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Abolitionists: Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best children's books about abolitionists?

As you can see, this list of kids books about abolitionists is a work in progress! We’re currently exploring the best books available, and we’d love your input. If you have a title you’d suggest including on our list of kids books about abolitionists, please share it with us!

We’ll be featuring a variety of titles on our list, from well known classics to popular bestsellers to lesser known titles that deserve a bigger audience. We’re also including books for a range of ages, from board books for babies and toddlers, to picture books for preschool and kindergarten age kids, to chapter books for early elementary age kids.

We’d love to hear any book suggestions you have—you can comment below or email us at [email protected].

Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom
Written by Carole Boston Weatherford & illustrated by Michele Wood
picture book
Recommend Ages: 10-13

In a moving, lyrical tale about the cost and fragility of freedom, a New York Times best-selling author and an acclaimed artist follow the life of a man who courageously shipped himself out of slavery.

What have I to fear?
My master broke every promise to me.
I lost my beloved wife and our dear children.
All, sold South. Neither my time nor my body is mine.
The breath of life is all I have to lose.
And bondage is suffocating me.

Henry Brown wrote that long before he came to be known as Box, he “entered the world a slave.” He was put to work as a child and passed down from one generation to the next — as property. When he was an adult, his wife and children were sold away from him out of spite. Henry Brown watched as his family left bound in chains, headed to the deeper South. What more could be taken from him? But then hope — and help — came in the form of the Underground Railroad. Escape!

In stanzas of six lines each, each line representing one side of a box, celebrated poet Carole Boston Weatherford powerfully narrates Henry Brown’s story of how he came to send himself in a box from slavery to freedom. Strikingly illustrated in rich hues and patterns by artist Michele Wood, Box is augmented with historical records and an introductory excerpt from Henry’s own writing as well as a time line, notes from the author and illustrator, and a bibliography.

Words Set Me Free
Written by Lesa Cline-Ransome & illustrated by James E. Ransome
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-9

“Words Set Me Free is the inspiring story of young Frederick Douglass’s path to freedom through reading”—

So Tall Within
Written by Gary D. Schmidt & illustrated by Daniel Minter
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

From celebrated author Gary D. Schmidt comes a picture book biography of a giant in the struggle for civil rights, perfectly pitched for readers today. Sojourner Truth was born into slavery but possessed a mind and a vision that knew no bounds. So Tall Within traces her life from her painful childhood through her remarkable emancipation to her incredible leadership in the movement for rights for both women and African Americans. Her story is told with lyricism and pathos by Gary D. Schmidt, one of the most celebrated writers for children in the twenty-first century, and brought to life by award winning and fine artist Daniel Minter. This combination of talent is just right for introducing this legendary figure to a new generation of children.

Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth
Written by Anne Rockwell & illustrated by R Gregory Christie
picture book
Recommend Ages: 7-10

A powerful picture book biography of one of the abolitionist movement’s most compelling voices.

Sojourner Truth traveled the country in the latter half of the 19th century, speaking out against slavery. She told of a slave girl who was sold three times by age 13, who was beaten for not understanding her master’s orders, who watched her parents die of cold and hunger when they could no longer work for their keep. Sojourner’s simple yet powerful words helped people to understand the hideous truth about slavery. The story she told was her own.

Only Passing Through is the inspiring story of how a woman, born a slave with no status or dignity, transformed herself into one of the most powerful voices of the abolitionist movement. Anne Rockwell combines her lifelong love of history with her well-known skill as a storyteller to create this simple, affecting portrait of an American icon.

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