Literature helps portray some of the rich history of African Americans in the United States. One of my first memories of Black History Month is reading about Sojourner Truth, the African-American activist and abolitionist for my second grade report.
The following are a few of my favorite stories about the unique struggles and triumphs of these American people.
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry portrays a black family's journey in the Washington Park community in Chicago's South Side as they pursue their hopes and dreams.“When you starts measuring somebody, measure him right, child, measure him right. Make sure you done taken into account what hills and valleys he come through before he got to wherever he is.”
Bessie, Queen of the Sky by Andrea Doshi and Jimena Durán tells the story of Bessie Coleman, the first black woman in the world to receive her pilot’s license. Our boys appreciate the beautiful illustrations in this children's book. It depicts a strong and determined young woman. Their Queen Girl campaign supports their mission to empower young girls.
The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride epitomizes diversity and inclusion. The author weaves some of the history of the migration and civil rights movement into his mother's story. His mother prioritized education and family values for the author and his 11 siblings. Their loving quest for the American dream achieves excellence and justice.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston portrays the protagonist, Janie, during the Harlem Renaissance starting in 1936. The beautiful young woman overcomes oppressive male figures. She reinvents herself into a strong and independent woman. Her journey includes the unique challenges for a woman of color during that time.
Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly shares the inspirational story of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Their story shows how discrimination in the school system and work place did not hold back these pioneers who succeeded in their own work life balance.
The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison powerfully depicts the struggle of the black author who seeks unity. Although African Americans helped build our nation, the author conveys how they may be overlooked to the point of seeming invisible. The reader can almost hear Louis Armstrong's lyrics the protagonist listens to on repeat, "What Did I Do To Be So Black and Blue."
You may also enjoy these reads that Time Magazine suggests. In addition to The Invisible Man, the following made their list: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written By Herself; The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness; Along This Way: The Autobiography of James Weldon Johnson; Black Reconstruction in America: An Essay Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860-1880; Ar’n’t I a Woman?: Female Slaves in the Plantation South; Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination; Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South; and The Common Wind: Currents of Afro-American Communication in the Era of the Haitian Revolution.
Any other recommendations? These timeless books are a good read any time of year...