Celebrate Black History Month

From novels to genealogy workshops, dance performances to films, and storytimes to memoirs, we've got scores of ways to help you celebrate Black History Month.

For a list of recommended reads for children, see Raquel's dazzling list of nonfiction picks here.


Black History Month StoryWalk
February is Black History Month. Come view the Library’s StoryWalk featuring Molly, By Golly!: The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighter by Dianne Ochiltree, illustrated by Kathleen Kemly. In addition to the StoryWalk, there will be some photos related to the history of firefighting in White Plains on display. The StoryWalk will be available for viewing in the Library’s Gallery through February 28.

Future is Female Book Discussion
Monday, February 6th, at 2:00 p.m.
Click here for the Zoom link.
In honor of Black History Month, Ellen O’Connell, White Plains resident and retired English teacher, will moderate a discussion of The Three Mothers by Anne Malaika Tubbs. In this biographical narrative focused on the lives of the mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X., and James Baldwin, the author, “reframes African American history, supplying the female Black experience — a much-needed perspective.” — The Washington Post. This book is available in the Library’s physical collection and on Libby.
Family Storytime: Parker Looks Up – An Extraordinary Moment
Ages 3+, Families
Wednesday, 7:00 p.m. – February 8
Stories, songs and rhymes, featuring the book Parker Looks Up.
African American Genealogy with Dennis Richmond, Jr., Part 3
Thursday, February 9th, at 7:00 p.m.
Click here to register for this Zoom program.
Dennis Richmond, Jr., will continue his family history, this time focusing on the research he did with his family in New York and Connecticut going back to the 1700s.
West African Dance Class
All ages
Saturday, 3:00 p.m. – February 18
Join Amanda and Diane for a full immersive traditional West African Dance class. We will learn the history of where the dance and rhythms originated and the stories behind the movement. Come ready to learn, move and explore traditional African music! In addition to the class, younger children will be able to get a craft kit and hear the book Firebird by pioneering ballet dancer Misty Copeland.


The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
Library Catalog / Libby
From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Library Catalog / Libby
Here is a book as joyous and painful, as mysterious and memorable, as childhood itself. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right. Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic beloved worldwide.

Ain't I a Woman by bell hooks
Library Catalog / Libby
A classic work of feminist scholarship, Ain't I a Woman has become a must-read for all those interested in the nature of black womanhood.

Four Hundred Souls by Ibram X. Kendi & Keisha N. Blain
Library Catalog / Libby
“A compendium of essays and poems chronicling 400 years of Black American history. In order to tell the story of Black America, acclaimed scholar Kendi and award-winning historian Blain bring together 80 Black ‘historians, journalists, activists, philosophers, novelists, political analysts, lawyers, anthropologists, curators, theologians, sociologists, essayists, economists, educators, and cultural critics' and 10 poets. This engrossing collection is divided into 10 parts, each covering 40 years, and each part ends with a poem that captures the essence of the preceding essays.”–Kirkus

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
Library Catalog / Libby
A national bestseller when it first appeared in 1963, The Fire Next Time galvanized the nation, gave passionate voice to the emerging civil rights movement—and still lights the way to understanding race in America today.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
Library Catalog / Libby
In the searing pages of this classic autobiography, originally published in 1964, Malcolm X, the Muslim leader, firebrand, and anti-integrationist, tells the extraordinary story of his life and the growth of the Black Muslim movement. His fascinating perspective on the lies and limitations of the American Dream, and the inherent racism in a society that denies its nonwhite citizens the opportunity to dream, gives extraordinary insight into the most urgent issues of our own time.

March by John Lewis & Andrew Aydin
Library Catalog / Libby
March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis' lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis' personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

The Three Mothers by Anna Malika Tubbs
Library Catalog / Libby
“Sociologist Tubbs begins this biography of three remarkable women by stating her intention to honor the subjects as accomplished and inspiring people in their own right, not only as mothers of famous men, and follows through beautifully on this promise. The stories of Berdis Baldwin (1901-99), Alberta King (1904-74), and Louise Little (1897-1991) are woven together, from their family histories and early childhoods to adolescent years, marriage, motherhood, and the losses of their sons. This makes clear the similarities and patterns among the women's lives and how the events and challenges of their times shaped their paths. The author writes with great respect and provides just the right amount of information to leave readers with an understanding of their complicated lives, shaped by the devastating racism of early 20th-century America but full of love and independence.”–Library Journal

The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier
Library Catalog / Libby
In this luminous memoir, a true American icon looks back on his celebrated life and career.

A Most Beautiful Thing: the True Story of America's First All-Black High School Rowing Team by Arshay Cooper
Library Catalog / Libby
The moving true story of a group of young men growing up on Chicago's West side who form the first all-Black high school rowing team in the nation, and in doing so not only transform a sport, but their lives.

The Sword and the Shield by Peniel E. Joseph
Library Catalog / Libby
This dual biography of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. upends longstanding preconceptions to transform our understanding of the twentieth century's most iconic African American leaders.

Overground Railroad by Candacy Taylor
Library Catalog / Libby
“Author and photographer Taylor chronicles the rewarding but often perilous journeys of Black America in a book that is part travelog, part personal long-form essay, and part history lesson. Published to coincide with a multimedia project at the Smithsonian, this work uses the phenomenon of the Green Book–a 1936 travel guide geared exclusively to African Americans–as a centerpiece to explore the popularity of car travel and its relation to 20th-century Black history.”–Library Journal


Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (2009 Documentary)
Kanopy / Library Catalog
Directed by Tamra Davis.
In his short career, Jean-Michel Basquiat was a phenomenon. He became notorious for his graffiti art under the moniker Samo in the late 1970s on the Lower East Side scene, sold his first painting to Deborah Harry for $200 and became best friends with Andy Warhol. Appreciated by both the art cognoscenti and the public, Basquiat was launched into international stardom. However, soon his cult status began to override the art that had made him famous in the first place. Director Tamra Davis pays homage to her friend in this definitive documentary, but also delves into Basquiat as an iconoclast. His dense, bebop-influenced neoexpressionist work emerged while minimalist, conceptual art was the fad; as a successful Black artist, he was constantly confronted by racism and misconceptions.

King: A Filmed Record…Montgomery to Memphis (1970 Documentary)
Kanopy / Library Catalog
Constructed from a wealth of archival footage, KING: A FILMED DOCUMENTARY is a monumental documentary that follows Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from 1955 to 1968, in his rise from regional activist to world-renowned leader of the Civil Rights movement. Rare footage of King's speeches, protests, and arrests are interspersed with scenes of other high-profile supporters and opponents of the cause, punctuated by heartfelt testimonials by some of Hollywood's biggest stars.

Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes / Feeling Heart (2017 Documentary)
This documentary sheds valuable light on all aspects of Lorraine Hansberry's play, A Raisin in the Sun, including the daunting challenge of securing investment and a venue for this production about a working class Black family, the casting process, artistic debates and finally its public reception. The film features interviews with the play's original cast members, Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Louis Gossett, Jr. and Glynn Turman, director Lloyd Richards, producer Phil Rose, supporter Harry Belafonte as well as writer Amiri Baraka along with excerpts from the 1961 Hollywood movie.

I Am Not Your Negro: James Baldwin and Race in America (2016 Documentary)
Kanopy / Library Catalog
Directed by Raoul Peck.
In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project, Remember This House. The book was to be a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and successive assassinations of three of his close friends–Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time of Baldwin's death in 1987, he left behind only thirty completed pages of his manuscript. Now, in his incendiary new documentary, master filmmaker Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished. The result is a radical, up-to-the-minute examination of race in America, using Baldwin's original words and flood of rich archival material.

Driving While Black: Race, Space and Mobility in America (2020 Documentary)
Kanopy / Library Catalog
Directed by Gretchen Sorin & Ric Burns
Chronicling the history and personal experiences of African Americans on the road from the advent of the automobile through the seismic changes of the 1960s and beyond – Driving While Black explores the background of a phrase rooted in realities that have been a part of the African American experience for hundreds of years – told in part through the stories of the people who lived through it.


Betty Davis: They Say I'm Different (2017 Documentary)
Directed by Phil Cox.
The original Funk Queen and one time wife of jazz legend Miles Davis, took on the American establishment of the 1970s and changed the course of women in music forever. Despite being banned and boycotted, she went on to become the first black woman to perform, write and manage herself. Then suddenly she vanished.

Daughters of the Dust (1991 Drama)
Kanopy / Library Catalog
Directed by Julie Dash.
At the dawn of the 20th century, a multi-generational family in the Gullah community on the Sea Islands off of South Carolina – former West African slaves who adopted many of their ancestors' Yoruba traditions – struggle to maintain their cultural heritage and folklore while contemplating a migration to the mainland, even further from their roots. The first wide release by a black female filmmaker, DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST was met with wild critical acclaim and rapturous audience response when it initially opened in 1991. Casting a long legacy, DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST still resonates today, most recently as a major in influence on Beyonce's video album Lemonade.

The Early Works of Cheryl Dunye: 6 Short Films by a Groundbreaking Female Filmmaker (1994 Short Films)
Vilified by conservatives in Congress, defended by major newspapers, and celebrated by audiences and festivals around the world as one of the most provocative, humorous, and important filmmakers of our time, Cheryl Dunye practically invented a new form of cinema – call it the ‘Dunyementary.' Presented here are the films that started it all – the early works which gave birth to an extraordinary and original filmmaking talent. Made with great creativity on often miniscule budgets, they represent the first chapter of the Cheryl Dunye oeuvre. Films in this collection include, GREETINGS FROM AFRICA, THE POTLUCK AND THE PASSION, AN UNTITLED PORTRAIT, VANILLA SEX, SHE DON'T FADE, and JANINE.

Mavis!: Gospel Music Legend and Civil Rights Activist Mavis Staples (2016 Documentary)
Directed by Jessica Edwards.
An award-winning documentary on gospel/soul music legend and civil rights icon Mavis Staples and her family group, The Staple Singers. From the freedom songs of the ’60s and hits like “I’ll Take You There” in the ’70s, to funked-up collaborations with Prince and her recent albums with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Mavis has stayed true to her roots, kept her family close, and inspired millions along the way.

Audience Award Winner at Hot Docs Documentary Festival. Winner of the Audience Award for Documentary at the Mill Valley Film Festival. Nominated for the Gamechanger Award at the SXSW Film Festival.

A Patch of Blue (1965 Drama)
Library Catalog
Directed by Guy Green. Starring Sidney Poitier, Shelley Winters, Elizabeth Hartman, Ivan Dixon, Wallace Ford.
Accidentally blinded as a child, 18-year-old Selina D'Arcey falls in love with a gentle and charming man, Gordon Ralfe, whom she meets in a rare visit to a park. Her racist mother declares that because Gordon is Black, their relationship cannot continue, forcing Selina to choose between her family and her heart.

Categories: Authors & Books and Library News.

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