Black History Month began this week. In an effort to celebrate the contributions and beautiful color so many African Americans have added to our country I thought I’d highlight a few inspiring biographies I’ve discovered over the years. I hope these are titles that will connect with your kids, engage their hearts, and inspire them to learn more about these amazing people who have impacted our country in big ways.
1. Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March by Lynda Blackmon Lowery as told to Elspeth Leacock and Susan Buckley
“By the time I was fifteen years old, I had been in jail nine times.” From the first sentence of this beautifully illustrated and compelling memoir I was hooked. By the end, I was in tears. Lynda shares her memories of participating in the Selma Right to Vote protests and marches including the horrifying Bloody Sunday and the historic march from Selma to Montgomery that followed (of which she was the youngest participant). Inspired by Dr. King’s words to fight for equality with “steady, loving confrontation,” this is a moving and inspiring book that will stick with me for a long time. It is also a book I think everyone should read.
Readers 12 and up
The women whose stories are told in the pages of this book were strong, humble and incredibly smart. They lived in a time where their gifts and skills were often overlooked because of both their race and their gender. And yet, they continued to do their jobs with excellence in a way that those around them couldn’t help but notice and appreciate. The work they accomplished at NASA helped the space program achieve some of its greatest moments.
Once I got going, I really enjoyed this book, but it did take me about 50 pages to get going. If you and your kids have not seen the movie yet, I think I would watch the movie first and encourage them to read the book after. If you have girls or boys who are interested in math and engineering, this book could go a long way to inspire them towards careers in those fields. Then again, the women in this book will probably inspire them no matter what type of career they are interested in.
Readers 8 and up
Born a slave, George Washington Carver, had an insatiable curiosity. Spurred on by a desire to learn everything he could, Carver overcame unbelievable odds and eventually became a renowned scientist. And then, he used his gifts to teach others and create innovative ways to help black farmers in the south escape poverty. I was blown away by Carver’s story. He truly was a great hero of American History and reading the story of his life is sure to inspire readers of any age.
Readers 8 and up
Little Leaders is a beautifully illustrated compilation featuring short biographies of 40 world-changing African American women. Many of these women were “firsts” for their skin color and gender including, the first African American poet published, the first African American woman physician in the country, the first to graduate law school, and the first to receive her pilot’s license.
Not all the women highlighted in these pages were firsts, but all of them were bold and all of them made their mark on our country and the world. Each biography is limited to one page, paired with a portrait of the woman described, making this a beautiful book to look through. It is also a book that wets your appetite for more information about these amazing women.
Readers 8 and up