Children’s Books that Celebrate Black History
I love embracing diversity in our read-aloud books. Since February is Black History Month, we have been focusing on children’s books that help celebrate Black History, and we have learned so much through reading these wonderful stories. We have collected 19 titles for you to add to your library or amazon list. Before we begin, take a moment to pin this post to your reading or kid lit board for later.
*Disclaimer, this post does contain affiliate links which means if you make a purchase I will receive a commission with no extra cost to you, thank you for your support.
written by Chris Barton, illustrated by Don Tate
This book is about a young boy from Alabama named Lonnie Johnson. Lonnie is one of six children and lives in a tiny home with his parents and siblings. He loved tinkering around with spare parts and treasures from the junkyard. Creating rockets and even his very own robot. It wasn’t easy for this little boy, but he kept at it and continued to create and invent. He even had the opportunity to work with NASA! His tinkering never ends, and he accidentally stumbles upon the most amazing toy creation ever! The journey to get this amazing toy in children’s hands everywhere wasn’t easy, but Lonnie’s persistence is inspiring.
written by Kadir Nelson
This is an amazing picture book that introduces the reader to Nelson Mandela. This book is written in story form. It is a tremendously engaging story for young readers. The artwork is full-size colorful paintings. The stunning artwork will delight all who view it. Children are sure to love this book and revisit it again and again.
written by Luke Collins
This book is short and sweet, about Mae Jemison, the first female African American astronaut. It takes the reader on her life journey and how hard she worked to become an astronaut. It also talks about her life after becoming an astronaut and how she did amazing things as a doctor and teacher. This is a great introduction to Mae Jemison and biographies in general.
written by Nikki Giovani illustrated by Brian Collier
This is a magnificent picture book about Rosa Parks. This biography is beautifully written and filled with facts other biographies ignore. It is not boring and mundane like other biographies. It sheds light on more than Rosa Parks and the Alabama Bus Strike. It shares how Rosa was not tired from work and how she was actually excited and planning her evening out in her mind when she was told to move. She was tired of being mistreated and stood up for herself and all mistreated people in that one moment. The reader will also enjoy the beautiful illustrations, which help bring the story to life.
written by Debbie Allen illustrated by Kadir Nelson
This is an amazing story about a young girl known as Sassy! She has the personality to go with that name. Sassy was a tall girl with big feet who loved to dance. She got made fun of because of this. She never had a partner in dance because she was taller than all the boys. She had to really work hard to get all those thoughts out of her head and shine! This book is well written and has great illustrations and, best of all, an amazing lesson.
written by Meg Belviso and Pamela Pollack
This book informs the reader about Nelson Mandela’s life in an easy, digestible, and comprehensive way children can understand. This story goes through Nelson’s whole life. The reader learns all about his childhood and what made him the man he grew up to be. We were taken on his life journey. We learned about him, South Africa, and social injustice. It was a fun and informative ride that taught us about this powerhouse of a man who wasn’t afraid to stand up for what was right.
written by Calvin Alexander Ramesy, and Gwen Strauss Illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Ruth was so excited to take a trip in her family’s new car! In the early 1950s, few African Americans could afford to buy cars, which would be an adventure. But she soon found out that black travelers weren’t treated very well in some towns. Many hotels and gas stations refused service to black people. Daddy was upset about something called Jim Crow laws.
Finally, a friendly attendant at a gas station showed Ruth’s family The Green Book. It listed all of the places that would welcome black travelers. With this guidebook―and the kindness of strangers―Ruth could finally make a safe journey from Chicago to her grandma’s house in Alabama.
written by Megan Stine illustrated by John O’Brien
This book gives readers a closer look at the former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama. Readers learn all about her accomplishments, including her hard work and determination in school and the changes she made to this world. It also tells us about how she met and ultimately married Barack Obama and supported him even though it was hard for her and their family at times. Learning about former First Ladies was an added benefit of this book. This book gives the reader facts about Michelle Obama including her life as a child. It shares details about how she grew up and graduated from both Princeton and Harvard Universities. We also learn about her family life and her hard work as a lawyer. Learning how Michelle grew up and became the First Lady of the United States is an inspiring story. One of the best features of this book is the honesty in sharing her story.
written by Nikki Grimes illustrated by Bryan Collier
This book gives young readers a deeper look into Barack Obama’s Childhood. Readers learn all about how Barack Obama became persistent, hopeful President he became. The colorful pictures and uplifting message definitely made this book a winner. This book is written in a dialogue which Isabella really enjoyed, it made for a fun read-aloud. We loved how it focused on Obama’s personal experiences growing up which formed him into the man that he ultimately became.
written by Helaine Becker illustrated by Tiemdow Phumiruk
You’ve likely heard of the historic Apollo 13 moon landing. But do you know about the mathematical genius who made sure that Apollo 13 returned safely home?
As a child, Katherine Johnson loved to count. She counted the steps on the road, the number of dishes and spoons she washed in the kitchen sink, everything! Boundless, curious, and excited by calculations, young Katherine longed to know as much as she could about math, about the universe.
From Katherine’s early beginnings as a gifted student to her heroic accomplishments as a prominent mathematician at NASA, Counting on Katherine is the story of a groundbreaking American woman who not only calculated the course of moon landings but, in turn, saved lives and made enormous contributions to history.
written by Roda Ahmed illustrated by Stasia Burrington
Mae Among the Stars is the perfect book for young readers who have big dreams and even bigger hearts!
When Little Mae was a child, she dreamed of dancing in space. She imagined herself surrounded by billions of stars, floating, gliding, and discovering.
She wanted to be an astronaut.
Her mom told her, “If you believe it, and work hard for it, anything is possible.”
Little Mae’s curiosity, intelligence, and determination, matched with her parents’ encouraging words, paved the way for her incredible success at NASA as the first African American woman to travel in space.
written by Kadir Nelson
What began as a spiritual has developed into one of America’s best-known songs, and now for the first time it appears as a picture book, masterfully created by award-winning artist Kadir Nelson. Through sublime landscapes and warm images of a boy and his family, Kadir has created a dazzling, intimate interpretation, one that rejoices in the connectedness of people and nature.
Inspired by the song’s simple message, Kadir sought to capture the joy of living in and engaging with the world. Most importantly, he wished to portray the world as a child might see it—vast and beautiful.
written by Nikki Giovanni illustrated by Alicia Vergel de Dios, Damian Ward, Kristen Balouch, Jeremy Tugeau, and Michele Noiset
Poetry can have both a rhyme and a rhythm. Sometimes it is obvious; sometimes it is hidden. But either way, make no mistake, poetry is as vibrant and exciting as it gets. And when you find yourself clapping your hands or tapping your feet, you know you’ve found poetry with a beat!
READ more than 50 remarkable poems and songs!
HEAR poetry’s rhymes and rhythms from Queen Latifah to Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes to A Tribe Called Quest and more! * Also hear part of Martin Luther Kind’s original “I Have a Dream” speech, followed by the remarkable live performance of the speech by Nikki Giovanni, Oni Lasana and Val Gray Ward. * The Hip Hop Speaks to Children CD contains more than 30 performances, either by the artists who created them, or as unique interpretations by admiring poets and artists.
DISCOVER Langston Hughes’s elegant gospel “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” A Tribe Called Quest’s playful “Ham ‘N’ Eggs,” Sterling A. Brown’s hard-luck “Long Track Blues,” Gwendolyn Brooks’s wake-up call “We Real Cool,” Kanye West’s lovely “Hey Mama,” and Martin Luther King Jr.’s awe-inspiring “I Have a Dream.”
written by Jamia Wilson illustrated by Andrea Pippins
Meet 52 icons of color from the past and present in this celebration of inspirational achievement—a collection of stories about changemakers to encourage, inspire, and empower the next generation of changemakers. Jamia Wilson has carefully curated this range of black icons and the book is stylishly brought together by Andrea Pippins’ colorful and celebratory illustrations.
Written in the spirit of Nina Simone’s song “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black,” this vibrant book is a perfect introduction to both historic and present-day icons and heroes. Meet figureheads, leaders, and pioneers such as Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Rosa Parks, as well as cultural trailblazers and athletes like Stevie Wonder, Oprah Winfrey, and Serena Williams.
All children deserve to see themselves represented positively in the books they read. Highlighting the talent and contributions of black leaders and changemakers from around the world, readers of all backgrounds will be empowered to discover what they too can achieve. 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.
written by Monica Clark-Robinson illustrated by Frank Morrison
In 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, thousands of African American children volunteered to march for their civil rights after hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak. They protested the laws that kept black people separate from white people. Facing fear, hate, and danger, these children used their voices to change the world. Frank Morrison’s emotive oil-on-canvas paintings bring this historical event to life, while Monica Clark-Robinson’s moving and poetic words document this remarkable time.
written by Laban Carrick Hill illustrated by Theodore Taylor III
Before there was hip hop, there was DJ Kool Herc.
On a hot day at the end of summer in 1973 Cindy Campbell threw a back-to-school party at a park in the South Bronx. Her brother, Clive Campbell, spun the records. He had a new way of playing the music to make the breaks―the musical interludes between verses―longer for dancing. He called himself DJ Kool Herc and this is When the Beat Was Born. From his childhood in Jamaica to his youth in the Bronx, Laban Carrick Hill’s book tells how Kool Herc came to be a DJ, how kids in gangs stopped fighting in order to breakdance, and how the music he invented went on to define a culture and transform the world.
written by Carole Boston Weatherford Illustrated by Theodore Tay Eric Velasquez
Where is our historian to give us our side? Arturo asked.
Amid the scholars, poets, authors, and artists of the Harlem Renaissance stood an Afro–Puerto Rican named Arturo Schomburg. This law clerk’s life’s passion was to collect books, letters, music, and art from Africa and the African diaspora and bring to light the achievements of people of African descent through the ages. When Schomburg’s collection became so big it began to overflow his house (and his wife threatened to mutiny), he turned to the New York Public Library, where he created and curated a collection that was the cornerstone of a new Negro Division. A century later, his groundbreaking collection, known as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, has become a beacon to scholars all over the world.
written by Andrea Davis Pinkney
It was February 1, 1960.
They didn’t need menus. Their order was simple.
A doughnut and coffee, with cream on the side.
This picture book is a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the momentous Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in, when four college students staged a peaceful protest that became a defining moment in the struggle for racial equality and the growing civil rights movement.
Andrea Davis Pinkney uses poetic, powerful prose to tell the story of these four young men, who followed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words of peaceful protest and dared to sit at the “whites only” Woolworth’s lunch counter. Brian Pinkney embraces a new artistic style, creating expressive paintings filled with emotion that mirror the hope, strength, and determination that fueled the dreams of not only these four young men but also countless others.
written by Marianne Celano PhD, Marietta Collins PhD, Ann Hazzard PhD illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin
Emma and Josh heard that something happened in their town. A Black man was shot by the police.
“Why did the police shoot that man?”
“Can police go to jail?”
Something Happened in Our Town follows two families — one White, one Black — as they discuss a police shooting of a Black man in their community. The story aims to answer children’s questions about such traumatic events and to help children identify and counter racial injustice in their own lives.