African American History Month

photo collage of famous African Americans

Celebrating African American History

African American History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in United States history. The event grew out of "Negro History Week," the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as African American History Month. Learn more about African American History Month at

Edmonia Lewis: Did You Know?

photo of Edmonia Lewis

Mary Edmonia "Wildfire" Lewis is considered to be the first internationally renowned African and Native American sculptor. She worked for most of her career in Italy, and gained prominence during the American Civil War. She remained the only African American woman to participate in and be recognized to any degree by the American artistic mainstream. In 2002, the scholar Molefi Kete Asante named Edmonia Lewis on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.

Lewis on Instagram

Learn more about Edmonia Lewis in our latest #ThrowbackThursday post by the California Room.

Sculptures at King Library

three Edmonia Lewis sculptures

San José Public Library proudly owns three sculptures created by Edmonia Lewis:

View these sculptures in person at the California Room, located on the 5th Floor of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library.

San José Public Library Events

Black History Month Trading Cards

Sepia portraits of famous African Americans

Celebrate the accomplishments of African American achievers by creating your own Black History Month Trading Cards.

For ages 6+, multiple events are available: View dates and times.

Black History Month Storytime

Famous black Americans on cards with text over the top: Black History Month

Let's get together for a special storytime as we reflect, celebrate, and learn more about African American History.

A Special Family Storytime: The Rabbit's Wedding and Bunnies' ABCs

Presented by City Lights Theatre Company

A black bunny helps a which bunny put yellow flowers behind its ears

On Wednesday, February 7, 2018, 11:00 AM at Pearl Avenue Branch Library, join actors from the City Lights Theater's Alabama Story, as they present a special reading of The Rabbits' Wedding, which caused waves in the American south in 1959, and Bunnies' ABC.

Discussion & Book Signing: Gather at the Table

Black woman's silhouette, wearing headdress with text: Black History Month

On Thursday, February 22, 2018, 6:00 – 8:00 PM at Joyce Ellington Branch Library, join authors Thomas Norman DeWolf and Sharon Morgan as they share their research on slavery, its impact on their lives, and the implications for people throughout the United States and internationally, followed by a signing of their book: Gather at the Table: The Healing journey of a daughter of slavery and son of a slave owner.

Exhibits & Collections at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection


portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection is a special collection of materials related to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Civil Rights movement. It features books, videos, and audio recordings, all of which can be checked out by library customers. The collection is located on the Third Floor of the King Library and features a special gallery of photos and newspaper clippings, forming a timeline of Dr. King's life.

S.J.S.U. - W.E.B. Du Bois 150th Birthday Exhibition

Now - February 28, 2018

Portrait of W.E.B Du Bois with text: 150th Birthday Exhibition.

This is an exhibit of photographs and materials reflecting on the life of scholar W.E.B. Du Bois, coordinated by Prof. Michael Cheers. Currently on display in the King Library's Cultural Heritage Center through March 2018. Celebrate Black History Month as we recognize one of our most recognized scholars! This exhibit is available during library open hours. There will be a special reception on February 28, 2018 at 12:00 PM, in King Library Room 525.

Discover & Go: Reduced-Price Tickets with Your Library Card

Museum of African Diaspora

Museum of the African Diaspora icon

Learn more about the Museum of the African Diaspora. Free Admission for two people through SJPL's Discover & Go program (children 12 and under are always free). Reserve your tickets through Discover & Go.

De Young Museum

Revelations: Art from the African American South: June 3, 2017 – April 1, 2018

African American Southern artwork of a country scene

Learn more about the de Young Exhibition - Revelations: Art from the African American South and the de Young Museum. Free admission for one person through SJPL's Discover & Go program. Reserve your ticket through Discover & Go.




Curl Up With a Good Book

We have several book selections available for you:

Books for Adults

The Sisters are Alright by Tamara Winfrey HarrisYou Can't Touch My Hair by Phoebe RobinsonThe New Jim Crow by Michelle AlexanderBetween the World and Me

Graphic Novels

March by John LewisKindred by Damian DuffyBlack Panther: World of WakandaRosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott

Young Adult

The Sun is Also a StarThe Color PurpleTheir Eyes Were Watching GodDreamland Burning

Books for Kids

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Doreen RappaportGlory Be by Augusta ScattergoodBack of the BusWhat was the March on Washington?

Local Events by Outside Organizations

Alabama Story by City Lights Theatre Company

January 18 – February 18, City Lights Theatre

City Lights Theatre Company's current production, Alabama Story, is a new play by Kenneth Jones, set in the American South in 1959, when a surprising controversy erupted over The Rabbits' Wedding, a sweet picture book depicting a black rabbit and a white rabbit getting married.

The play honors the work of the book's author, Garth Williams, and the courageous librarian and civil rights activist, Emily Wheelock Reed, who defended the book from being banned.

Special Promo Code

Use promo code "LIBRARIES" when purchasing your tickets for any show between Jan. 18 - Feb. 18, and City Lights will donate $5 to the San José Public Library Foundation. Purchase tickets by calling (408) 295-4200 or order online at

Instagram #ThrowbackThursday

Keep an eye on our @SanJoseLibrary Instagram account for #ThrowbackThursday highlights of local and influential African Americans by the California Room.

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