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Shelf Talk 25: Celebrate Black History Month

In a 1976 proclamation, President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” This proclamation established February as Black History Month, expanding the History Week that had been held annually for the previous 50 years. Since President Ford, every American President has issued an African American History Month proclamation, firmly rooting this time for celebration and reflection in the national consciousness.

This month, the Mississippi County Library System (MCLS) invites you to both celebrate and reflect on Black History Month with us. Visit one of our branch libraries for book displays and take-home gifts that reinforce this year’s MCLS Black History Month theme: “Celebrating Courage, Faith, and Hope.” Browse our collection (you can browse online at for works that feature black characters, historical figures, religious leaders, authors, and subject matter. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram (@mississippicountylibrarysystem) for daily book highlights that help us celebrate and reflect on world-wide, national, and local black history.

To begin the celebration, MCLS is thankful for an anonymous gift from a generous local donor that allowed us to build our children’s literature and nonfiction collections. This donor encouraged us to follow the model of the nonprofit Young, Black, & Lit by “increasing access to children’s books that center, reflect, and affirm Black children.” This funding allowed us to ensure that our board books, picture books, and children’s fiction and nonfiction sections are filled with diverse stories that feature diverse characters. Swing by to check one out today!


…music with “When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop,” by Laban Carrick Hill. This book tells how a young man in the Bronx played music made for dancing, “how kids in gangs stopped fighting in order to breakdance, and how the music he invented went on to define a culture and transform the world.”

…athletes with Suzanne Slade’s “Swish!: The Slam-Dunking, Alley-Ooping, High-Flyting Harlem Globetrotters” or with Misty Copeland’s “Bunheads,” a stunning graphic novel of her journey as a ballerina.

…inspiration with “Parker Looks Up,” the beautiful tale of a young girl falling in love with Michelle Obama’s official portrait.

…beauty and self-expression with Laura Freeman’s “Natalie’s Hair Was Wild” and Karamo Brown’s “I Am Perfectly Designed.”


…on great civil rights leaders through works featuring Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Daisy Bates, Malcom X, like Vashti Harrison’s “Little Leaders” series.

…on the historic black experience with Sandra and Rich Wallace’s “The Teachers March!: How Selma’s Teachers Changed History,” or Evette Dion’s “Lifting as We Climb: Black Women’s Battle for the Ballot Box.”

…on the current black experience with Jewell Parker Rhodes’ lyrical memoir for young men, “Ghost Boys.”

…on collections of poetry and essays by Maya Angelou.

…on achievements in science with biographies of Mae Jemison, the first African American woman in space, or Katherine Johnson’s incredible mathematical mind in “A Computer Called Katherine.”

…on the contributions of black artists like Tyree Guyton in “Magic Trash” or Jean-Michel Basquiat in “Radiant Child.”

…on religious leaders whose faith led them to stand in government, like John Lewis in “Preaching to the Chickens.”

…through the writing of local authors, like Judie Nance’s “Enlightened,” the story of a courageous young girl whose journey to find herself also saves her family.

Our shelves are full of books to help you celebrate and reflect this Black History Month. If you would like to supplement this effort, have titles to suggest we add to our collection, or would like to volunteer at one of our library branches, let us know! As always, feel free to contact me at anytime with questions or suggestions.

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