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Kids of all ages can celebrate Black History Month through books that explore rich contributions that have been made by African Americans.

Cindy Welch

“There are so many talented black authors and illustrators creating quality books for youth,” said Cindy Welch, associate director of UT’s Center for Children’s and Young Adult Literature. “There is more work to be done exploring African American contributions to our world, and these are just a few books that can inspire the next generation of movers and shakers.”

Welch recommends the following, which includes a mix of books related to music; culture; and science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

Grades K–2:

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands by Kadir Nelson. This is a beautifully illustrated picture book of the well-known spiritual.

Mysterious Thelonious by Chris Raschka. This is a picture book tribute to jazz giant Thelonious Monk.

Grades 1–3:

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Brian Collier. This is a poetry picture book about an African American slave known as Dave who creates beautiful pots with brief poems inscribed on them.

Twenty-Eight Days: Moments in Black History That Changed the World by Charles R. Smith and Shane W. Evans. This book features an entry for each day of February and includes poetry, obituaries, and original documents dealing with a variety of important black lives.

Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton, illustrated by Don Tate. This is the story of inventor Lonnie Johnson, who worked for NASA.

Grades 4–6:

Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl by Tonya Bolden. This book discusses what it was like to be born free during the time of slavery in the United States.

What Color is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors by Kareem Abdul-Jabar and Raymond Obstfeld, illustrated by Ben Boos and AG Ford. This book details contributions by black inventors.

When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III. This book tells readers how in 1973, Clive Campbell created a new style of music.

Grades 7 and up:

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Philip M. Hoose. Before Rosa Parks, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin was jailed for refusing to give up her seat on a bus.

March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. This graphic novel trilogy explores the beginnings of the American civil rights movement through the eyes of participant Congressman John Lewis.

Marching for Freedom: Walk Together, Children, And Don’t You Grow Weary by Elizabeth Partridge. This mix of photos and stories shares the experience of youth participating in the 1965 march to Selma.

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Euka Holmes. This book features 22 poems about the life and times of activist Fannie Lou Hamer. The poetry is accessible but the remaining content needs a more mature reader.

“These books may be written for children but they can be enjoyed by the whole family,” said Welch.



Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,