YA Books to Read During BHM

October is Black History Month, below are some books that explore Black History and will give our students the opportunity to learn more about themes and people in Black history.

Buffalo Soldier

Winner of the Carnegie Medal 2015, Buffalo Solider is a drop-your-jaw-right-to-your-knees historical epic. Charley used to be a slave. Now she’s free. But safe? That’s another matter. Her adoptive mum was raped and killed by a racist mob. Charley doesn’t want to go the same way. Then Charley hits on the perfect disguise: a soldier’s uniform. In the army, dressed as a man, she thinks she can finally let her guard down. Forget Mel Gibson; tough-cookie Charley is the braveheart we wish we were most like.

This book contains mature content.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

This classic tale of growing up black in 1930s Mississippi is like a lightning strike for your heart. Cassie’s mother tells her that colour doesn’t matter. Nobody is better than anyone else. But outside their cosy home in the Deep South, it’s a different story. Blacks can’t sit in the same bus seats as whites, or use the same water fountain. Sinister night riders roam the land, bringing death and terror and burning. Worst of all: if you’re black and you protest, chances are someone you love will die violently. How will Cassie bear the injustice she sees all around her?

My Story: Slave Girl

This inspiring story is based on the true memoirs of Clotee Henley: a slave who helped thousands of other slaves escape to freedom.

F-R-E-E-D-O-M was the first word Clotee learned to write. A slave girl on one of Virginia’s cotton plantations, she can barely think of anything else. But knowing of something and knowing what it really feels like are two different things. Clotee has a word in her head, but no picture to put it to. Will she ever find her own picture of freedom?

To Kill a Mockingbird

A little legend that helped change the world. Can’t imagine a society so racist that a black person can’t sit in a ‘white’ bus seat? Thank this book, at least in part. It’s the world-famous Pulitzer Prize winner that changed America’s mind on race. Just at the crucial moment when the US was fighting a key battle on segregation. How can a book be this powerful? Find out. This is the tale of two kids: Jem and Scout Finch. Of their father: Atticus Finch, a small-town lawyer. And of Tom Robinson: a black man falsely accused of rape, fighting for survival. Most of all – a story of doing the right thing. Take note: “the one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience”.

Nelson Mandela: No Easy Walk to Freedom

Freedom fighter, prisoner, president, legend. This is the inspiring true story of a life that changed our times. When you live a life that breaks down great barriers, that inspires whole nations to change, that makes you a symbol of hope across the world: then people call you a hero. Nelson Mandela died in 2013 celebrated as a world icon; one of the great leaders of modern times but it wasn’t always like that. In apartheid South Africa, he was branded a terrorist. He served 27 long, hard years as a political prisoner. Yet he went on to overthrow apartheid, win the Nobel Peace Prize and front the global fight against AIDS. Read his incredible story, from farm boy to father of a nation.

Hero: The Incredible True Story of Courage Under Fire

Johnson Beharry has lived more in 35 years than most of us ever will. Serving in Iraq, he became the youngest person ever to receive the Victoria Cross, after rescuing his wounded comrades under heavy fire. Twice. He’s served in Kosovo, Northern Ireland and Iraq. He runs his own charity – the JBVC Foundation – which steers young people away from gangs and crime. He’s survived a severe brain injury caused by a grenade. Just to top it off, his nifty footwork got him to the semi-finals of Dancing on Ice. How does he do it all?

The Noughts and Crosses Sequence

Malorie Blackman’s saga of race hatred packs a knock-out punch. Sephy and Callum have been friends since childhood. But now that they are growing up, they can no longer mix. Callum is a Nought – a second-class white in a divided society controlled by black Crosses. Sephy is a rich and privileged Cross: daughter of one of the country’s most powerful men. As friendship turns to a dangerous attraction, a time-bomb starts to tick. This explosive series will make you reconsider everything you take for granted.

Further suggested reading:

  • GHOST BOYS, by Jewell Parker Rhodes
  • BLACK BROTHER, BLACK BROTHER, by Jewell Parker Rhodes
  • THIS BOOK IS ANTI-RACIST, by Tiffany Jewell & Aurelia Durand
  • CRONGTON KNIGHTS, by Alex Wheatle
  • BLENDED, by Sharon M. Draper
  • BROWN GIRL DREAMING, by Jacqueline Woodson
  • YOUNG, GIFTED, BLACK, by Jamia Wilson
  • CROSSOVER, by Kwame Alexander
  • CLEAN GETAWAY, by Nic Stone
  • THE FARAWAY TRUTH, by Janae Marks
Books for teenagers 13+

  • ALL AMERICAN BOYS, by Jason Reynolds
  • HOW IT WENT DOWN, by Kekla Magoon
  • DEAR MARTIN, by Nic Stone
  • LET ME HEAR A RHYME, by Tiffany Jackson
  • PIECING ME TOGETHER, by Renee Watson
  • GENESIS BEGINS AGAIN, by Alicia D. Williams
  • LONG WAY DOWN, by Jason Reynolds
  • AMERICAN STREET, by Ibi Zoboi
  • LIES WE TELL OURSELVES, by Robin Talley
  • ORANGEBOY, by Patrice Lawrence