Connecting you to Black history

Your public library is here to connect us with each other through books, resources, and experiences that celebrate Black history and culture. On this page, you can:

Watch these videos

My Black History: ‘Black history is the history of humanity itself’

“Black history does not start, nor does it end with slavery; it is boundless and evolving,” says Juanta K. Griffin, Multicultural Learning Coordinator. “Black history is the history of humanity itself, and each of us has much to learn.”

This 40-minute video features history told from the perspective of individuals across the African Diaspora, which were collected by Juanta during a year-long project.

As the Ubuntu word represents the philosophy “I am because we are,” and the Adinkra symbol Sankofa means “using the past as a way to the future, or to retrieve,” these eight community members’ stories give a glimpse of our culture beyond our neighborhoods.

“All of our histories are connected. The humanity of Black history, Haitian history, South African history, Gullah history, Nigerian history, and all of our histories are connected, and focus on the oneness,” says Juanta, “I am because we are.”

A poetic celebration for kids: ‘Like you’re watching a live production’

Updated March 1: This video was only available for a limited time and is no longer viewable.

In Rhyme and Reason, explore Black history—from ancient Africa to today—through music, dance, and performance poetry. The on-demand, virtual program (just click play to get started) is available to everyone, any time through February 28.

Where did this unique program come from? A community member with ties to Express Children’s Theater contacted the library’s Multicultural Learning Coordinator Juanta Griffin and sent her a video of the Rhyme and Reason performance.

“I was instantly brought in by the energy of the performers, the music, and their interaction with each other!” Griffin says. “Although it’s virtual, it feels like you’re watching a live production. The actors really bring the characters to life in a way that makes the subject matter relatable to elementary school-age children.”

Find fiction & nonfiction titles

Browse titles for teens and kids, plus more suggestions for adults related to upcoming virtual programs below. All February, we’ll be suggesting more titles by Black authors (find them all here and on our Title Suggestion Lists page).

More librarian-curated reading lists

Ebooks, digital audiobooks, movies & more

Special exhibit items on display in the Main Library Idea Box

Experience a special exhibit in the Main Library Idea Box (select days & times)

Through Tuesday, March 8. The Brian and ShaRhonda Dawson Collection is an exploration of the African-American experience through cultural and historical artifacts. The special exhibit consists of African artifacts, antique quilts, paintings, first edition books from prominent Black authors, Black political memorabilia, historical documents, and so much more. Our deep gratitude to community members Brian and ShaRhonda Dawson for loaning many of the exhibit items.

To engage and interact with the items, visit the Idea Box during these open hours:

  • Mondays, 11 am-2 pm
  • Tuesdays, 2-5 pm
  • Wednesdays, 2-5 pm
  • Thursdays, 11 am-2 pm
  • Saturdays & Sundays, 12-3 pm

Register for live virtual programs

VIRTUAL: James Baldwin, Black Lives & the Blues: In Conversation With Stan West

Wednesday, February 9, 6:30-8 pm. Join us for a lively and insightful conversation with Oak Park author Stan West on his book about the late, great gay African-American writer James Baldwin in James Baldwin's Black Lives Blues Are Mine. We will talk about James Baldwin, explore Black and LGBTQ issues, and connect to the present-day Black Lives Matter Movement. The program will be moderated by Al Cunningham, a Detroit-based writer with decades of experience in cultural and LGBTQ communities of color. Register now »

Check out these related titles

VIRTUAL: Black History of Early West African Civilizations

Sunday, February 20, 1-2 pm. All ages are invited to learn about the Black history of Early West African Civilizations in this interactive workshop led by ShaRhonda Knott Dawson of Brondihouse. We'll focus on the pre-colonial civilizations: The Ghana Empire and The Mali Empire, and their long-lasting impact on human history, continuing to today. We'll discuss West Africa's economies (gold and salt), the culture (griots and matrilineal society), and highlight the academic powerhouse, Timbuktu, and its impact on world civilization. Register now »

Check out these related titles

VIRTUAL: Keys to a Successful Black-Owned Business Startup

Tuesday, February 22, 1-2 pm. New businesses are on the rise across the United States, particularly in the Black community. If you’re an entrepreneur with a good idea, it might be the right time to finally start your business. Join this educational webinar, presented by Owner and CEO of PKJ Consulting, Phyllis Johnson, who will break down how to plan your startup, grow your business, and succeed in your industry. Presented in partnership with Equitable Foundation and SCORE Chicago. Register now »

Check out these related titles

VIRTUAL: Family, Literacy & Social Justice Speaker Series: Black History Saved My Life: Why Critical Race Theory Is Public Enemy Number 1 in Some Schools

Thursday, February 24, 6-7 pm. Attendees will hear the truth about why critical race theory is being "banned" from an author, history teacher, and TikTok influencer, who's had first-hand experience with the important role Black history—and other liberatory narratives—can play in all of our lives, speaking from the perspective of someone who fought for justice following a hate crime in 2016. Register now »

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