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And Still I Rise*

February is African American History Month

Initially started in 1926 as Negro History Week, the commemoration of the struggles and achievements of
African Americans in America was expanded to a month-long celebration in 1976. 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.” Every president since has proclaimed February as African American History Month in order to honor the importance of contributions made by African American citizens to our society and their central role in our nation's history.

Explore the African American experience with these books:


Beloved by Toni Morrison
It is the story--set in post-Civil War Ohio--of Sethe, an escaped slave who has risked death in order to wrench herself from a living death; who has lost a husband and buried a child; who has borne the unthinkable and not gone mad: a woman of "iron eyes and backbone to match." Sethe lives in a small house on the edge of town with her daughter, Denver, her mother-in-law, Baby Suggs, and a disturbing, mesmerizing intruder who calls herself Beloved. Sethe works at "beating back the past," but it is alive in all of them.




Another Country by James  Baldwin
This novel, set in  1950's Greenwich Village, Harlem, and France, illuminates the ways that prejudices of race, gender and sexuality destroy good people and deprive American society of their gifts. Rufus Scott, a jazz drummer, begins an ill-fated relationship with Leona, a white Southern woman, which ends in her hospitalization and his descent into depression and suicide.The book explores the relationships among Rufus's friends, family, and acquaintances in the wake of his death and their attempts to understand his despair and handle their own guilt.




colorpurpleThe Color Purple by Alice Walker
Celie is a poor black woman whose letters tell the story of 20 years of her life, beginning at age 14 when she is being abused by her father and attempting to protect her sister from the same fate, and continuing over the course of her marriage to "Mister," a brutal man who terrorizes her. Separated from her sister, Celie yearns to hear from her and learns eventually that her husband has been keeping her sister's letters from her for years. Her rage at this cruelty, combined with the support of her close friend, Shug, prompts Celie to discover her own strength and fight for her independence.




eyeswereTheir Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
This 1937 classic tells the story of Janie Crawford, a confident, middle-aged black woman, who returns to her Florida hometown after a long absence to find herself the object of her neighbors' gossip. Wanting to set the record straight, she relates the story of her life and loves to an old friend. It is the tale of her three marriages to three very different men and her evolving quest for identity and independence. Janie perseveres through good times and bad, and survives not only a hurricane, but her late husband's attempt on her life, ultimately living life on her own terms.




The Known World by Edward P. Jones
Henry Townsend, a black farmer, bootmaker, and former slave, has an unusual mentor -- William Robbins, perhaps the most powerful man in Virginia's Manchester County. Under Robbins's tutelage, Henry becomes proprietor of his own plantation -- as well as of his own slaves.  Henry is a free black who owns slaves, thus offering another angle on the complexities of slavery and social relations in a Virginia town just before the Civil War. When he dies, his widow, Caldonia, succumbs to profound grief, and things begin to fall apart - the social order of the known world cannot be maintained.



* Maya Angelou, 1978