YA Booklist: Celebrating African-American History Month

February is Black History Month and time when we should take time to reflect, and think of all the brave people that fought to end slavery, marched for civil rights, and so much more. The following list of books contain main characters who are African-American and lived through different time periods; from the 1800s to modern day and have had various life experiences. 

Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbon by Ann Rinaldi tells the story of Phillis Wheatley and how she came to be America’s first published African poet. She lived in Senegal until she was sold as a slave in 1761 and sent to the Wheatley family in Boston. In the Wheatley home, she was educated and encouraged to write, which was unheard of during the times. 

Walter Dean Myers’ book, Invasion, opens up in the beginning of World War II with friends Josiah and Marcus who hail from Virginia. Due to their racial differences, their positions in the Normandy invasion are different as well, putting a strain on their relationship. Through this novel, the friends learn about race, the true meaning of friendship, and what it is like to be a part of a war. Each day, Josiah and Marcus are forced to live as if it is their last. 

March: Book One, is a graphic novel autobiography written by John Lewis and illustrated by  Andrew Aydin. Lewis is a Congressman who was part of the civil rights movement. Lewis has been all throughout the United States, from Congress, to segregated classrooms, to the March on Washington in 1963. Book one covers Lewis’ childhood in rural Alabama on through the non-violent lunch counter sit-ins. 

Jacqueline Woodson’s Newbery Medal Honor (2009) and the Josette Frank Award from the American Library Association (2009) winner, After Tupac and D Foster, follows three eleven-year-old African-American girls. The story beings in 1996 when D Foster just moves to Queens where Neeka and her best friend live; this is a few months before Tupac Shakur is shot. Through D, the girls learn of the gritty side of life; one filled with foster families and freedom to do what she wants. Just as suddenly as she appeared D leaves, instilling with the girls her love and understanding of Tupac’s music.

How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon was a 2015 Coretta Scott King Author Honor book that tells about the aftermath of sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson’s death from two gunshot wounds from a white shooter. Tariq’s family, friends, and community have a difficult time coming to terms with the tragic event and try to cope in the only way they know: telling how it went down. Each account of the event is different, and their vivid stories keep changing.