African American History, Biography & Culture: Books for Middle & High School

Teen Specialists Staff Image

Through stories that illustrate African American history, biography and culture, teens in grades 6-12 can learn about people and events in an exciting way. Titles like these can offer entertaining and clever stories while fostering positive messages.

Betty Before X

Raised by her aunt until she is six, Betty, who will later marry Malcolm X, joins her mother and stepfamily in 1940s Detroit, where she learns about the civil rights movement. You can also check out this title as eAudio on Hoopla

Black History in Its Own Words

Presents quotes of dozens of black luminaries with portraits & illustrations by Ronald Wimberly. Featuring the memorable words and depictions of Angela Davis, Jean-Michael Basquiat, Kanye West, Zadie Smith, Ice Cube, Dave Chappelle, James Baldwin, Spike Lee and more. You can also check out this title as eBook on Hoopla.

Dear Martin

Teen Justyce McAllister struggles with trying to live life through the lens of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s teachings, writings and philosophy and grapples with Dr. King’s stand on race relations and his 21st century existence. You can also check out this title as eAudio on Overdrive/Libby or as eBook on Overdrive/Libby.

Dreamland Burning

When Rowan finds a skeleton on her family’s property, investigating the brutal, century-old murder leads to painful discoveries about the past. Alternating chapters tell the story of William, another teen grappling with the racial firestorm leading up to the 1921 Tulsa race riot, providing some clues to the mystery.  You can also check out this title as eBook on OverDrive/Libby or as eAudio on OverDrive/Libby.

It All Comes Down to This

In the summer of 1965, Sophie’s family becomes the first African Americans to move into their upper middle-class neighborhood in Los Angeles. When riots erupt in nearby Watts, she learns that life and her own place in it are a lot more complicated than they had seemed. You can also check out this title as eBook on Hoopla or as eBook on Overdrive/Libby.

The Journey of Little Charlie

When his poor sharecropper father is killed in an accident and leaves the family in debt, twelve-year-old Little Charlie agrees to accompany fearsome plantation overseer Cap’n Buck north in pursuit of people who have stolen from him; Cap’n Buck tells Little Charlie that his father’s debt will be cleared when the fugitives are captured, which seems like a good deal until Little Charlie comes face-to-face with the people he is chasing. You can also check out this title as eAudio on Overdrive/Libby or as eBook on Overdrive/Libby.

One Person, No Vote: How Not All Voters are Treated Equally: A Young Adult Adaptation

In her New York Times bestseller “White Rage,” Carol Anderson laid bare an insidious history of policies that have systematically impeded Black progress in America, from 1865 to our combustible present. With “One Person, No Vote,” she chronicles a related history: the rollbacks to African American participation in the vote since the 2013 Supreme Court decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965. You can also check out this title as eBook on OverDrive/Libby.