It's almost February, and teachers around the country are preparing lessons and activities to honor Black History Month.
Vocabulary.com makes it easy to seamlessly integrate vocabulary instruction into your Black History Month lesson plans. Here's how:
- Choose the texts you want your students to read. Maybe this is the year to try a new title with your class, have small groups each read different books, or support independent reading with self-selected texts. We've recommended some texts below.
- Check out our high-quality, ready-made lists. Developed by seasoned educators, our lists are designed to align with your curriculum and to support either independent or group reading. You can use the lists as they are, or copy and customize them.
- Assign a Practice activity. When students Practice the words on the list you assigned, they learn key vocabulary and preview the text before they tackle the reading.
- Follow-up made easy. Vocabulary.com automatically works with students until they master any words they struggled with. You can also create a custom quiz based on the list you assigned.
Below, you'll find recommended reading for Black History Month, along with links to our curated vocabulary lists for each text. Our suggestions include a range of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction that addresses major topics in African-American history, including slavery, life under Jim Crow laws, the Civil Rights Movement, and immigrant experiences.
Bear in mind that the recommendations below represent only a fraction of our vocabulary lists. You can find more great resources on our Lists page.
Recommended for Everyone
March, by John Lewis. Book One. Book Two. Book Three. John Lewis's award-winning March trilogy offers an unflinching look at the life and work of the congressman and civil rights icon. The engaging graphic novel format vividly brings to life the Freedom Rides, the Selma march, and other key events in the Civil Rights Movement.
Recommended for Middle School Students
Mississippi Trial, 1955 by Chris Crowe. The murder of fourteen-year-old Emmett Till in 1955 shocked the nation. Crowe's novel explores Till's tragic death from the point of view of a white teenager visiting his grandfather in Mississippi.
The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis. In this historical novel, a fun family trip to Alabama turns into a life-changing event when a Baptist church is bombed.
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis. Elijah lives in a Canadian settlement founded by former slaves. Although his family and friends consider Elijah to be "fragile," he must find the courage to help others escape from slavery.
Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper. Inspired by her grandmother's journals, Draper tells the story of an eleven-year-old girl who confronts racism in her segregated North Carolina town.
The Voice That Challenged a Nation by Russell Freedman. Freedman's biography of singer Marian Anderson follows Anderson's career as she defies the conventions that constrained African-American performers in the 1920s and 30s.
The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine. In this historical novel, Marlee and her new friend Liz get involved in the battle to desegregate the Arkansas school system in the 1950s.
A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson. Nelson's illustrated sonnet cycle is a moving, lyrical meditation on Emmett Till's murder.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor. Taylor's classic, Newbery award-winning novel follows Cassie Logan and her family as they face prejudice and hardship in Depression-era Mississippi.
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. Sisters Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern explore their identities as African American girls when they travel to California during the summer of 1968.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. An instant classic when it was published in 2014, Woodson's collection of autobiographical poems won both the National Book Award and the Coretta Scott King Book Award and was named a Newbery Honor Book.
Recommended for High School Students
Kindred by Octavia Butler. Blending science fiction and historical fiction, this novel tells the story of an African American woman who travels back in time to a Southern plantation.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Coates's acclaimed and award-winning essay collection, which is framed as a letter to his son, is a profound meditation on race and power in American society.
Copper Sun by Sharon M. Draper. A searing dramatization of the brutality of the slave trade, Draper's novel follows fifteen-year-old Amari from her capture in an African village to her enslavement in North Carolina.
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. Reynolds and Kiely tackle the issue of police brutality in this novel told from the alternating perspectives of two teenage boys.
X: A Novel by llyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon. Cowritten by Malcolm X's daughter, this novel presents a fictionalized account of the civil rights activist's early years.
Dear Martin by Nic Stone. In Nic Stone's popular 2017 novel, seventeen-year-old Justyce writes letters to Martin Luther King, Jr. as he encounters racism and prejudice in his community.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Already navigating the competing pressures of her prep school and her neighborhood community, sixteen-year-old Starr must grapple with prejudice and her sense of identity when she witnesses the shooting death of her best friend.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, Whitehead's novel confronts the horrors of slavery as it traces a woman's journey to freedom.
American Street by Ibi Zoboi. Zoboi's debut novel, nominated for the 2017 National Book Award, is a powerful and thought-provoking story of a young Haitian immigrant's attempt to live the American dream.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. This first volume of Angelou's autobiography details the acclaimed poet's childhood and adolescence.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass. Born into slavery, Douglass became an accomplished orator and writer and a leading abolitionist. In this autobiography, he recounts his experiences as an enslaved person.
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. In this classic exploration of race and identity, an unnamed protagonist delineates the ways society has rendered him invisible.
"The Weary Blues" by Langston Hughes. A leading poet of the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes wrote this poem about a jazz musician in 1925.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. Although it was not well received when it was first published, this novel is now considered a classic of African-American literature. Set in Florida in the early 1900s, Their Eyes Were Watching God follows Janie Crawford as she searches for love and happiness.
"I Have a Dream" Speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. King's famous speech, an impassioned call for equality, was delivered at the 1963 March on Washington.
"Letter from a Birmingham Jail" by Martin Luther King, Jr. While imprisoned for taking part in civil rights demonstrations, King wrote this powerful argument in defense of nonviolent protest.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. In Morrison's first novel, a troubled young girl dreams of escaping the abuse, prejudice, and bullying she faces.
Beloved by Toni Morrison. Lyrical and devastating, Morrison's masterpiece tells the story of Sethe, a woman haunted by her experiences as a slave.
"On Being Brought from Africa to America" by Phillis Wheatley. Enslaved when she was a child, Wheatley found fame and freedom when her collection of poetry was published in London in 1773.