Reading the Map: A Celebration of African American Stories Across the United States

Diane Garcia, Children's Librarian, Los Feliz Branch Library,
Collage of featured books on the map of United States

Black History Month is a time to remember the contributions that African Americans have left on our country and world. This year’s theme, Black Migrations, explores the impact the African diaspora has made around the globe. Migrations are as vast and storied as the routes taken, but as each of these tales unfurled they helped build and shape the places we know today.

Traveling through stories is one of the best ways to develop awareness of experiences different than one’s own. Stories can nurture knowledge, help one understand another point of view and provide inspiration for a better future. Below is a list of books that take place in different territories, states, and eras of the United States. Some tell the stories of real people, others use imagined characters to recount certain moments in history. Each helps to pave the way for an unforgettable journey. The best part? You can take these trips as many times as you’d like and they are all free with your library card.

Reading the Map

Aunt Clara Brown: Official Pioneer
Lowery, Linda

Born into slavery in 1800, Clara Brown became a free woman at 56 years old. She journeyed west, settling in Colorado where she became a community advocate who helped former slaves settle the territory during the gold rush years.

One Crazy Summer
Williams-Garcia, Rita

Three sisters make the trip from New York to California during the summer of 1968 to visit their mother. The sisters have an unforgettable time, learning about themselves and the world, by finding power in the community. A National Book Award finalist, winner of both the Coretta Scott King and Scott O’Dell Historical Fiction awards and a Newberry Honor book.

The Righteous Revenge of Artemis Bonner
Myers, Walter Dean

In 1882, 15-year-old Artemis Bonner travels from New York City to Tombstone, Arizona to avenge the death of his uncle.

Finding Langston
Cline-Ransome, Lesa

The year is 1946 and Langston and his father have moved from their family home in Alabama to the big city of Chicago to make a fresh start. A 2019 Coretta Scott-King honor book, this story also won the Scott O’Dell award for historical fiction.

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone
Russell-Brown, Katheryn

The new sounds of jazz were weaving their way up the Mississippi when Melba Liston was born in Kansas City, MO. She was a child prodigy who became the first woman to play trombone in the big bands of the 20th century.

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin
Bryant, Jennifer

Pennsylvania’s Horace Pippin served as a Harlem Hellfighter in World War I and became an accomplished self-taught painter who depicted important stories from African American history.

Going North
Harrington, Janice N.

Jessie and her family are leaving Alabama for a new home in Nebraska. As she wonders about the life that awaits her we learn about the challenges many African Americans families faced while traveling through America in the 1960s. An award winning book based on the author’s experience.

Bud, Not Buddy
Curtis, Christopher Paul.

Motherless Bud shares his amusingly astute rules of life as he hits the road to find the jazz musician he believes is his father. A medley of characters brings Depression-era Michigan to life.