February is Black History Month, a time for remembering and celebrating African American contributions throughout history. The theme for Black History Month 2022 is Black Health and Wellness.
From the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH): “This theme acknowledges the legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also other ways of knowing throughout the African Diaspora. The 2022 theme considers activities, rituals and initiatives that Black communities have done to be well.”
Here is a curated list of reads by O’Fallon Public Library for Black History Month. Descriptions are taken from Amazon or the publisher.
Adult Non-Fiction Selections
Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors Paperback by Carolyn Finney. “Why are African Americans so underrepresented when it comes to interest in nature, outdoor recreation, and environmentalism? In this thought-provoking study, Carolyn Finney looks beyond the discourse of the environmental justice movement to examine how the natural environment has been understood, commodified, and represented by both white and black Americans. Bridging the fields of environmental history, cultural studies, critical race studies, and geography, Finney argues that the legacies of slavery, Jim Crow, and racial violence have shaped cultural understandings of the “great outdoors” and determined who should and can have access to natural spaces.“
The Inner Work of Racial Justice: Healing Ourselves and Transforming our Communities through Mindfulness by Rhonda V. Magee. Law professor and mindfulness practitioner Rhonda Magee shows that the work of racial justice begins with ourselves. When conflict and division are everyday realities, our instincts tell us to close ranks, to find the safety of our own tribe, and to blame others. The practice of embodied mindfulness—paying attention to our thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations in an open, nonjudgmental way—increases our emotional resilience, helps us to recognize our unconscious bias, and gives us the space to become less reactive and to choose how we respond to injustice.
Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land by Leah Penniman. Farming While Black is the first comprehensive “how to” guide for aspiring African-heritage growers to reclaim their dignity as agriculturists and for all farmers to understand the distinct, technical contributions of African-heritage people to sustainable agriculture. At Soul Fire Farm, author Leah Penniman co-created the Black and Latinx Farmers Immersion (BLFI) program as a container for new farmers to share growing skills in a culturally relevant and supportive environment led by people of color.
Self-Care for Black Women: 150 Ways to Radically Accept & Prioritize Your Mind, Body, & Soul by Oludara Adeeyo. Between micro- and macro-aggressions at school, at work, and everywhere in between, it’s tough to prioritize physical and mental wellness as a Black woman, especially with a constant news cycle highlighting Black trauma. Now, with The Self-Care for Black Women you’ll find more than 150 exercises that will help you radically choose to put yourself first.
Black Futures. A curated collection of essays, photography, memes, recipes, poems and dialogues explores what it means to be Black and alive in today’s world from the perspectives of academics, activists and other prominent cultural and social-media influencers.
Nice Racism: How Progressive White People Perpetuate Racial Harm by Robin DiAngelo. Building on the groundwork laid in the New York Times bestseller White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo explores how a culture of niceness inadvertently promotes racism. — DiAngelo identifies many common white racial patterns and breaks down how well-intentioned white people unknowingly perpetuate racial harm.
Carry On: Reflections for a New Generation by John Lewis. Ranging from justice, courage, faith, mentorship, and forgiveness, to the protests and the pandemic, this book collects the thoughts of late Congressman John Lewis for listeners to draw upon whenever they are in need of guidance.
Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present by Harriet A. Washington. The first comprehensive history of medical experimentation on African Americans. Starting with the earliest encounters between Africans and Western medical researchers and the racist pseudoscience that resulted, it details the way both slaves and freedmen were used in hospitals for experiments conducted without a hint of informed consent–a tradition that continues today within some black populations.
The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois: a novel by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. Ailey is reared in the north in the City but spends summers in the small Georgia town of Chicasetta, where her mother’s family has lived since their ancestors arrived from Africa in bondage. From an early age, Ailey fights a battle for belonging that’s made all the more difficult by a hovering trauma, as well as the whispers of women—her mother, Belle, her sister, Lydia, and a maternal line reaching back two centuries—that urge Ailey to succeed in their stead.
The Personal History of Rachel DuPree by Ann Weisgarber. Reminiscent of The Color Purple as well as the frontier novels of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Willa Cather, The Personal History of Rachel DuPree opens a window on the little-known history of African American homesteaders and gives voice to an extraordinary heroine who embodies the spirit that built America.
Salvage the Bones: a Novel by Jesmyn Ward. Enduring a hardscrabble existence as the children of alcoholic and absent parents, four siblings from a coastal Mississippi town prepare their meager stores for the arrival of Hurricane Katrina while struggling with such challenges as a teen pregnancy and a dying litter of prize pups.
Sisters in Arms: a Novel of the Daring Black Women who Served during World War II by Kaia Alderson. Grace Steele and Eliza Jones may be from completely different backgrounds, but when it comes to the army, specifically the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), they are both starting from the same level. Not only will they be among the first class of female officers the army has even seen, they are also the first Black women allowed to serve. As these women help to form the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, they are dealing with more than just army bureaucracy—everyone is determined to see this experiment fail.
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis. In 1923, fifteen-year-old Hattie Shepherd flees Georgia and settles in Philadelphia, hoping for a chance at a better life. Instead, she marries a man who will bring her nothing but disappointment and watches helplessly as her firstborn twins succumb to an illness a few pennies could have prevented. Hattie gives birth to nine more children whom she raises with grit and mettle and not an ounce of the tenderness they crave. She vows to prepare them for the calamitous difficulty they are sure to face in their later lives, to meet a world that will not love them, a world that will not be kind. Captured here in twelve luminous narrative threads, their lives tell the story of a mother’s monumental courage and the journey of a nation.
Sing, Unburied, Sing: a Novel by Jesmyn Ward. Living with his grandparents and sister on a Gulf Coast farm, Jojo navigates the challenges of his mother’s addictions and his grandmother’s cancer before the release of his father from prison prompts a road trip of danger and hope.
The Known World by Edward P. Jones. The Known World weaves together the lives of freed and enslaved blacks, whites, and Native Americans — and allows all of us a deeper understanding of the enduring multidimensional world created by the institution of slavery.
Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin. The story of John Grimes, a young Black man living in Harlem in the 1930s and his relationship with his strict storefront preacher-father, Gabriel, who had moved from the South to escape his past. The story also follows the difficult passage of the son of a stoically courageous mother to manhood amid the family’s past from the Deep South to Depression-era Harlem.
Lists For Children Created by O’Fallon Public Library
Middle-Grade Recommendations for Black History Month
Picture Book Recommendations for Black History Month
Children’s Books for Black History Month
Further Resources for Black History Month: The National Archives: https://www.archives.gov/news/topics/african-american-history
The National Endowment for the Humanities: https://edsitement.neh.gov/teachers-guides/african-american-history-and-culture-united-states
The Smithsonian: https://nmaahc.si.edu/
Goodreads, Black History Month books: https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/black-history-month
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