30+ Important Black History Books for Kids in 2023
If you are looking for Black History books for kids, you’ve come to the right place. Black History Month is so important to celebrate as we all reckon with the deeper underbelly of American history.
It’s important for us to remember and honor individuals that stood up for their beliefs. Martin Luther King, Jr., Barack Obama, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Katherine Johnson, and other leaders of the Black community were pioneers, visionaries, and martyrs.
Teaching our children about what they did for this country and its people is crucial. That education should start at home. We’ve compiled a list of engaging Black history books for kids that aren’t just relevant to the month ahead but are worth reading all year long.
We hope you find the perfect books to share with your littles. If you are considering books for your adult library, we recommend these lists on adult Black history Books.
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Black History Books for Kids
The 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones
The 1619 Project’s lyrical picture book in verse chronicles the consequences of slavery and the history of Black resistance in the United States, thoughtfully rendered by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and Newbery honor-winning author Renée Watson.
A young student receives a family tree assignment in school, but she can only trace back three generations. Grandma gathers the whole family, and the student learns that 400 years ago, in 1619, their ancestors were stolen and brought to America by white slave traders.
But before that, they had a home, a land, a language. She learns how the people said to be born on the water survived.
The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander
Winner of the 2020 Caldecott Medal
A 2020 Newbery Honor Book
Winner of the 2020 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award
The Newbery Award-winning author of THE CROSSOVER pens an ode to black American triumph and tribulation, with art from a two-time Caldecott Honoree.
Originally performed for ESPN’s The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present. Robust back matter at the end provides valuable historical context and additional detail for those wishing to learn more.
Overground Railroad by Lesa Cline-Randsome
A window into a child’s experience of the Great Migration from the award-winning creators of Before She Was Harriet and Finding Langston.
Climbing aboard the New York-bound Silver Meteor train, Ruth Ellen embarks upon a journey toward a new life up North– one she can’t begin to imagine. Stop by stop, the perceptive young narrator tells her journey in poems, leaving behind the cotton fields and distant Blue Ridge mountains.
Each leg of the trip brings new revelations as scenes out the window of folks working in fields give way to the Delaware River, the curtain that separates the colored car is removed, and glimpses of the freedom and opportunity the family hopes to find come into view. As they travel, Ruth Ellen reads from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, reflecting on how her journey mirrors her own– until finally the train arrives at its last stop, New York’s Penn Station, and the family heads out into a night filled with bright lights, glimmering stars, and new possiblity.
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-Winning Stamped from the Beginning by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
This is NOT a history book.
This is a book about the here and now.
A book to help us better understand why we are where we are.
A book about race.
The construct of race has always been used to gain and keep power, to create dynamics that separate and silence. This remarkable reimagining of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning reveals the history of racist ideas in America, and inspires hope for an antiracist future. It takes you on a race journey from then to now, shows you why we feel how we feel, and why the poison of racism lingers. It also proves that while racist ideas have always been easy to fabricate and distribute, they can also be discredited.
Through a gripping, fast-paced, and energizing narrative written by beloved award-winner Jason Reynolds, this book shines a light on the many insidious forms of racist ideas–and on ways readers can identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their daily lives.
The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-Hop by Carole Boston Weatherford
The roots of rap and the history of hip-hop have origins that precede DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash. Kids will learn about how it evolved from folktales, spirituals, and poetry, to the showmanship of James Brown, to the culture of graffiti art and break dancing that formed around the art form and gave birth to the musical artists we know today. Written in lyrical rhythm by award-winning author and poet Carole Boston Weatherford and complete with flowing, vibrant illustrations by Frank Morrison, this book beautifully illustrates how hip-hop is a language spoken the whole world ’round, it and features a foreward by Swizz Beatz, a Grammy Award winning American hip-hop rapper, DJ, and record producer.
Bedtime Inspirational Stories: 50 Amazing Black People Who Changed the World by L.A. Amber
Help your child develop a strong sense of self by following these stories that can equip children with the powerful mantra: We Are Masters of Our Own Destiny.
Bedtime Inspirational Stories… celebrates the achievements of the amazing black women and men who have paved the way for future generations.
Unfortunately, in today’s world, it can be a challenge to raise positive kids, as they are constantly bombarded with negative messages. More than ever, parents and teachers need to create a positive atmosphere for our children in order to help them believe in themselves.
That’s why we’ve proudly created this richly illustrated and inspiring book, Bedtime Inspirational Stories: 50 Amazing Black People Who Changed the World, which highlights the achievements and stories of fifty notable women and men from the 18th century to today. Some were born slaves, some grew up in poverty, and some had physical or emotional challenges. Some were born many years ago, and some are still with us. The stories in the book include those of political activists, scientists, artists, musicians, inventors, businesspeople, Nobel prize winners, and more.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Jacqueline Woodson is the 2018-2019 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature
A President Obama “O” Book Club pick
Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.
Books about Important Figures in Black History
Who Is Barack Obama? by Roberta Edwards
As the world now knows, Barack Obama has made history as our first African-American president. With black-and-white illustrations throughout, this biography is perfect for primary graders looking for a longer, fuller life story than is found in the author’s bestselling beginning reader Barack Obama: United States President.
Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine
A stirring, dramatic story of a slave who mails himself to freedom by a Jane Addams Peace Award-winning author and a Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist.
Henry Brown doesn’t know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves’ birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: He will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday — his first day of freedom.
Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters by Barack Obama
In this tender, beautiful letter to his daughters, President Barack Obama has written a moving tribute to thirteen groundbreaking Americans and the ideals that have shaped our nation. From the artistry of Georgia O’Keeffe, to the courage of Jackie Robinson, to the patriotism of George Washington, President Obama sees the traits of these heroes within his own children, and within all of America’s children.
Breathtaking, evocative illustrations by award-winning artist Loren Long at once capture the personalities and achievements of these great Americans and the innocence and promise of childhood.
This beautiful book celebrates the characteristics that unite all Americans, from our nation’s founders to generations to come. It is about the potential within each of us to pursue our dreams and forge our own paths. It is a treasure to cherish with your family forever.
Children’s Books About Martin Luther King Jr.
A Place to Land by Barry Wittenstein
As a new generation of activists demands an end to racism, A Place to Land reflects on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the movement that it galvanized.
Winner of the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children
Selected for the Texas Bluebonnet Master List
Much has been written about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the 1963 March on Washington. But there’s little on his legendary speech and how he came to write it.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was once asked if the hardest part of preaching was knowing where to begin. No, he said. The hardest part is knowing where to end. “It’s terrible to be circling up there without a place to land.”
I am Martin Luther King, Jr. (Ordinary People Change the World) by Brad Meltzer
We can all be heroes. That’s the inspiring message of this New York Times Bestselling picture book biography series from historian and author Brad Meltzer.
Even as a child, Martin Luther King, Jr. was shocked by the terrible and unfair way African-American people were treated. When he grew up, he decided to do something about it—peacefully, with powerful words. He helped gather people together for nonviolent protests and marches, and he always spoke up about loving other human beings and doing what’s right. He spoke about the dream of a kinder future and bravely led the way toward racial equality in America.
I Have a Dream (Book & CD) by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
A Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book
From Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s daughter, Dr. Bernice A. King: “My father’s dream continues to live on from generation to generation, and this beautiful and powerful illustrated edition of his world-changing “I Have a Dream” speech brings his inspiring message of freedom, equality, and peace to the youngest among us—those who will one day carry his dream forward for everyone.”
On August 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, Martin Luther King gave one of the most powerful and memorable speeches in our nation’s history. His words, paired with Caldecott Honor winner Kadir Nelson’s magnificent paintings, make for a picture book certain to be treasured by children and adults alike. The themes of equality and freedom for all are not only relevant today, 50 years later, but also provide young readers with an important introduction to our nation’s past. Included with the book is an audio CD of the speech.
Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport
This picture-book biography is an excellent and accessible introduction for young readers to learn about one of the world’s most influential leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Doreen Rappaport weaves the immortal words of Dr. King into a captivating narrative to tell the story of his life. With stunning art by acclaimed illustrator Bryan Collier, Martin’s Big Words is an unforgettable portrait of a man whose dream changed America-and the world-forever.
My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King III
What was it like growing up as a son of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? This picture book memoir, My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King III, provides insight into one of history’s most fascinating families and into a special bond between father and son.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Martin Luther King III was one of those four little children mentioned in Martin Luther King’s groundbreaking “I Have a Dream” speech. In this memoir, Martin Luther King Jr.’s son gives an intimate look at the man and the father behind the civil rights leader. Mr. King’s remembrances show both his warm, loving family and a momentous time in American history.
AG Ford is the illustrator of several other books for children, including the New York Times bestselling Barack. He is the recipient of an NAACP Image Award.
Books about Harriet Tubman
She Persisted: Harriet Tubman by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Inspired by the #1 New York Times bestseller She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger comes a chapter book series about women who stood up, spoke up and rose up against the odds!
In this chapter book biography by bestselling and award-winning author Andrea Davis Pinkney, readers learn about the amazing life of Harriet Tubman–and how she persisted.
Born enslaved, Harriet Tubman rose up to become one of the most successful, determined and well-known conductors of the Underground Railroad. With her family’s love planted firmly in her heart, Harriet looked to the North Star for guidance–and its light helped guide her way out of slavery. Her courage made it possible for her to help others reach freedom too.
I Am Harriet Tubman by Brad Meltzer
Harriet Tubman’s heroic and pivotal role in the fight against slavery is the subject of the fourteenth picture book in this New York Times bestselling biography series
This friendly, fun biography series focuses on the traits that made our heroes great–the traits that kids can aspire to in order to live heroically themselves. Each book tells the story of one of America’s icons in a lively, conversational way that works well for the youngest nonfiction readers and that always includes the hero’s childhood influences. At the back are an excellent timeline and photos. This volume focuses on Harriet Tubman’s brave heroism as part of the movement to abolish slavery. As one of the key players in the Underground Railroad, she helped enslaved African Americans escape and find freedom.
Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome
An evocative poem and stunning watercolors come together to honor an American heroine in a Coretta Scott King Honor and Christopher Award-winning picture book.
We know her today as Harriet Tubman, but in her lifetime she was called by many names. As General Tubman she was a Union spy. As Moses she led hundreds to freedom on the Underground Railroad. As Minty she was a slave whose spirit could not be broken. As Araminta she was a young girl whose father showed her the stars and the first steps on the path to freedom.
Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford
This poetic book is a resounding tribute to Tubman’s strength, humility, and devotion. With proper reverence, Weatherford and Nelson do justice to the woman who, long ago, earned over and over the name Moses.
Feminist Black History Books
RESPECT: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul by Carol Boston Weatherford
Winner of the Coretta Scott King Illustration Award! From a New York Timesbestselling author and an acclaimed illustrator comes this vibrant portrait of Aretha Franklin that pays her the R-E-S-P-E-C-T this Queen of Soul deserves.
Aretha Franklin was born to sing. The daughter of a pastor and a gospel singer, her musical talent was clear from her earliest days in her father’s Detroit church where her soaring voice spanned more than three octaves.
Her string of hit songs earned her the title “the Queen of Soul,” multiple Grammy Awards, and a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But Aretha didn’t just raise her voice in song, she also spoke out against injustice and fought for civil rights.
Swing Sisters by Karen Deans
“In 1909 Dr. Laurence Clifton Jones opened a special home for African American orphans in Mississippi called Piney Woods Country Life School. There, students worked hard on their studies, and no one worked harder than the young musicians who played in the Sweethearts, the school’s all-girl swing band. Their music had rhythms and melodies that got people dancing!
When the Sweethearts left Piney Woods, they moved to Washington, D.C., to try to make it to the big-time in an era when integrated musical groups were practically unheard of. It wasn’t always easy, and it wasn’t always safe, but the talented Sweethearts of Rhythm ultimately became an international sensation.
The rhythmic text and exuberant illustrations celebrate these courageous musicians who chipped away at racist and sexist barriers, and whose music reminded audiences how great it feels to be alive.”
Playing to Win by Karen Deans
As a rebellious girl growing up in 1930s Harlem, Althea Gibson was too headstrong to let an opportunity pass her by, thus with her natural tennis skills and a drive to succeed, Althea became great in her sport–breaking down social barriers as an African-American woman who grew to be a world-famous tennis player.
Flying High: The Story of Gymnastics Champion Simone Biles (Who Did It First?) by
A lyrical picture book biography of Simone Biles, gymnastics champion and Olympic superstar.
Before she was a record-breaking gymnast competing on the world stage, Simone Biles spent time in foster care as a young child. Nimble and boundlessly energetic, she cherished every playground and each new backyard.
When she was six years old, Simone’s family took shape in a different way. Her grandparents Ron and Nellie Biles adopted Simone and her sister Adria. Ron and Nellie became their parents. Simone was also introduced to gymnastics that same year, launching a lifelong passion fueled by remarkable talent, sacrifice, and the undying support of her family.
From her athletic early childhood to the height of her success as an Olympic champion, Flying High is the story of the world’s greatest gymnast from author Michelle Meadows and illustrator Ebony Glenn.
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison
Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison
Among these women, you’ll find heroes, role models, and everyday women who did extraordinary things – bold women whose actions and beliefs contributed to making the world better for generations of girls and women to come. Whether they were putting pen to paper, soaring through the air or speaking up for the rights of others, the women profiled in these pages were all taking a stand against a world that didn’t always accept them.
The leaders in this book may be little, but they all did something big and amazing, inspiring generations to come.
Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 by Helaine Becker
The bold story of Katherine Johnson, an African-American mathematician who worked for NASA during the space race and was depicted in the film Hidden Figures.
You’ve likely heard of the historic Apollo 13 moon landing. But do you know about the mathematical genius who made sure that Apollo 13 returned safely home?
Rosa by Nikki Giovanni
Fifty years after her refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus, Mrs. Rosa Parks is still one of the most important figures in the American civil rights movement. This tribute to Mrs. Parks is a celebration of her courageous action and the events that followed.
Award-winning poet, writer, and activist Nikki Giovanni’s evocative text combines with Bryan Collier’s striking cut-paper images to retell the story of this historic event from a wholly unique and original perspective.
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford
A 2016 Caldecott Honor Book
A 2016 Robert F. Sibert Honor Book
A 2016 John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award Winner
Stirring poems and stunning collage illustrations combine to celebrate the life of Fannie Lou Hamer, a champion of equal voting rights.
“I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
Despite fierce prejudice and abuse, even being beaten to within an inch of her life, Fannie Lou Hamer was a champion of civil rights from the 1950s until her death in 1977. Integral to the Freedom Summer of 1964, Ms. Hamer gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention that, despite President Johnson’s interference, aired on national TV news and spurred the nation to support the Freedom Democrats. Featuring vibrant mixed-media art full of intricate detail, Voice of Freedom celebrates Fannie Lou Hamer’s life and legacy with a message of hope, determination, and strength.
Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
Based on the New York Times bestselling book and the Academy Award–nominated movie, author Margot Lee Shetterly and illustrator Laura Freeman bring the incredibly inspiring true story of four black women who helped NASA launch men into space to picture book readers!
Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden were good at math…really good.
They participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes, like providing the calculations for America’s first journeys into space. And they did so during a time when being black and a woman limited what they could do. But they worked hard. They persisted. And they used their genius minds to change the world.
In this beautifully illustrated picture book edition, we explore the story of four female African American mathematicians at NASA, known as “colored computers,” and how they overcame gender and racial barriers to succeed in a highly challenging STEM-based career.
She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World by Chelsea Clinton
Chelsea Clinton introduces tiny feminists, mini activists and little kids who are ready to take on the world to thirteen inspirational women who never took no for an answer, and who always, inevitably and without fail, persisted.
Throughout American history, there have always been women who have spoken out for what’s right, even when they have to fight to be heard. In early 2017, Senator Elizabeth Warren’s refusal to be silenced in the Senate inspired a spontaneous celebration of women who persevered in the face of adversity. In this book, Chelsea Clinton celebrates thirteen American women who helped shape our country through their tenacity, sometimes through speaking out, sometimes by staying seated, sometimes by captivating an audience. They all certainly persisted.
She Persisted is for everyone who has ever wanted to speak up but has been told to quiet down, for everyone who has ever tried to reach for the stars but was told to sit down, and for everyone who has ever been made to feel unworthy or unimportant or small.
With vivid, compelling art by Alexandra Boiger, this book shows readers that no matter what obstacles may be in their paths, they shouldn’t give up on their dreams. Persistence is power.
This book features: Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Clara Lemlich, Nellie Bly, Virginia Apgar, Maria Tallchief, Claudette Colvin, Ruby Bridges, Margaret Chase Smith, Sally Ride, Florence Griffith Joyner, Oprah Winfrey, Sonia Sotomayor—and one special cameo.
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