When I was in fifth grade, I spotted Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor on my school library shelf in small town Nebraska. I don’t know if it was because I had recently watched the Roots Mini-Series that captivated the country or if it was the shiny Newbery Medal on the cover, but I checked it out and was carried away into a different time and place, meeting people that I wouldn’t have occasion to meet in my regular life. It made an impression to read about Black people’s struggles. This is what literature does for me—connects me to people with different points-of-view and helps me to have empathy with them.
But people are more than their struggles. Books also celebrate the beauty, complexity, perseverance and joy experienced by Black people. I believe that it is important for Black children to see themselves reflected positively in literature because the messages our society sends them about themselves is, tragically, too often negative.
I offer this list of books for young people that addresses fighting racism and celebrates Black Americans. Read them and hear their voices because Black Lives Matter.