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