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Children’s Books to Celebrate Black History

by Anna Harpe
February 7, 2024
Books about Black History

Check out this list of amazing children’s books about Black History. Reading and creating together is a wonderful way to learn and celebrate!

Updated January 2024

The past few years have seen an explosion of thoughtful, beautiful, and inspiring biographies in the picture book world, including stories that focus on significant figures in black history.

Bookmark this page for a quick reference for your next library trip and enjoy learning something new with your kids. You may even find a new favorite!

Read on to see our growing list of favorite books to read during Black History Month…or any time of the year!

Children’s Books about Black History

Black History Book_ Be a King

1. Be a King by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by James E. Ransome

Of course there are many wonderful books about Dr. King’s life and legacy, but I especially love this one because it’s so accessible to young kids!

We loved using this Dr. King printable from The Creativity Project for a simple and fun art activity after reading the book.

2. R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Frank Morrison

A gorgeous book that tells the inspiring story of Aretha Franklin’s life.

Respect Book
Streetcar to Justice_black history book

3. Streetcar to Justice: How Elizabeth Jennings Won the Right to Ride in New York by amy Hill Hearth

A new-to-me story about a young woman in 1854 who was refused a streetcar in New York City and took her case to court. Totally fascinating!

4. Black Heroes: 51 Inspiring People from Ancient Africa to Modern-Day U.S.A. by Arlisha Norwood, PhD

A collection of short biographies featuring inspirational black figures across history, some well-known and others more obscure, but all incredibly fascinating!

Black Heroes
Chef Edna

5. Chef Edna by Melvina Noel, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera

Beautifully illustrated, this story tells the tale of Edna Lewis, a celebrated chef who introduced the world to southern cuisine.

6. Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe by Deborah Blumenthal, illustrated by Laura Freeman

Fancy Party Gowns is a beautiful story about Ann Cole Lowe, the under-appreciated talent behind many high-society styles from the 1920s through the 60s. 

If you have a little aspiring designer at home, let them go wild with paints and an old dress, the perfect way to rescue a favorite stained or torn outfit. Watercolor won’t last through the wash, but it sure will be fun until then!😍

fancy party gowns book

7. Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margo Lee Shetterly, illustrated by Laura Freeman

If you’ve seen the movie, you already know the incredible story of the four black women who played an integral role in early NASA launches. Now you can share this story with your little ones with this beautifully illustrated picture book!

8. Jake Makes a World: Jacob Lawrence, A Young Artist in Harlem by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, illustrated by Christopher Myers

A colorful and joyful exploration of artist Jacob Lawrence that’s sure to inspire your own small artists!

9. Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed, illustrated by Stasla Burrington

Mae Among the Stars is based on the life of Mae Jemison, the first African American female astronaut.

My kids and I made these space paintings using bleeding tissue paper (such a FUN product designed to “bleed” color away onto the paper when wet), but regular watercolors would work too.

10. Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

A beautifully lyrical book that tells the story of Harriet Tubman and her courageous pursuit of freedom.

11. Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters by Michael Mahin, illustrated by Evn Turk

This gorgeous book explores the early life of blues musician, Muddy Waters. With engaging, lyrical text and powerfully vibrant images, the story feels accessible to all ages. 

Inspired by the absolutely electric artwork throughout, we crafted up some homemade scratch art.  (Find the step-by-step tutorial HERE).

12. Nina: A Story of Nina Simone by Traci N. Todd, illustrated by Christian Robinson

We’re always fans of Christian Robinson’s work, and this book did not disappoint! A fascinating biography of a legendary musician.

13. Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe

This Caldecott winning book follows the boyhood of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat in an accessible, beautiful, and totally relatable way.

14. Rise! From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou by Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Tonya Engel

This biography is geared towards older kids, but is a beautiful retelling of a remarkable life.

15. Rosa by Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by Bryan Collier

Poet Nikki Giovanni celebrates the bravery of Rosa Parks with this day-in-the-life story of the famous Civil Rights activist.

16. The ABCs of Black History by Rio Cortez, illustrated by Lauren Semmer

A fun little primer that celebrates Black History with rhyming text. Don’t miss all the extra information at the back!

17. The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard, illustrated by Oge Mora

An inspirational story that tells how Mary Walker, a woman born into slavery, learned to read at the age of 116!

18. The Power of her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne by Les Cline-Ransome, illustrated by John Parra

A well-told and beautifully illustrated story about a groundbreaking journalist who used her words to fight for equality.

20. The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthis Levinson, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

At just 9 years old, Audrey Faye Hendricks marches for freedom in Birmingham, AL and spends a week behind bars. Her bravery can teach us all you’re never to young to stand up for what’s right.

21. Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson by Leda Schubert, illustrated by Theodore Taylor

In 1955, Raven Wilkinson became the first black woman to dance for a major classical ballet company. This beautiful picture book tells her uplifting story.

22. Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier

A stunning autobiography of Troy Andrews, sharing the story of his early years growing up in New Orleans and his musical journey into adulthood.

22. Ablaze with Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas by Jeanne Walker Harvey, illustrated by Lovels Wise

Your kids will totally be inspired by the vibrant works of Alma Thomas. In fact, they might want to try their own collage art in her style!

Want to find even more great book recommendations to diversify your shelves? We find some of our favorites by following “bookstagram” accounts like the ones listed below. If you want to stay up to date on the best new titles, these are the accounts to follow!

Photo @inclusivestorytime

4 Instagram Accounts to Follow for a More Diverse Bookshelf

1. Inclusive Story Time

I love Inclusive Story Time’s gorgeous photos and insightful reviews.  You’ll definitely find something for your next library trip after browsing her page. 

2. Books for Diversity

This account is a great go-to resource for a quick recommendation.  Lots of beautiful picture books featuring diverse characters and storylines!

3. Diverse Reads

Vera of Diverse Reads has a handy roundup each month of diverse books published.  And this January she was even able to include her own newly published book in that list! If you have older kids, you’ll definitely want to be following @diversereads for all her middle grade recommendations too.

4. Here Wee Read

@Hereweeread is a wonderful account to follow for both recommendations and literacy advice.  Charnaie is also involved in the nonprofit organization 50 States 50 Books which is helping to close the literacy gap by providing diverse books to kids nationwide.

Reading together is a wonderful way to connect with your kids, and allows you to learn and grow side by side. By following instagram accounts like the ones above, you’ll always have plenty of great recommendations for your next library trip!

More Children’s Books Recommendations

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Children\'s Books to Celebrate Black History Children\'s Books to Celebrate Black History