40 Black History Books to Read with Your Kids

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Did you know that African American inventors are responsible for the modern-day supermarket and cell phone mikes? Or that a nine-year-old was arrested at a Civil Rights protest in 1963? Here are 39 Black History books that celebrate the rich history of Black people in the United States, and Enlighten, encourage and inspire your kids with these titles.



Free at Last

$18 BUY NOW

Do your young ones know the story of Juneteenth? Originating in Texas, this holiday marks the day slaves were finally free: June 19. Told in simple poetic style and couples with beautiful illustrations, this is the perfect book for little readers. Ages: 4-8

 


Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth

$12 BUY NOW

Does your young reader know the story of Juneteenth? Alice Fay Duncan shares the straightforward and inspiring history of Opal Lee and her journey of advocating for this important day to become an official holiday. She toiled until she was 94 years old when Juneteenth was finally acknowledged as a holiday, and has no plans to stop fighting until everyone is free. Illustrations by Keturah A. Bobo. Ages: 6-8


The Faith of Elijah Cummings: The North Star of Equal Justice

$16 BUY NOW

From a young age, Elijah Cummings knew he had obstacles to overcome. Starting with a rally at the age of 11 in his hometown of Baltimore, the young advocate fought for integration. Written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Laura Freeman, readers will follow Elijah as he navigates school, becoming an lawyer, being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and most importantly, serving as a beacon of hope and a leader for justice. Ages: 6-9


Sweet Justice: Georgia Gilmore and the Montgomery Bus Boycott

$14 BUY NOW

It was Dec. 5, 1955 and Georgia Gilmore no longer had to boycott Montgomery, Alabama busses alone. After Rosa Parks was kicked off a local bus, things had to change. With her cooking skills by her side, Georgia uses her love of justice (and her friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) to make sweeping changes for integration in Mara Rockliff’s book, with stunning illustrations by Caldecott Honor Winner, R. Gregory Christie. Ages: 4-8


Speak Up, Speak Out!: The Extraordinary Life of Fighting Shirley Chisholm

$17 BUY NOW

Coretta Scott King Honor Winner Tonya Bolden introduces kids to the first Black woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives: Shirley Chisholm. Expertly researched, this story follows Shirley on her journey on speaking up and out. Ages: 10-14


Black Ballerinas: My Journey to Our Legacy

$15 BUY NOW

Before there was Misty Copeland, there was Aesha Ash, Debra Austin, Raven Wilkinson and so many more. Copeland’s book, told with stunning illustrations by Salena Barnes, shares how each Black ballerina who came before her had an influence on the dance community, and Misty herself. Ages: 8+


Segregated Skies: David Harris’s Trailblazing Journey to Rise Above Racial Barriers

$27 BUY NOW

After serving for years in the United States Air Force as a B-52 bomber pilot, David Harris began applying to be a commercial airline pilot. Although clearly well qualified, he was turned down again and again until, in 1964, American Airlines signed him on, making him the first African American commercial pilot in history. But this was just the beginning of his fight for equality. There are multiple reasons this book is remarkable. The story itself discusses a lesser-known hero in the fight for justice. And, perhaps most importantly, the book itself is exquisitely written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and renowned journalist, Michael H. Cottman who spent more than two years researching, interviewing, and getting to know David E. Harris. Ages: 9-12


The New Black West: Photographs from America’s Only Touring Black Rodeo

$37 BUY NOW

While this is not a children’s book per se, this stunning new collection of photographs is both about Black history and Black history in the making. It belongs on every bookshelf (or coffee table) in America. The collections of full-color photographs by Gabriela Hasbun showcase the modern Black cowboys of the annual Black rodeo in Oakland, the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo. Simultaneously it brings to life the legacy of Black cowboys, including Bill Pickett, in America. All ages.


Little Guides to Great Lives: Nelson Mandela

$10 BUY NOW

One of the newest books in publisher Laurence King’s Little Guides to Great Lives series, the vibrantly illustrated children’s book introduces kids to Nelson Mandela’s journey from political prisoner to president of South Africa. Children will learn to celebrate and emulate this anti-apartheid revolutionary. Ages: 7-11

 

 

Sourcebooks

Me and White Supremacy: Young Readers’ Edition

From the author of the groundbreaking New York Times Bestseller, Me and White Supremacy, Layla Saad’s young readers’ edition aims to arm young people the tools they need to dismantle racism. Children will learn about the historic racism built within our society, as well as understanding just what topics like white privilege, white fragility, racist stereotypes, and cultural appropriation, mean. Empowering, enlightening, and put in terms that will help kids really see the positive role they can play in unraveling systemic racism. Order here (available Feb. 1).

Recommended age: 10-16

Golden Books

My Little Golden Book About Kamala Harris

The beloved “My Little Golden Book” series celebrates the history-maker Kamala Harris, the first woman, first African American Woman, and first Indian American woman elected as Vice President. The simple format is ideal for young children. Order here

Recommended age: 2-5

Simon & Schuster

Bold Words from Black Women

his collection from Tamara Pizzoli celebrates Black womanhood with Monica Ahanonu’s 50 different gorgeous illustrations of 50 different Black activists, leaders, and artists, all accompanied with powerful quotes. Order yours now.

Recommended age: 0 and up 

 

The 1619 Projects – Born on the Water

This picture book is a kid-appropriate version of the New York Times’ groundbreaking 1619 project. Created by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones, bestselling author Renée Watson, and Artivist Nikkolas Smith, it chronicles the consequences of slavery in America. Pre-order it here

Recommended age: 7-10

Bloomsbury Children’s Books

A Voice Named Aretha

In this gorgeous picture book by award-winning Author Katheryn Russell-Brown and illustrator Laura Freeman, kids are introduced to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. The story follows the life of Franklin as she overcomes shyness as a child to the legend she became, and she earned a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T along the way. Get it here.

Recommended age: 4-8

Books for Kids About Racism
Harry N. Abrams

A Ride to Remember

The summer of 1963 was an important time in America. Not only did Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington take place, but the Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Maryland became desegregated and open to everyone. As the first African-American child to ride the carousel at the park that day, co-author Sharon Langley shares her story in this new book all about how a community came together for positive change. Buy it now on amazon.com.

Recommended age: 6-9

Versify

The Undefeated

A poem about the reality of slavery and all of its trauma, the power of the civil rights movement and the determination of some of our country’s greatest heroes, this historical book is a must for your bookshelf.  Kids will not only get a deeper insight into an integral period of our nation’s history but learn the words of change-makers like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gwendolyn Brooks. Get a copy here.

Recommended age: 6-9

Little Brown Library

A Computer Called Katherine

African-Americans didn’t have the same rights as others, and Katherine Johnson knew that was wrong. As wrong as 5+5=12. And in A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon, Katherine fights for equality as she surpassed her classmates and went on to make history by helping NASA to put America’s first manned flight into space and the world’s first trip to the moon. Buy it now on amazon.

Recommended age: 6-9
 
 

Books for Kids About Racism
Macmillan

Black Is a Rainbow Color

When debut author Angela Joy set out to teach her children their first Black History lesson she was not expecting her preschooler to say, “But Mama, we’re not black, we’re brown.” It was then that she realized that she wanted her children, and all children, to understand that being Black was about culture as much as color. Vibrant, stained-glass-like artwork by Coretta-Scott King Award-winning illustrator Ekua Holmes accompanies Joy’s poetic text as we join a little girl on a journey to discover all the wonderful things that Black is. Includes a suggested playlist as well as an expanded explanation of the historical references in the text to allow parents to explain Black history to their kids. It’s an exceptionally designed, written and thoughtful new book appropriate for kids of all ages and ethnicities. Get your copy here

Recommended age: Suggested age, 4-8, but we think even older kids can benefit from this book due to the important historical talking points at the back of the book

Books for Kids About Racism
Sterling Publishers

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks

Celebrate the life and voice of poet Gwendolyn Brooks with this thoughtful story that combines Brooks’ legacy with her life story. Known for being one of the most foremost poets on the Black experience and the role of women in society, Gwendolyn Brooks went from a young child writing all the time to become the first Black author to win the Pulitzer Prize and authoring 20 books of poetry, two autobiographies and one novel. Celebrated author and children’s librarian Alice Faye Duncan makes Brooks come to life on the page for the young reader. Find a copy here

Recommended age: 5 and up 

Penguin Random House

The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA

Written by Coretta Scott King Honor-winning author Brenda Woods, The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA tells the story of a unique friendship between a young white boy and a black WWII veteran. Mr. Meriwether Hunter returns to Jim Crow South in 1946. When he saves little Gabriel’s life during a bike accident, Gabriel’s father offers Meriwether a job as a mechanic at their family garage. Gabriel and Meriwether form a friendship that endures in spite of the extreme prejudices in the world around them. A beautiful read. Get it here.

Recommend age: 10 and up

Chronicle Books

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville

Little Alta is the quickest kid in Clarksville, Tennessee, and tomorrow is the big parade where three-time Olympic gold medalist Wilma Rudolph will be riding on a float. Just like Alta, Wilma was once the quickest kid in Clarksville, and just like Alta, Wilma once had holes in her shoes. What will happen when a new girl comes to town, a new girl with shiny brand new shoes, and challenges Alta to a race? This clever story teaches kids about Wilma Rudolph and the power of dreams and grit, in a manner that they’ll get (and remember). Get your copy here.

Recommended age: 5-8

Books for Kids About Racism
Little Brown/Hatchett

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History

This little book packs a big punch! Featuring forty trailblazing women in African-American history, each entry is accompanied by a beautiful illustration. From pilot Bessie Coleman to crooner Nina Simone to poets, inventors, athletes and more, this book will inspire children of any gender to be bold, beautiful and make history. Get it here.

Recommended ages: 3 and up, but we think you should read it to your baby. 

Penguin Random House

Starstruck: The Cosmic Journey of Neil deGrasse Tyson

As a young boy, Neil deGrasse Tyson was starstruck when he first visited his local planetarium in New York City. His quest for knowledge knew no bounds and this is the story of how young Neil went from stargazer to one of the most respected astrophysicists in the world. Beautifully illustrated, excellent for young readers. Find your copy here

Recommended age: 4-8

We Are the Change: Words of Inspiration from Civil Rights Leaders

Sixteen award-winning children’s book artists illustrate the civil rights quotations that inspire them in this amazing book. With an introduction by Harry Belafonte, words from Eleanor Roosevelt, Maya Angelou, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the book includes illustrations by Selina Alko, Alina Chau, Lisa Congdon, Emily Hughes, Molly Idle, Juana Medina, Innosanto Nagara and many, many more. Order it here.

Recommended age: 8-12

Chronicle Books

Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten

Singer-songwriter Laura Veirs brings the story of the folk singer Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten to life in this beautiful book illustrated by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. Libba, best known for the song g Freight Train, taught herself to play guitar as a child: upside down and backward no less (Libba was left-handed and did not have a left-handed guitar). She wrote the song Freight Train when she was just 13 but wasn’t really “discovered” until she was in her 60s. Learn about the woman behinds the song and teach your children that creativity and productivity are important no matter your age. Find it here.

Recommended age: 5-8

Martin Luther King: The Peaceful Warrior

Originally published in 1964, this new edition is as important and relevant today as it was then. It features a foreword from the Xernona Clayton, the wife of the late author Ed Clayton, as well as illustrations by Donald Bermudez, who had close ties to Dr. King’s family. Learn the message of equality and all about the man behind the message, his early life and career. An excellent example of what it really is to be a true and powerful leader. Get your copy now. 

Recommend ages: 8-12

Books for Kids About Racism
Simon & Schuster

You Should Meet: Katherine Johnson

Who was Katherine Johnson? This brand new hardcover book will tell you: she is said to be one of the greatest minds of all time! She worked in the 1950s for the NASA space program and was such a brilliant mathematician that she figured out the math needed to send a rocket to the moon in her head. She didn’t even use a computer or a calculator. This book will teach kids about her early life as a child growing up in a small town in Virginia that didn’t even have a high school for African Americans (schools were segregated then), how her family moved to a town with a high school she could attend, and her incredible career as a scientist and mathematics marvel. Find a copy here.  

Recommended age: 6-8

Books for Kids About Racism
Candlewick Press

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library

Afro-Puerto Rican immigrant and hero Aturo Schomburg was a law clerk with a passion: he collected books, letters, art and music from Africa and the African diaspora. When the collection got too big for his own shelves, he turned to the New York Public Library where, in 1905, he curated a collection known then as the “Negro Division.” Not only does this book take you through the life and times of the amazing Arturo Schomburg, but it also details critical and often overlooked African Americans and African American history throughout major events in the forming of the United States of America, including revolutionaries, the woman who wrote poems in praise of George Washington, the powerful writings of Frederick Douglass and the whitewashing of African history. A must-read for kids from all walks of life. Find your copy today. 

Recommended age: 9-12

Chronicle Books

Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans

This heartwarming book tells the story of a real garbage man who took care of the city streets of New Orleans. He danced in the streets, and the barbers, bead twirlers and beignet bakers followed him in a one-man parade; then came Hurricane Katrina. Find out how this humble man made a lasting impact in the aftermath. Get it here.

Recommended age: 5-8

Books for Kids About Racism
Candlewick Press

42 Is Not Just a Number: The Odyssey of Jackie Robinson, American Hero

Jackie Robinson was an all-star from a young age: baseball, basketball, football, he excelled. With talent like that, it seemed likely he’d go pro except for one thing: the color of his skin. So Jackie joined the Negro Leagues, setting records and impressing the manager of the major league team, the Brooklyn Dodgers. In 1946, Jackie became the first African American EVER to play in MLB. He faced cruelty, protests and violence. But he persisted: he displayed courage, determination, restraint and an incredible ability to win the game. This detailed chapter book will help parents and kids alike to remember never to give up. Buy it now

Recommended ages: 8-12

Books for Kids About Racism

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans

If you want to talk about Black History with your kids, this book will take you back to the beginning. Told from the point of view of a 100-year-old African-American woman, Heart and Soul takes kids on a journey through the history of slavery to Jim Crow laws to the quest for equality and freedom in our schools and beyond. It teaches them about the reality and the inspiring truth: the men, women and children of all colors who rallied to change education laws and end segregation and who fight still for truth, justice and the true American way. Kadir Nelson is an award-winning author and illustrator, whose honors include the Coretta Scott King Author and Illustrator Award. Find it here

Recommended age: 6–10

Books for Kids About Racism
Barnes & Noble

I Am Harriet Tubman

Brad Meltzer’s latest release (Jan. 16) in his Ordinary People Change the World series, we learn the story of Harriet Tubman and her bravery as she fought to abolish slavery. She helped hundreds of African Americans escape slavery and find freedom through the Underground Railroad and is and this is one book that will inspire your kids to become heroes themselves. Find it here.

Recommended age: 5-8

Books for Kids About Racism

Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters

Written by President Barack Obama as a letter to his own daughters, this is the story of 13 key players in American history. From Jackie Robinson to Georgia O’Keefe to George Washington,  Obama illustrates how his own children—and all kids—have these heroic traits in themselves. Uplifting and encouraging, your kids will gain an understanding of the history of the United States and know that “yes!” they can. Illustrated by Loren Long. Click here to find your copy.

Recommended age: 5 and up

Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Both a picture book and a biography, this intro to the life, times and actions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a bestseller for a reason. Illustrated with stunning, lush pictures by Bryan Collier, author Doreen Rappaport has hit the sweet spot with telling the true history, making a book kids won’t want to put down. Shop here for your fam’s copy.

Recommended age: 5–8 years

Books for Kids About Racism

Maya Angelou (Little People, Big Dreams)

Like the “I Am” series, the Little People, Big Dreams series explores amazing men and women of history, from artists to scientists to activists, teaching kids that one person can make a difference. This book covers the inspiring Maya Angelou’s journey, from a traumatic childhood to one of the world’s best-loved authors. If you thought you knew who Maya Angelou is, you are in for a treat: this book will leave you even more in awe than you already were. Written by Lisbeth Kaiser and illustrated by Leire Salaberria. Buy it here.

Recommended age: 5–8 years

Making Changes: Poems About Great African Americans

This collection tells the story of influential African Americans through poetry. From Gwendolyn Brooks to Thurgood Marshall to Mae Jemison, each poem gives kids a memorable and relatable description of the important contribution of these individuals. Photos throughout. Written by Dina Anastasio. Find out more at Reading A-Z. 

Recommended age: 8–10 years

Books for Kids About Racism

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist

was arrested! Cynthia Levinson brings this true tale of the youngest known child to be arrested at a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama. Kids will cheer for Audrey, equality and the rights of all children. Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton. Order your copy here

Recommended age: 5–10

What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors

Co-authored by NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, learn about 16 inventors who not only broke the color barrier, they created some of the most widely used and extraordinary things in the world. From refrigerated trucks to the ice cream scoop to open-heart surgery, join Kareem and his team as you explore the history you use every day. Co-authored by Raymond Obstfeld and illustrated by Ben Boos and A.G. Ford. Find it now

Recommended age: 8–12

Amazon

I Am Rosa Parks

You are never too young to learn about real-life heroes and Brad Meltzer’s “I Am” series proves it. I Am Rosa Parks shows kids how Rosa Parks dared to stand up for herself by staying seated and refusing to give up her seat. Not only will they learn about her courage and her role in helping to end bus segregation and fight for Civil Rights, but they will also be empowered with the idea that one person, one small act, can change the world. Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos. Also in the collection are I Am Jackie Robinson and I Am Martin Luther King Jr. Order your copy here.

Recommended age: 5–8

Books for Kids About Racism
Chronicle Books

Loving vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case

This book for older readers tells the story of a landmark civil rights case. Richard and Mildred Loving met in 1955 in Caroline County, Virginia, during a time when segregation, prejudice,  injustice and cruelty were the norm. They fell in love and their love was at the heart of the Supreme Court case that legalized marriages between races. Get your copy here. 

Recommended age: 12 and up

—Amber Guetebier, Karly Wood & Gabby Cullen

All book covers courtesy Publishers unless otherwise specified; photo of Mae Jemison courtesy Wikimedia commons.

 

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