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Books About Black History for All Ages

February is Black History Month in the US, so I thought it would be a good time to share some books about Africa and Black history that I have found interesting. Today, I’ll cover two very recent books, one for adults and one for younger readers that cover important aspects of Black history.

The first book is A Rope from the Sky : The Making and Umaking of the World’s Newest State by Zach Vertin, which came out in January 2019. South Sudan, Kenya’s neighbor to the north, is one of the world’s newest countries, having separated from Sudan in 2011 and began to disintegrate in civil disputes in 2013. Vertin follows the major figures in the formation and eventual disruption of South Sudan as they achieve the impossible, separating from the country governed from Khartoum created by the British and setting up a new coutnry. But, fighting for independence and governing a modern state are two different tasks requiring different strengths. The picture of South Sudan’s struggles with corruption and the toxic manipulation of ethnic rivalries illustrates the struggles common to many African nations to one degree or another. The book is rather long but quite readable and helped me understand South Sudan and its impact on East Africa much better. Simbolei’s late friend and patron, Lazarus Sumbeiywo makes a brief appearance in the peace negotiation process.


For younger readers, Black History Month is a great time to learn about some stellar figures in science.  One beautiful new picture book tells the story of African American scientist, Ernest Everett Just, a pioneer in the study of cell biology. The pictures in this book are gorgeous and the text describes Just’s life and work in a way that will spark the interest of readers ages 6-11 in cell biology while also discussing the racial discrimination Just faced in his career. The book’s author is Melina Mangal and Luisa Uribe did the beautiful illustrations.

Over the years, many of you have asked me what types of books the Simbolei library will include. Others have asked what books might give good information about East Africa. As I pack up my own library and prepare to ship the books, I will be posting brief descriptions of some favorites here. Happy reading!

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The Great Rift Valley is part of a huge tectonic rift in the earth's crust that also created the Red Sea and the valley of the Jordan River.

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Simbolei Girls Secondary School, Kenya