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Slavery: Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best kids books about slavery?

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

Our list includes picture books and chapter books. 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 slavery, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like An Apple for Harriet Tubman to popular sellers like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to some of our favorite hidden gems like Before She Was Harriet.

We hope this list of kids books about slavery 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.

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Top 10 Books About Slavery

#1
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Abe's Honest Words
Written by Doreen Rappaport & illustrated by Kadir Nelson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-8
From the time he was a young boy roaming the forests of the unsettled Midwest, Abraham Lincoln knew in his heart that slavery was deeply wrong. A voracious reader, Lincoln spent every spare moment of his days filling his mind with knowledge, from history to literature to mathematics, preparing himself to one day lead the country he loved toward greater equality and prosperity. Despite the obstacles he faced as a self-educated man from the back woods, Lincoln persevered in his political career, and his compassion and honesty gradually earned him the trust of many Americans. As president, he guided the nation through a long and bitter civil war and penned the document that would lead to the end of slavery in the United States. The passion for humanity that defined Lincoln's life shines through in this momentous follow-up to Martin's Big Words and John's Secret Dreams. Told in Doreen Rappaport's accessible, absorbing prose, and brought to life in powerful illustrations by Kadir Nelson, Abe's Honest Words is an epic portrait of a truly great American president.
#2
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All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom
Written by Angela Johnson & illustrated by E.B. Lewis
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-9
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
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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.
#4
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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.
#5
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Juneteenth for Mazie
Written & illustrated by Floyd Cooper
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9
Mazie is ready to celebrate liberty. She is ready to celebrate freedom. She is ready to celebrate a great day in American history -- the day her ancestors were no longer slaves. Mazie remembers the struggles and the triumph, as she gets ready to celebrate Juneteenth. This beautiful story by award-winning author and illustrator Floyd Cooper will captivate both children and adults.
#6
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Juneteenth Jamboree
Written by Carole Boston Weatherford & illustrated by Yvonne Buchanan
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9
<b><p>A young girl, who has just moved to her parents' hometown, realizes that she has come home after the African American emancipation celebration of Juneteenth.</p></b> <p>It's a fine day in June. Cassandra's family has just moved from the city back to her parents' hometown in Texas. Cassie likes her new house, and her new school is okay, but Texas doesn't quite feel like home yet.<p>What Cassie doesn't know is that her family has a surprise for her - a Texas tradition. As she helps prepare red velvet cake, fried chicken, and piles of other dishes, she wonders what makes June 19th so important. It isn't until Cassie and her family arrive downtown that she discovers what the commotion is about. And, in the process, she realizes that she and her family have indeed come home.<p>With text and illustrations as warm as a summer day, author Carole Boston Weatherford and artist Yvonne Buchanan bring the African American emancipation celebration of Juneteenth to life for children. Readers of all ages will delight in this declaration of freedom and homecoming.
#7
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Freedom Bird: A Tale of Hope and Courage
Written by Jerdine Nolen & illustrated by James E. Ransome
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-9
In this inspiring story in the tradition of American black folktales, an enslaved brother and sister are inspired by a majestic and mysterious bird to escape to freedom in this dramatic and unforgettable picture book. There was nothing civil about that war. They should have called it what it was: a big, bad war. Brother and sister Millicent and John are slaves on Simon Plenty’s plantation and have suffered one hurt and heartbreak after another. Their parents had told them old tales of how their ancestors had flown away to freedom just as free and easy as a bird. Millicent and John hold these stories in their hearts long after their parents are gone. “Maybe such a time will come for you,” their parents said. Then one day a mysterious bird appears in their lives. The bird transforms them and gives them the courage to set their plan into motion and escape to freedom.
#8
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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"--
#9
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Freedom Soup
Written by Tami Charles & illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-9
**Join the celebration in the kitchen as a family makes their traditional New Year’s soup — and shares the story of how Haitian independence came to be.** *The shake-shake of maracas vibrates down to my toes. Ti Gran’s feet tap-tap to the rhythm.* Every year, Haitians all over the world ring in the new year by eating a special soup, a tradition dating back to the Haitian Revolution. This year, Ti Gran is teaching Belle how to make the soup — Freedom Soup — just like she was taught when she was a little girl. Together, they dance and clap as they prepare the holiday feast, and Ti Gran tells Belle about the history of the soup, the history of Belle’s family, and the history of Haiti, where Belle’s family is from. In this celebration of cultural traditions passed from one generation to the next, Jacqueline Alcántara’s lush illustrations bring to life both Belle’s story and the story of the Haitian Revolution. Tami Charles’s lyrical text, as accessible as it is sensory, makes for a tale that readers will enjoy to the last drop.
#10
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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.
Table of Contents
Scroll to books about Slavery and...

Books About Slavery and The Civil War

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All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom
Written by Angela Johnson & illustrated by E.B. Lewis
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-9
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.
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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.
Add to list
Freedom Bird: A Tale of Hope and Courage
Written by Jerdine Nolen & illustrated by James E. Ransome
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-9
In this inspiring story in the tradition of American black folktales, an enslaved brother and sister are inspired by a majestic and mysterious bird to escape to freedom in this dramatic and unforgettable picture book. There was nothing civil about that war. They should have called it what it was: a big, bad war. Brother and sister Millicent and John are slaves on Simon Plenty’s plantation and have suffered one hurt and heartbreak after another. Their parents had told them old tales of how their ancestors had flown away to freedom just as free and easy as a bird. Millicent and John hold these stories in their hearts long after their parents are gone. “Maybe such a time will come for you,” their parents said. Then one day a mysterious bird appears in their lives. The bird transforms them and gives them the courage to set their plan into motion and escape to freedom.
Honorable Mentions
Words Set Me Free book
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I Am Abraham Lincoln book
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The Escape of Robert Smalls book
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Looking at Lincoln book
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  1. Words Set Me Free - “Words Set Me Free is the inspiring story of young Frederick Douglass’s path to freedom through reading”—

  2. I Am Abraham Lincoln - Follows Abraham Lincoln from his childhood to the presidency, showing how he spoke up about fairness and eventually led the country to abolish slavery.

  3. The Escape of Robert Smalls - 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.

  4. Looking at Lincoln - Abraham Lincoln is one of the first giants of history children are introduced to, and now Maira Kalman brings him to life with her trademark style and enthusiasm. Lincoln’s legacy is everywhere – there he is on your penny and five-dollar bill. And we are still the United States because Lincoln helped hold them together. But who was he, really? The little girl in this book wants to find out. Among the many other things, she discovers our sixteenth president was a man who believed in freedom for all, had a dog named Fido, loved Mozart, apples, and his wife’s vanilla cake, and kept his notes in his hat. From his boyhood in a log cabin to his famous presidency and untimely death, Kalman shares Lincoln’s remarkable life with young readers in a fresh and exciting way.

Books About Slavery and 1800-1849

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Abe's Honest Words
Written by Doreen Rappaport & illustrated by Kadir Nelson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-8
From the time he was a young boy roaming the forests of the unsettled Midwest, Abraham Lincoln knew in his heart that slavery was deeply wrong. A voracious reader, Lincoln spent every spare moment of his days filling his mind with knowledge, from history to literature to mathematics, preparing himself to one day lead the country he loved toward greater equality and prosperity. Despite the obstacles he faced as a self-educated man from the back woods, Lincoln persevered in his political career, and his compassion and honesty gradually earned him the trust of many Americans. As president, he guided the nation through a long and bitter civil war and penned the document that would lead to the end of slavery in the United States. The passion for humanity that defined Lincoln's life shines through in this momentous follow-up to Martin's Big Words and John's Secret Dreams. Told in Doreen Rappaport's accessible, absorbing prose, and brought to life in powerful illustrations by Kadir Nelson, Abe's Honest Words is an epic portrait of a truly great American president.
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An Apple for Harriet Tubman
Written by Glennette Tilley Turner & illustrated by Susan Keeter
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Biography of a little slave girl whipped for eating an apple, who later grew up to become a famous "conductor" for the underground railroad.
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Night Boat to Freedom
Written by Margot Theis Raven & illustrated by E. B. Lewis
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9
_What scares the head is best done with the heart._ When Granny Judith asks twelve-year-old Christmas John to row Molly across the river from Kentucky to the Free State of Ohio, he's terrified. But Granny Judith reassures him. So Christmas John begins the first of many dangerous journeys. And each passing day brings hope that Granny and John can find their own freedom, just across the river. _Night Boat to Freedom_ is a 2007 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.
Honorable Mentions
Priscilla and the Hollyhocks book
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Never Caught, The Story Of Ona Judge book
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Night Running: How James Escaped with the Help of His Faithful Dog book
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The Slave Dancer book
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  1. Priscilla and the Hollyhocks - Priscilla is only four years old when her mother is sold to another master. All Priscilla has to remember her mother by are the hollyhocks she planted by the cow pond. At age ten, Priscilla is sold to a Cherokee family and continues her life as a slave. She keeps hope for a better life alive by planting hollyhocks wherever she goes. At last, her forced march along the Trail of Tears brings a chance encounter that leads to her freedom. Includes an author’s note with more details about this fascinating true story as well as instructions for making hollyhock dolls.

  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. Night Running: How James Escaped with the Help of His Faithful Dog - It’s 1838, and James has made a secret plan to escape Master Graham’s farm–and slavery. James tells his dog Zeus he has to stay behind: he’s simply too noisy to bring along on a dangerous nighttime journey. But when two white men capture James soon after he runs, he’s grateful his faithful hunting dog didn’t obey. Zeus has followed behind, and the scrappy hound rescues James from his captors. An author’s note describes the real life inspiration behind the book: James Smith, a slave who escaped with the help of his dog and went on to become a farmer and Baptist minister.

  4. The Slave Dancer - One day, thirteen-year-old jessie Bollier is earning pennies playing his fife on the docks of New Orleans; the next, he is kidnapped and thrown aboard a slave ship, where his job is to provide music while shackled slaves “dance” to keep their muscles strong and their bodies profitable. As the endless voyage continues, Jessie grows increasingly sickened by the greed, brutality, and inhumanity of the slave trade, but nothing prepares him for the ultimate horror he will witness before his nightmare ends — a horror that will change his life forever.

Want to see books about 1800-1849?

Books About Slavery and Activism

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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.
Add to list
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.
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I Am Harriet Tubman
Written by Brad Meltzer & illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8
"A biography of Harriet Tubman, the abolitionist leader who played a key role in helping enslaved people escape via the Underground Railroad."
Honorable Mentions
Who Was Harriet Tubman? book
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Harriet Tubman: Freedom Fighter book
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Voices from the Underground Railroad book
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How Sweet the Sound book
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  1. Who Was Harriet Tubman? - Born a slave in Maryland, Harriet Tubman knew first-hand what it meant to be someone’s property; she was whipped by owners and almost killed by an overseer. It was from other field hands that she first heard about the Underground Railroad which she travelled by herself north to Philadelphia. Throughout her long life (she died at the age of ninety-two) and long after the Civil War brought an end to slavery, this amazing woman was proof of what just one person can do.

  2. 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.

  3. Voices from the Underground Railroad - Siblings Mattie and Jeb escape slavery via the Underground Railroad, meeting helpful conductors and dodging slave catchers as they travel from Maryland to Massachusetts

  4. 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 activism?

Books About Slavery and History

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Juneteenth for Mazie
Written & illustrated by Floyd Cooper
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-9
Mazie is ready to celebrate liberty. She is ready to celebrate freedom. She is ready to celebrate a great day in American history -- the day her ancestors were no longer slaves. Mazie remembers the struggles and the triumph, as she gets ready to celebrate Juneteenth. This beautiful story by award-winning author and illustrator Floyd Cooper will captivate both children and adults.
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Freedom Soup
Written by Tami Charles & illustrated by Jacqueline Alcantara
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-9
**Join the celebration in the kitchen as a family makes their traditional New Year’s soup — and shares the story of how Haitian independence came to be.** *The shake-shake of maracas vibrates down to my toes. Ti Gran’s feet tap-tap to the rhythm.* Every year, Haitians all over the world ring in the new year by eating a special soup, a tradition dating back to the Haitian Revolution. This year, Ti Gran is teaching Belle how to make the soup — Freedom Soup — just like she was taught when she was a little girl. Together, they dance and clap as they prepare the holiday feast, and Ti Gran tells Belle about the history of the soup, the history of Belle’s family, and the history of Haiti, where Belle’s family is from. In this celebration of cultural traditions passed from one generation to the next, Jacqueline Alcántara’s lush illustrations bring to life both Belle’s story and the story of the Haitian Revolution. Tami Charles’s lyrical text, as accessible as it is sensory, makes for a tale that readers will enjoy to the last drop.
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Lift Your Light a Little Higher
Written & illustrated by Heather Henson
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
The story of Stephen Bishop, a slave and early explorer and guide at Mammoth Cave, Kentucky.
Honorable Mentions
Jefferson's Sons book
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Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans book
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Under the Freedom Tree book
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Climbing Lincoln's Steps book
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  1. Jefferson's Sons - A fictionalized look at the last twenty years of Thomas Jefferson’s life at Monticello through the eyes of three of his slaves, two of whom were his sons by his slave, Sally Hemings.

  2. 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.

  3. Under the Freedom Tree - Tells of the Civil War’s first contraband camp that began when three escaped slaves were granted protection at a Union-held fort, prompting runaway slaves to seek freedom there and build the country’s first African American community.

  4. 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 Slavery and African Americans

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The Bell Rang
Written & illustrated by James E. Ransome
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
A Kirkus Reviews Best Picture Book of 2019 A young slave girl witnesses the heartbreak and hopefulness of her family and their plantation community when her brother escapes for freedom in this brilliantly conceived picture book by Coretta Scott King Award winner James E. Ransome. Every single morning, the overseer of the plantation rings the bell. Daddy gathers wood. Mama cooks. Ben and the other slaves go out to work. Each day is the same. Full of grueling work and sweltering heat. Every day, except one, when the bell rings and Ben is nowhere to be found. Because Ben ran. Yet, despite their fear and sadness, his family remains hopeful that maybe, just maybe, he made it North. That he is free. An ode to hope and a powerful tribute to the courage of those who ran for freedom, The Bell Rang is a stunning reminder that our past can never be forgotten.
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Unspoken
Written & illustrated by Henry Cole
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
In this wordless picture book, a young Southern farm girl discovers a runaway slave hiding behind the corn crib in the barn and decides to help him.
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Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan
Written & illustrated by Ashley Bryan
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-10
Using original slave auction and plantation estate documents, Ashley Bryan offers a moving and powerful picture book that contrasts the monetary value of a slave with the priceless value of life experiences and dreams that a slave owner could never take away. Imagine being looked up and down and being valued as less than chair. Less than an ox. Less than a dress. Maybe about the same as…a lantern. You, an object. An object to sell. In his gentle yet deeply powerful way, Ashley Bryan goes to the heart of how a slave is given a monetary value by the slave owner, tempering this with the one thing that CAN’T be bought or sold—dreams. Inspired by the actual will of a plantation owner that lists the worth of each and every one of his “workers”, Bryan has created collages around that document, and others like it. Through fierce paintings and expansive poetry he imagines and interprets each person’s life on the plantation, as well as the life their owner knew nothing about—their dreams and pride in knowing that they were worth far more than an Overseer or Madam ever would guess. Visually epic, and never before done, this stunning picture book is unlike anything you’ve seen.
Honorable Mentions
The People Could Fly: The Picture Book book
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Never Forgotten book
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I Want to be Free book
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With Books and Bricks book
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  1. The People Could Fly: The Picture Book - “THE PEOPLE COULD FLY,” the title story in Virginia Hamilton’s prize-winning American Black folktale collection, is a fantasy tale of the slaves who possessed the ancient magic words that enabled them to literally fly away to freedom. And it is a moving tale of those who did not have the opportunity to “fly” away, who remained slaves with only their imaginations to set them free as they told and retold this tale. Leo and Diane Dillon have created powerful new illustrations in full color for every page of this picture book presentation of Virginia Hamilton’s most beloved tale. The author’s original historical note as well as her previously unpublished notes are included. Awards for The People Could Fly collection: A Coretta Scott King Award A Booklist Children’s Editors’ Choice A School Library Journal Best Books of the Year A Horn Book Fanfare An ALA Notable Book An NCTE Teachers’ Choice A New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books of the Year

  2. Never Forgotten - A 2012 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book. This gorgeous picture book by Newbery Honor winner Patricia C. McKissack and two-time Caldecott Medal-winning husband-and-wife team Leo and Diane Dillon is sure to become a treasured keepsake for African American families. Set in West Africa, this a lyrical story-in-verse is about a young black boy who is kidnapped and sold into slavery, and his father who is left behind to mourn the loss of his son. Here’s a beautiful, powerful, truly unforgettable story about family, memory, and freedom.

  3. I Want to be Free - Before I die, I want to be free. But the Big Man says, ?You belong to me.? A runaway slave has broken the chains that bound him, but as he sets out for the land of the free, he still carries the weight of an iron ring around his ankle. As long as it remains, and as long as the Big Man hunts him, he?ll never truly be free. But rescuing an orphaned slave child from certain capture gives him the strength to keep moving on, and miraculously, the child?s love and gratitude are all that is needed to destroy the shackle once and for all. This moving, poetic text is based on a story from the sacred literature of Buddha.

  4. With Books and Bricks - Booker T. Washington had an incredible passion for learning. Born a slave, he taught himself to read. When the Civil War ended, Booker finally fulfilled his dream of attending school. After graduation, he was invited to teach in Tuskegee, Alabama. Finding many eager students but no school, Booker set out to build his own school—brick by brick. An afterword gives detailed information on how the school was built.

Books About Slavery and Girls And Women

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The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read
Written by Rita Lorraine Hubbard & illustrated by Oge Mora
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
****Imagine learning to read at the age of 116! Discover the true story of Mary Walker, the nation's oldest student who did just that, in this picture book from a Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator and a rising star author.**** In 1848, Mary Walker was born into slavery. At age 15, she was freed, and by age 20, she was married and had her first child. By age 68, she had worked numerous jobs, including cooking, cleaning, babysitting, and selling sandwiches to raise money for her church. At 114, she was the last remaining member of her family. And at 116, she learned to read. From Rita Lorraine Hubbard and rising star Oge More comes the inspirational story of Mary Walker, a woman whose long life spanned from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, and who--with perseverance and dedication--proved that you're never too old to learn.
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Show Way
Written by Jacqueline Woodson & illustrated by Hudson Talbott
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Soonie's great-grandma was just seven years old when she was sold to a big plantation without her ma and pa, and with only some fabric and needles to call her own. She pieced together bright patches with names like North Star and Crossroads, patches with secret meanings made into quilts called Show Ways -- maps for slaves to follow to freedom. When she grew up and had a little girl, she passed on this knowledge. And generations later, Soonie -- who was born free -- taught her own daughter how to sew beautiful quilts to be sold at market and how to read. From slavery to freedom, through segregation, freedom marches and the fight for literacy, the tradition they called Show Way has been passed down by the women in Jacqueline Woodson's family as a way to remember the past and celebrate the possibilities of the future. Beautifully rendered in Hudson Talbott's luminous art, this moving, lyrical account pays tribute to women whose strength and knowledge illuminate their daughters' lives.
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Charlotte Spies for Justice
Written by Nikki Shannon Smith & illustrated by Alessia Trunfio
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12
In 1864 twelve-year-old former slave Charlotte is lucky enough to live on a plantation near Richmond, Virginia, owned by a Miss Van Lew, who hates slavery, and when Charlotte overhears a conversation she realizes that her mistress is gathering information and passing it on to the Union army; Charlotte is eager to help, (especially since her own cousin, Mary, is involved) but her enthusiasm may endanger them all--or help free 400 Union soldiers who are being moved from Richmond further south.
Honorable Mentions
Ona Judge Outwits the Washingtons book
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Dorothea Lange book
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  1. 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.

  2. Dorothea Lange - Before she raised her lens to take her most iconic photo, Dorothea Lange took photos of the downtrodden from bankers in once-fine suits waiting in breadlines, to former slaves, to the homeless sleeping on sidewalks. A case of polio had left her with a limp and sympathetic to those less fortunate. Traveling across the United States, documenting with her camera and her fieldbook those most affected by the stock market crash, she found the face of the Great Depression. In this picture book biography, Carole Boston Weatherford with her lyrical prose captures the spirit of the influential photographer.

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