Seven books we love about black history and how to learn more about it

2020-02-18 18:17:29 GMT

At Khan Academy we love to learn. As a learning organization, we often share book recommendations with one another. In honor of Black History Month, we asked our coworkers to share their favorite books by black authors that focus on the history of African Americans. Read on for seven recommended books as well as links to Khan Academy videos and articles where you can learn more about the historical events covered in each book.

Middle-grade fiction

The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis 
Ten-year-old Kenny lives with his family in Michigan. His teenage brother Byron gets into too much trouble, so his family heads south to visit their grandmother in Alabama. Grandma is the one person who can get Byron into shape. It’s 1963, and they are in town when Grandma’s church is blown up.
Recommended by Leah (content team)
Learn more on Khan Academy about life in the South in the postwar era and how a resistance to desegregation resulted in anger and violence toward innocent people

Middle-grade nonfiction

Child of the Dream by Sharon Robinson
The daughter of baseball legend Jackie Robinson shares her coming-of-age story of being a 13 year old in 1963 and becoming increasingly aware of political activism and the civil rights movement.
Recommended by Allison (content team)
Learn more on Khan Academy about the Civil Rights Movement

Martin Rising: Requiem for a King by Andrea Pinkney
A celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolent struggle for civil rights. Using metaphor, spirituality, and multilayers of meaning, the author and illustrator convey the final months of MLK’s life and his assasination. The School Library Journal says it is, “beautifully illustrated and begging to be read aloud.“
Recommended by Allison (content team)
Learn more on Khan Academy about Martin Luther King Jr. from the Montgomery Bus Boycott to the March on Washington where he gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. 


Adult nonfiction

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
An epic telling of a story that often goes untold in American history—the decades-long migration of millions of black Americans fleeing the South searching for a better life in cities in the North and West.
Recommended by Caroline (content team)
Learn more on Khan Academy about life after slavery for African Americans and the urbanization of the 1920s.

Adult fiction

Kindred by Octavia Butler
What would happen if you woke up and suddenly were on a plantation in the 1800s? Butler’s science fiction novel tells the story of a modern day black woman who lives in California and finds herself time traveling back to the antebellum South.
Recommended by Caroline (content team)
Learn more on Khan Academy about life for enslaved men and women in the United States in the 1800s.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Based on the true story of a reform school for boys that operated for 111 years, The Nickel Boys dramatizes the story of two boys sentenced to the school during the Jim Crow era in Florida. At the school the students have to deal with physical and sexual abuse, corrupt officials, and the danger of resisting, which can lead to disappearing “out back”. The novel was named one of Time magazine’s best books of the decade.
Recommended by Rosie (content team).
Learn more on Khan Academy about the origins of Jim Crow and segregation.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
From Africa’s Gold Coast to modern day America, this book follows the parallel path of two sisters through eight generations. The publisher says that this “extraordinary novel illuminates slavery’s troubled legacy both for those who were taken and those who stayed—and shows how the memory of captivity has been inscribed on the soul of our nation.”
Recommended by Stephanie (marketing team)
Learn more on Khan Academy about all of U.S. History because Gyasi’s book really covers it all.