Celebrate Black History Month with Writers and Readers

Cleveland Public Library is celebrating Black History Month with thought-provoking conversations about race, policing, and civic engagement.

The Library’s Writers & Readers series will return on Saturday, February 27 with a frank conversation between Jelani Cobb and Heather McGhee about Understanding Policing in the 21st Century. Cobb writes for The New Yorker and serves as a journalism professor at Columbia University. He has written several books: The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress, To the Break of Dawn: A Freestyle on the Hip Hop Aesthetic, and The Devil and Dave Chapelle. McGhee is a political commentator, political strategist, regular NBC News contributor, and the author of The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together.

Due to the pandemic, Writers & Readers can be viewed live via Zoom at noon. The series engages authors, academics, and public figures in discussions surrounding the books and stories that have shaped their lives.

For the first time, a virtual workshop will accompany each Writers & Readers event to give participants a platform to seek a greater understanding and find common ground to issues facing our city. The first workshop on Understanding Policing in the 21st Century will be held on Wednesday, February 24 at 6:30 p.m. with civil rights attorneys Terry Gilbert and Gordon Friedman, the founding partners of Friedman, Gilbert, and Gerhardstein which specializes in civil rights and criminal defense. Founder and Lead Attorney James Levin of LegalWorks will moderate the conversation.

“Cleveland Public Library is committed to creating equitable opportunities for our city,” said Dr. Sadie Winlock, Chief Equity, Education, and Engagement Officer at Cleveland Public Library. “Writers & Readers and all workshops will serve as safe spaces for people to learn, grow, and share ideas and thoughts to gain greater understanding and find common ground.”

2021 Writers & Readers Schedule:  

Saturday, February 27Understanding Policing in the 21st CenturyJelani Cobb & Heather McGhee
Saturday, April 17Importance of Civic Education and EngagementEddie Glaude, Jr & Caroline Randall Williams
Saturday, June 12Black America: Owning Your FutureJohn McWhorter & Coleman Hughes

On Saturday, April 17 at noon, Writers & Readers will explore the Importance of Civic Education and Engagement with Eddie Glaude, Jr. and Caroline Randall Williams. Glaude is a columnist for TIME Magazine, MSNBC contributor, and the chair of the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University. His books Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul, and In a Shade of Blue: Pragmatism and the Politics of Black America, take a look at black communities, the difficulties of race in the United States, and the challenges our democracy face.

Williams is an award-winning poet, young adult novelist, and cookbook author as well as an activist, public intellectual, performance artist, and scholar. Her first book, The Diary of B.B. Bright, Possible Princess, won the Harlem Book Fair’s Phillis Wheatley Prize and was a finalist for the NAACP Image Award.

Cleveland Public Library will host Columbia University associate professor and author John McWhorter and author and podcaster Coleman Hughes for a conversation entitled Black America: Owning Your Future on Saturday, June 12 at 12 p.m. McWhorter has written more than a dozen books including The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language, Losing the Race: Self Sabotage in Black America and Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English. He also regularly contributes to newspapers and magazines including The New Republic, Time, and The Atlantic, including his article on how immigrants change languages and an essay on policing the “N-word.”

Hughes writes about race, public policy, and applied ethics and hosts the podcast Conversations with Coleman. In June 2019, Hughes testified before Congress regarding the question of slavery reparations in hearings before the United States House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary.

“This year’s Cleveland Public Library Writers and Readers theme is Justice. We will continue to create platforms for people to listen, learn, and question thought leaders. Our goal is to provide solution-oriented tools that benefit the neighborhoods we serve,” said Felton Thomas, Jr., Executive Director and CEO of Cleveland Public Library.

“We invite all Clevelanders to participate in a Writers & Readers event and engage with the topics raised by our acclaimed group of authors and commentators,” adds Winlock. Registration is required. Interested participants can visit cpl.org/writersreaders21 for more information.


Cleveland Public Library will celebrate 152 years of service during Black History Month. In honor of our anniversary, Library Executive Director and CEO Felton Thomas, Jr. will appear at The City Club’s virtual forum on Wednesday, February 17 at 11:30 a.m. to unveil the Library’s new strategic plan and vision to create a city where opportunity is available to all.  Thomas will be joined by Marsha Mockabee, president and CEO of the Urban League of Cleveland, and Danielle Sydnor, president of the Cleveland Branch of the NAACP, to discuss the historical and racial inequities in Cleveland and how their respective institutions are working to usher in a new era of justice.


Cleveland Public Library is also offering an event to inspire families and promote literacy during Black History Month. Books Like Us! honors African American authors and illustrators through art. Every Wednesday, The Art Therapy Studio will assist children in grades K-5 in exploring books and creating book-inspired art. All classes will be held at 6 p.m. Registration is required. Art supplies will be provided. Families can sign up at cpl.org.

Books Like Us! Schedule:

February 3Black is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy
February 10I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes
February 17Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o
February 24I Am Enough by Grace Byers

Black people have broken barriers and made advancements all over the world in business, art, music, and more. Visit cpl.org to read about the past and present career achievements of prominent African Americans.  

Cleveland Public Library is open to drive-up and walk-up services Monday – Friday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.  The Main Library drive-up window is open on Saturday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. To order your next read, movie, or audiobook by mail, visit cpl.org to learn about our Homebound Service and Words on Wheels program.