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Delve into black history with a book

10 nonfiction books for readers of all ages


February is Black History Month and there are so many ways to celebrate. To keep it low-key, reach for a book. Here are 10 newly released, updated or soon-to-be released nonfiction books for all ages that promise to leave you more informed and maybe a little inspired.

For children ages 4-8

“Martin Luther King Jr.: A Peaceful Leader” by Sarah Albee (Harper, $17): This Level Two I Can Read book is a biography of the civil rights icon for developing readers. The book traces the milestones in King’s life from his early experiences as a child in Atlanta through his death in 1968. A timeline and summary at the end of the book is accompanied by historical photos.

“The United States v. Jackie Robinson” by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen (Balzer & Bray, $18): Before he was known as an American sports icon, Jackie Robinson refused to give up his seat on a bus more than a decade before Rosa Parks. Robinson stood up for what he believed in, and those early experiences helped prepare him to break the color barrier in professional baseball in 1947.

“Mae Among the Stars” by Roda Ahmed (Harper, $18): In a story inspired by Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space, “Little Mae” decides she wants to be an astronaut. Mae spends her time researching books about space and making her own astronaut costume from cardboard boxes. Even when she faces resistance, Mae persists until she eventually fulfills a promise to wave to her parents on Earth from her spaceship in outer space.

“Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race” by Margot Lee Shetterly (Harper, $18): Four African-American women who are really good at math, very hardworking and very persistent prove they are just as capable as their male colleagues at NASA when they help launch the United States into space.

For young readers (10 and up) / teens

“Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad” by Ann Petry (Amistad, $17): This award-winning biography published in 1955 gets an update with a new cover, new foreword and educational activities at the back of the book. It tells the story of Tubman, who was born a slave but risked everything for her freedom and the freedom of more than 300 others she guided out of slavery.

“Streetcar to Justice: How Elizabeth Jennings Won the Right to Ride in New York” by Amy Hill Hearth (Greenwillow, $20): In 1854, Elizabeth Jennings climbed onto a New York streetcar after being barred from boarding. She was forcibly removed, and the incident mobilized New York’s black abolitionist community to fight for the desegregation of public transportation one hundred years before Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott.

“I Will Not Fear: My Story of a Lifetime of Building Faith Under Fire” by Melba Pattillo Beals (Revell, $17): Beals, one of the nine black students chosen to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., in 1957, is back with a new memoir that details her experiences from a childhood awareness of discrimination to the challenges she battled on the job and in life, long after leaving Arkansas behind. She credits her faith with keeping her strong.

For adults

“Lighting the Fires of Freedom: African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement” by Janet Dewart Bell (The New Press, $26): Coming in May, Bell profiles nine women leaders in the civil rights movement. While they may not have name recognition, Gloria Richardson, Dr. June Jackson Christmas, Aileen Hernandez and the others made contributions that are just as valuable as those made by individuals whose names we know well.

“To the Promised Land: Martin Luther King and the Fight for Economic Justice” by Michael K. Honey (Norton, $26): Dr. King died before he could adequately spread his ideas of economic justice. In this forthcoming book (April 3), Honey seeks to expand King’s legacy by exploring King’s understanding that racial and economic justice are intertwined.

“When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir” by Patrisse Khan-Cullors & Asha Bandele (St. Martin’s Press, $25): Khan-Cullors co-founded Black Lives Matter in 2013 with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi. Her memoir offers an account of strength, survival and the hope that we can turn personal struggle into a call to action against a culture that too often treats innocents as expendable.


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About the Author

Nedra Rhone has been a features reporter with the AJC for 10 years. She’s written about everything from fashion to food to news.