Lacey Recommends Black Herstory Books

February is Black History (or as we say around here, Herstory) Month in the U.S. — a special time to honor the achievements of Black girls, women, boys, and men. Whether you want to learn more of the herstory of your own heritage or of that of people you love, check out these inspiring books — and remember to notice and honor the achievements of Black girls and women year-round!

Stories

  • From escaping slavery to the Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter, children have always been part of the fight for respect and equality. In Hands Up, a picture book by Breanna McDaniel, you can join one black girl as she raises her hands to play peekaboo, answer questions in class, shoot a basketball, and protest for the causes she believes in.
  • Unfortunately, slavery is an inescapable part of the history of black girls and women in the United States. But even within the horrors of enslavement, black families didn’t give up, often risking their lives for a chance at freedom. You can join 12-year-old Ann as she journeys the Underground Railroad, a network that helped slaves escape, so that she can stay with her brother when their owner wants to sell them to two different families. If you enjoy Ann Fights for Freedom: An Underground Railroad Survival Story by Nikki Shannon Smith, you can check out the other books in the Girls Survive series.
  • When Zora and her best friend discover that the town mute can speak after all, that’s just one piece of a bigger puzzle in Zora and Me: The Cursed Ground by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon. The mystery leads them back to the past, and the life of an enslaved girl, Lucia, who also tells part of this story based on real-life author Zora Neale Hurston’s childhood.

Real Life

  • The Little People, Big Dreams series includes lots of biographies about Black women from history. For inspiration on activism, start with Harriet Tubman, one of the most well-known “conductors” on the underground railroad who assisted hundreds of slaves on the journey to freedom — and then check out the book on Rosa Parks, who helped spark the Civil Rights Movement when she refused to give up her seat to sit in the back of the bus. If you’re looking for musical inspiration, check out the series’ book about jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald or dancer Josephine Baker.  If writing is more your thing, you’ll want to read about Maya Angelou, celebrated poet, novelist, and more. 
  • The Who Is? series also has new releases featuring Black trailblazers, like Who Was Aretha Franklin? by Nico Medina, which covers the life of the Queen of Soul who released her first album at age 18 and became the first woman in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
  • Black women have and are history-makers in the sports arena, too. Whether you’re a fan of tennis (Serena and Venus Williams), gymnastics (Simone Biles), soccer (Carli Lloyd), or another sport, make sure to check out Black girls’ and women’s achivements in Rising Above: Inspiring Women in Sports by Gregory Zuckerman.

What about you? What are your favorite books about herstory-making Black girls and women? Have you read any of the books above? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Lacey Louwagie is an adult writer and editor who got her first editing job with New Moon Girls in 2002. She is currently an editor for a legal news organization, which means she reads a lot of lawsuits! She has also been a teen services librarian and coordinates book-related goodies for New Moon Girls. She is the author of “Rumpled,” a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin for ages 14 and up, and the co-editor of “Hungering & Thirsting for Justice: True Stories from Young Adult Catholics.”

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