Recommended Reading to Commemorate Black History Month

In honor of Black History Month, the Black Student Union at The Ellis School has compiled a list of books that honor the Black experience in America. A mix of fiction, non-fiction, young adult novels, and children’s books, there is something for everyone to expand their knowledge.
Some of the books listed in the “Upper School and Adults” section do contain sensitive content so please use your discretion when reading.

Lower School

This picture-book biography is an excellent and accessible introduction for young readers to learn about one of the world's most influential leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A stirring, dramatic story of a slave who mailed himself to freedom by a Jane Addams Peace Award-winning author and a Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist.

Middle School

A Goodreads Choice Awards Best of the Best,  William C. Morris Award Winner, National Book Award Longlist, Printz Honor Book, Coretta Scott King Honor Book, and a #1 New York Times Bestseller!

Jacqueline Woodson’s National Book Award and Newbery Honor winner, a 2018–2019 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and a President Obama "O" Book Club pick.

Upper School and Adults

Published to unprecedented acclaim, The Color Purple established Alice Walker as a major voice in modern fiction. A Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner.

Hailed by Toni Morrison as “required reading,” a bold and personal literary exploration of America’s racial history by “the single best writer on the subject of race in the United States” (The New York Observer). A #1 New York Times bestseller and National Book Award winner.

One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love story with the wit and pathos found only in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston.

Here is a book as joyous and painful, as mysterious and memorable, as childhood itself. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right. Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic beloved worldwide.

Once in a great while a book comes along that changes the way we see the world and helps to fuel a nationwide social movement. The New Jim Crow is such a book. Praised by Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier as "brave and bold," this book directly challenges the notion that the election of Barack Obama signals a new era of colorblindness.

One of the Best books of the Year: The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, The Boston Globe, The Seattle Times, HuffPost, Esquire, Minneapolis Star Tribune.

A first novel by an unknown writer, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century. A milestone in American literature––a book that has continued to engage readers since its appearance in 1952.

In the searing pages of this classic autobiography, originally published in 1964, Malcolm X, the Muslim leader, firebrand, and anti-integrationist, tells the extraordinary story of his life and the growth of the Black Muslim movement. One of Time’s ten most important nonfiction books of the twentieth century.