A selected list of notable books for young adults about African American history and the African American experience, chosen by LAPL librarians.
All American Boys
Told in alternating voices, this is the compelling and nuanced story of two Springfield High School students: Rashad, a black 16-year-old ROTC member and aspiring artist, and Quinn, a white senior and varsity basketball player, and what happens when an off-duty officer and family friend of Quinn viciously assaults Rashad at a corner store after wrongly assuming he was stealing a bag of chips.
Mary B. Addison killed a baby. Allegedly. She didn't say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: a white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? There wasn't a point to setting the record straight before, but now she's got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary's fate now lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But does anyone know the real Mary?
On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life. But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own. Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola soon realizes that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?
Bad boy : a memoir
Prolific Young Adult author Walter Dean Myers turns the spotlight on himself as he recounts coming of age in Harlem in the 1940s-1950s. This is a timeless story, both introspective and entertaining, about a boy's search for his racial identity and early beginnings as a writer.
In a world that places beauty as an item for purchase, the Belles can make a person look however they’d like on the outside, no matter how ugly they are on the inside. Camellia Beauregard wants to be the best, but once she starts down the path of giving other people beauty, the true darkness of people emerges.
Bessie Stringfield: The Amazing True Story of the Woman Who Became the Motorcycle Queen of Miami!
Black & white : the confrontation of Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene "Bull" Connor
An eleven-year-old runaway slave, a nine-year-old freed by her master, and a seven-year-old son of a plantation owner find themselves alone during the Civil War and must rely on each other to survive.
Black, White, Other
After her parents' divorce, biracial teenager Nina Armstrong doesn't feel like she fits anywhere; however, she finds meaning and inspiration when she learns about her great-great grandmother's escape from slavery in the 1850s.
Boy in the Black Suit
A job at a funeral home helps seventeen-year-old Matt come to terms with his own grief and struggles.
As the only white player on his high school basketball team, Finley doesn’t understand why his coach insists that he befriend Russell, a troubled black superstar who has just moved to their town outside Philadelphia. Finley lives in a violent neighborhood controlled by the Irish mob. Though Russell comes from a privileged existence on the West Coast, ever since his parents were murdered, he can barely function.
Highly readable novel about a girl with a white mother and black father who struggles with her mixed race identity.
Claudette Colvin : twice toward justice
Coffee will make you black
Double Victory: How African American Women Broke Race and Gender Barriers to Help Win World War II
Meet the war correspondents, Red Cross workers, activists, entertainers, and others who did extraordinary things to help their country during World War II.
When Rowan finds a skeleton on her family's property, investigating the brutal, century-old murder leads to painful discoveries about the past. Alternating chapters tell the story of William, another teen grappling with the racial firestorm leading up to the 1921 Tulsa race riot, providing some clues to the mystery.
Nick Pearson has gotten good at flying under the radar since his family joined the witness protection program, but he’s willing to risk his cover after a classmate dies under mysterious circumstances in this Edgar Award-nominated thriller.
During World War II, 18-year-old Ida Mae Jones passes for white so she can join the Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), serve her country, and fulfill her lifelong dream of flying. Smith tells a riveting story about a little-known chapter of World War II history, set against the backdrop of Jim Crow America.
Getting away with murder : the true story of the Emmett Till case
Ghost, aka Castle Crenshaw, is used to running away from things. Fast. So when he stumbles upon a track club practicing in the park and finds himself challenging their fastest sprinter, he attracts the attention of the club's coach who recruits him to join and in the process challenges him to look inside himself.
Give me wings : how a choir of former slaves took on the world
This is the story of Ella Sheppard who founded the Jubilee Singers of Fisk University to save the school from an uncertain financial future. She also led them on a successful European tour in the 1800s during which they sang for Queen Victoria.
The Hate U Give
After witnessing her friend's death at the hands of a police officer, Starr Carter's life is complicated when the police and a local drug lord try to intimidate her in an effort to learn what happened the night Kahlil died.
How I discovered poetry
Newbery Honor Winner and National Book Award finalist Marilyn Nelson writes a memoir in verse about coming of age during the Civil Rights Movement and finding her identity as an artist.
How it went down
When a black teenager is shot and killed by a white man, the community is thrown into chaos as every witness has a different story to tell.
I Am Alfonso Jones
In the shadow of Liberty : the hidden history of slavery, four presidents, and five black lives
Davis sheds light on an often-overlooked part of our nation's history in this biography of five enslaved individuals - Billy Lee, Ona Judge, Isaac Granger, Paul Jennings, and Alfred Jackson - and the U.S. Presidents who owned them.
Jefferson's sons : a founding father's secret children
Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation
Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina
Misty Copeland overcame the odds of a dysfunctional home, racism, and a late start with ballet lessons to became a star and soloist with American Ballet Theatre. No matter what the odds, obstacles or pain, in life and in ballet, her autobiography conveys her indomitable spirit and passion for dance.
Light it Up
March: Book One
March is popping up all over the place on best graphic novel lists for 2013, and rightfully so. This is the first book in a planned trilogy that tells of the struggle of Congressman John Lewis, his first hand experience of the Jim Crow South, and his experience living through segregation and choosing to fight against it through his participation in key Civil Rights moments, such as the March on Washington and the Selma-Montgomery March. Fantastic assignment book for teachers looking for an engaging document to bring the struggle for racial equality for African Americans to light.
March: Book Three
Winner of the 2017 Michael Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. U.S. Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis continues his story in the concluding volume of this graphic novel trilogy, which opens with the bombing of the Birmingham Baptist Church, Freedom Summer and ends with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 being signed into law.
March: Book Two
Congressman John Lewis powerfully recounts his journey in the 1960s' civil rights movement as the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The strength of March is the ability of Congressman John Lewis to teach a new generation about the events of the civil rights movement in a way that both entertains and educates.
Mississippi trial, 1955
The moves make the man : a novel
On the Come Up
Piecing Me Together
Rite of passage
The Rose That Grew From Concrete
A collection of poetry by rap artist and actor Tupac Shakur, written at the age of 19, before he became famous.
Simeon's story : an eyewitness account of the kidnapping of Emmett Till
The Skin I'm In
Maleeka is embarrassed by her extremely dark skin, but she gets encouragement from a teacher who has appearance issues herself.
The Sun is Also a Star
Told over several hours on an ordinary day in New York, teens Natasha and Daniel meet, and discover the universe, which in its own extraordinary way, has brought them into each other’s lives.
Things fall apart
This Side of Home
Twin sisters Maya and Nikki navigate their senior year of high school and come to terms with issues of racial identity - and racial injustice - against the backdrop of their gentrifying Portland neighborhood.
Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the Selma Voting Rights March
Lynda Blackmon Lowery, the youngest marcher in the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, tells her story here in this powerful and award-winning memoir.
Voices from the March on Washington
This poetry collection captures a multitude of voices from the 1963 March on Washington - and a multitude of experiences, hopes, and emotions.
Warriors don't cry : a searing memoir of the battle to integrate Little Rock's Central High
When I Was the Greatest
Set in Brooklyn, fifteen-year-old Ali and his two best friends, brothers Needles and Noodles, learn about themselves and each other after they get caught up in a dangerous situation that tests their friendship.
X: A Novel
This fictionalized account of Malcolm X’s childhood and teenage years was co-written by his daughter and shows both the injustices he endured and the formative experiences and people who helped make him a leader.