Charlotte Mecklenburg Library invites you to celebrate African American History Month with free programs, including living history events, a local author visit, film screenings, and fun and educational activities for children and teens. We've also compiled lists of resources that enable you to continue learning, exploring and having conversations about the moments and people that have shaped our collective past, and provide historical context for the current issues and movements within our community.
Maurice Johnson, active member of the Civil War reenactment 102nd U.S. Colored Troops, will visit several branches with a presentation and discussion of African American troops from the Revolutionary War to Civil War and after. Find out how African American soldiers entered into the armed forces, how they lived, what conditions they faced, and how their role was vital in both wars.
Friday evenings in February, Main Library will host special programs to honor Black History Month, including a visit from Three Bone Theatre to present scenes from the play King Liz, about the under-representation of black female agents in professional sports. The play will run in February at Spirit Square.
Local historian Pamela Grundy, author of Color & Character: West Charlotte High and the American Struggle over Educational Equality, will visit University City branch to discuss the history of West Charlotte High School and its experience of segregation, integration, and resegregation. The program will include an audience discussion of this history and its relevance for the present-day situation of West Charlotte and other Charlotte Mecklenburg schools.
The Arts & Science Council will bring a drawing lesson, featuring portraits of important figures in African American history, to our West Boulevard location. West Boulevard will also host a program on the Quilt Code, a communication device of the Underground Railroad.
On Saturdays in February, our Beatties Ford Road branch will host cultural exploration programs for children that honor African Americans for historic and current contributions to society.
hoopla offers documentaries including The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution and Brothers of the Black List, which chronicles a 1992 incident at a NY college that led to the longest-litigated civil rights case in American history. You can also find I Am Not Your Negro, filmmaker Raoul Peck’s vision of James Baldwin’s unfinished book, Remember This House. At the PBS Video Collection you’ll find all 14 episodes of Eyes on the Prize, the Peabody-award-winning documentary series spanning the Civil Rights movement in America from 1954 to 1983.
Recently published nonfiction titles on the African American experience include Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro, an homage to black historian Joel A. Rogers’ 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro With Complete Proof: A Short Cut to the World History of the Negro, published in 1934. In Unseen: Unpublished Black History from the New York Times Photo Archives, journalists Darcy Eveleigh, Dana Canedy, Damien Cave, and Rachel L. Swarns present never-before-seen images from the NY Times Archives and investigate their stories. Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women, by Brittney C. Cooper, examines the work and achievements of women activists including Anna Julia Cooper, Mary Church Terrell, Fannie Barrier Williams, Pauli Murray, and Toni Cade Bambara. Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, by Ibram X. Kendi, winner of 2016 National Book Award for Nonfiction, exposes the origins of racist ideas and their role in rationalizing policies that promote racial inequality.
Jesmyn Ward won the 2017 National Book Award for Fiction for Sing, Unburied, Sing, an exploration of history and racism through the lens of a multiracial family in the rural South. Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson, was a 2016 National Book Award finalist; it is a picture of life for a young African American woman growing up in Brooklyn in the 1970s. Imbolo Mbue’s Behold the Dreamers, winner of the 2017 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, tells the story of a Cameroonian immigrant’s pursuit of the American dream in Harlem in 2007.
Your library card provides access to the Chadwyck-Healey Literature Collection, which offers a vast collection of African American Poetry from the first recorded poem by an African American, Lucy Terry Prince, around 1746, through the 20th century. You can browse the collection by author, or search by keyword, first line, or poem title. For recent poetry, check out Silencer: Poems, by Marcus Wicker, a collection that reflects the gun violence and brutality of contemporary life. Or try Wild Beauty: New & Selected Poems, by Ntozake Shange, which tells the narratives of black women whose lives have been affected by racism and sexism, as well as love and hope.
There are great fiction offerings for young adults on both the history of the civil rights movement and the current state of race relations in the U.S. Jason Reynold’s Long Way Down, longlisted for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, tells the story of an elevator ride of a 15-year-old boy determined to avenge his brother’s shooting death. Another National Book Award nominee, The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, discusses police brutality and its effect on a 16-year-old girl. Monster, Walter Dean Myer’s classic, tackles issues of race, class, gender and the judicial system in its story of a 16-year-old black teen on trial for murder. Dreamland Burning, by Jennifer Latham, tells intersecting stories of present-day Tulsa, Oklahoma and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921.
Tony Medina’s I Am Alfonso Jones is a story of police brutality and Black Lives Matter told in graphic novel format. Another graphic novel series for young adults, March, is a 3-book nonfiction series that tells the story of the Congressman and Civil Rights activist John Lewis’ life in service of his community and his beliefs. Younger readers can learn about John Lewis’ story in Preaching to the Chickens, a picture book by Jabari Asim.
Pre-teens can learn about Depression-era life in the South in Stella by Starlight, by Sharon Draper, and Mildred D. Taylor’s classic Logan Family series, featuring The Land and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Linda Williams Jackson’s Midnight Without a Moon gives readers a glimpse of race relations in rural Mississippi in the 1950s. In Freedom on the Menu: the Greensboro Sit-Ins, author Carole Boston Weatherford envisions the 1960 Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-ins through the eyes of a young African American observer.
Young readers can learn about great figures in African American history in books like Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters, by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Stephen Alcorn, and What Color Is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld.
In the Resources section of our website you’ll find Books & Authors, where you can browse the complete list of winners of the Coretta Scott King Award, which recognizes African American authors and illustrators who express the African American experience in works for young people. Coretta Scott King Award-winner James Ransome illustrated This Is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration, in which Jacqueline Woodson tells the story of one family’s move from North Carolina to New York during the Great Migration, a period from 1915 to 1970 when more than 6 million African American families migrated from the rural South to cities in the North and Midwest.
Learn about slave life in Carole Boston Weatherford’s Freedom in Congo Square, or Ashley Bryan’s Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life.
Introduce little ones to important figures in African American history with picture books like The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, A Young Civil Rights Activist, by Cynthia Levinson, and Nina: Jazz Legend and Civil-Rights Activist Nina Simon, by Alice Briere-Haquet.
For additional resources, visit these websites:
- CM Library’s Robinson-Spangler Carolina Room online African American History exhibits
- Library of Congress’ African American History Month website
- National Museum of African American History & Culture
- National Park Service – African American Heritage
- U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum – Black History Month