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Celebrate Black History Month – Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library


The history of the United States of America cannot be told truthfully without black history. However, the official narrative in textbooks and the media has long raised some voices while silencing others. Black History Month was introduced as an effort to set the record straight. During Black History Month we shine a spotlight on the experiences and accomplishments of Black Americans.

Historian Carter G. Woodson believed that sharing the achievements and perspective of black Americans could help reduce prejudice and break down barriers between people. Building on this idea, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) hosted the first Black History Week in 1926. There was immediate excitement and engagement this week. Fifty years later, in 1976, President Ford announced the first month-long celebration as a time to share, listen, and learn. Learn more about Black History Month.

Book events and discussions

Black Cake Reading Together | February 1-28, 2023

In February read and discuss Black cake by Charmaine Wilkerson with the Facebook group Top City Read Together. In February Black Cake will be available continuously on Libby and we will also have more hard copies available. This book is a journey through the life of a family with Caribbean origins. The story shows how the legacy of betrayals, secrets, memories and even names can shape relationships and history.

Read this amazing book and visit our Facebook group throughout the month to talk about the book and share recipes and read-alikes. Email [email protected] for more information or to reserve a copy of the book. If you want to talk about the book in person, join our TALK Book Discussion in the library on February 15 or join us via Zoom. Sign up for a reminder or zoom link or email [email protected].

African American Reading| Sat 4th February | 1:00 pm

The National African American Read-In encourages communities to read African American books and authors. In 1990 the National Council of Teachers of English Black Caucus established Read-In to make literacy a significant part of Black History Month. More than 6 million people worldwide attended the Read-In. We are hosting a local event with the Topeka Chapter of the Links, Inc. on Saturday February 4th at the Marvin Auditorium from 1-3pm.

African Americans in Manhattan, Kansas | Monday February 6 | 18:00-19:00

David Baker will tell his story through the lens of historic Manhattan, Kansas and Yuma St, where he grew up. Yuma St is registered as a historic district. Register for the Zoom link. The Kansas Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (KAAHGS) is hosting this online event.

TALK Discussion of the book: Black Cake | Wed Feb 15 | 19:00-20:30

Let’s talk about Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson. In present-day California, Eleanor Bennett’s death leaves a baffling legacy for her two sons, Byron and Benny. Eleanor leaves them a black cake, made with a family recipe with a long history, and a voice recording. In her message Eleanor shares the tumultuous story of a headstrong young swimmer who fled her island on suspicion of murder. As the heartbreaking story unfolds, Eleanor keeps secrets and unravels the mystery of a long lost little girl. This story challenges everything the brothers thought they knew about their lineage and themselves. Black Cake’s journey through the life of a family with Caribbean roots shows how the legacy of betrayals, secrets, memories and even names can shape relationships and history.

TALK book discussions immerse you in powerful stories and new perspectives. Discuss with an open-minded group in person at the library or virtually (register to connect). Sponsored by Humanities Kansas. Need a book? Email [email protected].

YWCA Racial Justice Book Club | Tue Feb 28 | 19:00-20:30

Engage in thoughtful discussions on racial justice topics. All are welcome. Our February title is Ta-Nehisi Coates’ We Were Eight Years in Power. This book features Coates’ iconic essays first published in The Atlantic, including Fear of a Black President, The Case for Reparations, and The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration.

We Were Eight Years in Power also includes eight new essays that review each year of the Obama administration through Coates’ experiences, observations, and intellectual development. Coates’ closed the book with a bold original assessment of the election that fully illuminated the tragedy of the Obama era. We Were Eight Years in Power is a vital account of modern America from one of the defining voices of this historic moment.

Need a copy of the book? Email [email protected]. Sign up to join this discussion and stay updated on Racial Justice Book Club.

Shades of Greatness | February 24 – May 7, 2023 | Alice C. Sabatini Gallery

Shades of Greatness is a stunning traveling art exhibit from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City featuring works created by local artists inspired by the history of Negro Leagues baseball. This exhibit honors and celebrates African American history and sports and is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Reading that celebrates black history and experiences

Add works by Black authors to your TBR (must read) list year-round to embrace new perspectives, learn the truth about our history, and celebrate Black voices.

View the full list

View the full list

View the full list

View the full list

Miranda Ericsson

Miranda is your readers’ librarian. She loves talking about books and connecting readers with their next great read. Her favorite readings of hers are poetry, literary fiction, and speculative science fiction, and she is passionate about promoting literature written by Kansas authors. She works with library programs that support and engage writers in our community, so ask her for more information about the Local Writers Workshop and the Great Writers Right Here Author Fair. Miranda also facilitates TALK book discussions, co-directs the BookBites book discussion group, and serves as a member of the library’s Top City Reads Together team.

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