February is Black History Month; it’s a time to reflect on the nation’s African-American communities and America’s diversity, a news release said.

“As a matter of fact,” says author, publisher and education advocate, David Bruce Smith, “Black History Month has become a global observance. Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland commemorate the contributions made by their residents and citizens of African descent. But, the whole thing started in the U.S.”

According to the Library of Congress: “The event was first celebrated during a week in February 1926 that encompassed the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.” The commemoration of African-American History was expanded into a one-month observance in February 1976.

“And, what better way to observe the occasion than to pass on the wisdom and knowledge of the past — with a focus on black history — to our children,” says Smith, who co-founded the Grateful American Book Prize with the late Bruce Cole, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

“Our idea was to expose young people to interesting stories that would create a curiosity about America’s history.”

Reading recommendations in the release include:

  • "I know Why The Caged Bird Sings," by Maya Angelou
  • "Letter to My Daughter," by Maya Angelou
  • "Black Like Me," by John Howard Griffin
  • "Up From Slavery," by Booker T. Washington
  • "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass," by Frederick Douglass
  • "To Kill A Mockingbird," by Harper Lee
  • "Moonwalk," by Michael Jackson
  • "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," by Mark Twain
  • "Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years," by Sarah L. Delany and A. Elizabeth Delany

The judges for the 2019 Grateful American Book Prize are accepting submissions for books published between July 1, 2018, and July 31, 2019. Historically accurate books of fiction and nonfiction written for middle-schoolers are eligible for the prize.