Black History Month Reads

Every February since its inception in 1976, Black History Month has reminded us about the importance of the struggles, contributions, and achievements of African Americans throughout history. In celebration of Black History Month, here is a selection of novels about African Americans – both real and fictional – written by African American authors:

Dear Martin by Nic Stone – Profiled by a racist police officer in spite of his excellent academic achievements, a disgruntled college youth navigates the prejudices of new classmates and his crush on a white girl by writing a journal to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the hopes that his role model’s teachings will be applicable half a century later.

Black Water Rising by Attica Locke – When African-American lawyer Jay Porter jumps into the bayou to save a drowning white woman in Houston, Texas, in 1981, he finds his practice and life in danger when he becomes embroiled in a murder investigation involving Houston’s elite.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead – After Cora, a slave in pre-Civil War Georgia, escapes with another slave, Caesar, they seek the help of the Underground Railroad as they flee from state to state and try to evade a slave catcher, Ridgeway, who is determined to return them to the South.

The Sellout by Paul Beatty – After his down-trodden hometown is removed from the map of California to save the state further embarrassment, a young man undertakes a course of action to draw attention to the town, resulting in a racially charged trial that sends him to the Supreme Court.

Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay – Centers on the efforts by Harlem intelligentsia to organize support for the liberation of fascist-controlled Ethiopia. Continue reading

Wrapped Up in Books for Valentine’s

There’s no need to worry about being alone this Valentine’s Day when you’ve got a great book. Stop by the library to pick up a literary companion today!

Central Library and Gordon Avenue Library are inviting kids to pick out a surprise book wrapped up in paper that piques their interest in reading. At Central, books can be picked out by taking a sneak peek at their first line, while at Gordon Avenue the books are wrapped up as “book buddies” with fun faces from which to choose.

Nelson Memorial Library's Blind Date With a Book Display

Nelson Memorial Library’s Blind Date With a Book Display

At Nelson Memorial Library, teens and adults can go on a “blind date with a book.” The eligible books are wrapped up and have basic details on the plot and setting, and you get to pick which you think will be the most compatible with your reading habits.

These displays will be up until the end of February. Choose a book, check it out, unwrap it at home, and hopefully you’ll be surprised and delighted by the book you got. If you enjoy your experience, be sure to let your librarians know! Feel free to post to social media with #jmrlreads to share which book you got.

Anti-Slavery History

A new project from the Boston Public Library invites you to help transcribe their collection of Anti-Slavery Manuscripts, and engage with history.

If you’re interested in more firsthand resources, you might like these accounts collected from formerly enslaved people in Virginia.



Weevils in the Wheat

Virginia Slave Narratives

These narratives were collected by the Federal Writers’ Project as a part of the New Deal during the Great Depression. You can view the full collection of accounts by visiting the Library of Congress collection Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project.

For more opportunities to help transcribe history, check out Making History: Transcribe from the Library of Virginia.