By Guest Blogger Ellen Bryant Lloyd

From the story of a brave young slave who escaped to freedom on the Underground Railroad to the inspirational words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr to a talented ballerina’s journey to become the first African-American to become a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, the selections this month feature notable people and events in honor of Black History Month. This annual observance is a great way to remember all the influencers and leaders of color. I encourage you to check out these titles, and explore many others that help us commemorate black history.

Early Elementary — Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rapport, illustrated by Bryan Collier

This picture book introduces young children to one of the most influential leaders and change makers of the 20th century. The author shares the story of Dr. King’s life while incorporating poignant words from some of his famous quotes within the pages. The beautiful artwork makes this leader’s story come alive, offering readers an even richer experience.

Elementary through Middle School — Eliza’s Freedom Road: An Underground Railroad Diary by Jerdine Nolen

This story is a fictional account of a Eliza, a young slave on a Virginia farm whose mother was sold away to another farm. The only thing Eliza had to remember her mom was a quilt she had given her and the stories she had shared throughout her childhood. Abbey, the cook, took Eliza under her wing and cared for her when she wasn’t taking care of the Mistress. After learning she may be taken to a slave sale auction, Eliza makes the brave decision to travel the Underground Railroad to find her freedom. Alma Powell, wife of General Colin Powell, said this was “a story of hope, determination, and the triumph of the human spirit.”

Middle School — Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina – Young Readers Edition by Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland grew up as a shy, underprivileged girl who started dancing at the age of 13. In her memoir, Misty shares the remarkable story of her journey against many odds to become the first African-American principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre. She is an inspiration to dancers of all ages, and a role model to young girls with big dreams.

High School — Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

This New York Times bestseller is the true story of black female mathematicians at NASA who contributed to many of America’s great accomplishments in the space program. Spanning a period from World War II to the Civil Rights Movement, this book features brilliant women who were known as human computers who had the ability to use simple tools to calculate codes to launch rockets into space. This fascinating, inspiring story is one that all youth, especially girls, should read.

Moms — The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

In 1951, a poor black tobacco farmer named Henrietta Lacks had cells taken from her without her knowledge. Scientists knew her as HeLa, and used her cells as medicinal tools to aid in the development of the polio vaccine, gene mapping and cloning. While her cells have been responsible for many advancements in the world of medicine, Henrietta has remained virtually unknown. This bestseller is a thought-provoking story that touches on ethics, race, medicine and scientific discovery.


Ellen Bryant Lloyd is the author of FRECKLES and FRECKLES and The Great Beach Rescue. Please visit and to learn more about Freckles. Ellen writes a blog about her perspectives on life and parenting at and tweets at @EllenBLloyd. She lives in Greensboro with her husband and two children.