Black History Month recognizes the achievements and experiences of Black lives throughout America. Bellingham Public Library has a wide variety of related books, films, and music to share on this topic. We encourage you to take this opportunity to delve into this rich history (as well as the present and future) with us.
Black History Nonfiction for Adults
So many incredible books have been written about Black experiences that it can be hard to know where to start. Here’s a great list of nonfiction titles to get you going on your journey of exploration and understanding.
Library Staff Nonfiction Recommendations for Adults:
Teaching Black History to White People by Leonard N. Moore
“In Teaching Black History to White People, Leonard N. Moore sets out to make the historical experience of African Americans accessible to everyone. This often-overlooked point-of-view is presented in everyday language with respect, insight, and startling connections to the more widely known historical events.” – Rob, Public Services Librarian
Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur
“A powerful read, this book describes Assata’s firsthand experiences of discrimination and racism growing up in New York City, especially in her formal education at school, that ultimately led to her becoming involved with the Black Liberation Army in the 1970s. She describes both heartbreaking and empowering experiences from her time with the Black Panther Party and the BLA in such a relatable way that you almost feel like you were experiencing those times right there with her. A very important voice in Black liberation, and an inside look at one of the more radical black liberation movements of the 1970s.” – Adrienne, Library Assistant
Black Fiction for Adults
Looking for a great story? Black history matters, and so does representation! Check out this list of recent fiction must-reads from Black authors.
Library Staff Fiction Recommendations for Adults:
“Toni Morrison’s most overlooked novel tells the story of ‘the one all-black town worth the pain’ and the mysteries surrounding it. What really happened in Ruby, Oklahoma? Told from the points-of-view of the women in town, Paradise lays bare the long-simmering secrets of the tragic ending as beginning.” – Rob, Public Services Librarian
“I’ll happily read anything by N.K. Jemisin and I love a moral complication of traditional superhero narratives.” – Ariana, Public Services Clerk
“This book is absolutely beautiful to read. It weaves stories of different characters together across space and time, from modern day Manhattan to the holds of a slave ship, and shows how the dead are never gone, but move with us. This is also the first book I ever read with a non-binary character in it. Following in the footsteps of other powerful Black feminist authors like Audre Lorde and Toni Morrison, this is a work of Black lesbian art.” – Adrienne, Library Assistant
How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin
“A collection of short stories that are eerie, intriguing, and some –in the grand tradition of science fiction short stories–that will haunt you for life. Stories from alien water, a future of living in a computer simulation, and New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Features the short story that would grow into the novel, The City We Became!” – Lorena, Library Assistant
Black History Books for Teens
Visit the Library’s Teen Section to find great reads – both fiction and non! The staff at the Help Desk are also happy to help you find titles related to Black History Month and more.
Library Staff Recommendations for Teens:
“Six of the best contemporary YA authors team up in two books celebrating love and black joy. In Blackout, on the hottest day of summer in New York City, love blooms when the lights go out in multiple inter-connected stories. In Whiteout, a once-in-a-hundred-years snowstorm blanketing Atlanta is the backdrop for a novel of a group of teens banding together to support a friend’s quest to pull off an epic apology. Both books are fun, thoughtful, and full of joy. An added bonus to audiobook listeners: some of the best readers working today bring these books to life!” – Jennifer, Teen Services Librarian
The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus
“This book is a poetic astrological love letter to the African diaspora, telling a story of two Black teen girls falling in love, one from Trinidad and Tobago, and one from Minneapolis. Brought together by a chance in fate, they grow close and explore their queerness together and each on their own.” – Adrienne, Library Assistant
Black History Books for Children
Bellingham Public Library Children’s staff have curated two great lists for Black History Month and they’re filled with fantastic books for kids of all ages. Take a look!
Black Lives Matter: Picturebooks
Library Staff Recommendations for Children:
Playing the Cards You’re Dealt by Varian Johnson
“10-year-old Ant Joplin is a card shark; spades is his game and his family tradition. So is winning. Except…Ant didn’t win the tournament last year. He HAS to win this year to make his Dad proud and continue the Joplin family tradition. To add to the pressure, he learns he has to find a new playing partner and begins to notice that life is more like a game of spades than he expects; sometimes you don’t always get the cards you want.” – Bethany, Deputy Library Director and Head of Children’s Services
Recommended for grades 4 – 6
Magnificent Homespun Brown by Samara Cole Doyon, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita
“Pure joy pours off of every page of this lovely picture book. The vibrant, inclusive artwork completely brings the celebratory poetic text to life. I love it so much, I had to buy a copy for myself!” – Ali, Children’s Services Librarian
Recommended for ages 4 and up
Build a House by Rhiannon Giddens, illustrated by Monica Mikai
“This beautifully illustrated picture book tells the story of the Black experience of being taken as slaves, forced to work and being displaced. The lyrical words are powerful and full of pain and moments of joy. Sing the story and listen to the song by Rhiannon Giddens and Yo-Yo Ma” – Bernice, Children’s Services Librarian
Recommended for ages 6 and up
“This picture book captures the heartbreaking reality of the difficult conversations that black families need to have with their children about facing racism.” – Mandee, Children’s Specialist
Recommended for ages 4 and up
Ophie’s Ghosts by Justina Ireland
“After relocating from Georgia to Pittsburgh in 1922 following a family tragedy, 12-year-old Ophie Harrison discovers she can see ghosts. These spirits, which haunt the house of her mother’s new employer, draw her into a mystery that vividly captures the history and racism of the era.” – Maggie, Public Services Clerk
Recommended for ages 8 – 12
The Forgotten Girl by India Hill Brown
“In modern-day North Carolina, two best friends Iris and Daniel find themselves drawn by the apparition of a girl their own age to a forgotten segregated cemetery.” – Maggie, Public Services Clerk
Recommended for ages 8 – 12
Black History in Film
You can find a wide selection of DVDs featuring Black stories on the Library’s shelves, however, there are even more films available to stream for free on Kanopy. Log in with your library card and take a look at the fantastic films they’re featuring in February for Black History Month.
Music to Stream or Download
Looking for some great tunes? We’ve got you covered! All you need is your library card to stream or download music through Freegal. And once you’re signed in, you can search the site for Black History Month playlists compiled by other users, or for Black artists that you love, and so much more!
Black History Activities in February
Simpson Intercultural Center at Whatcom Community College Presents: Talkin’ Story – Abolitionist Movement in the Prison Industrial Complex
Stories of students in the community at Whatcom Community College.
February 8, 12:00 – 1:00 pm Syre 217 Whatcom Community College
National Museum of African American History and Culture Livestream Tour
An online/virtual tour of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC.
February 1, 5:00 – 6:30 pm (PT) ONLINE
Black History Month Student and Community Events at Western Washington University
Members of the Black Student Coalition and Black History Month Planning Committee have organized some great events for students and community members, centering Black voices, throughout the month of February. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Unapologetically Black”.
Holocaust Center for Humanity’s Lunch and Learn Series ONLINE
Interrupting Privilege in the Everyday
Tuesday, February 7, 2023 | 12pm-1pm (PT)
With Dr. Ralina Joseph | Register Now
One Second of Hate: A Story of Forgiveness
Tuesday, February 21, 2023 | 12pm-1pm (PT)
With Rais Bhuiyan | Register Now
Sustainable Connections Climate Action Book Club
The Intersectional Environmentalist: How to Dismantle Systems of Oppression to Protect People + Planet by Leah Thomas
“Too often, environmentalist proposals and platforms appear willing to sacrifice people — usually the most vulnerable — in exchange for saving the planet. Leah Thomas’ The Intersectional Environmentalist aims to fix this problem, offering philosophical defenses for protecting those affected most by climate change, as well as strategies young activists can use to turn theory into practice.”―Bustle.com
February 16, 8:00 – 9:00 am in-person and virtual
Links for More Information
History Channel – Black History Month
AFRO: The Black Media Authority
Story Corps – Black History Month
Northwest African American Museum
Washington Trust for Historic Preservation — The Maritime Underground Railroad of Puget Sound