28 great kids' books about Black history

Civil rights, the abolition movement and the history of the Black community... These books cover challenging topics, so we encourage you to read them with your children, and discuss.

28 great kids' books about Black history

Can I Touch Your Hair?

Written by Irene Latham and Charles Waters and illustrated Sean Qualls and Selina Alko, Carolrhoda Books (AGES 8+).

Poems of race, mistakes, and friendship: exploring topics from hobbies and family dinners to police and language, Latham and Waters provide a light-hearted look at racial joys, sorrows, and misunderstandings. $24,

28 great kids' books about Black history

Ella Queen of Jazz

Written by Helen Hancocks, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (AGES 5 to 8).

In the 1950s, Ella Fitzgerald and her band were becoming one of the biggest acts in jazz. But because she was Black, she was banned from the most popular club in Hollywood—until Marilyn Monroe stepped in. The true story about Marylin and Ella’s friendship and there struggles to overcome prejudice is remarkable and inspiring, and shows how a little courage goes a long way. $24,

A woman sings into an old microphone


Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday and the Power of a Protest Song

Written by Gary Golio and illustrated by Charlotte Riley-Webb, Lerner Publishing Group (AGES 8-12).

When jazz and blues singer Billie Holiday performed the song “Strange Fruit” for the first time, the audience was completely silent. This song was neither jazz nor blues—it was a song about injustice, co-written with Abel Meeropol, the son of Jewish immigrants. This book teaches kids all about how the two musicians combined their talents to create a song that challenged racism and paved the way for the Civil Rights movement. $26,


28 great kids' books about Black historyPhoto: Lerner Publishing Group

The Story of Ruby Bridges

Written by Robert Coles and illustrated by George Ford, Scholastic Inc. (AGES 4-8).

In 1960, six-year-old Ruby Bridges moved form Mississippi to New Orleans with her family in search of a better life. But when a judge tells Ruby she has to attend Grade 1 at William Frantz Elementary, an all-white school, Ruby is met with an angry mob of parents who don’t want their kids to attend school with her. $9,

28 great kids' books about Black historyPhoto: Scholastic Inc.

Josephine: The dazzling life of Josephine Baker

Written by Patricia Hruby Powell and illustrated by Christian Robinson, Chronicle Books (AGES 10-13).

Josephine Baker, possibly one of the most iconic figures of the Jazz Age in the 1920s, was a singer and entertainer who advocated for Civil Rights. This picture book depicts how Josephine worked her way through the slums of St. Louis to the grandest stages in the world. $26,

28 great kids' books about Black historyPhoto: Chronicle Books


She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story

Written by Audrey Vernick and illustrated by Don Tate, Balzer + Bray (AGES 4-8).

Effa Manley was the first—and only—woman to ever be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. She was the business manager and owner of the Newark Eagles and always fought for what was right. This is her story. $21,

28 great kids' books about Black historyPhoto: Balzer + Bray

Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald

Written by Roxanne Orgill and illustrated by Sean Qualls, Candlewick (AGES 5-9).

Did you know that the legendary Ella Fitzgerald was once an orphan who would dance Lindy Hop on the streets for loose change? That all changed one amateur night at Harlem’s Apollo theatre when she discovered she had the gift of song. This book follows Ella’s story from her school girl days up to when she released her radio hit “A-Tisket, A-Tasket.” $25,

28 great kids' books about Black historyPhoto: Candlewick

Gordon Parks: How the Photographer captured black and white America

Written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Jamey Christoph, Albert Whitman & Company (AGES 4-8). 

Although a teacher once told Gordon Parks he would either end up as a porter or waiter, he went on to be an author, fashion photographer and the first Black Hollywood director. While on assignment in Washington DC, Gordon was looking for a subject but instead found segregation. He decided to take a stand against racism and did so with a camera in hand. And guess what? He made—and captured—history. $24,

28 great kids' books about Black historyPhoto: Albert Whitman & Company



Written by Jonah Winter and illustrated Sean Qualls, Arthur A. Levine Books (AGES 4-8).

Renowned trumpet player Dizzy Gillespie is one of Jazz’s coolest cats in history, but there was a time when people didn’t appreciate Dizzy’s playing style. They thought he was a clown because he hit high notes, low notes, and never-been-heard notes. But breaking the rules was Dizzy’s thing—that’s how he created a whole new style of music: Bebop. $31,

28 great kids' books about Black historyPhoto: Arthur A. Levine Books

To The Rescue!: Garrett Morgan Underground

28 great kids' books about Black history

Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass

Written by Dean Robbins and illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko, Orchard Books (AGES 4-8).

Join Susan B. Anthony and Fredrick Douglass as they talk about women’s and African Americans’ rights. This illustrated book is based on the statue of the pair having tea in Rochester, New York. It tackles big issues like racism in an engaging and simple way that will inspire the next generation of civil rights activists. $22,

28 great kids' books about Black history


Granddaddy’s Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box

Written by Michael S. Brandy and Eric Stein and illustrated by James E. Ransome, Candlewick Press (AGES 5 TO 8).

This beautifully illustrated book is based on the true story of a family who lived in the segregated South. When young Micheal’s Granddaddy is allowed to vote for the first time, Micheal learns about justice and how to be patient. $24,

28 great kids' books about Black history

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad

Written by Ellen Levine and illustrated by Kadir Nelson, Scholastic Press (AGES 4 to 8). 

This remarkable story is about a young Black enslaved person named Henry who decided he had had enough of slavery, and mailed himself (literally) to freedom. This picture book handles a challenging topic delicately. $20,

28 great kids' books about Black history

14Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World

Written by Charles R. Smith Jr. and illustrated by Shane W. Evans, Roaring Brook Press (AGES 4 to 10).

In this picture book, 28 poignant moments in Black history are remembered. They are moments of pain that effected change, moments of triumph, moments when people defended their civil rights, and even the moment a Black man became the forty-fourth President of the United States of America. $22,

28 great kids' books about Black history


I am Jackie Robinson

Written by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos, Dial (AGES 5 to 8).

Jackie Robinson became the first Black baseball player on a major-league team at a time when there wasn’t racial equality in major-league sports in America. This picture book chronicles Robinson’s perseverance and bravery in the face of adversity. $16,

28 great kids' books about Black history

Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama

Written by Hester Bass and illustrated by E.B. Lewis, Candlewick Press (AGES 5 to 8).

This picture book for older kids teaches readers about the rampant segregation that existed in Alabama in the 60s, and how Martin Luther King Jr. preached about the importance of using non-violence and love to demand freedom and equality for all races. $19,

28 great kids' books about Black history

Freedom’s School

Written by Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by James E. Ransome, Disney Publishing (AGES 6 to 8).

When Lizzie and her family are granted their freedom, her mother is adamant that she and her brother go to school and get an education. When their tiny schoolhouse is burned down, their teacher, “Mizz Howard,” ensures that their education continues on, no matter what. This is a beautiful picture book about the struggle for freedom and the right to education. $19,

28 great kids' books about Black history


Love Will See You Through

Written by Angela Farris Watkins, PhD and illustrated by Sally Wern Comport, Simon & Schuster (AGES 6 to 11).

Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece is the author of this beautiful picture book, which features his six guiding beliefs along with a brief history of his life. His mantras of love and courage are timeless messages that can help children learn about his mission for peace. $22,

28 great kids' books about Black history

Up Home

Written by Shauntay Grant and illustrated by Susan Tooke, Nimbus Publishing (AGES 6 and up).

As a woman recalls her early life in Preston, Nova Scotia, she remembers the smells, the sights, and the sounds of her childhood. This beautiful picture book weaves a story about the important role history plays in forming identity. $13,

28 great kids' books about Black history

The Kids Book of Black Canadian History

Written by Rosemary Sadlier and illustrated by Wang Qijun, Kids Can Press (AGES 8 to 12).

This non-fiction book is filled with facts from 8000 BCE to the 1990s, including a definition of Black Canadian History, and information about Black Loyalists in the Maritimes. $16,

28 great kids' books about Black history


Harriet Tubman

Written by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and illustrated by Pili Aguado, Frances Lincoln Children's Books (AGES 4 and up).

Part of the Little People, BIG DREAMS series, this biography for preschoolers tells the inspiring story of Harriet Tubman, the Underground Railroad conductor who “never lost a single passenger.” After escaping slavery on a Maryland plantation, the Civil Rights activist spent her life fighting for the freedom of others. $19,

28 great kids' books about Black history

Birchtown and the Black Loyalists

Written by Wanda Lauren Taylor, Nimbus Publishing (AGES 8 to 12).

This Nova Scotia-based author recounts the history of the Black Loyalists who settled in Birchtown, Nova Scotia, including accounts of how enslaved people were treated in British and American colonies, how Black Loyalists came to be, and how Birchtown got its name. $16,

28 great kids' books about Black history

Elijah of Buxton

Written by Christopher Paul Curtis, Scholastic (AGES 8 to 12).

Being the first child in his town born free from slavery, Elijah is very lucky. But when a formerly enslaved person steals the money Elijah’s friend was saving to free his family from slavery, Elijah becomes the investigator in charge of catching the larcenist. Will he find the thief and safely make it home? $8,

28 great kids' books about Black history


Underground to Canada

Written by Barbara Smucker, Puffin Classics (AGES 9 to 12).

This fictional escape story about two enslaved people named Julilly and Liza is based on close study of the Underground Railroad routes and the activities of two Abolitionists—a Canadian named Alexander M. Ross and an American named Levi Coffin. $11,

28 great kids' books about Black history

Africa is my Home: A Child of the Amistad

Written by Monica Edinger and illustrated by Robert Byrd, Candlewick Press (AGES 10 and up).

Magulu, born in Africa, was taken captive aboard the Amistad, a Spanish slavery ship when she was nine years old. This first-person narrative is a fictional tale about loss, courage, love and forgiveness. $12,

28 great kids' books about Black history

My name is Henry Bibb: A Story of Slavery and Freedom

Written by Afua Cooper, Kids Can Press (AGES 10 to 14).

Before Henry Bibb grew up to be a man best known for his poignant speeches about the atrocities of slavery, he was a kid just like your young reader. Born to a white father and Black enslaved mother, Henry’s father never claimed him as his own. This is his story. $17,

28 great kids' books about Black history


Stella by Starlight

Written by Sharon M. Draper, Atheneum Books for Young Readers (AGES 9 to 13).

Growing up in South Carolina’s segregated community, Stella had to be careful about where she went and with whom at all times. The night she and her little brother surreptitiously catch a frightening glimpse of the Ku Klux Klan, they rush home to tell their parents. Soon, her world as she knew it is changed and she quickly learns about the cruelty of racism and the necessity for perseverance. $12,

28 great kids' books about Black history

X: A Novel

Written by Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon, Candlewick Press (AGES 14 and up).

Co-authored by Malcolm X’s daughter, who is also an activist and motivational speaker, this biography starts with his childhood and follows him to his imprisonment, all the while illustrating how his words and actions forever impacted the world. $12,

28 great kids' books about Black history
This article was originally published on Jan 28, 2021

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