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Black History: Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best kids books about Black history?

Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to Black history. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about Black history.

Our list includes board books, picture books, and chapter books. Board books are best for babies and toddlers from ages newborn to 2 or 3. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid, and you can also use our table of contents to jump to particular topics you think your kid will enjoy.

When it comes to children’s stories about Black history, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like An Apple for Harriet Tubman to popular sellers like New Kid to some of our favorite hidden gems like Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr..

We hope this list of kids books about Black history can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book! As you explore the list, please comment below to let us know what books you would add.

Top 10 Books About Black History

What Is Given from the Heart book
#1
What Is Given from the Heart
Written by Patricia C. McKissack & illustrated by April Harrison
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

This final, magnificent picture book from three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner and Newbery Honor author Patricia McKissack is a poignant and uplifting celebration of the joy of giving.

“Misery loves company,” Mama says to James Otis. It’s been a rough couple of months for them, but Mama says as long as they have their health and strength, they’re blessed. One Sunday before Valentine’s Day, Reverend Dennis makes an announcement during the service— the Temples have lost everything in a fire, and the church is collecting anything that might be useful to them. James thinks hard about what he can add to the Temple’s “love box,” but what does he have worth giving? With her extraordinary gift for storytelling, McKissack—with stunning illustrations by Harrison—delivers a touching, powerful tale of compassion and reminds us all that what is given from the heart, reaches the heart.

Maya Angelou book
#2
Maya Angelou
Written by Lisbeth Kaiser & illustrated by Leire Salaberria
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

Meet Maya Angelou, the world’s most beloved writer and speaker! Now available as a board book in the Little People, Big Dreams series, this inspiring and informative little biography follows the life of Maya Angelou, from her early traumatic childhood to her time as a singer, actress, civil rights campaigner and, eventually, one of America’s most beloved writers of poetry, memoirs, and essays. With stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, this empowering series celebrates the important life stories of wonderful women of the world. From designers and artists to scientists, all of them went on to achieve incredible things, yet all of them began life as a little child with a dream. These books make the lives of these role models accessible for children, providing a powerful message to inspire the next generation of outstanding people who will change the world!

I Have a Dream book
#3
I Have a Dream
Written by & illustrated by Kadir Nelson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

Presents the text of the famous speech given on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. by Martin Luther King, Jr., complemented by paintings illustrating the ideals the civil rights leader described.

Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott book
#4
Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott
Written by Dee Romito & illustrated by Laura Freeman
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

This stunning picture book looks into the life of Georgia Gilmore, a hidden figure of history who played a critical role in the civil rights movement and used her passion for baking to help the Montgomery Bus Boycott achieve its goal. Georgia decided to help the best way she knew how. She worked together with a group of women and together they purchased the supplies they needed-bread, lettuce, and chickens. And off they went to cook. The women brought food to the mass meetings that followed at the church. They sold sandwiches. They sold dinners in their neighborhoods. As the boycotters walked and walked, Georgia cooked and cooked. Georgia Gilmore was a cook at the National Lunch Company in Montgomery, Alabama. When the bus boycotts broke out in Montgomery after Rosa Parks was arrested, Georgia knew just what to do. She organized a group of women who cooked and baked to fund-raise for gas and cars to help sustain the boycott. Called the Club from Nowhere, Georgia was the only person who knew who baked and bought the food, and she said the money came from “nowhere” to anyone who asked. When Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested for his role in the boycott, Georgia testified on his behalf, and her home became a meeting place for civil rights leaders. This picture book highlights a hidden figure of the civil rights movement who fueled the bus boycotts and demonstrated that one person can make a real change in her community and beyond. It also includes one of her delicious recipes for kids to try with the help of their parents!

When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree book
#5
When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree
Written by Jamie L. B. Deenihan & illustrated by Lorraine Rocha
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-8

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” In this imaginative take on that popular saying, a child is surprised to receive a lemon tree from Grandma for her birthday. After all, she DID ask for a new gadget! But when she follows the narrator’s careful—and funny—instructions, she discovers that the tree might be exactly what she wanted after all.

Rosa Parks book
#6
Rosa Parks
Written by Lisbeth Kaiser & illustrated by Marta Antelo
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

New in the Little People, Big Dreams series, discover the incredible life of Rosa Parks, ‘ The Mother of the Freedom Movement’, in this inspiring story. In this true story of an inspiring civil rights activist, Rosa Parks grew up during segregation in Alabama, but she was taught to respect herself and stand up for her rights. In 1955, Rosa refused to give up her seat to a white man on a segregated bus, sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Her decision had a huge impact on civil rights, eventually leading to the end of segregation on public transport. With stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, this empowering series celebrates the important life stories of wonderful women of the world. From designers and artists to scientists, all of them went on to achieve incredible things, yet all of them began life as a little child with a dream. These books make the lives of these role models accessible for children, providing a powerful message to inspire the next generation of outstanding people who will change the world!

New Kid book
#7
New Kid
Written & illustrated by Jerry Craft
Thoughts from Mom of Boys

I read this book to my five and seven year olds. They are still innocent to the prejudices of the world. They see all people with equality and don’t understand why we would look down on others because of skin color. I love this about children and want to keep them that way as long as possible so I did skip over a few racial comments that might have tainted their view. All three of us really enjoyed reading this book. It showed insecurities that each of the characters had and portrayed racism from each of their points of view. It had me laughing and feeling so grateful for good kids, good choices and good friends.

chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier and Gene Luen Yang, New Kid is a timely, honest graphic novel about starting over at a new school where diversity is low and the struggle to fit in is real, from award-winning author-illustrator Jerry Craft.

Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade.

As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds—and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself?

Big Papa and the Time Machine book
#8
Big Papa and the Time Machine
Written by Daniel Bernstrom & illustrated by Shane W. Evans
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

Big Papa takes his grandson on a loving, heartfelt, and relatable journey through his past experiences to help his grandson acknowledge his feelings and inspire bravery. I love Big Papa’s kind, authentic, and pure sharing with his grandson, as well as the example of how family history and family members can strengthen, share, and buoy up family members. Overall, a beautiful book full of history, tender feelings, love, and beautiful illustrations that are somehow soft and vibrant all at once.

picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Discover the true meaning of being brave in this tender and whimsical picture book from Daniel Bernstrom (One Day in the Eucalytus, Eucalyptus Tree) and Shane Evans (Chocolate Me!) that follows a grandfather and grandson who travel through time in a beloved 1952 Ford.

A little boy who lives with his grandpa isn’t reprimanded for being afraid to go to school one day. Instead, Big Papa takes him away in his time machine—a 1952 Ford—back to all of the times when he, himself, was scared of something life was handing him.

Full of heartfelt moments and thrilling magical realism, Big Papa and the Time Machine speaks to the African American experience in a touching dialogue between two family members from different generations, and emerges as a voice that shares history and asks questions about one family’s experience in 20th-century black America.

*“Wasn’t you scared?”

“Oh, I was scared,” Big Papa said. “Sometimes you gotta walk with giants if you ever gonna know what you made of. That’s called being brave.”*

Before She Was Harriet book
#9
Before She Was Harriet
Written by Lesa Cline-Ransome & illustrated by James E. Ransome
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A lush and lyrical biography of Harriet Tubman, written in verse. An evocative poem and opulent watercolors come together to honor a woman of humble origins whose courage and compassion make her larger than life.

I Am Rosa Parks book
#10
I Am Rosa Parks
Written by Brad Meltzer & illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

Recounts Rosa Parks’ daring effort to stand up for herself and other African Americans by helping to end segregation on public transportation.

Table of Contents
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Books About Black History and Antiracism

The Undefeated
Written by Kwame Alexander & illustrated by Kadir Nelson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

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.

I Have a Dream
Written by & illustrated by Kadir Nelson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

Presents the text of the famous speech given on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. by Martin Luther King, Jr., complemented by paintings illustrating the ideals the civil rights leader described.

A Ride to Remember: A Civil Rights Story
Written by Sharon Langley and Amy Nathan & illustrated by Floyd Cooper
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

The true story of how a ride on a carousel made a powerful Civil Rights statement
 
_A Ride to Remember_ tells how a community came together—both black and white—to make a change. When Sharon Langley was born in the early 1960s, many amusement parks were segregated, and African-American families were not allowed entry. This book reveals how in the summer of 1963, due to demonstrations and public protests, the Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Maryland became desegregated and opened to all for the first time. Co-author Sharon Langley was the first African-American child to ride the carousel. This was on the same day of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Langley’s ride to remember demonstrated the possibilities of King’s dream. This book includes photos of Sharon on the carousel, authors’ notes, a timeline, and a bibliography.

Honorable Mentions
  1. So Tall Within - 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.

  2. Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe - Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. On the outside, you couldn’t find two girls who looked more different. But on the inside, they were alike—full of hopes and dreams and plans of what might be. Ella Fitzgerald’s velvety tones and shube-doobie-doos captivated audiences. Jazz greats like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington couldn’t wait to share the stage with her, but still, Ella could not book a performance at one of the biggest clubs in town—one she knew would give her career its biggest break yet. Marilyn Monroe dazzled on the silver screen with her baby blue eyes and breathy boo-boo-be-doos. But when she asked for better scripts, a choice in who she worked with, and a higher salary, studio bosses refused. Two women whose voices weren’t being heard. Two women chasing after their dreams and each helping the other to achieve them. This is the inspiring, true story of two incredibly talented women who came together to help each other shine like the stars that they are.

  3. As Good As Anybody - A Baptist preacher from Atlanta. A rabbi born in Poland. Their names came to stand for the struggle for justice and equality. Martin Luther King Jr. grew up in a loving family in the American South, at a time when many of this country’s doors were closed to African Americans. He aimed to open those doors. He became a minister like his daddy, and he preached and marched for his cause. Abraham Joshua Heschel grew up in a loving family in a Europe that did not welcome Jews. He found a new home in America, where he was a rabbi like his father, carrying a message of peace and acceptance. Martin put out a call for others to join him. Abraham knew he must answer Martin’s call. Here is the story of how two men formed a remarkable friendship and turned their personal experiences of discrimination into a message of love and equality for all.

  4. Voice of Freedom - A collage-illustrated collection of poems and spirituals inspired by the life and work of civil rights advocate Fannie Lou Hamer.

Want to see books about antiracism?

Books About Black History and Female Role Models

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History
Written by Vashti Harrison
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-11

A NEW YORK TIMES INSTANT BESTSELLER!A USA TODAY BESTSELLER! This beautifully illustrated book introduces readers of all ages to 40 women who changed the world. Featuring forty trailblazing black women in American history, Little Leaders educates and inspires as it relates true stories of breaking boundaries and achieving beyond expectations. Illuminating text paired with irresistible illustrations bring to life both iconic and lesser-known female figures of Black history such as abolitionist Sojourner Truth, pilot Bessie Coleman, chemist Alice Ball, politician Shirley Chisholm, mathematician Katherine Johnson, poet Maya Angelou, and filmmaker Julie Dash. Among these biographies, readers will 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.

Maya Angelou
Written by Lisbeth Kaiser & illustrated by Leire Salaberria
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

Meet Maya Angelou, the world’s most beloved writer and speaker! Now available as a board book in the Little People, Big Dreams series, this inspiring and informative little biography follows the life of Maya Angelou, from her early traumatic childhood to her time as a singer, actress, civil rights campaigner and, eventually, one of America’s most beloved writers of poetry, memoirs, and essays. With stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, this empowering series celebrates the important life stories of wonderful women of the world. From designers and artists to scientists, all of them went on to achieve incredible things, yet all of them began life as a little child with a dream. These books make the lives of these role models accessible for children, providing a powerful message to inspire the next generation of outstanding people who will change the world!

Maya Angelou
Written by Lisbeth Kaiser & illustrated by Leire Salaberria
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

In the Little People, Big Dreams series, discover the lives of outstanding people from designers and artists to scientists. All of them went on to achieve incredible things, yet all of them began life as a little child with a dream. The book follows Maya Angelou, from her early traumatic childhood to her time as a singer, actress, civil rights campaigner and, eventually, one of America’s most beloved writers. This inspiring and informative little biography comes with extra facts about Maya’s life at the back.

Honorable Mentions
  1. Little Guides to Great Lives: Maya Angelou - Maya Angelou was an African-American author, poet, playwright, and civil rights activist. She wrote seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and a long list of plays, movies, and television shows. Never taking ‘No’ for an answer, Maya used her voice and her art to overcome prejudice and difficulty and to become an inspiration to those around her and to future generations.

  2. The Girl with a Mind for Math - Meet Raye Montague—the hidden mastermind who made waves in the U.S. Navy! After touring a German submarine in the early 1940s, young Raye set her sights on becoming an engineer. Little did she know sexism and racial inequality would challenge that dream every step of the way, even keeping her greatest career accomplishment a secret for decades. Through it all, the gifted mathematician persisted—finally gaining her well-deserved title in history: a pioneer who changed the course of ship design forever. The Girl With a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague is the third book in a riveting educational series about the inspiring lives of amazing scientists. In addition to the illustrated rhyming tale, you’ll find a complete biography, fun facts, a colorful timeline of events, and even a note from Montague herself!

Books About Black History and Race Relations

Rosa Parks
Written by Lisbeth Kaiser & illustrated by Marta Antelo
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

New in the Little People, Big Dreams series, discover the incredible life of Rosa Parks, ‘ The Mother of the Freedom Movement’, in this inspiring story. In this true story of an inspiring civil rights activist, Rosa Parks grew up during segregation in Alabama, but she was taught to respect herself and stand up for her rights. In 1955, Rosa refused to give up her seat to a white man on a segregated bus, sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Her decision had a huge impact on civil rights, eventually leading to the end of segregation on public transport. With stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, this empowering series celebrates the important life stories of wonderful women of the world. From designers and artists to scientists, all of them went on to achieve incredible things, yet all of them began life as a little child with a dream. These books make the lives of these role models accessible for children, providing a powerful message to inspire the next generation of outstanding people who will change the world!

I Am Rosa Parks
Written by Brad Meltzer & illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

Recounts Rosa Parks’ daring effort to stand up for herself and other African Americans by helping to end segregation on public transportation.

This Promise of Change: One Girl's Story in the Fight for School Equality
Written by Jo Ann Boyce & illustrated by Debbie Levy
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-12

In 1956, one year before federal troops escorted the Little Rock 9 into Central High School, fourteen year old Jo Ann Allen was one of twelve African-American students who broke the color barrier and integrated Clinton High School in Tennessee. At first things went smoothly for the Clinton 12, but then outside agitators interfered, pitting the townspeople against one another. Uneasiness turned into anger, and even the Clinton Twelve themselves wondered if the easier thing to do would be to go back to their old school. Jo Ann—clear-eyed, practical, tolerant, and popular among both black and white students—-found herself called on as the spokesperson of the group. But what about just being a regular teen? This is the heartbreaking and relatable story of her four months thrust into the national spotlight and as a trailblazer in history. Based on original research and interviews and featuring backmatter with archival materials and notes from the authors on the co-writing process.

Honorable Mentions
  1. Lizzie Demands a Seat!: Elizabeth Jennings Fights for Streetcar Rights - In 1854, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Jennings, an African American schoolteacher, fought back when she was unjustly denied entry to a New York City streetcar, sparking the beginnings of the long struggle to gain equal rights on public transportation. One hundred years before Rosa Parks took her stand, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Jennings tried to board a streetcar in New York City on her way to church. Though there were plenty of empty seats, she was denied entry, assaulted, and threatened all because of her race—even though New York was a free state at that time. Lizzie decided to fight back. She told her story, took her case to court—where future president Chester Arthur represented her—and won! Her victory was the first recorded in the fight for equal rights on public transportation, and Lizzie’s case set a precedent. Author Beth Anderson and acclaimed illustrator E. B. Lewis bring this inspiring, little-known story to life in this captivating book.

  2. National Geographic Readers: Rosa Parks - Find out about the life of Rosa Parks and how her actions in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955 helped end racial segregation in America. This book follows the same standards as other National Geographic Readers with the same careful text, brilliant photographs, and fun approach that kids love. The life story of Rosa Parks has enduring lessons to teach us and this biography should appeal to kids, parents, and teachers.

  3. Climbing Lincoln's Steps - Interweaves the story of black Americans’ struggle for equality with important moments in African-American history that have occurred at the Lincoln Memorial, including Marian Anderson’s concert in 1939; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous speech in 1963; and a visit from the first African-American president and his family in 2009.

Books About Black History and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott
Written by Dee Romito & illustrated by Laura Freeman
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

This stunning picture book looks into the life of Georgia Gilmore, a hidden figure of history who played a critical role in the civil rights movement and used her passion for baking to help the Montgomery Bus Boycott achieve its goal. Georgia decided to help the best way she knew how. She worked together with a group of women and together they purchased the supplies they needed-bread, lettuce, and chickens. And off they went to cook. The women brought food to the mass meetings that followed at the church. They sold sandwiches. They sold dinners in their neighborhoods. As the boycotters walked and walked, Georgia cooked and cooked. Georgia Gilmore was a cook at the National Lunch Company in Montgomery, Alabama. When the bus boycotts broke out in Montgomery after Rosa Parks was arrested, Georgia knew just what to do. She organized a group of women who cooked and baked to fund-raise for gas and cars to help sustain the boycott. Called the Club from Nowhere, Georgia was the only person who knew who baked and bought the food, and she said the money came from “nowhere” to anyone who asked. When Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested for his role in the boycott, Georgia testified on his behalf, and her home became a meeting place for civil rights leaders. This picture book highlights a hidden figure of the civil rights movement who fueled the bus boycotts and demonstrated that one person can make a real change in her community and beyond. It also includes one of her delicious recipes for kids to try with the help of their parents!

A Sweet Smell of Roses
Written by Angela Johnson & illustrated by Eric Velasquez
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

Minnie and her sister hear about a freedom march and leave their home to go to their city’s downtown area where they listen to Dr. Martin Luther King and join the march, all the while smelling roses.

Love Will See You Through
Written by Angela Farris Watkins & illustrated by Sally Wern Comport
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-11

The niece of Martin Luther King, Jr. reveals six timeless and universal principles that encompass the civil rights leader’s greatest legacy: Love will see you through. Growing up as the niece of Martin Luther King Jr., Angela Farris Watkins witnessed firsthand the principles and values that “Uncle M.L.” practiced and lived by throughout his fight for equality. Drawing from experiences and episodes both personal and well-known, Dr. Watkins artfully details the guiding beliefs of one of the greatest men in history. Including “have courage” and “love your enemies,” these six hallmarks of virtue and nonviolence reinforce the truth that “the universe honors love” and will inspire readers of all ages.

Honorable Mentions
  1. Martin and Anne - Anne Frank and Martin Luther King Jr. were born the same year a world apart. Both faced ugly prejudices and violence, which both answered with words of love and faith in humanity. This is the story of their parallel journeys to find hope in darkness and to follow their dreams.

  2. Young, Gifted and Black - Meet 52 icons of color from the past and present in this celebration of inspirational achievement - from figureheads, leaders and pioneers such as Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Rosa Parks, to cultural trailblazers and sporting heroes, including Stevie Wonder, Oprah Winfrey and Serena Williams. Strong, courageous, talented and diverse, these extraordinary men and women’s achievements will inspire a new generation to chase their dream … whatever it may be.

  3. Martin Luther King, Jr. - Introduces the life and legacy of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  4. Who was Martin Luther King, Jr.? - An introduction to the life Martin Luther King, Jr. Including how he organized the Montgomery Bus Boycott and African American people across the country in support of the right to vote, desegregation, and other basic civil rights.

Books About Black History and Slavery

Before She Was Harriet
Written by Lesa Cline-Ransome & illustrated by James E. Ransome
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A lush and lyrical biography of Harriet Tubman, written in verse. An evocative poem and opulent watercolors come together to honor a woman of humble origins whose courage and compassion make her larger than life.

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”—

The Escape of Robert Smalls
Written by Jehan Jones-Radgowski & illustrated by Poppy Kang
picture book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

The mist in Charleston Inner Harbor was heavy, but not heavy enough to disguise the stolen Confederate steamship, the Planter, from Confederate soldiers. In the early hours of May 13, 1862, in the midst of the deadly U.S. Civil War, an enslaved man named Robert Smalls was about to carry out a perilous plan of escape. Standing at the helm of the ship, Smalls impersonated the captain as he and his crew passed heavily armed Confederate forts to enter Union territory, where escaped slaves were given shelter. The suspenseful escape of the determined crew is celebrated with beautiful artwork and insightful prose, detailing the true account of an unsung American hero.

Honorable Mentions
  1. An Apple for Harriet Tubman - Biography of a little slave girl whipped for eating an apple, who later grew up to become a famous “conductor” for the underground railroad.

  2. All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom - Experience the joy of Juneteenth in this celebration of freedom from the award-winning team of Angela Johnson and E.B. Lewis. Through the eyes of one little girl, All Different Now tells the story of the first Juneteenth, the day freedom finally came to the last of the slaves in the South. Since then, the observance of June 19 as African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond. This stunning picture book includes notes from the author and illustrator, a timeline of important dates, and a glossary of relevant terms. Told in Angela Johnson’s signature melodic style and brought to life by E.B. Lewis’s striking paintings, All Different Now is a joyous portrait of the dawn breaking on the darkest time in our nation’s history.

  3. Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans - Kadir Nelson’s Heart and Soul—the winner of numerous awards, including the 2012 Coretta Scott King Author Award and Illustrator Honor, and the recipient of five starred reviews—now features eight pages of discussion and curriculum material. The story of America and African Americans is a story of hope and inspiration and unwavering courage. This is the story of the men, women, and children who toiled in the hot sun picking cotton for their masters; it’s about the America ripped in two by Jim Crow laws; it’s about the brothers and sisters of all colors who rallied against those who would dare bar a child from an education. It’s a story of discrimination and broken promises, determination, and triumphs. Told through the unique point of view and intimate voice of a one-hundred-year-old African-American female narrator, this inspiring book demonstrates that in gaining their freedom and equal rights, African Americans helped our country achieve its promise of liberty and justice—the true heart and soul of our nation. Supports the Common Core State Standards.

  4. Harriet Tubman: Freedom Fighter - Learn about the inspiring life of Harriet Tubman in this early reader biography. Harriet Tubman was a brave woman who was born enslaved in Maryland in the 1800s. After risking everything to escape from her slave master and be free, Harriet went on to lead many people to freedom on a journey known today as the Underground Railroad. This book covers some of the amazing aspects of Tubman’s life: She led 13 escapes—all successful and at great personal risk—between 1850 and 1860. This book also covers some of the lesser-known amazing aspects of her life: During the Civil War, Harriet Tubman enlisted African American men to be soldiers. She served as a spy. AND she led a battle under the command of a Union Army colonel! Beginning readers will learn about the milestones in Harriet Tubman’s life in this Level Two I Can Read biography. This biography includes a timeline and historical illustrations all about the life of this inspiring figure, as well as a rare historical photograph of her. Much mythology and conflicting lore exists about Harriet Tubman. This book was carefully vetted by noted Harriet Tubman expert Dr. Kate Larson. Harriet Tubman: Freedom Fighter is a Level Two I Can Read, geared for kids who read on their own but still need a little help.

Want to see books about slavery?

Books About Black History and Science And Technology

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race
Written by Margot Lee Shetterly & illustrated by Laura Freeman
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

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. “Finally, the extraordinary lives of four African American women who helped NASA put the first men in space is available for picture book readers,” proclaims Brightly in their article “18 Must-Read Picture Books of 2018.” “Will inspire girls and boys alike to love math, believe in themselves, and reach for the stars.”

Work It, Girl: Mae Jemison: Blast off into space like
Written by Caroline Moss & illustrated by Sinem Erkas
picture book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

In this imaginatively illustrated book from the Work It, Girl series, discover how Mae Jemison became the first African American woman in space in this true story of her life. Then, learn 10 key lessons from her work you can apply to your own life.

When Mae Jemison was a little girl, she loved science, dancing, and dinosaurs. She watched the Apollo moon landings and wondered why none of the astronauts were women—and she just didn’t buy the answers she was given

Work It, Girl is an empowering series of biographies featuring modern women in the world of work, from designers and musicians to CEOs and scientists. Each of these vibrantly illustrated books tells the story of a remarkable woman in 10 chapters that highlight transformative moments in her life, following the ups and downs that she faced on her road to success. At the end, 10 key lessons show what you can learn from these moments, and self-reflection questions help you apply these lessons to your own life. Brightly colored photo illustrations of 3-D cut paper artwork featuring inspiring quotes from these amazing women bring their stories to vivid life. Learn how to work it as you lay the foundations for your own successful career.

The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver
Written by Gene Barretta & illustrated by Frank Morrison
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

The inspirational story of George Washington Carver and his childhood secret garden is brought to life in this picture book biography by the author-illustrator team behind Muhammad Ali: A Champion Is Born.

When George Washington Carver was just a young child, he had a secret: a garden of his own.

Here, he rolled dirt between his fingers to check if plants needed more rain or sun. He protected roots through harsh winters, so plants could be reborn in the spring. He trimmed flowers, spread soil, studied life cycles. And it was in this very place that George’s love of nature sprouted into something so much more—his future.

Gene Barretta’s moving words and Frank Morrison’s beautiful paintings tell the inspiring life and history of George Washington Carver, from a baby born into slavery to celebrated botanist, scientist, and inventor. His passion and determination are the seeds to this lasting story about triumph over hardship—a tale that begins in a secret garden.

Honorable Mentions
  1. Patricia's Vision: The Doctor Who Saved Sight - The inspiring story of Dr. Patricia Bath, a groundbreaking ophthalmologist who pioneered laser surgery—and gave her patients the gift of sight. Born in the 1940s, Patricia Bath dreamed of being an ophthalmologist at a time when becoming a doctor wasn’t a career option for most women—especially African-American women. This empowering biography follows Dr. Bath in her quest to save and restore sight to the blind, and her decision to “choose miracles” when everyone else had given up hope. Along the way, she cofounded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, invented a specialized laser for removing cataracts, and became the first African-American woman doctor to receive a medical patent.

  2. Counting the Stars - Before John Glenn orbited the Earth or astronauts walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used their knowledge, pencils, adding machines, and writing paper to calculate the orbital mechanics needed to launch spacecraft. Katherine Johnson was one of these mathematicians who used trajectories and complex equations to chart the space program. Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws were in place in the early 1950s, Katherine worked analyzing data at the NACA (later NASA) Langley laboratory. In 1962, as NASA prepared for the orbital mission of John Glenn, Katherine Johnson was called upon and John Glenn said “get the girl” (Katherine Johnson) to run the numbers by hand to chart the complexity of the orbital flight. He knew that his flight couldn’t work without her unique skills. President Barack Obama awarded Katherine Johnson the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 and her incredible life inspired the Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures. Get to know this incredible and inspirational woman with this beautifully illustrated picture book from an award-winning duo.

  3. Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 - The bold story of an African-American mathematician who worked for NASA during the space race and was depicted in the film “Hidden Figures, “ and how she made sure that the crew of Apollo 13 returned home. Full color.

  4. Katherine Johnson (You Should Meet) - Get to know the woman who made many of NASA’s early missions possible in this fascinating, nonfiction Level 3 Ready-to-Read, part of a series of biographies about people “you should meet!” Meet Katherine Johnson, a brilliant mathematician who worked at NASA in the early 1950s until retiring in 1986. Katherine’s unparalleled calculations (done by hand) helped plan the trajectories for NASA’s Mercury and Apollo missions (including the Apollo 11 moon landing). She is said to be one of the greatest American minds of all time. A special section at the back of the book includes extras on subjects like history and math, plus inspiring careers for math lovers. With the You Should Meet series, learning about historical figures has never been so much fun!

Books About Black History and 21st Century

Dream Big, Little One
Written & illustrated by Vashti Harrison
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-3

This beautifully illustrated book showcases women who changed the world. Featuring 18 trailblazing black women in American history, Dream Big, Little Leader is the irresistible board book adaptation of Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History. 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 bigand amazing, inspiring generations to come.

Work It, Girl: Michelle Obama: Become a leader like
Written by Caroline Moss & illustrated by Sinem Erkas
picture book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

In this imaginatively illustrated book from the Work It, Girl series, discover how Michelle became an inspirational leader, FLOTUS, lawyer, author, and role model in this true story of her life. Then, learn 10 key lessons from her work you can apply to your own life.

Michelle Obama grew up on the South Side of Chicago in a little bungalow with a close-knit family. She loved going to school, and she knew that, one day, she would use her voice to empower other young girls, just like her. Young Michelle was a brilliant student and wonderful daughter. With hard work and talent, she propelled herself into the universities of Princeton and Harvard. She qualified as a lawyer and life was going smoothly…Then she met a guy named Barack.

Work It, Girl is an empowering series of biographies featuring modern women in the world of work, from designers and musicians to CEOs and scientists. Each of these vibrantly illustrated books tells the story of a remarkable woman in 10 chapters that highlight transformative moments in her life, following the ups and downs that she faced on her road to success. At the end, 10 key lessons show what you can learn from these moments, and self-reflection questions help you apply these lessons to your own life. Brightly colored photo illustrations of 3-D cut paper artwork featuring inspiring quotes from these amazing women bring their stories to vivid life. Learn how to work it as you lay the foundations for your own successful career.

Who Was Nelson Mandela?
Written by Pam Pollack and Meg Belviso & illustrated by Stephen Marchesi
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Describes the life of the South African president and revolutionary, from his childhood and his work as a peaceful protestor to his twenty-seven-year imprisonment, his election as president, and his work to end apartheid in South Africa.

Honorable Mentions
  1. Muhammad Ali: My First Muhammad Ali - This board book version of _Muhammad Ali_—from the critically acclaimed, multimillion-copy best-selling Little People, BIG DREAMS series—introduces the youngest dreamers to the incredible life of ”the greatest” boxer of all time. When he was little, Muhammad Ali had his bicycle stolen. He wanted to fight the thief, but a policeman told him him to learn how to box first. After training hard in the gym, Muhammad developed a strong jab and an even stronger work ethic. His smart thinking and talking earned him the greatest title in boxing: Heavyweight Champion of the World. Babies and toddlers will love to snuggle as you read to them the engaging story of this fascinating boxer and activist, and will also enjoy exploring the stylish and quirky illustrations of this sturdy board book on their own. Little People, BIG DREAMS is a best-selling series of books and educational games that explore the lives of outstanding people, from designers and artists to scientists and activists. All of them achieved incredible things, yet each began life as a child with a dream. This empowering series offers inspiring messages to children of all ages, in a range of formats. The board books are told in simple sentences, perfect for reading aloud to babies and toddlers. The hardcover versions present expanded stories for beginning readers. Boxed gift sets allow you to collect a selection of the books by theme. Paper dolls, learning cards, matching games, and other fun learning tools provide even more ways to make the lives of these role models accessible to children. Inspire the next generation of outstanding people who will change the world with Little People, BIG DREAMS!

  2. Nelson Mandela - One day when Nelson Mandela was nine years old, his father died and he was sent from his village to a school far away from home, to another part of South Africa. In Johannesburg, the country’s capital, Mandela saw fellow Africans who were poor and powerless. He decided then that he would work to protect them. When the government began to keep people apart based on the color of their skin, Mandela spoke out against the law and vowed to fight hard in order to make his country a place that belonged to all South Africans. Kadir Nelson tells the story of Mandela, a global icon, in poignant verse and glorious illustrations. It is the story of a young boy’s determination to change South Africa and of the struggles of a man who eventually became the president of his country by believing in equality for people of all colors. Readers will be inspired by Mandela’s triumph and his lifelong quest to create a more just world.

Books About Black History and Sports And Recreation

Epic Athletes: Serena Williams
Written by Dan Wetzel & illustrated by Sloane Leong
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

An inspiring middle-grade biography of the most celebrated women’s tennis player ever, Serena Williams, from acclaimed sports journalist Dan Wetzel! Serena Williams is no stranger to overcoming obstacles. From growing up in a tough neighborhood to combatting racism to weathering severe health issues, there is no challenge she can’t defeat, no hurdle that will get in the way of her unwavering desire to be the best tennis player in the world. As a little girl, Serena spent years training at her local court with her father and older sister, Venus, dreaming of one day winning Grand Slam titles and earning the number one ranking in the world. In this exciting biography, young readers will discover what it takes to become a champion. Bestselling author Dan Wetzel brings to life the story of an athlete and trailblazer who broke records and racial barriers. Publishing right between Wimbledon and the US Open, and featuring action-packed comic-style interior art, this uplifting biography of the most celebrated women’s tennis player of all time is sure to be a hit with young sports fans across the country.

Charlie Takes His Shot
Written by Nancy Churnin & illustrated by John Joven
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Charlie Sifford loved golf, but in the 1930’s only white people were allowed to play in the Professional Golf Association. Sifford had won plenty of black tournaments, but he was determined to break the color barrier in the PGA. In 1960 he did, only to face discrimination from hotels that wouldn’t rent him rooms and clubs that wouldn’t let him use the same locker as the white players. But Sifford kept playing, becoming the first black golfer to win a PGA tournament and eventually ranking among the greats in golf.

Twice As Good- William Powell
Written by Richard Michelson & illustrated by Eric Velasquez
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-10

Willie Powell had been told, “If you are going to get ahead in this world, you can’t be as good as the white children; you have to be twice as good.” He took this advice to heart.

Willie dreamed of becoming a professional golfer, but his accomplishments went far beyond playing the game of golf. Willie was often denied the opportunity to play golf because he was African American. Determined, he decided to build his own course, and welcome people of all color to play golf.

Honorable Mentions
  1. Touch the Sky - A biography of the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal, from her childhood in segregated Albany, Georgia, in the 1930s, through her recognition at the 1996 Olympics as one of the hundred best athletes in Olympic history. Includes bibliographical references.

  2. A Picture Book of Jesse Owens - A comprehensive look at the life of the man who has often been called the World’s Fastest Human. Jesse Owens was born on a farm to a large family with many siblings. His grandparents had been slaves, and his sharecropper parents were poor. But against all odds, Jesse went on to become one of the greatest athletes in history. He learned to run with such grace that people said he was a “floating wonder.” After setting multiple world records as a college athlete, Jesse competed in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Adolf Hitler intended for the games to display Aryan superiority, but Jesse disrupted that plan. He became the first American track-and-field athlete to receive four gold medals, and established his legacy as a hero in the face of prejudice. This child friendly entry in David A. Adler’s well-known series contains an accessible mix of biography, facts, and history supported with lifelike illustrations. Back matter includes an author’s note and a timeline.

  3. Ice Breaker - In the 1930s, only white figure skaters were allowed in public ice rinks and to compete for gold medals, but Mabel Fairbanks wouldn’t let that stop her. With skates two sizes too big and a heart full of dreams, Mabel beat the odds and broke down color barriers through sheer determination and athletic skill. After skating in ice shows across the nation and helping coach and develop the talents of several Olympic champions, Mabel became the first African-American woman to be inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame.

  4. Althea Gibson: The Story of Tennis' Fleet-of-Foot Girl - A spirited picture book biography about Althea Gibson, the first black Wimbledon, French, and U.S. Open tennis champion, from debut author Megan Reid and Coretta Scott King Honor–winning illustrator Laura Freeman. Althea Gibson was the quickest, tallest, most fearless athlete in 1940s Harlem. She couldn’t sit still! When she put her mind to it, the fleet-of-foot girl reigned supreme at every sport—stickball with the boys, basketball with the girls, paddle tennis with anyone who would hit with her. But being the quickest, tallest, most fearless player in Harlem wasn’t enough for Althea. She knew she could be a tennis champion. Because of segregation, black people weren’t allowed to compete against white people in sports. Althea didn’t care. She just wanted to play tennis against the best athletes in the world. And with skill and determination, she did just that, eventually becoming the first black person—man or woman—to win a trophy at Wimbledon. Althea Gibson: The Story of Tennis’ Fleet-of-Foot Girl chronicles this trailblazing athlete’s journey—and the talent, force of spirit, and energy that made it possible for her to break barriers and ascend to the top of the tennis world.

Books About Black History and Music

Ella Queen of Jazz
Written & illustrated by Helen Hancocks
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

Ella Fitzgerald sang the blues and she sang them good. Ella and her fellas were on the way up! It seemed like nothing could stop her, until the biggest club in town refused to let her play… and all because of her colour. But when all hope seemed lost, little did Ella imagine that a Hollywood star would step in to help. The inspiring, true story of how a remarkable friendship between Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe was born – and how they worked together to overcome prejudice and adversity.

A Voice Named Aretha
Written & illustrated by Katheryn Russell-Brown
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A beautiful picture book biography about the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, and how she fought for equal rights throughout her life.

Aretha Louise Franklin grew up in a house of music. The shy daughter of a famous Detroit preacher and civil rights activist, Aretha’s big voice surprised those around her, and everyone agreed: her powerful singing would someday make her a star.

After relocating to New York City and signing a record deal, Aretha relentlessly pursued her dream of stardom. But it took many years of tireless touring and recording until her hit record “Respect” finally brought her the acclaim she deserved. Along the way, Aretha used her talents to fight for respect and equal rights along the way by refusing to perform for “whites only” audiences. With six decades of hits, countless memorable performances, and millions of lives touched, Aretha’s legacy of resilience and respect will inspire for generations to come.

The President Sang Amazing Grace
Written by Zoe Mulford & illustrated by Jeff Scher
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-7

Lyrical account of the day President Obama sang with a grieving nation following the 2015 shooting in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina When nine people were killed in a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, the nation grieved as one, and when President Barack Obama sang “Amazing Grace” during his eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinckney, it was acknowledged as one of the most powerful moments of his presidency. Singer/songwriter Zoe Mulford was so moved that she wrote the song “The President Sang Amazing Grace,” which was then illustrated by filmmaker and painter Jeff Scher for a video that has been viewed countless times. This book presents the lyrics to the song, Scher’s paintings, excerpts from Obama’s eulogy, biographies of those who were killed, historical context, and sheet music.

Honorable Mentions
  1. Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph - What happens when you invite as many jazz musicians as you can to pose for a photo in 1950s Harlem? Playful verse and glorious artwork capture an iconic moment for American jazz. When Esquire magazine planned an issue to salute the American jazz scene in 1958, graphic designer Art Kane pitched a crazy idea: how about gathering a group of beloved jazz musicians and photographing them? He didn’t own a good camera, didn’t know if any musicians would show up, and insisted on setting up the shoot in front of a Harlem brownstone. Could he pull it off? In a captivating collection of poems, Roxane Orgill steps into the frame of Harlem 1958, bringing to life the musicians’ mischief and quirks, their memorable style, and the vivacious atmosphere of a Harlem block full of kids on a hot summer’s day. Francis Vallejo’s vibrant, detailed, and wonderfully expressive paintings do loving justice to the larger-than-life quality of jazz musicians of the era. Includes bios of several of the fifty-seven musicians, an author’s note, sources, a bibliography, and a foldout of Art Kane’s famous photograph.

  2. Story of Rap - Lay down a baby beat and learn all about the history of rap! From Grandmaster Flash to Kendrick Lamar, rap has shaped generations and brought a voice to the voiceless. Bop along with the greats in this adorable baby book that introduces little ones to the rappers that started it all! Parental Advisory: May cause toddlers to develop excessive amounts of swagger.

  3. How Sweet the Sound - One stormy night at sea, a wayward man named John Newton feared for his life. In his darkest hour he fell to his knees and prayed —and somehow the battered ship survived the storm. Grateful, he changed his ways and became a minister, yet he still owned a slave ship. But in time, empathy touched his heart. A changed man, he used his powerful words to help end slavery in England. Those words became the hymn “Amazing Grace,” a song that has lifted the spirit and given comfort across time and all over the world.

Want to see books about music?

Books About Black History and Girls And Women

The Women Who Caught the Babies
Written by Eloise Greenfield & illustrated by Daniel Minter
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

Through narrative and photographs, Eloise Greenfield highlights important aspects from a few hundred years of the lives of African American midwives and the people they selflessly served. Greenfield incorporates expressive poetry, which is paired with the evocative art of Daniel Minter to bring the powerful story of midwifery to life. The poem “Africa to America” begins the journey, while “The Women,” concludes it with a note of gratitude. Also included is a piece titled “Miss Rovenia Mayo,” which pays tribute to the midwife who caught newborn Eloise.

Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks
Written by Suzanne Slade & illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

A picture-book biography of celebrated poet Gwendolyn Brooks, the first Black person to win the Pulitzer Prize

Gwendolyn Brooks (1917–2000) is known for her poems about “real life.” She wrote about love, loneliness, family, and poverty—showing readers how just about anything could become a beautiful poem. Exquisite follows Gwendolyn from early girlhood into her adult life, showcasing her desire to write poetry from a very young age. This picture-book biography explores the intersections of race, gender, and the ubiquitous poverty of the Great Depression—all with a lyrical touch worthy of the subject. Gwendolyn Brooks was the first Black person to win the Pulitzer Prize, receiving the award for poetry in 1950. And in 1958, she was named the poet laureate of Illinois. A bold artist who from a very young age dared to dream, Brooks will inspire young readers to create poetry from their own lives.

A Computer Called Katherine
Written by Suzanne Slade & illustrated by Veronica Miller Jamison
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

The inspiring true story of mathematician Katherine Johnson—made famous by the award-winning film Hidden Figures—who counted and computed her way to NASA and helped put a man on the moon! Katherine knew it was wrong that African Americans didn’t have the same rights as others—as wrong as 5+5=12. She knew it was wrong that people thought women could only be teachers or nurses—as wrong as 10-5=3. And she proved everyone wrong by zooming ahead of her classmates, starting college at fifteen, and eventually joining NASA, where her calculations helped pioneer America’s first manned flight into space, its first manned orbit of Earth, and the world’s first trip to the moon! Award-winning author Suzanne Slade and debut artist Veronica Miller Jamison tell the story of a NASA “computer” in this smartly written, charmingly illustrated biography.

Honorable Mentions
  1. Wilma Rudolph: My First Wilma Rudolph - This board book version of _Wilma Rudolph_—from the critically acclaimed, multimillion-copy best-selling Little People, BIG DREAMS series—introduces the youngest dreamers to the incredible life of this remarkable sprinter and Olympic champion. Wilma was born into a family with 22 brothers and sisters, in the segregated South. She contracted polio in her early years and her doctors said she would never walk again. But Wilma persisted with treatment, and she recovered her strength by the age of 12. At school, Wilma showed a talent for basketball and sprinting, earning the nickname “Skeeter” (mosquito) as she ran so fast. Wilma was in college when she went to the 1960 Olympics. She not only won gold in sprint events, but also broke world records with her sprinting skill. She had beaten polio to become an Olympic champion. She is a huge inspiration to many women in sports around the world. Babies and toddlers will love to snuggle as you read to them the engaging story of this fascinating dancer and will also enjoy exploring the stylish and quirky illustrations of this sturdy board book on their own. Little People, BIG DREAMS is a best-selling series of books and educational games that explore the lives of outstanding people, from designers and artists to scientists and activists. All of them achieved incredible things, yet each began life as a child with a dream. This empowering series offers inspiring messages to children of all ages, in a range of formats. The board books are told in simple sentences, perfect for reading aloud to babies and toddlers. The hardcover versions present expanded stories for beginning readers. Boxed gift sets allow you to collect a selection of the books by theme. Paper dolls, learning cards, matching games, and other fun learning tools provide even more ways to make the lives of these role models accessible to children. Inspire the next generation of outstanding people who will change the world with Little People, BIG DREAMS!

  2. Never Caught, The Story Of Ona Judge - A National Book Award Finalist for Nonfiction, Never Caught is the eye-opening narrative of Ona Judge, George and Martha Washington’s runaway slave, who risked everything for a better life—now available as a young reader’s edition! In this incredible narrative, Erica Armstrong Dunbar reveals a fascinating and heartbreaking behind-the-scenes look at the Washingtons’ when they were the First Family—and an in-depth look at their slave, Ona Judge, who dared to escape from one of the nation’s Founding Fathers. Born into a life of slavery, Ona Judge eventually grew up to be George and Martha Washington’s “favored” dower slave. When she was told that she was going to be given as a wedding gift to Martha Washington’s granddaughter, Ona made the bold and brave decision to flee to the north, where she would be a fugitive. From her childhood, to her time with the Washingtons and living in the slave quarters, to her escape to New Hampshire, Erica Armstrong Dunbar (along with Kathleen Van Cleve), shares an intimate glimpse into the life of a little-known, but powerful figure in history, and her brave journey as she fled the most powerful couple in the country.

  3. Ona Judge Outwits the Washingtons - Soon after American colonists had won independence from Great Britain, Ona Judge was fighting for her own freedom from one of America’s most famous founding fathers, George Washington. George and Martha Washington valued Ona as one of their most skilled and trustworthy slaves, but she would risk everything to achieve complete freedom. Born into slavery at Mount Vernon, Ona seized the opportunity to escape when she was brought to live in the President’s Mansion in Philadelphia. Ona fled to New Hampshire and started a new life. But the Washingtons wouldn’t give up easily. After her escape, Ona became the focus of a years-long manhunt, led by America’s first president. Gwendolyn Hooks’ vivid and detailed prose captures the danger, uncertainty, and persistence Ona Judge experienced during and after her heroic escape. The Capstone Interactive edition comes with simultaneous access for every student in your school and includes read aloud audio recorded by professional voice over artists.

Books About Black History and Civil Rights Movement

Granddaddy's Turn
Written by Michael S Bandy and Eric Stein & illustrated by James E. Ransome
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

Based on the true story of one family’s struggle for voting rights in the civil rights-era South, this moving tale shines an emotional spotlight on a dark facet of U.S. history. Life on the farm with Granddaddy is full of hard work, but despite all the chores, Granddaddy always makes time for play, especially fishing trips. Even when there isn’t a bite to catch, he reminds young Michael that it takes patience to get what’s coming to you. One morning, when Granddaddy heads into town in his fancy suit, Michael knows that something very special must be happening—and sure enough, everyone is lined up at the town hall! For the very first time, Granddaddy is allowed to vote, and he couldn’t be more proud. But can Michael be patient when it seems that justice just can’t come soon enough? This powerful and touching true-life story shares one boy’s perspective of growing up in the segregated South, while beautiful illustrations depict the rural setting in tender detail.

Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song
Written by Andrea Davis Pinkney & illustrated by Brian Pinkney
picture book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

They were each born with the gift of gospel. Martin’s voice kept people in their seats, but also sent their praises soaring. Mahalia’s voice was brass-and-butter - strong and smooth at the same time. With Martin’s sermons and Mahalia’s songs, folks were free to shout, to sing their joy. On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and his strong voice and powerful message were joined and lifted in song by world-renowned gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. It was a moment that changed the course of history and is imprinted in minds forever. Told through Andrea Davis Pinkney’s poetic prose and Brian Pinkney’s evocative illustration, the stories of these two powerful voices and lives are told side-by-side — as they would one day walk — following the journey from their youth to a culmination at this historical event when they united as one and inspiring kids to find their own voices and speak up for what is right.

My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Written by Martin Luther King III & illustrated by A.G. Ford
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

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.

Honorable Mentions
  1. A Place to Land - 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. Find out more in this gripping book with illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Jerry Pinkney. 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.” Finding this place to land was what Martin Luther King, Jr. struggled with, alongside advisors and fellow speech writers, in the Willard Hotel the night before the March on Washington, where he gave his historic “I Have a Dream” speech. But those famous words were never intended to be heard on that day, not even written down for that day, not even once. Barry Wittenstein teams up with legendary illustrator Jerry Pinkney to tell the story of how, against all odds, Martin found his place to land.

  2. Rosa Parks: My First Rosa Parks - This board book version of Rosa Parks—an international bestseller from the highly acclaimed Little People, BIG DREAMS series—introduces the youngest dreamers to the “Mother of the Freedom Movement.” Rosa Parks grew up in Alabama, where she learned to stand up for herself at an early age. Rosa went on to become a civil rights activist. In 1955, she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a segregated bus, sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Her courageous decision had a huge impact on civil rights, eventually leading to the end of segregation on public transport. She never stopped working for equal rights. Babies and toddlers will love to snuggle as you read to them the engaging story of this fascinating icon, and will also enjoy exploring the stylish and quirky illustrations of this sturdy board book on their own. Little People, BIG DREAMS is a best-selling series of books and educational games that explore the lives of outstanding people, from designers and artists to scientists and activists. All of them achieved incredible things, yet each began life as a child with a dream. This empowering series offers inspiring messages to children of all ages, in a range of formats. The board books are told in simple sentences, perfect for reading aloud to babies and toddlers. The hardcover versions present expanded stories for beginning readers. Boxed gift sets allow you to collect a selection of the books by theme. Paper dolls, learning cards, matching games, and other fun learning tools provide even more ways to make the lives of these role models accessible to children. Inspire the next generation of outstanding people who will change the world with Little People, BIG DREAMS!

  3. Martin Luther King, Jr. - In this book from the critically acclaimed, multimillion-copy best-selling Little People, BIG DREAMS series, discover the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., the inspiring minister and civil rights activist. Little Martin grew up in a family of preachers: his dad was a preacher, his uncle was a preacher, his grandfather was a preacher…so maybe he’d become a great preacher too. One day, a friend invited him to play at his house. Martin was shocked when his mother wouldn’t let him in because he was black. That day he realized there was something terribly unfair going on. Martin believed that no one should remain silent and accept something if it’s wrong. And he promised himself that—when he grew up—he’d fight injustice with the most powerful weapon of all: words. This moving book features stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the inspiring activist’s life. Little People, BIG DREAMS is a best-selling series of books and educational games that explore the lives of outstanding people, from designers and artists to scientists and activists. All of them achieved incredible things, yet each began life as a child with a dream. This empowering series offers inspiring messages to children of all ages, in a range of formats. The board books are told in simple sentences, perfect for reading aloud to babies and toddlers. The hardcover versions present expanded stories for beginning readers. Boxed gift sets allow you to collect a selection of the books by theme. Paper dolls, learning cards, matching games, and other fun learning tools provide even more ways to make the lives of these role models accessible to children. Inspire the next generation of outstanding people who will change the world with Little People, BIG DREAMS!

Books About Black History and 1900-1949

Infinite Hope: A Black Artist's Journey from World War II to Peace
Written & illustrated by Ashley Bryan
picture book
Recommend Ages: 10-13

In May of 1942, at the age of eighteen, Ashley Bryan was drafted to fight in World War II. For the next three years, he would face the horrors of war as a black soldier in a segregated army. He endured the terrible lies white officers told about the black soldiers to isolate them from anyone who showed kindness—including each other. He received worse treatment than even Nazi POWs. He was assigned the grimmest, most horrific tasks, like burying fallen soldiers…but was told to remove the black soldiers first because the media didn’t want them in their newsreels. And he waited and wanted so desperately to go home, watching every white soldier get safe passage back to the United States before black soldiers were even a thought. For the next forty years, Ashley would keep his time in the war a secret. But now, he tells his story. The story of the kind people who supported him. The story of the bright moments that guided him through the dark. And the story of his passion for art that would save him time and time again. Filled with never-before-seen artwork and handwritten letters and diary entries, this illuminating and moving memoir by Newbery Honor–winning illustrator Ashley Bryan is both a lesson in history and a testament to hope.

Sugar Hill
Written by Carole Boston Weatherford & illustrated by R Gregory Christie
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Take a walk through Harlem’s Sugar Hill and meet all the amazing people who made this neighborhood legendary. With upbeat rhyming, read-aloud text, Sugar Hill celebrates the Harlem neighborhood that successful African Americans first called home during the 1920s. Children raised in Sugar Hill not only looked up to these achievers but also experienced art and culture at home, at church, and in the community. Books, music lessons, and art classes expanded their horizons beyond the narrow limits of segregation. Includes brief biographies of jazz greats Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Sonny Rollins, and Miles Davis; artists Aaron Douglas and Faith Ringgold; entertainers Lena Horne and the Nicholas Brothers; writer Zora Neale Hurston; civil rights leader W. E. B. DuBois and lawyer Thurgood Marshall.

A Nation's Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis
Written by Matt De La Pena & illustrated by Kadir Nelson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-8

On the eve of World War II, African American boxer Joe Louis fought German Max Schmeling in a bout that had more at stake than just the world heavyweight title; for much of America their fight came to represent America’s war with Germany. This elegant and powerful picture book biography centers around the historic fight in which Black and White America were able to put aside prejudice and come together to celebrate our nation’s ideals.

Honorable Mentions
  1. Fearless Mary - “The true story of Mary Fields, aka “Stagecoach Mary,” a trailblazing African American woman who helped settle the American West.”—Provided by the Publisher.

  2. Harlem Hellfighters - They went by many names, but the world came to know them best as the Harlem Hellfighters. Two thousand strong, these black Americans from New York picked up brass instruments—under the leadership of famed bandleader and lieutenant James Reese Europe—to take the musical sound of Harlem into the heart of war. From the creators of the 2012 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award Honor Book, And the Soldiers Sang, this remarkable narrative nonfiction rendering of WWI — and American — history uses free-verse poetry and captivating art to tell century-old story of hellish combat, racist times, rare courage, and inspired music.

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