Best Kids Books About Slavery

8 Kids Books About Slavery

Updated Jan. 19, 2019
Looking at Lincoln book
#1
Looking at Lincoln
Written and illustrated by Maira Kalman
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

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.

How Sweet the Sound book
#2
How Sweet the Sound
Written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Frank Morrison
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

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.

I Am Abraham Lincoln book
#3
I Am Abraham Lincoln
Written by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

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

Voices from the Underground Railroad book
#4
Voices from the Underground Railroad
Written by Kay Winters and illustrated by Larry Day
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

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

With Books and Bricks book
#5
With Books and Bricks
Written by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Nicole Tadgell
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

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.

Dorothea Lange book
#6
Dorothea Lange
Written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Sarah Green
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

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.

Climbing Lincoln's Steps book
#7
Climbing Lincoln's Steps
Written by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Colin Bootman
picture book
Recommend Ages: 7-10

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.

Bell Rang book
#8
Bell Rang
Written and illustrated by James E. Ransome
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

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.

Have a suggestion for a book to add to this list? Send an email to [email protected] with your book and list suggestion.