Black History Month books: Do you have any in your classroom library? Black Canadians have played a huge role in shaping Canada, but they have not always been recognized for this accomplishment. Black History Month recognizes the contributions of Black Canadians and their communities.
What is Black History Month?
In 1978, the Ontario Black History Society founders put forth a petition to name February Black History Month. Ten years later, it was recognized in Nova Scotia. In 1995, the House of Commons officially recognized February as Black History Month across Canada.
In February 2008, former Canadian Senator Donald Oliver introduced a “Motion to Recognize Contributions of Black Canadians and February as Black History Month.” This was unanimously approved, and from then on out, February would be known as Black History Month in Canada. Source
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How Can I Celebrate Black History Month?
In the classroom, one of the best ways to celebrate Black History Month is to read lots of books by Black voices. This is a great way to learn more about some of the significant events in Black Canadian or African American history, as well as noteworthy and public figures within the Black community and their contributions.
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You can also watch documentaries or other media created by the Black community to learn more about its history, struggles and achievements. It is also important to donate to organizations that help promote racial equality and fight for human rights.
Black History Month Books
I have linked the Black History Month books to Amazon, but you can also look for them at your local library or look for them at a Black-owned bookstore.
Afro-Puerto Rican law clerk Arturo Schomburg had a passion for collecting books, letters, music, and art from Africa and shedding light on African voices. Eventually, his collection became so big that he turned to the New York Public Library and created an entire collection that was the beginning of what would later be called the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Written in verse, Unspeakable tells the history of the Tulsa Race Massacre that took place during May-June of 1921. This was one of the worst occurrences of racial violence in United States history. This book details what led up to the event, the notable figures involved, as well as the author and illustrator’s connection to the tragic event.
The story of the first woman to appear on the Canadian $10 bill, Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged is the recounting of Canadian Civil Rights pioneer Viola Davis in 1946 and her refusal to give up her seat in a movie theatre after being told that “you people have to sit in the upstairs section.” After her refusal, she was taken to jail, but this moment and her strength did not deter the Canadian Black community; rather, it inspired them.
After being told by a white teacher that him and his classmates would just be porters and waiters Gordon Parks grew up to be the first Black director in Hollywood. This book shares his story.
This beautiful book tells the stories of 40 trailblazing Black women in history. The biographies might be short in this book, but they will surely prompt and inspire further research.
This stunning book highlights the accomplishments and triumphs of Black women and girls from over 30 countries. It includes the stories of leaders, creators, artists, athletes, and more. Their powerful stories are sure to inspire and show that no matter who you are or where you come from, you can make a difference in the world.
This is the story of civil rights activist Melba Pattillo Beals, one of the “Little Rock Nine,” a group of nine African American high school students who attended Little Rock Central High School in 1957. Before she was part of the Little Rock Nine, she was a young Black girl struggling to understand the “whites only” rules she grew up with in America. This memoir depicts her story before she became a champion for equal rights.
Before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Alabama, Elizabeth Jennings was refused a seat on a streetcar. This is the story of how she was removed from the seat of the segregated streetcar in Manhattan and how she took her case to court, ultimately becoming victorious and being one step closer to desegregated New York City public transportation.
This book begins more than 1,000 years ago with the beginning of Black history in the Ancient African kingdoms and ends with Black Americans striving to make a difference in their communities. It highlights well-known Black leaders, artists, and athletes, as well as little-known Black individuals.
This graphic novel trilogy explores the history of the civil rights movement, racism, and the politics of America. Written from the first-hand account of John Lewis, the story starts in Alabama with Lewis’s life as a poor farm boy dreaming of becoming a preacher and travels through the various movements and struggles of Black history and civil rights.
Remember is a collection of photographs that tells stories of the emotions and struggles of the children who went through legal school segregation in the 1950s. It weaves Toni Morrison’s insightful and truthful writing with electrifying and haunting photography.
This blog post 100 Best Children’s Books For African American History Month might be helpful in the future if you are looking for more Black History Month books. This blog post from Every Day Reading also contains 25 Black History Month book titles. I hope you are able to find a way to add these Black History Month books to your school or classroom libraries so that your students can learn more about this topic.
How To Use Black History Month Books in the Classroom
- Stations – Gather a few of these books (or others you have in your collection) and have students rotate through each station and complete a graphic organizer about their learning. Here are some examples of graphic organizers – Set 1 or Set 2.
- Read Alouds – Incorporate these books into your read-alouds schedule not just for February but throughout the year.
- Non-Fiction Event Study – Look at the different events covered by these books. Have students read through some picture books and then create a presentation about the real-life event(s) that inspired the novel to share with their peers.
- Biography Study – Have students select an important and/or influential person to learn about. Then have them complete this Biography Symbolism Assignment to showcase their learning to the class. Students will read a biography, memoir, or autobiography and then create a life map outlining the important events in their chosen person’s life. After creating the life map students will provide a written explanation and oral presentation of their life map.
Black History Month Videos
Use these videos with your students to help them develop their knowledge of Black History Month.
- Use this video as an introduction to this month – The History of Black History Month.
- Here is another video Why do we celebrate Black History Month in Canada? to share with your students.
- These Heritage Minutes from Historica Canada are also videos that can be shown in class to help students learn about Black History Month: Heritage Minutes: Viola Desmond, Heritage Minute: Chloe Cooley, Heritage Minutes: Jackie Robinson.
- Other Historical Information Videos: Africville: The Black community bulldozed by the city of Halifax, The little-known story of Priceville, one of Canada’s first Black settlements, and Black History Month: Important Black Leaders.
- Continue the learning each day with this series – What is 28 Moments of Black Canadian History? (Search this channel for their What is 28 Moments of Black Canadian History playlist – play one video each day after you preview it for your classes)
- This video – Why is February Black History Month? Who came up with the idea? provides an American history lesson about this topic.
Other Holidays and Celebrations Resources
This Article of the Week Non-Fiction Articles Holidays Bundle contains 13 non-fiction articles and post-reading activities to assist with reading comprehension and cross-curricular learning.
- 13 high-interest non-fiction articles
- 3 post-reading activities per article
- 7 Reading Strategies graphic organizers
- 5 Summarizing graphic organizers
- Chinese New Year
- Groundhog Day
- Valentine’s Day
- Daylight Savings
- St. Patrick’s Day
- April Fools’ Day
- Earth Day