133

Black History Picture Books

Black history is filled with stories of courage, strength, and determination. The picture books below provide the perfect way to explore these important stories with your children.

Download our free library list to take with you on your next visit to the library.

Black History - All Different Now book cover

All Different Now:
Juneteenth, The First Day of Freedom

by Angel Johnson

As the sun rose over the Texas cotton fields on June 19, 1865, “… nobody knew that soon, all would be different.” Although President Lincoln had issued his Emancipation Proclamation months before, it wasn’t until that first “Juneteenth” that the slaves of Texas finally learned that they were indeed free.

Black History Barefoot book cover

Barefoot:
Escape on the Underground Railroad

by Pamela Duncan Edwards

“The Barefoot”—just one more in a too-long line of runaway slaves—makes his way silently along a dark path to freedom. But in this heart-warming story of courage, the Barefoot is helped along by some unexpected protectors. This masterfully told story draws readers into the darkness, the fear, and finally…the freedom!

Black History Belle, the Last Mule at Gee's Bend book cover

Belle, the Last Mule at Gee’s Bend
by Calvin Alexander Ramsey

The old mule looked ordinary as he chomped his collard greens, but Alex was about to discover that Belle was anything but ordinary. Listen in as Miz Pettway recounts Belle’s story—a story of civil rights, of a town determined to vote, of a visit from a bold leader, and of a very special mission for Belle, the Last Mule at Gee’s Bend.

Black History Ellington book cover

Ellington Was Not a Street
by Ntozake Shange

This is the story of tall men. Of great men. Of men who were giants in the eyes of the little girl who looked up to them and knew that the world would be different because of them. Told in rich poetic verse, Ellington Was Not a Street is a tribute to a dozen men who made a difference in a world that was not always kind to them.

Black History Follow the Drinking Gourd book cover

Follow the Drinking Gourd
by Jeanette Winter

It was just a simple song, but it was part of Peg Leg Joe’s plan. When the brave runaway slaves heard Joe’s song—follow the drinking gourd, for the old man is a-waiting to carry you to freedom—they looked to the stars, and the Big Dipper led them along. Jeanette Winter’s folksy style is the perfect backdrop for this stirring tale.

Black History Freedom in Congo Square book cover

Freedom in Congo Square
by Carol Boston Weatherford

Congo Square was just a plain field on the outskirts of town, but for half a day each week, there was Freedom in Congo Square. Every Sunday, the slaves gathered to sing, dance, and share life together. It was a weekly taste of freedom in a life otherwise filled with oppression, sorrow, and pain. Congo Square was freedom’s heart.

Black History Freedom's School book cover

Freedom’s School
by Lesa Cline-Ransome

When freedom came to the slaves, there was much to celebrate. But for Lizzie, the most exciting thing about her family’s newfound freedom was that now she could go to school. And although there was still much danger for the freed slaves, Lizzie tries to hold onto hope and make the most of her opportunity to learn.

Black History Freedom Summer book cover

Freedom Summer
by Deborah Wiles

Joe and John Henry are best friends. Like most boys, they love to shoot marbles, eat ice pops, and swim in the creek. But they can’t swim together in the town pool because John Henry’s skin is the wrong color. In the summer of 1964, though, the Civil Rights act brings a glimmer of hope (and deep disappointment) to the boys’ summer.

Black History Henry's Freedom Box book cover

Henry’s Freedom Box
by Kadir Nelson

Exquisite paintings accompany the story of Henry “Box” Brown, a courageous young slave who wanted nothing more than to live free. When his wife and children were sold at the slave market, Henry knew he had nothing to lose, so he sealed himself inside a box and had the box mailed to Philadelphia…and to a life of freedom.

Black History I Am Rosa Parks book cover

I Am Rosa Parks
by Brad Metzer

Rosa Parks was always brave. Even as a child, she had the courage to stand up for herself when she was treated unfairly. Then one day many years later, Rosa sat on a bus and refused to give up her seat. Her act of courage sparked a movement that changed everything—not just for Rosa, but for black Americans everywhere.

Black History Light in the Darkness Book cover

Light in the Darkness: A Story About
How Slaves Learned in Secret

by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Amidst the darkness of slavery, a light burned brightly in the hearts of the slaves. It was the desire to read. But because reading was forbidden, the slaves were forced to learn in secret—and at great personal risk. Watercolor illustrations create the perfect canvas for a truly inspiring story of courage and determination.

Black History Martin & Mahalia book cover

Martin & Mahalia:
His Words, Her Song

by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Martin preached, and Mahalia sang. And they both inspired others—Martin with his message and Mahalia with her song. But during the days of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Martin and Mahalia came together and turned up the volume on their message. Together, they led their people toward the dream they shared.

Black History Martin' Big Words book cover

Martin’s Big Words:
The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

by Doreen Rappaport

With big, breath-taking illustrations, Martin’s Big Words offers a simple yet profound look at a preacher’s son who became a preacher. Martin went wherever people needed him. He walked with them and talked with them and sang with them and prayed with them. And as people listened to Martin’s words, change came.

Black History Moses (Harriet Tubman) book cover

Moses: When Harriet Tubman
Led Her People to Freedom

by Carole Boston Weatherford

Just as Moses led his people out of slavery in Egypt, so Harriet Tubman became a savior to her people. After escaping her own life in chains, Harriet knew that God was calling her to lead others to freedom. Poignant artwork illustrates the story of Harriet’s life of unwavering faith, perseverance, and strength.

Black History Seeds of Freedom book cover

Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful
Integration of Huntsville, Alabama

by Hester Bass

Like everywhere in the 1960s South, there were invisible lines dividing Huntsville, Alabama. For decades, the lines had separated black and white with a “that’s just the way it is” attitude. But change was coming. And when it came, thanks to the creativity and courage of the people of Huntsville, change came peacefully.

Black History Sit-In book cover

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up
by Sitting Down

by Andrea Davis Pinkney

David, Joseph, Franklin, and Ezell sat quiet and still, their hearts full of hope. Sitting at the “Whites Only” lunch counter with growling stomachs and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words ringing in their ears, the four friends waited to be served. They knew they had to meet hate with love, and so they sat and waited for what they knew was right.

Black History Uncle Jed's Barbershop book cover

Uncle Jed’s Barbershop
by Margaree King Mitchell

Life wasn’t easy for anyone in the deep South in the 1920s, but for Sarah Jean’s Uncle Jed, it seemed just a little bit harder. Setback after setback kept him from his life-long dream of owning his own barbershop, from Sarah Jean’s surgery to the Great Depression. Even so, Uncle Jed never stopped dreaming and he never gave up.

Black History We March book cover

We March
by Shane V. Evans

The 1960s were a time of change in America. The bells of freedom were beginning to ring as black Americans stood up for their civil rights and finally began to be heard. But their collective voice was never louder than it was on August 28, 1963, when more than 250,000 people gathered in Washington D.C. to march for freedom.

FREE Black History Picture Books Library List

Black History Picture Books

Would you like to read some of my favorite black history picture books with your children?

Click to download our list to take to your local library.

Do you have a favorite black history picture book? Please share it in the comments below and I’ll add it to our Readers’ Picks box!

Favorite Black History Picture Books Recommended by Our Readers

< Previous Post  Next Post >

Leave a Comment

Carmen Laguer

says:

Love the list of books. How about a list of hispanic history and famous people for children.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great suggestion, Carmen. I’m passing that idea along immediately!

Laurie

says:

Thanks for all these ideas. I would also love to see some recommendations for “every day” books that include kids of various ethnic backgrounds.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Laurie,
You will find some books that show people of various ethnic backgrounds and other differences in our Celebrating Differences picture book review blog post. You will also find such books mixed into most of our Picture Book Review blog posts.

Tanesha

says:

Great resources for teaching younger kids about black history.

Melissa

says:

Great suggestions! We will be checking out quite a few of these.

Marci

says:

Thank you for this resource! We have already been to the library to check out these books!

Christina

says:

Thanks for sharing this list!

Corrine Harris

says:

This is such a fantastic resource. Thank you so much for sharing this book list.

javaughn

says:

I love these choices! We actually have a signed copy of Moses! I also want to encourage audiobooks from the Library of congress and local library, Reading along has taken the edge of trying so hard when its a book she really wants to read or a subject she wants to learn. I am also encouraged by this site and its acknowledgement of diversity. I would love to see it every month too!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

How exciting to have a signed copy of such a wonderful book!

Thank you for the tip about audiobooks.

We have many blog posts reviewing great picture books on a wide range of topics. You can see them all in our Great Picture Books Archive.

Kim

says:

I appreciate this list but caution anyone reading this that there is so much more to Black History than slavery, The Civil Rights Movement, and the same three token Blacks (Parks, King, Tubman) who are mentioned ad nauseum and in place of some other wonderful heroes and stories. Seek out little-known and seldom-advertised personalities and stories instead to give balance to the false and infuriating narrative that all we were was slaves and “bring on the pity” : Black Wall Street, Paul Robeson, Tuskegee Airmen, Black Panthers (and how they cared for the community and were NOT terrorists), Black Art, Black Inventors, sooo many varied topics to explore. Also, ask yourself how it’s right that my history is condensed down to one log and shameful story labeled Black History and given
out during one month out of the year while White History is just called standard History and is doled out as the norm all 12 months of the year, with tons of elevated and celebrated characters and colorful stories regardless of the evil deeds and inJustices some have committed. Food for thought.

Marie Rippel

says: Customer Service

Thank you for your comments, Kim. I agree with you 100% that there is much more to Black history than the dozen picture books that we recommend in this blog post. Right up until the time this post published, my team and I were seeking picture books that could provide a more well-rounded picture. I would love to feature well-written, beautifully-illustrated books appropriate for young children that feature black scientists, inventors, artists, and activists that are available through public libraries. If you are able to recommend specific titles, I will gladly add them to this post. In the meantime, we will continue to search as well. There is a huge need for the type of books you mention–the stories deserve to be told.

Jessica-Claire Jones

says:

The Legendary Miss Lena Horne, 28 Days (compilation of moments and people who are heroes in our country).
Other people to consider as you search for books to round out this list: George Washington Carver, President Obama, Ruby Bridges, Frederick Douglas, and John Lewis.

Jessica-Claire Jones

says:

Thank you Kim. Very well said. I was pondering some of the same thoughts as I read this list and was affirmed when I saw your comment.

Wendy

says:

I so appreciate book lists from a trusted source. Thank you for providing this!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Wendy. I hope you find many on this list to learn from and enjoy!

I am so pleased to see the list you have put together. It is so important to celebrate all of our cultures and know our history. Yet another reason to love your programs and company!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Devon!

Heather

says:

Thank you for putting this list together!

auschick

says:

We’ve been reading a lot of books about black history over the last few months as I’ve been teaching my daughter (6) and myself US history (i’m an immigrant so many of these historic events/people are foreign to me!). I love being able to use picture books to help her understand big topics!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Yes! Picture books are a great way to get an overview of many topics and then from there you can explore further as you desire.

Alice

says:

These look great! I also like to look into video and audio from MLK and other accessible Black History resources available on the internet.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Alice,
What a great idea! Thank you.

Tara

says:

The Brad Meltzer series is great for little ones.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for the recommendation, Tara.

Shana

says:

My son has read the “I am Rosa Parks” book and he loved it so very much! I cannot wait to see if our library has some of these others, as at least half of them look like ones we would love.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Shana,
Thank you for letting us know that your son enjoyed I am Rosa Parks so much! I hope you find at least a few more he enjoys as much.

Patti

says:

Thank you for such a great list of wonderful books

Tiffany Moncreaff

says:

What a beautiful list of books. Some of these are new to me. I can’t wait to read them with my kids. Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Tiffany,
You are welcome. We hope you find many of these titles to be both enjoyable and something to learn from.

Becky

says:

Thank you for this list. Most of these titles are new to our family.

Jazz

says:

These are wonderful resources I hope everyone will realize the importance of incorporating this information into there classroom.

Jess

says:

Great list!!

Cathy

says:

Thanks for the great recommendations!

Rachel

says:

I love this suggested reading list. It will be so helpful when I head back to the library

Carrie Phillips

says:

Some great books!!

Natalie

says:

Awesome list! Very helpful!

Betsey

says:

That is a great book list. We especially like the I am series by Brad Metzer.

Kylie

says:

Thank you for making such a great list! These books would be great to teach my son the struggles and triumphs of black Americans.

Tracy

says:

Thank you for this! So helpful.

Heather

says:

Thank you so much for all the reading lists you guys put together. From experience I know I can trust that you’ve picked quality literature, every time.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Awww, thank you, Heather! We hope to always live up to your expectations!

Callie

says:

I hope to find some of these books. What a great list. Thank you.

Rob Scott

says:

Thank you for this list, wonderful. Job!!!!

Suzanne W.

says:

Looks like some neat books!

Deborah Drake

says:

Beautiful list.
Do you have recommendations for 3rd grade and 6th grade?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Deborah,
Many of these recommendations would be great books for 3rd and 6th grade students to read themselves. However, even as read alouds, picture books can be great learning opportunities for even older students. Picture books often present good overviews of issues and events, so they make good places to start when learning about a topic.

However, if you are looking for a good read aloud chapter book for Black History month for older students, I highly recommend Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry. It is set in the depression era Missippi and is very well told from the point of view of a young black girl. Another idea is George Washington Carver: Man’s Slave Becomes God’s Scientist by David Collins. It is a wonderful biography, written in a very interesting narrative.

Lisa

says:

I have just retired and I am tutoring students using All About Reading & Spelling Level 1 and have just purchased leveled 2 Spelling. Awesome Curriculum!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Lisa!

Annette

says:

Love these library lists. very helpful and fun.

Erin

says:

This looks like a great list. Thanks!

Kris

says:

Paths to Peace, People Who Changed The World by Jane Breslin Zalben is a wonderful collection of one page stories of common and unlikeley peacemakers. Of course MLK Jr. is honored among the many. Just right for a family read with inspirational quotes to memorize.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for the wonderful recommendation, Kris!

Magela Gonzalez

says:

Thank you for providing these book suggestions. You always come to my rescue when I need reading help.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Magela,
We do try to be helpful, and are very pleased to know we have succeeded!

Liz

says:

These look like some great books and most of them I have not heard of before. Thank you for providing this list. I love to teach history and to broaden my children’s minds through the simple venue of reading picture books! Great jump offs for discussion. Thanks!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Liz. I hope you can jump off to many great discussions with this list!

Meis

says:

This is fantastic thank I now have a reason the go to the Library and know what to look for thank you 😁

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Meis,
I hope you find many to enjoy and learn from!

Meis

says:

I love that you have provide a list of black history books cause at time when I go to the library not really sure what you want see when you have a list it makes choosing way easier and you know there good because other’s comment on them thank you I now know the books to help teach my kids about black history. This amazing

Tonya Jones

says:

I love this selection! I’ve read a good amount of them over the years, and love to revisit them during the month of February plus throughout the year. Thank you again :)

Patricia Smith

says:

Thanks for this list! Looking forward to reading some of these with my children soon!

Alex D

says:

I love The Quilt’s of Gees Bend – the quilts demonstrate the resourceful creativity and innovation of their makers.
Great range of texts to share with our students!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Alex,
I was the one that recommended The Quilt’s of Gees Bend, and I stumbled upon the work because of my interests in painting and art. Those quilts are breathtaking!

Patricia H.

says:

Nice list! We are being introduced to several new titles thanks to your putting this list together.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Patricia. I hope you find many to enjoy and learn from!

Wendy

says:

This is wonderful, thank you!!

Allison Hale

says:

Thanks for these great selections!

Nicole

says:

What an amazing resource. I will use this tomorrow during our snow day.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Nicole,
I hope you enjoyed the books and your snow day!

Kate

says:

Thank you so much for posting this list!

Donna Mauney

says:

Love the selection of books!

Kristen

says:

Thank you for the suggestions

Sara

says:

Follow the Drinking Gourd is one of my children’s favorites!

Stacie

says:

Thank you for putting this list together. I love book lists!

Michelle Crafton

says:

Love these suggestions!!

Nora sanchez

says:

Thank you for sharing this great library checklist!

Kathleen Kansas-Zahn

says:

Thank you for the fabulous list of books!! You have provided a valuable resource for students to learn about black history month and to have the opportunity to be exposed to another culture and to gain an understanding of this part of history.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Kathleen!

Carol Burnette

says:

I love Follow the Drinking Gourd. Wonderful selection of books!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Carol,
Thank you for letting us know that you have enjoyed Follow the Drinking Gourd!

Lulu Acuna

says:

Thank you!

Jamey

says:

Thank you for this list of books! There are several that we have not read. I truly appreciate the time you put into finding great resources. It is a blessing to our family!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Jamey. We hope you and your family both enjoy and learn from at least a few of these books!

Stephanie

says:

These look fantastic!

Wendy

says:

Thanks for the great books.

Krystal Rappe

says:

Great options!

Janelle

says:

Great selection! Thanks for sharing these.

Karena

says:

These books offer children an opportunity to learn about their culture or that of another. Additionally, children can understand the value of those that may look different from them.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Karena,
Yes! However, if you are looking for more picture book ideas about diversity, we have a blog post on Picture Books that Celebrate Differences.

Nicki

says:

Great ideas for both learning &celebrating black history month!

JennieT

says:

Thank you for this great list

Luzanne

says:

Thank You for providing us with a list of beautiful litterateur to enrich our children’s understanding of history.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Luzanne.

Tonya

says:

Definitely want to give this a try!

Heidi

says:

Wow – a great selection! Thanks for posting them!

Jacie

says:

Thank you for posting!

Graziella

says:

These books look very interesting
Thank you for Sharing

Heather

says:

Perfect ideas!

Jesse Murphy

says:

These are great! I should see if I can find any of these at our little local library.

Lisa Popovich

says:

Awesome – thank you!

Leighann Harris

says:

These look great for building our library!

Cathy

says:

Great resources

Andrea

says:

Great resource list! Thanks!!

Mindy

says:

Great selection. Thanks!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Mindy!

Amanda M.

says:

Thanks for sharing!

Robyn J.

says:

Great. Thank you.

Patricia Hammond

says:

Thank you for the list! Very helpful for our history lesson we’re wirking on.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Patricia,
We’re very happy this is helpful and timely for you. Enjoy!

Amy

says:

Great recommendations – We just got Nightjohn by Gary Paulsen about an escaped slave who came back to teach others to read.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for the recommendation, Amy! I’ve read a couple of Gary Paulsen’s books, but I haven’t seen this one.

Nancy S.

says:

Thank you for this wonderful resource list!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I hope you find many to enjoy and learn from, Nancy!

Nydia sanchez

says:

Thank you for the printable.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Nadia.

Jenn

says:

I love these library lists! It saves me so much research time, so thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Jenn. We’re pleased that our library lists are convenient for you!

Brandy

says:

Thank you for the great list! I will definitely be checking some of these out!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Brandy,
We’d love to hear your opinion on some of them after you’ve had a chance to read them!

Jennifer

says:

What a great list! Thanks for posting.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Jennifer!

Stephanie

says:

All of those books look so interesting!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Stephanie,
I agree! Some I have read, but many are new to me too.

Andrea

says:

Great list! Adding some to my library list. Thank you

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Andrea! We’d love to hear your opinion on some of them after you have had a chance to read them.

Teagon

says:

What a great book list! Thanks for sharing!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Teagon. We hope you can find at least a few to enjoy and learn from!

Chelsea

says:

Looks amazing!

Sarah

says:

What a great list of resources!

Stephanie P

says:

These look wonderful

Leave a Comment