A Black History Month Reading List


In recognition of Black History Month, the Anne Arundel County Public Library staff suggested reading options for adults and youth. This list includes just some of those suggestions. For more choices, visit www.aacpl.net.


“All That She Carried” by Tiya Miles

Sitting in the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture is a rough cotton bag, called "Ashley's Sack,” embroidered with a handful of words that evoke a sweeping family story of loss and of love passed down through generations.

In 1850s South Carolina, just before 9-year-old Ashley was sold, her mother, Rose, gave her a sack filled with just a few things as a token of her love. Decades later, Ashley's granddaughter, Ruth, embroidered this history on the bag — including Rose's message that "it be filled with my love always."

Historian Tiya Miles carefully follows faint archival traces back to Charleston to find Rose in the kitchen where she may have packed the sack for Ashley. From Rose's last resourceful gift to her daughter, Miles then follows the paths of their lives and the lives of so many like them to write a unique, innovative history of the lived experience of slavery in the United States.

“The Autobiography of Malcolm X” by Alex Haley

As explained on the book jacket, “In the searing pages of this classic autobiography, Malcolm X, the Muslim leader, firebrand, and anti-integrationist, tells the extraordinary story of his life and the growth of the Black Muslim movement to veteran writer and journalist Alex Haley."

“Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

For Ta-Nehisi Coates, history has always been personal. At every stage of his life, he's sought, in his explorations of history, answers to the mysteries that surrounded him — most urgently, why he, and other Black people he knew, seemed to live in fear … In this book, Coates takes readers along on his journey through America's history of race and its contemporary resonances through a series of awakenings — moments when he discovered some new truth about our long, tangled history of race, whether through his myth-busting professors at Howard University, a trip to a Civil War battlefield with a rogue historian, a journey to Chicago's South Side to visit aging survivors of 20th century America's long war on Black people, or a visit with the mother of a beloved friend who was shot by the police.


“Black Was the Ink” by Michelle Coles

Despondent 16-year-old Malcolm Williams finds new strength and courage as he is transported between his family's modern-day Mississippi farm and the life of his ancestor Cedric Johnson, a congressional aide in post-Civil War America.

Malcolm feels like nothing good ever happens for teens like him in Washington, D.C. With growing violence in his neighborhood, his mother ships him off to his father's family farm in Mississippi. He learns from his great-aunt that the state is acquiring the farm to widen a highway. One minute, Malcolm is drawing in the farmhouse attic, and the next, he's looking through the eyes of his ancestor Cedric Johnson in 1866. As Cedric, Malcolm meets the real-life Black statesmen who fought for change during the Reconstruction era: Hiram Revels, Robert Smalls, and other leaders who made American history. After witnessing their bravery, Malcolm knows that the gains these statesmen made were almost immediately stripped away. If those great men couldn't completely succeed, why should he try?

“Chlorine Sky” by Mahogany Browne

Picked on at home, criticized for talking trash while beating boys at basketball, and always seen as less than her best friend, a girl struggles to like and accept herself.


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