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The African American Experience

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For Black History Month, we call attention to the best recent books for youth centered on the African American experience. The theme, "African Americans and the Civil War", honors efforts to destroy slavery and inaugurate universal freedom in the U. S. and is reflected in one way or another in all these books.

The Cruisers by Walter Dean Myers
A Civil War project divides a class in a Harlem school into Confederate and Union sympathizers, and a group of slackers are assigned to mediate peace. Friends Zander, Kambui, LaShonda, and Bobbi, caught in the middle of the mock Civil War at DaVinci Academy, learn the true cost of freedom of speech when they use their alternative newspaper, The Cruiser, to try to make peace.

Finding Family by Tonya Bolden
Real period photos frame this novel set in 1905 Charleston, West Virginia. Raised by her grandfather and aunt on off-putting tales of family members she has never met, twelve-year-old Delana is shocked when, after Aunt Tilley dies, she learns the truth about her parents and some of her other relatives. Booklist says, "Much more than just a tale of finding oneself or one’s family, this novel is a powerful, unique and satisfying story of African American lives."

Frederick Douglass: a noble life by David A. Adler
When, in 1879, a bust in his likeness was placed at the University of Rochester, Frederick Douglass wrote: "Incidents of this character do much amaze me. It is not, however, the height to which I have risen, but the depth from which I have come that amazes me." This biography tells the story of his ascent from slavery.

Odetta, the Queen of Folk by Stephen Alcorn
This picture book biography weaves together themes of inequality that shaped folk music pioneer Odetta.

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
In the summer of 1968, 11-year-old Delphine and her two sisters travel to Oakland, California, where they try to reconnect with their estranged mother, a poet with ties to the Black Panthers.

Spies of Mississippi: the true story of the spy network that tried to destroy the Civil Rights Movement by Rick Bowers
In the 1950s and 1960s, the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission compiled secret files on more than 87,000 private citizens in the most extensive state spying program in U.S. history. Its mission: to save segregation. An eye-opening revelation, Booklist calls this "flat out chilling".

They Called Themselves the K. K. K.: the birth of an American terrorist group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Searing account of the Ku Klux Klan’s formation after the Civil War in Pulaski, Tennessee. This well-illustrated history was chosen by Booklist as the 2010 Top of the List winner for Youth Nonfiction.

Zora and Me by Victoria Bond
A fictionalized telling of Zora Neale Hurston's childhood with her best friend Carrie, in Eatonville, Florida, as they learn about life, death, and the differences between truth, lies, and pretending. Includes a short biography of the author and information about Eatonville.

For these and more African American history for young readers, visit or call 988-2541.

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