Black Voices, Books, Diverse Voices, History, Social Justice, Social Studies

Black History Month 2023

Black History Month 2023

Originally published February 2023

Black History Month presents an opportunity to engage in open dialogues and learn about how Black communities have shaped history in North America. However, acknowledging the lives, cultures, and achievements of the African diaspora should not be limited to one month per year. That’s why we’ve gathered a collection of both current and upcoming books, to help you incorporate Black history and Black creators in the classroom all year round. Read on to find 10 already published books to start sharing with your students right now, as well as 10 forthcoming titles to be released later this year.

African Town
By Irene Latham and Charles Waters
G.P. Putnam’s Sons (January 2022)
Grade Level: 7–12

This historical novel-in-verse tells the story of the last American slave ship, which arrived from West Africa many years after the international trading of enslaved labourers was outlawed in the United States. African Town chronicles the journey of the enslaved men, women, and children aboard the ship; from their capture and enslavement, through to the creation of their own community, known as African Town, which still exists today in Alabama.  

Akim Aliu: Dreamer
By Akim Aliu and Greg Anderson Elysée
Illustrated by Karen De la Vega and Marcus Williams
Graphix (February 2023)
Grade Level: 3–6

Students will learn all about Akim Aliu, professional hockey player and co-founder of the Hockey Diversity Alliance, in this inspiring graphic memoir. Born to a Nigerian father and a Ukranian mother, Aliu faced systemic his entire life, both on and off the ice, but he refused to let that stop him. Dreamer takes a deep look at Aliu’s struggles and the courage it took to speak out about his experiences, and, ultimately, pursue the career of his dreams.

An American Story
By Kwame Alexander
Illustrated by Dare Coulter
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (January 2023)
Grade Level: K–2

Award-winning author Kwame Alexander offers a testament to the resilience of the African American community through this must-read picture book that focuses not only on the horrors of the past, but also on the hope for the future. An American Story is told from the perspective of a teacher who finds it challenging to teach her students about the history of American slavery. Inspired by a conversation in his own daughter’s classroom, Alexander designed this book to be an entry point for teaching the topic of slavery.

Black Icons in Herstory: 50 Legendary Women
By Darian Symoné Harvin
Illustrated by Monica Ahanonu
Chronicle Chroma (October 2022)
Grade Level: 9–12

Black Icons in Herstory celebrates the achievements of 50 extraordinary Black women, from Rosa Parks to Michelle Obama, Amanda Gorman to Ava DuVernay, and more. The book contains a stunning full-colour portrait and original biography for each of these incredible women who have had a lasting impact on our “herstory” and culture.

Black Internet Effect
By Shavone Charles
Illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky
Penguin Workshop (November 2022)
Grade Level: 7–12

In Black Internet Effect, musician and entrepreneur Shavone Charles writes about how she became the first African American woman to be hired for the communications team at Twitter, before later landing a spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. She explores what it is like being a Black woman in the tech world, and how she hopes her experience can help empower other women of colour to make space for themselves in the fields they are passionate about.

Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement
By Angela Joy
Illustrated by Janelle Washington
Roaring Brook Press (September 2022)
Grade Level: 3–6

This picture book biography looks at how the murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955 became a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement. After his death, Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, refused to let America forget his name. Choosing Brave enlightens readers on the immense efforts Mamie took to turn her grief into action as she advocated for change. 

The Courageous Six Triple Eight: The All-Black Female Battalion of World War II
By Dr. Artika R. Tyner
Illustrated by Cynthia Paul
Capstone Press (August 2022)
Grade Level: 3–5

This non-fiction graphic novel tells the true story of the first all-Black women’s battalion in the United States during World War II. Despite confronting racism and sexism at every turn, these women diligently worked to tackle an overwhelming backlog of letters and care packages for soldiers fighting in Europe. Thanks to the 6888th battalion, 17 million pieces of mail were sorted and processed for delivery in three months. (The army thought it would take them a year!)

Ice Cream Man: How Augustus Jackson Made a Sweet Treat Better
By Glenda Armand and Kim Freeman
Illustrated by Keith Mallett
Crown Books for Young Readers (January 2023)
Grade Level: K–2

Learn all about “the father of ice cream,” Augustus Jackson, in this picture-book biography. Ice Cream Man follows Jackson’s journey from a boy in the White House kitchen, where he perfected a way to make modern-day ice cream, to the owner of his own ice cream parlour, where he continued to pioneer manufacturing methods that are still used today. The book also includes an easy ice cream recipe, so that young readers can make their own yummy frozen treat!

Love is Loud: How Diane Nash Led the Civil Rights Movement
By Sandra Neil Wallace
Illustrated by Bryan Collier
Paula Wiseman Books (January 2023)
Grade Level: K–2

Diane Nash was an activist who led some of the most successful campaigns of the civil rights movement. In this non-fiction picture book, students will learn about several of the major moments in her life, including what led her to fight back against segregation in the first place, and how she decided to take action.

Victory. Stand!: Raising My First for Justice
By Tommie Smith, Derrick Barnes, and Dawud Anyabwile
Norton Young Readers (September 2022)
Grade Level: 3–6

In this memoir for young readers, former track and field star Tommie Smith looks back on his childhood, his athletic career, and his historic salute on the Olympic podium in 1968, along with athlete John Carlos.


Coming Soon


ABC Black History and Me
By Queenbe Monyei
Walter Foster Jr. (March 2023)
Grade Level: K

Each letter of the alphabet is paired with a historical concept that relates to Black history in this mindful board book. The topics are presented both alphabetically and chronologically, covering 150+ years in 26 pages. Additional information about the featured people, places, and events is also included, to offer more in-depth learning.

Change the Game
By Colin Kaepernick and Eve L. Ewing
Illustrated by Orlando Caicedo
Graphix (March 2023)
Grade Level: 7–12

Change the Game explores the high school life of American quarterback and civil rights activist Colin Kaepernick. Years before his historic kneeling protest in 2016, Kaepernick was offered several college scholarships as a baseball pitcher. But he wasn’t excited about baseball; he wanted to play football. Through this graphic novel, readers will see how this inspiring change-maker got started on his journey and learned never to compromise on the things that matter most. 

Resistance Stories from Black History for Kids
By Rann Miller
Ulysses Press (March 2023)
Grade Level: 3–6

This middle-grade text sets out to tell the stories that are often omitted from history. Students will learn about Ona Marie Judge, an enslaved woman who escaped from George Washington; Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the “father of Black history”; Vicente Guerrero, the first Black president in North America; and many more important figures and events.


How Do You Spell Unfair?: MacNolia Cox and the National Spelling Bee
By Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrated by Frank Morrison
Candlewick Press (April 2023)
Grade Level: 2–4

In 1936, MacNolia Cox was the first Black top-five finalist at the National Spelling Bee, 85 years before Zaila Avant-garde would become the first Black American to win the competition. This non-fiction picture book introduces young readers to Cox’s story; from her groundbreaking win at the Akron Spelling Bee in Ohio, to the discrimination and segregation she faced in Washington, DC, where the national contest was held.

Shades of Black
By Carlos Anthony
James Lorimer & Company (April 2023)
Grade Level: 8–12

When Romero, a Guyanese Canadian, begins attending a new inner-city school in Toronto, he finds himself in trouble after a shot is fired in his high school cafeteria. Drawing on his own experience growing up in Toronto, author Carlos Anthony presents an authentic portrayal of Black youth culture and the experiences of Black teens in Canadian public schools.


My Name Is Henry Bibb
By Afua Cooper
Kids Can Press (May 2023)
Grade Level: 5–8

Afua Cooper’s novel is based on the life of Henry Bibb, an American slave who escaped to become an abolitionist, author, and the founder of Canada’s first Black newspaper. Crafted from historical facts and Bibb’s own written documents, My Name is Henry Bibb is a tale of courage, activism, and the determination to fight for freedom. 

Your Plantation Prom Is Not Okay
By Kelly McWilliams
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (May 2023)
Grade Level: 7–12

Kelly McWilliams challenges the romanticization of America’s racist past in her latest novel, Your Plantation Prom Is Not Okay. Harriet Douglass lives on an old plantation in Louisiana, which she and her father have made into one of the first museums that tells the history of enslaved people in the South. But when a mother and daughter move in next door with plans to host an antebellum-themed wedding, and Harriet’s school decides to have their prom at the plantation, she snaps. Can she find a way to cancel the offensive wedding and the plantation prom?

Unstoppable: How Bayard Rustin Organized the 1963 March on Washington
By Michael G. Long
Illustrated by Bea Jackson
Little Bee Books (May 2023)
Grade Level: 1–3

Introduce students to Bayard Rustin, civil rights leader and queer activist, through this incredible picture book. Unstoppable tells the story of how Rustin and his mentor, A. Philip Randolph, organized the largest protest in civil rights history: the March on Washington, where Martin Luther King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, and where nearly 250,000 people came together to demand change.

June and Beyond

Black Girl, Black Girl
By Angela Bowden
Illustrated by Letitia Fraser
Nimbus Publishing (June 2023)
Grade Level: K–3

Written by TEDx speaker and spoken-word poet Angela Bowden, this beautiful picture book shares a message of love to Black girls everywhere. Through her poetic verse, Bowden explores all the limitless possibilities that Black girls can dream of, and encourages them to be their true authentic selves. Her words are accompanied by stunning illustrations of famous Black women from across North America, along with local heroes from historic Black communities in Nova Scotia.

Stay Up: Racism, Resistance, and Reclaiming Black Freedom
By Khodi Dill
Illustrated by stylo starr
Annick Press (October 2023)
Grade Level: 8–12

Khodi Dill empowers racialized youth to make their own paths towards the future in this groundbreaking book. Stay Up offers an innovative take on what it means to fight for racial justice. Using a mixture of memoir, cultural criticism, and anti-oppression theory, Dill looks at where racism comes from, how it functions in North America, and what can be done to dismantle it.