Skip to content Skip to navigation

Black Poetry, Black History

February is Black History Month, but we hope you'll refer to this list of poetry, verse biographies and histories, and novels in verse all year long.

 

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford; illustrated by Ekua HolmesFreedom in Congo Square cover
(Children + CT275 .H346 W42 2015)
Celebrates the life and legacy of civil rights advocate Fannie Lou Hamer in inspiring words and vibrant artwork.
 
Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford; illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
(Children + F379 .N57 C667 2016)
Six days a week, slaves labor from sunup to sundown and beyond, but on Sunday afternoons, they gather with free blacks at Congo Square outside New Orleans, free from oppression. Includes foreword about Congo Square by Freddi Williams Evans, glossary, and historical notes.
 
Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell; pictures by Christian Robinson
(Children + GV1785 .B3 P68 2014)
A portrait of the passionate performer and civil rights advocate Josephine Baker, the woman who worked her way from the slums of St. Louis to the grandest stages in the world.
 
I, Too, Sing America: Three Centuries of African American Poetry, selected and annotated by Catherine Clinton; illustrated by Stephen Alcorn
(Children + PS591 .N4 I35 1998)
A collection of poems by African-American writers, including Lucy Terry, Gwendolyn Bennett, and Alice Walker.
 
Soul Looks Back in Wonder, illustrated by Tom FeelingsBronzeville cover
(Children PS591 .N4 S58 1994)
Artwork and poems by such writers as Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, and Askia Toure portray the creativity, strength, and beauty of their African American heritage.
 
Bronzeville Boys and Girls by Gwendolyn Brooks; illustrated by Faith Ringgold
(Children + PS3503 .R7244 B76 2007)
A collection of poems that celebrate the joy, beauty, imagination, and freedom of childhood.
 
My People by Langston Hughes; photographs by Charles R. Smith Jr.
(Children PS3515 .U274 M9 2009)
Hughes's spare yet eloquent tribute to his people has been cherished for generations. Now, acclaimed photographer Smith interprets this beloved poem in vivid sepia photographs that capture the glory, the beauty, and the soul of being a black American today.
 
(Children PS3555 .N4254 P64 2006)
Juan Francisco Manzano was born in 1797 into the household of wealthy slaveowners in Cuba. He spent his early years at the side of his owner's wife, entertaining her friends. His poetry was his outlet, reflecting the beauty and cruelty of his world. Written in verse.
 
Blues Journey by Walter Dean Myers; illustrated by Christopher Myers
(Children PS3563 .Y48 B58 2003)
 
Harlem by Walter Dean Myers; illustrated by Christopher Myers
(Children Lg PS3563 .Y48 H37 1997)
 
(Children PS3563 .Y48 H47 2004)
Acclaimed writer Walter Dean Myers celebrates the people of Harlem with these powerful and soulful first-person poems in the voices of the residents who make up the legendary neighborhood.
 
Carver: A Life in Poems by Marilyn Nelson
(Children PS3573 .A4795 C37 2001)
A verse biography of George Washington Carter.
 
(Children PS3573 .A4795 F64 2004)
Fortune was a slave who lived in Waterbury, Conn., in the late 1700s. He was married and the father of 4 children. When Fortune died in 1798, his master, Dr. Porter, preserved his skeleton to further the study of anatomy. Now the skeleton is in the Mattatuck Museum where it is still being studied.
 
A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson; illustrated by Phillipe Lardy
(Children PS3573 .A4795 W73 2005)
"In 1955 people all over the United States knew that Emmett Louis Till was a fourteen-year-old African American boy lynched for supposedly whistling at a white woman in Mississippi. The brutality of his murder, the open-casket funeral held by his mother, Mamie Till Mobley, and the acquittal of the men tried for the crime drew wide media attention. In a profound and chilling poem, award-winning poet Marilyn Nelson reminds us of the boy whose fate helped spark the civil rights movement." — Provided by publisher.
 
Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson
(Children PS3573 .O64524 L63 2003)
In a series of poems, eleven-year-old Lonnie writes about his life, after the death of his parents, separated from his younger sister, living in a foster home, and finding his poetic voice at school.
 
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline WoodsonBrown Girl Dreaming cover
(Children PS3573 .O64524 Z46 2014)
"Jacqueline Woodson, one of today's finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse. Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child's soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson's eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become." — Provided by publisher.
 
Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph by Roxane Orgill; illustrated by Francis Vallejo
(Children + PS3615 .R45 J39 2016)
"When Esquire magazine planned an issue to salute the American jazz scene in 1958, graphic designer Art Kane pitched a crazy idea: how about gathering a group of beloved jazz musicians and photographing them? He didn't own a good camera, didn't know if any musicians would show up, and insisted on setting up the shoot in front of a Harlem brownstone. Could he pull it off? In a captivating collection of poems, Roxane Orgill steps into the frame of Harlem 1958, bringing to life the musicians' mischief and quirks, their memorable style, and the vivacious atmosphere of a Harlem block full of kids on a hot summer's day. Francis Vallejo's vibrant, detailed, and wonderfully expressive paintings do loving justice to the larger-than-life quality of jazz musicians of the era." — Provided by publisher
 
Booked by Kwame Alexander
(Children PZ7 .A3771 Bo 2016)
"In this middle grade novel-in-verse by the Newbery Medal-winning and Coretta Scott King Honor Award-winning author of The Crossover, soccer, family, love, and friendship, take center stage as twelve-year-old Nick learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully, and tries to impress the girl of his dreams." — Provided by publisher.