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Adventurers, Role Models and Heroes

American history is full of tales of bravery, heroism and determination.

In honor of Black History Month, we invite you to discover these inspiring stories about Americans of African descent:

 

Testing the Ice: a True Story about Jackie Robinson
by Sharon Robinson

Jackie Robinson’s bravery extended well beyond the world of baseball, as demonstrated in this story by his daughter, Sharon. At their lakeside home in Stamford, Connecticut, Jackie never joins his children in their aquatic activities. Sharon eventually realizes her father can’t swim, but it takes a frozen-over lake and Jackie’s brave testing of the ice for Sharon to fully appreciate the courage that defined her father’s life.

 

 

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny and the Fight for Civil Rights
by Steve Sheinkin

An inspiring account of the 1944 civil rights protest involving hundreds of African-American Navy servicemen who were unjustly charged with mutiny for refusing to work in unsafe conditions after the deadly Port Chicago explosion.

 

 

In her Hands: The Story of Sculptor Augusta Savage
by Alan Schroader

Little is known about the life of sculptress Augusta Savage, a prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance, but the author provides a fictionalized account of the artist’s childhood and the events leading up to her enrollment in the Cooper Union School of Art and her career as an artist in New York City.

 

 

Color Has No Courage: The True Story of the Triple Nickles
by Tanya Lee Stone

America’s First Black Paratroopers: World War II is raging, and thousands of American soldiers are fighting overseas against the injustices brought on by Hitler. But on the home front, the injustice of discrimination against African Americans plays out as much on Main Street as in the military….

 

Harriet Tubman, Secret Agent
by Thomas B. Allen

How Daring Slaves and Free Black Spied for the Union During the Civil War
It’s 1863. Harriet Tubman has survived her master’s lash, escaped from slavery, and risked her life countless times to lead runaway slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad. Now she has a new role—that of Union spy! The outcome of a secret night raid deep into Confederate territory depends on the accuracy of the intelligence she and other black spies have gathered. Success will mean freedom for hundreds of slaves, but failure will mean death by hanging.

 

Black Jacks: African American Seamen in the Age of Sail
by W. Jeffrey Bolster

Seafaring was one of the most significant occupations among both enslaved and free black men between 1740 and 1865, when tens of thousands of black seamen sailed on lofty clippers and modest coasters. They sailed in whalers, warships, and privateers. Some were slaves, forced to work at sea, but by 1800 most were free men, seeking liberty and economic opportunity aboard ship.

 

 

Phillis Wheatley: Biography of a Genius in Bondage
by Vincent Carretta

In 1773 Wheatley became the first person of African descent to publish a book of poems in the English language. Only twelve years before, she had arrived on a slave ship in Boston – not able to speak a word of English. Carretta uncovers new details about Wheatley’s origins, her upbringing, and how she gained freedom, revealing the fascinating life of a woman who rose from the indignity of enslavement to earn wide recognition, only to die in obscurity a few years later.  Also check out Phillis Wheatley: Slave and Poet (biography for kids) and Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons (ficionalized YA biography).

 

 

Red Tails: The Real Story of the Tuskegee Airmen
DVD [2012]

They were often treated as second class citizens, yet many (if not most), of the African American men who eventually joined the Tuskegee Institute volunteered to serve during World War II. Why? Find out in Red Rails: The Real Story of the Tuskegee Airmen, as the film takes you directly to the Tuskegee training base as it exists today. And through the use of archival footage transports you to the battles where some of Americas bravest men fought in the air and on the ground. Hear from their family and friends, and see film and pictures from the war that capture the thrill and danger of air battle over Europe. Also check out Red Tails, Black Wings, by John Holway.

 

Queen of the Track: Alice Coachman, Olympic High-Jump Champion
by Heather Lang

At the 1948 Olympics in London, members of the U.S. Women’s Track and Field team were defeated one by one, leaving Alice Coachman our only hope of winning. Thousands of spectators stayed late for the high-jump event and witnessed history as she became the first African American woman to win an Olympic gold medal. This book follows Coachman on her journey from rural Georgia, where she overcame adversity both as a woman and as a black athlete, to her triumph in Wembly Stadium.

 

 

Best Shot in the West: The Adventures of Nat Love
by Patricia C. McKissack and Fredrick L. McKissack, Jr.; illustrated by Randy DuBurke

Born into slavery in 1854, Nat Love, also known as Deadwood Dick, grew up to become the most famous African-American cowboy in the Old West. A contemporary and acquaintance of Bat Masterson and Billy the Kid, Nat was widely known as an expert roper and driver, a crack shot, and a real Wild West character.

 

 

Yours for Justice, Ida B. Wells: The Daring Life of a Crusading Journalist
by Philip Dray

In 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation heralded a time of renewed faith in Americas promise of freedom and justice for all. Blessed with a strong will, an eager mind, and a deep belief in this promise, Ida B. Wells never turned away from challenges: she held her family together after the death of her parents, went to court when a railroad company infringed on her rights, and used her position as a journalist to speak out about injustice. But Ida’s greatest challenge arose after a friend was lynched – could one headstrong young woman help free America from the shadow of lawlessness that loomed over the country?

 

 

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