a splendid picture book biography of Jazz Age entertainer and activist Josephine Baker.
     
  • “The Deep” by Rivers Solomon with Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes
    Diggs, Hutson and Snipes (of the hip-hop group Clipping) were Hugo-nominated in 2018 for their song “The Deep,” about an underwater society descended from the children of pregnant women thrown overboard during the transatlantic slave trade. Here, Solomon remixes their story into a novel about Yetu, the keeper of memories for that society.
     
  • “The Yellow House” by Sarah M. Broom
    Broom won the 2019 National Book Award for this memoir about her family home in New Orleans, and its impact on her large family both before and after its destruction in Hurricane Katrina.

Librarians may also wish to consult these tips for choosing culturally appropriate children’s books and resources about African Americans.

For libraries looking to expand their e-book collections, the EBSCO eBooks™ African American History Collection contains 300 fiction and nonfiction e-books for all age levels. The collection features biographies of famous political leaders, athletes and performers as well as current bestsellers by award-winning authors.

Meanwhile, libraries can enrich their Flipster® digital magazine collections with the latest issues of Black Beauty & Hair, Black Enterprise, Black EOE Journal and Black Girls Magazine.

Libraries looking to provide more support to students, historians and those tracing their genealogy can augment their collections with these primary source materials:

  • African American Historical Serials Collection is an archive of periodicals that document the history of African-American religious life and culture between 1829 and 1922. It includes newspapers and magazines, as well as reports and annuals from African American religious organizations such as churches and social service agencies.
     
  • Ebony Magazine Archive covers civil rights, education, entrepreneurship and other social topics with an African-American focus. The archive includes more than 800 issues from its first issue in 1945 through 2014.

K-12 Resources for Teaching and Learning

Visitors to the African American History Month website will find links to exhibits, selected resources for teachers and audio and video recordings from contributors such as the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, the National Archives and the National Gallery of Art. Librarians might find programming ideas on the We Are Teachers website, which has also curated a list of 20 activities for Black History Month and beyond.

Subscribers of EBSCO’s Biography Reference Center, History Reference Center, Literary Reference Center Plus and/or Science Reference Center can download this three-day interdisciplinary unit that integrates database research: “African American Explorers and Innovators.” In the unit, students will expand their knowledge of lesser-known African Americans in history by examining their engineering contributions.

ABC-CLIO’s The American Mosaic: The African American Experience, available from EBSCO, explores African-American history and its relation to U.S. history through published articles, essays, objects and artifacts, ideas and movements, images, documents, and other historical and culturally valuable sources. The database also includes an "Analyze" section which poses key questions to stimulate critical thinking, as well as an educator support site with resources for classroom and library integration.

Programming

In addition to creating a traditional book display of fiction and nonfiction by black authors, here are some other programming ideas libraries might consider:

  • Film screenings (Last year, The New York Times curated this essential list.)
  • Spoken word performances
  • Black author/poet events
  • Soul food cooking classes
  • Art displays featuring the work of local black artists
  • African-American music performances

Please tell us in the comments what your library is doing to celebrate Black History Month.

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