Black History Month is an excellent opportunity to consider what it means to be an African-American. To create a more equitable society, it is critical to teach all children about the hardships of racism, slavery, and segregation. Everyone should learn about the history of prominent Black people and personalities, including both men and women of color. Besides other things, books are ideal for teaching kids, youngsters and early teenagers about the lives of African-Americans in the United States and throughout the world. When it comes to children’s books about Black history, there are a lot of good choices for parents and educators.
For your convenience, we’ve compiled a list of some best children’s books for Black History Month. All these books will tell your children the true experiences of slaves, people who lived throughout the Civil Rights Movement, and modern famous Black figures and inventors.
Many of these books were published during the Civil Rights Movement and were specifically targeted to white readers. They provide a detailed account of African American history and also give white readers a better understanding of African American culture.
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A List of Greatest Children’s Books About Black History
Regardless of what color your kids are, Black history is what America was built on and should be talked about. And books are a powerful tool for parents and teachers to help children learn about Black history. Most of the children’s books about Black history included in the list below are published by authors of African descent. Some of these books have also been recommended by the librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library, who is an expert on African American history and has a passion for children’s literature.
This list is just a small selection of some good Children’s books about Black history that we hope will inspire and excite young readers to learn and grow with us as we celebrate Black History Month.
1. The Year We Learned To Fly by Jacqueline Woodson
This highly anticipated companion to beloved picture book, The Day You Begin, illuminates the power in each of us to face challenges with the utmost confidence.
An inspiring and vibrant picture book from the incredible team of Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael López, The Year We Learned to Fly follows two young grandchildren who find themselves stuck at home. Their grandmother teaches them how to utilize their imagination to gain enlightenment and inner power by dreaming away boredom and anger. She ties in their people’s past and how, despite such strife and instability, they have always dreamed of something better. It’s an inspiring picture book about dreams and creating good things in your life. The lyrical words by Jacqueline Woodson and the sparkling imagery by Rafael Lopez praise our incredible power to lift ourselves up and envisage a better future.
2. Black Heroes: A Black History Book for Kids by Arlisha Norwood
Celebrate Black History Month by educating your children about the most influential Black people throughout history.
An amazing book, Black Heroes features 51 inspiring Black people from ancient Africa to the modern-day United States. In a few pages each, kids and adults can learn about well-known people like Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman, and former President Barack Obama as well as lesser known people such as Ignatius Sancho. It’s a good mix of civil rights heroes, popular world leaders, sportsmen, artists, scientists, and more. Each biography includes a full-color illustration and ideas for additional ways to explore the person and their work, including books to read, websites to visit, or videos to watch.
3. Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport
Doreen Rappaport’s Martin’s Big Words is one of the best picture book biographies on Dr. King’s life for young learners.
The book beautifully tells the story of Dr. Martin Luther King’s life through simple, but powerful words from both the author and Dr. King’s speeches. It starts off with a look at his childhood and what shaped who he became. There are also his famous quotes throughout and even some of the harsher aspects of the civil rights movement. The text paired with Collier’s remarkable artwork paints a portrait of Dr. King that is accessible to young readers everywhere. It’s a spectacular picture book and a great way to make him more “real” for some of our little ones.
4. Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz
A fictionalized account of the true events in the earlier life “before the X” of Malcolm X.
Malcolm Little is a charming picture book biography written by his daughter and drawn by AG Ford. It advocates a vision of freedom and fairness. Malcolm Little was a natural born leader, supported by his large, loving family’s love and wisdom. When he was confronted with discrimination and a series of disasters, Malcolm’s hope and faith were shattered. He had to learn how to be powerful while remaining himself. He needed to learn to trust himself. With a poetic tale that offers a message that still resonates today—that we must all aspire to live to our best potential—the book provides us a rare peek into Malcolm X’s youth. It’s one of the best children’s books about Black history.
5. Black Women in Science: A Black History Book for Kids by Kimberly Brown Pellum. PhD
The book contains 15 most intriguing biographies about remarkable Black women in science.
Throughout history, Black women have blazed trails in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Black Women in Science adds a unique perspective to children’s Black history books by honoring amazing Black women in STEM who have defied the odds with their intellect, bravery, and desire. You’ll discover outstanding role models in the accomplishments of these incredible women. With riveting stories of daring female scientists who pushed their STEM areas and struggled to establish a legacy, the book offers encouragement to people of all ages, races, and genders that they are valuable, that their efforts count, and that they should strive for greatness despite difficulties. ⠀
6. 28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World by Charles R. Smith Jr.
An invigorating, new perspective on an age-old subject, it’s an amazing Black History Book for kids.
Fueled by childhood recollections of hearing the same Black History Month stories repeated over and again, Smith wanted to express the importance and relevance of African American accomplishments in a new and entertaining way. Dramatically illustrated by Shane Evans, his book, 28 Days: Moments in Black History That Changed the World, is a one-of-a-kind look at the significance and impact of African Americans on the history of this country. From Crispus Attucks; the first man shot in the Boston Massacre that sparked the Revolutionary War, to Barack Obama; the country’s first African-American president, to Madame C. J. Walker; who overcame adversity to become the wealthiest Black woman in the country, each day features a different influential figure in African-American history.
7. We Are Shining by Gwendolyn Brooks
A collaboration between Pulitzer Prize winner US Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks and Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist Jan Spivey Gilchrist, We Are Shining is an amazing read.
This beautiful picture book, which commemorates Gwendolyn Brooks’ 100th birthday, is a celebration of our world’s diversity. Gwendolyn Brooks’ narrative acknowledges the beauty of our planet and the many diverse individuals that live in it. It talks to all children throughout the world, emphasizing that every kid deserves a bright future and offers hope for a brighter tomorrow. If we were to characterize this book in one word, it would be “beautiful.” Beautiful words, beautiful illustrations, and a beautiful message. It’s a great way to introduce children to the amazing Gwendolyn Brooks!
8. I am Jackie Robinson by Brad Meltzer
Jack Roosevelt Robinson was the first African-American professional baseball player in the modern period to play in Major League Baseball.
One of the must-read children’s books about Black history is the story of Jackie Robinson. He overcame so much in his life even beyond breaking the racial barrier into Major League Baseball. His story and legacy is remarkable and well-captured in this book: I Am Jackie Robinson by Brad Meltzer. He led the Dodgers to 6 pennants in 10 years. His strength on and off the field made him a legend. It is a beautiful story of overcoming obstacles and racism, of equality and going after one’s dreams. The book is perfect for elementary aged kiddos.
9. Playing to Win by Karen Deans
Althea Gibson is a titan in the tennis world. She tore the net down in the tennis world, paving the way for the greatness we are witnessing today.
Playing to Win tells Althea Gibson’s powerful story. She was a headstrong young woman growing up in 1930s Harlem who refused to let an opportunity pass her by. With her natural tennis skills and a desire to succeed, Althea rose to prominence in her sport. She broke down social barriers as an African-American woman and went on to become a world-famous tennis player. The book really helps readers understand how hard she worked and how much she overcame, in order to achieve that greatness. The illustrations are lovely and harken back to the days in which Althea played. As someone who played competitive tennis and was recruited to play tennis in college, this book is such a treat to learn more about Althea.
10. Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine
One of highly recommended children’s books for Black History Month that teaches about slavery, allowing children to learn about racism and why we all need to stand up against it.
Henry’s Freedom Box is a thrilling, dramatic true story by a Jane Addams Peace Award-winning novelist and a Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist about one of the most famous escaped slaves. Henry Brown has no idea how old he really is. Nobody keeps track of the birthdays of slaves. He was born a slave and through numerous hardships, including being separated from his mother and having his wife and children sold to a new master. He eventually chose to have himself sent to freedom in a box. Henry finally gets a birthday, his first day of freedom, after a long voyage in the crate. This book should be read by both young and old pupils.
11. Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison
An appealing board book adaptation of Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, which features 18 pioneering Black women in American history.
From an early age, Black children all over the world can be imbued with hopes and ambitions by reading Vashti Harrison’s Dream Big, Little One. It’s a perfect book for introducing little ones to some extraordinary models. Harrison highlights well-known Black women who started out as regular individuals but went on to achieve exceptional feats. Each page introduces a new woman and gives a brief account of how she influenced society. Children will be encouraged to perform big and fantastic things as they grow up after reading this book. It’s an amazing book that will be remembered by youngsters as they grow, with powerful images to fit these brave ladies.
12. Black Is A Rainbow Color by Angela Joy
Award-winning illustrator and artist Ekua Holmes’ latest book, Black is a Rainbow Color is written by Angela Joy followed by a fun art making activity designed especially for little kids.
A powerful and thought-provoking book, it starts with a child talking about the colors of a rainbow and how there’s no black in rainbows. It then talks about how black is a part of our lives—our history, our culture, in the details of our day. Black represents feelings, dreams, ideas, and inspiration. The moving words strike a deep chord in one’s heart regarding Black people’s struggles and triumphs, the challenges they’ve overcome, and the strength they represent. The illustrations in this book are vibrant and moving. The concepts and beautiful words transport you to another world. It’s simply one of stunningly touching children’s books about Black history. In fact, I recommend all people—not just children—to read it.
13. Bedtime Inspirational Stories: 50 Amazing Black People Who Changed the World by L.A. Amber
A dazzling book featuring extraordinary people and beautiful life lessons. It is dedicated to any kid who has ever felt unworthy, ever dreamed big but been discouraged, or has ever stood up but been hushed.
Bedtime Inspirational Stories is an excellent book to inspire children to believe in themselves and also to read about people who have faced adversity to reach their goals yet made the lives of others better. The book showcases 50 trailblazing Black heroes who made history. It highlights their stories and achievements, from the 18th century to date. Besides getting to learn or remember these amazing leaders, there are some lessons/positive messages and mindfulness exercises that are found in the back of the book. Combined with the beautiful artwork, this book is a much needed treat for our children’s brains, minds, hearts, and soul. It should be read by/to all children so that they know that they should never let anyone tell them they cannot do something.
14. The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles
Ruby’s story of courage, resilience, hope and faith, told with Robert Coles’ strong narrative and vividly illustrated by George Ford, continues to resonate more than 60 years later.
The Story of Ruby Bridges chronicles the life of famous civil rights icon, Ruby Bridges, one of the first Black children to attend an all white school in New Orleans after desegregation. At the age of six, Ruby was one of four girls sent into white schools to begin the process of integration, or merging one school with another to become one. But unlike the other three girls, Ruby had to go it alone. She encountered many disgruntled individuals who wished to stop her. It’s one of the best children’s story for Black History Month that all of our kids should be told, to make sure never to repeat the history.
15. Swing Sisters by Karen Deans
What better book for Black History Month than a story about the most popular swing band in the 40s!
Karen Deans’ Swing Sisters is about the all-women swing band called The International Sweethearts of Rhythm. Originally founded by girls who learnt to play music at the Piney Woods Country Life School (a school for African Americans, largely orphans), it went on to become the first integrated female band in the United States, performing at the top American music venues and traveling the globe. Musicians and non-musicians alike will love this book, which is told with just the appropriate amount of information for a children’s nonfiction book. It will help your kids appreciate African Americans’ efforts, as well as the great women who helped them.
16. Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library by Carole Boston Weatherford
Where is our historian to give us our side? To teach our people our own history?” asks Afro-Puerto Rican Arturo Schomburg on the first page of this beautifully illustrated picture book.
Beautifully written and illustrated, Schomburg is a unique blend of poetry, prose, chapter books, along with stunning pictures. “Africa’s boys and girls had no history, no heroes worth recognizing,” Schomburg’s fifth-grade teacher had informed him. Schomburg devoted his life to ensuring that future generations were educated about the rich history of Africa and African Americans. His goal was to write, collect, share, investigate, and buy anything he could to convey awareness of African-American history. He crammed his collection into every nook and crevice of his Harlem family home before donating it to the now-famous Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York. It’s an excellent children’s book for learning about a hero who worked to preserve and promote African-American heritage.
17. A Place to Land by Barry Wittenstein
If you’re looking for a picture book to share with children that pays tribute to “I Have a Dream,” look no further than A Place to Land.
Written by Barry Wittenstein and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, this 2020-21 Texas Bluebonnet nominee is an amazingly beautiful children’s book. It takes a look at what led up to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic speech. The day before the March on Washington, he landed in Washington, D.C., and met with nine of his closest advisers to prepare on the address. This picture book is incredibly factual and also has a great message of following your heart. The illustrations are stunning; drawings and bits of photographs laced together with colorful paintings that evoke strong emotions of the events the day Dr. King gave his speech. It also reminds us that while Dr. King inspired change, we still have a lot of work to do.
18. The Kidnapped Prince: The Life of Olaudah Equiano Adapted by Ann Cameron
An interesting book with lessons on perseverance, faith, betrayal, friendship, and honesty, The Kidnapped Prince is one of the best children’s books for Black History Month.
Olaudah was a 1745-born prince from Benin (modern-day Nigeria). By the age of nine, he had been abducted and sold into slavery. And by the age of 22 he had worked his way to freedom. A brilliant man, he taught himself to read and write, went on to become a skilled sea trader, and enjoyed a lot of good fortune throughout his life. In 1788, he published his first book and became England’s most powerful advocate for the abolition of slavery. Ann Cameron adapted and simplified the original book. Now it reads like a simple chapter book appropriate for kids starting in 4th grade.
19. Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison
Featuring true stories of women who broke boundaries and exceeded all expectations, Little Legends: Bold Women in Black History is an amazing children’s book about Black History.
In a series of mini-biographies, the book highlights the experiences of courageous Black women throughout history who persevered in the face of hardship, broke through boundaries, and pioneered new fields of research and discovery. The author’s illustrative style is remarkable, minimalist, and visually appealing. Each tale is a source of personal inspiration, encouragement, and strength—a subtle pep talk and a powerful reminder of what women, particularly Black women, can achieve when they follow their passions with tenacity. It’s an excellent mix of prominent Black leaders that every child will remember, as well as lesser-known personalities who, like them, blazed trails, broke barriers, and accomplished incredible things.
20. I Am Enough by Grace Byers
Want to teach your kids positive affirmation, empowerment, and self confidence? Grace Byers’s I am enough is absolutely perfect!
This is a wonderful book on discovering and accepting the beautiful and amazing person that lives inside of you. It has a beautiful anti-racist message about celebrating who you are and how you stand up in the world. It’s about self-love, self-importance, self-acceptance, and acknowledging and embracing differences. The book shows and teaches us that children of all different backgrounds can come together and be proud of who they are. The lyrical writing style reflects with pride, and the beautiful illustration shines parallel to the concept. It is an easy, uplifting and motivating book advocating all extremely important values to carry on through adulthood.
21. Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African-Americans by Kadir Nelson
A multiple Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King award winner, Heart and Soul is a sweeping account of the black experience in America, told using a fictional family narrative.
A wonderfully illustrated history book, it’s about men, women, and children in slavery, an America split by Jim Crow laws, determined people who dared to fight for an education, and the bravery that conquered such injustice. Told through the eyes of an elderly black woman, the book shows that America’s promise of liberty did not happen for everyone. You can almost hear her voice as she describes her family’s experience and the experience of other African-Americans over the changing decades. This book is a great start to teach children the facts about US Chattel Slavery. It’s one of the must-read children’s books about Black history and a great addition to any library.
22. What Color Is My World? by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld
Written by basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, this nonfiction book for young readers is full of interesting and significant information.
A lively, kid-friendly book, What Color Is My World? tells fascinating true stories of largely unknown African-American inventors woven through the fictional modern day story of an African-American family making the most of their new rundown home. In fact, it’s an homage to Black innovators whose creativity and tenacity despite enormous obstacles made our society safer, better, and brighter, comprising biographies with quick facts and framed by a comical modern narrative involving two feisty twins. An author’s comment and sources are included in the back matter. The book is perfect for grades 3-6 but also a great resource for older kids looking for research ideas.
23. Ella Queen of Jazz by Helen Hancocks
An inspiring, true story of Ella Fitzgerald breaking the color barrier at the Mocambo Club with the assistance of a renowned friend.
Ella Queen of Jazz is a tale of the friendship between Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. It shows us how these two women empowered each other through friendship, and of one amazingly talented singer making her way to the spotlight. Ella Fitzgerald was already famous in her own right, but was still discriminated against at certain clubs due to her skin color. Marilyn brokered a deal with the owners of Mocambo, where she promised to sit up front at all of Ella’s shows. Ella’s shows were sold out—she was the Queen of Jazz, after all—but Marilyn’s support allowed Ella in the door. This real account of how Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe formed a remarkable friendship—and how they fought together to overcome prejudice and adversity—is a must-read for Black History Month.
24. The Watsons Go To Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis
A modern classic, this book was originally published in 1995. Its nuanced depiction of a Black family at the height of the civil rights movement that gives young readers important insight into a period they typically only read about in history books.
The Watsons Go to Birmingham introduces us to Kenny, a ten-year-old boy from Flint, Michigan, and his family, the Weird Watsons. Momma, Dad, little sister Joetta, and thirteen-year-old brother Byron, who is an “official juvenile delinquent,” are all present. When Momma and Dad decide it’s time to pay a visit to Grandma, Dad brings the incredible Ultra-Glide home, and the Watsons go on an adventure unlike any other. They’re on their way to Birmingham, Alabama, to see one of America’s darkest moments. The Watsons’ story demonstrates how humor and family can help us get through even the most trying situations.
25. Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold
A fantasy children’s book, Faith Ringgold’s Tar Beach is a beautiful story about a girl who dreams big and knows how to go wherever she wants.
In this award winning children’s book, part autobiographical and part fiction, Ringgold recounts the dream adventures of eight-year-old Cassie Louise Lightfoot. She flies above her apartment building’s tar beach rooftop, looking down on 1939 Harlem. The book promotes themes of poverty, community, big dreams and perspectives. It speaks of overcoming adversity and teaches children (and our Inner Child) how to celebrate freedom, courage, and peace. Inspiring and wonderful, it’s definitely one of the best children’s books about Black history.