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 Black History Nonfiction Recommendations for Adults:
“Jones’ deeply moving poems weave through fraying edges of grief, love, identity, and place. Visited by Black icons both personal and cultural, Jones turns a gaze on pandemic-era life in America that is both withering and tender.” – Kate, Library Staff Development Coordinator
“A perceptive, poignant, and clever look at how to raise a daughter in a world that can be inhospitable.” – Siena, Public Services Clerk
Adult Nonfiction. Recommended for ages 16+
Black History Fiction for Adults
Library Staff Black History Fiction Recommendations for Adults:
“In this work of fantastical historical fiction, Ta-Nehisi Coates transported me to the past and lifted me through all of the harsh and heavy realities with surprising plot twists, intriguing characters, and tantalizing glimpses of magical undercurrents. Coates masterfully creates and elevates heroes of emancipation and the underground railroad and dismantles systems of oppression and the people who uphold them. This book will pull you under and when you emerge, you’ll find yourself dazzled and pensive, if not refreshed.” – Katrina, Head of Public Services
“McBride is a time traveler, and this book proves it! Be transported to the bad old days of the Civil War era and ride along with an eyewitness to one of the most storied abolitionists of the time. Recently made into a great movie, this book is funny, poignant, and an insight into our national history.” – Miranda, Library Events Coordinator
“Siblings Byron and Benny think they know everything there is to know about each other, their parents, and themselves until a letter from their deceased mother reveals a secret history. This is a great pick for someone who enjoys literary fiction with well-developed characters, travel, and intense family relationships.” – Suzanne, Adult Services Librarian
“A few of the BPL staff members are reading this book together. This is Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning author Toni Morrison’s first book, published in 1970, and it tells the story of a young African-American girl named Pecola who grew up following the Great Depression.” – James, Public Services Clerk; Andrea, Library Assistant; Kat, Public Services Clerk
Adult Fiction. Recommended for ages 16 and up.
“Fans of horror will recognize the name Jordan Peele as the director of horror films ‘Get Out’, ‘Nope’, ‘Us’, and more. In this new anthology, Peele spotlights a collection of short horror stories by Black writers that are both fascinating and chilling.” – Jenni
“What if mermaids were the ancestors of those who chose the ocean depths instead of a life in chains?” – Siena, Public Services Clerk
Adult Fiction. Recommended for ages 15+
“In a world where natural disasters are constantly changing the environment, and magic is only barely tolerable if carefully controlled, the characters must fight for survival and revolution. Gripping and powerful, this is a modern masterpiece of fantasy.” – Siena, Public Services Clerk
Adult Fiction. Recommended for ages 15+
“Mesmerizing and meandering, this book grows stranger as one reads on. Read this if you enjoyed AHS: Coven!” – Siena, Public Services Clerk
Adult Fiction. Recommended for ages 15+
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 Black History Recommendations for Teens:
“What if vengeance could be called upon and enacted by powerful supernatural beings? How could a disenfranchised people bring about a new age?” – Siena, Public Services Clerk
Teen Fiction. Recommended for ages 14+
“Quick-paced and propulsive, this series is an excellent entry point for those looking to read Afrofuturism.” – Siena, Public Services Clerk
Adult Fiction. Recommended for ages 14+
Black History Books for Children
Library Staff Black History Recommendations for Children:
“Jacqueline Woodson tells the moving story of her childhood, sharing what it was like to grow up in the 1960s and 1970s with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each verse is both accessible and emotionally charged; a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world.” Children’s Fiction. Recommended for grades 4 – adult.
“Over 100 years ago, a thriving, tight-knit black community flourishing in educational opportunities, commerce and recreation was burned to the ground. One accusation opened the destructive gateway of racism and hate. This is the heartbreaking story of May 31, 1921, one that I’d never even heard about until reading this book. A dark moment of United States history, ending with a call for hope and change.” Children’s Nonfiction. Recommended for grades 3 – 6
-Bethany, Library Deputy Director
“Marlene HATES getting her hair straightened at the saloon every week, but it is a tradition her mother insists upon in order to look ‘presentable’. When Marlene gets the opportunity to spend more time with her Tia Ruby, she is initiated into the world of natural textured haircare. This is a heartwarming and humorous demystification of the belief in ‘good’ and ‘bad’ black hair.” – Siena, Public Services Clerk
Children’s Graphic Novel. Recommended for ages 7+
“The book juxtaposes the joyful childhood of a black boy with his families’ acknowledgement of the heartbreaking, but important need to address racism as he matures. The conversational prose gently introduces the concept to younger readers and allows for deeper reflection with older readers.” – Mandee, Children’s Specialist
Children’s Picturebook. Recommended for ages 4 and up
“Do you have a little one in your life? These board books are a wonderful way to celebrate Black joy and beauty.” – Ali, Children’s Services Librarian
Recommended for ages birth to five.
“Summary: A young girl’s opinion of her hair transforms from ‘difficult’ to ‘delightful’ when her neighbor shares her journey in taking care of her own textured hair.” – Siena, Public Services Clerk
Children’s Picturebook. Recommended for ages 4+
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.
Library Staff Black History Recommendations on DVD
“This clever comedy series about up-and-coming rapper Paper Boi and his cousin/manager Earn is hilarious at times, but also uncomfortable, surreal, and thought-provoking. Not your typical sitcom, ‘Atlanta’ creatively details the everyday racism, relationship challenges, and money concerns of being a young black man in America. Seasons one and two are currently available on DVD. Check it out!” – Jennifer, Teen Services Librarian
Local Black History Month Activities in February
Black History Month Events at Western Washington University
“This year’s theme of “Back to B.L.A.C.K. A Legacy of Art, honors the creativity and beauty that members of the Black Community have contributed to our world. We explore how we can show up as our authentic selves, embody art, and encourage allies to create spaces where Blackness is not only centered but uplifted. Allies, we invite you into community, to learn what it means to be anti-racist and what your role and responsibility is in creating safer spaces for Black communities to thrive. We hope that you take the time to explore, reflect, understand, and celebrate the Black experience in the array of offerings during this month-long celebration.” – Nia Gipson, Coordinator of the Black Student Coalition, Black History Month Planning Committee Chair
Pickford Film Center
“In honor of 2024’s Black History month and of Bellingham’s enduring love for horror, this February, we’ll be celebrating the unique cinematic art of Jordan Peele, who with just three feature films has knocked each and every one of them out of the park, and with Get Out in 2017, he became the first African-American screenwriter to win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
Join us, this February, for the pleasure of seeing all three films — Get Out, Us and Nope — back on the big screen again and to consider them together, as part of Peele’s approach to film and filmmaking.” – Pickford Film Center
“Join us for our Black History Keynote with Dr. Doretha Williams and her family history team from the Smithsonian Museum. Dr. Doretha Williams will be NAAM’s keynote speaker in honor of Black History Month where she will discuss Black family history and genealogy. Dr. Williams’ presentation honors NAAM’s tradition of hosting a Smithsonian scholar for Black History Month.” – Northwest African American Museum