The National Museum of African American History and Culture. Photograph by C Watts via Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0).

Exploring Black History Month

February is Black History Month. This month offers an opportunity to explore the histories and cultures of Black people in the United States. The library aims to include these topics in programming and content throughout the year, and this month serves as a chance to focus our efforts.

The origins of Black History Month date to the early 20th century, when historian Carter G. Woodson, in collaboration with other Black advocates and scholars, campaigned for an annual week dedicated to Black history. The organizers scheduled the week for February because it coincided with two dates of significance, particularly for Black Americans: the birthdays of Frederick Douglass, a prominent abolitionist and civil rights advocate, and U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. The first observance enjoyed ample grassroots involvement, and by the mid-20th century the week had gained widespread national attention. In 1976, the federal government officially recognized African American History Month for the first time; the U.S. president has made an annual pronouncement formalizing the month every year since.

Both African American and Black are widely used terms. While the month is also referred to as African American History Month, the library primarily uses Black History Month to stay current with national conversations about terminology. As always with terminology of this nature, it is recommended to defer to the preferences of the person or people who are members of a given community.

Learn | Programs | Educator Resources

Learn about Black History

See below for lists of nonfiction, biographies and memoirs, and contemporary fiction geared toward adult readers and centered around the experiences and perspectives of Black Americans.

For teens, kids, and the youngest readers, below are lists of books that highlight Black history, culture and experiences.

Online resources include:

Programs at the Library

Below you will find a combination of programs designed to coincide with Black History Month and existing series that amplify Black stories and voices.

As part of the series Continuing Conversations on Race, a partnership between the library and Not In Our Town Princeton, Doctoral candidate Kristal C. Langford, lecturer of Black studies and psychology at William Paterson University, will discuss the Lost Souls Public Memorial Project via Zoom on Feb. 6. The presentation highlights the resilience and resistance demonstrated by freed and enslaved Blacks who were sold to the Deep South out of New Jersey in 1818. The presentation also sheds light on the Middlesex County Judge Jacob Van Wickle’s participation in the domestic slave trade. Click here to learn more about the event.

Join us on Feb. 8 as artist Terrance Cummings discusses the inspiration and technique behind the works on display in the Reading Room for Manifesting Love: Prints and Poetry“, an exhibition of uplifting imagery that explores the powerful and transformative force of love in everyday life. The artwork is accompanied by poems of empowerment and passion penned by the legendary Sonia Sanchez. The talk will be held in the Newsroom on the second floor and will be followed by a reception with the artist in the Reading Room. Click here for more information. 

On Feb. 9, the library will host a session of its series Black Voices Book Group. This month, the group will discuss A Quantum Life: My Unlikely Journey from the Street to the Stars” by Hakeem Oluseyi and Joshua Horwitz. In this inspiring coming-of-age memoir, a world-renowned astrophysicist emerges from an impoverished childhood and crime-filled adolescence to ascend through the top ranks of research physics. Alternately heartbreaking and hopeful, this book narrates one man’s remarkable quest across an ever-expanding universe filled with entanglement and choice. Information about how to join is here. The event will take place virtually via Google Meet.

Join us on Feb. 13, 20 and 27 as we screen the first season of “High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America” in the library’s community room. Tastings from local chefs will precede each screening. Please note that registration is requested for each event in the series so that we can plan for food accordingly. To see complete information about the series and to sign up, visit this link

Korey Garibaldi will discuss his recently published book “Impermanent Blackness: The Making and Unmaking of Interracial Literary Culture in Modern America” with Kinohi Nishikawa on Feb. 22 in a hybrid event that begins at 7 pm. Garibaldi, Assistant Professor in the Department of American Studies at the University of Notre Dame, examines and reinterprets in this book the intermittent flourishing of cross-racial industrial print production underpinning the genre now commonly celebrated as African American literature. Click here for more information.


Black History Month 2023: A K-8 Learning Challenge
Learn more about Black history and celebrate Black creators and leaders. Log activities via Beanstack throughout the month to earn badges.


Stop by the third floor on Feb. 25 for a take-home maker activity. Be inspired by the artwork of author and illustrator Christian Robinson using the supplies provided in this month’s Take & Make kit for kids.





For younger learners, join us in the Virtual Story Room as we celebrate and share books created by Black authors and illustrators.

Resources for Educators

See the materials below for potential starting points for engaging learners. You’ll find lesson plans, digital tools, primary source collections, and more.

Content made possible with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities