Black History Month
February is Black History Month. Since 1976, every US president has officially designated this month as a time to recognize important figures, events and accomplishments in the history of black Americans in our country.
There are many great, nonfiction titles to choose from but February’s Black History celebration always reminds me of the great fiction reads that have influenced how we look at race in America.
I’m reminded of Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, the book President Lincoln said started the Civil War. I’m reminded of Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, a book that caused great controversy when it was published in 1952. Another great read that continues to be challenged in high schools across America, even today, is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Who can forget the 1962 movie that was made from this classic book, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch? Or you might want to reread The Color Purple, the 1983 Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Alice Walker. Set in the southern United States, Walker’s book focuses on themes of race and gender as it tells the stories of black women in the 1930s. It is a heart wrenching and often violent novel that is impossible to put down. Finally, one more, The Known World by award winning author, Edward P. Jones. This historical novel is set several years before the onset of the Civil War and reveals a part of United States history that remains unknown to many. It recounts the story of a freed, black slave, Henry Townsend, who becomes a successful, gentleman farmer and builds an estate that includes the ownership of 33 slaves. The moral complexities of this beautifully written book and the revelation that ex-slaves owned slaves in the South prior to the War Between the States blew me away when it was published in 2003.
Lots to read and remember during Black History Month. Drop by the library for these titles and many more during February.