11 Powerful Graphic Novels To Read This Black History Month
Every winter for the last 91 years, February has been known as a time to celebrate black Americans, first during a week-long event, and later, a month-long commemoration. While there are a million ways to honor the annual celebration, from watching inspiring documentaries about the Civil Rights movement or listening to the moving words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., you can't go wrong with reading graphic novels for Black History Month. It's a fun, immersive, and beautiful way to learn about and recognize the accomplishments of black Americans throughout time, and it just might change the way you see history.
When you think about history, you probably think about academic writing, scholarly articles, and that mean teacher you had in elementary school (trust me, we all had one). But history is so much more than what we learn in K-12, and that is especially true when it comes to black history. The true stories of black Americans are far too often overlooked and neglected, even left out of the history books entirely. But February, Black History Month, is a chance to change that by not just simply celebrating, but educating, yourself about the incredible accomplishments of Black Americans across the country, and throughout time.
As part of your own self-guided celebration this year, make sure you check out some of these beautiful and powerful graphic novels for Black History Month. You will never see it the same way again.
1. 'March: Book One' by John Lewis
Written by American civil rights icon and American Congressman, March chronicles the remarkable life of John Lewis. From an Alabama sharecropper's farm to a segregated school to the 1963 March on Washington to the halls of Congress and everywhere in between, this graphic novel weaves the unforgettable true tale of one of our history's most important leaders.
2. 'Still I Rise: A Graphic History of African Americans' by Roland Laird with Taneshia Nash Laird
Featuring black icons such as Barack Obama to Martin Luther King, Jr., Still I Rise attempts to chronicle the entire history of Black America in one collected work. A critically acclaimed piece of graphic history, this is a powerful celebration of the black American heart and soul.
3. 'Nat Turner' by Kyle Baker
In this critically acclaimed graphic novel, readers travel back in time to Virginia 1831, where Nat Turner led a slave rebellion that changed American history forever. Nat Turner explores not only the haunting story of the rebellion's leader and those that fought beside him, but the horrible history of slavery in the United States. A visual tour de force, this is one graphic history you do not want to miss.
4. 'The Harlem Hellfighters' by Max Brooks
From bestselling World War Z author Max Brooks comes the Harlem Hellfighters, a stunning graphic novel about the 369th infantry regiment, an all black, barrier-breaking regiment in World War I. An intense story of bravery, camaraderie, and heroism in the face of racial injustice, this is a powerful piece of American history every citizen should get to know.
5. 'Strange Fruit: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History' by Joel Christian Gill
A collection of inspiring but often untold stories of African American history told in graphic form, Strange Fruit accomplished exactly what Black History Month sets out to do: bring to light the often ignored accomplishments of black people throughout our country's history. Featuring the real stories of heroes like Marshall "Major" Taylor, the first black champion of any sport, and Bass Reeves, a successful lawman of the Old West, Strange Fruit is a delightful read worthy of diving into this February.
6. 'Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation' by Octavia E. Butler
OK, so it may not be nonfiction, but this graphic novel adaptation of Octavia E. Butler's Kindred is the exact kind of book you should be reading to celebrate Black History Month. A literary masterpiece from one of the most prolific black female writers of all time, Kindred explores the history and violence of slavery in the United States by means of time travel between worlds. In graphic form, this powerful novel packs an even bigger punch.
7. 'Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty' by G. Neri
Based on the heartbreaking true story of an 11-year-old boy in Chicago who was both the perpetrator and the victim of gang-related violent crime, Yummy is a gritty and poignant work that sheds a light on the lives of inner city youth. In it, a young boy, Roger, tries to understand the violence around him by making sense of his classmates cruel fate, and in turn unearths devastating questions about good, evil, right, and wrong.
8. 'Abina and the Important Men: A Graphic History' by Trevor R. Getz and Liz Clarke
While it isn't based in America, Abina and the Important Men tells the powerful story of a West African woman who was wrongfully enslaved, and who won her freedom by taking her case to the court. Set on the Gold Coast circa 1867, this masterfully illustrated graphic novel uses court documents to retell Abina's incredible true tale of bravery, grit, hope, and the power of a woman's will to survive.
9. 'Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography' by Andrew Helfer
In this well-researched, boldly drawn graphic biography, readers get an intimate look at the life and work of Malcolm X, one of the most celebrated and controversial black activists of all time. Starting from his days as a young black man living under the oppression of Jim Crow America and ending with his tragic assassination, Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography will show you a side of famed figure you never know, and change the way you look at his history forever.
10. 'Best Shot in the West: The Adventures of Nat Love' by Patricia C. McKissack and Fredrick L. McKissack
The unbelievable life of the most famous African American cowboy comes to life on the pages of Best Shot in the West, a graphic novel about Nat Love. A fun historical fiction book told in bold prose and even bolder illustration, this is a high-action read you won't be able to put down.
11. 'Black History in Its Own Words' by Ron Wimberly
Bold and beautiful, Black History in Its Own Words takes inspirational quotes from dozens of black leaders, heroes, and role models and turns them into gorgeous works of art. Featuring the words of Angela Davis, James Baldwin, Zadie Smith, and more, this is the perfect little book for your Black History Month celebration.