Yes, February is Black History Month, but Black history books should always be in your classroom library rotation. It’s awesome that there are now a huge variety of titles to share, with more being published each year. These are our recent favorite picture books about Black history that inspire kids, build a broad knowledge base, and spark classroom discussion. Share them with kids of all ages as compelling read-alouds. Or build text sets to let students dive into subtopics like Black history in the arts, sciences, sports, and politics.
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This gorgeous and poetic title is one of the best Black history books for kids to launch a Black history unit. The artwork and poetic text are both breathtaking. The back matter is a good jumping-off point for student research about notable Black individuals.
Buy it: The Undefeated on Amazon
How can the American flag be a source of both pride and injustice? This overview of Black history in America is an indispensable new classroom conversation-starter.
Buy it: My Red, White, and Blue on Amazon
We appreciate Black history books that go beyond the most well-known individuals. Work your way through this entire artful and inspiring volume or let kids pick certain figures to study.
Buy it: Young, Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes From Past and Present on Amazon
This is an important read for both students and teachers. The author shares her experiences—and later, her daughter’s—as a Black child learning about the Civil Rights Movement in school.
Buy it: A History of Me on Amazon
This is a celebration of well-known (and lesser-known) notable Black figures. The fact that it’s told from the point of view of a Black child makes it extra empowering. We’ll never turn down the chance to share a title with Bryan Collier’s paintings with kids, either. The back matter can help launch student inquiry projects.
Buy it: We Are Here on Amazon
Another must-read from a standout author. “How do you tell a story that starts in Africa and ends in horror?” Kwame Alexander reminds us that the experiences of slaves, and their descendants, are an inextricable component of American history, and a story that must be told.
Buy it: An American Story on Amazon
“Ours is no immigration story.” This critical Black history book for kids will help reframe discussions about slavery and Black experiences in the United States. It honors the deep African roots and ongoing resilience of those ripped from their homes by slave traders.
Buy it: The 1619 Project: Born on the Water on Amazon
Here’s another Black history book for kids that gets rave reviews from families and classrooms for shifting the narrative about slavery to an empowering celebration of resilience.
Buy it: Your Legacy: A Bold Reclaiming of Our Enslaved History on Amazon
What’s it like to be celebrated for creating a resource that you wish wasn’t needed in the first place? This memorable biography introduces readers to Victor Green, who authored The Negro Motorist Green-Book in the 1930s, a guide for Black travelers to avoid discrimination and unsafe situations in the Jim Crow era.
Buy it: Going Places: Victor Hugo Green and His Glorious Book on Amazon
Mary Walker was an emancipated slave, a mother, and a servant to her community. At age 116, she learned to read. Share this to both celebrate Mary’s tenacity and to provide a concrete example of the barriers many Black individuals have faced.
Buy it: The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read on Amazon
It’s essential to include Black history books on your shelves that teach kids about this important holiday. Students will love poring over the unique quilted illustrations.
Buy it: A Flag for Juneteenth on Amazon
This adaptation of the song composed for the 155th anniversary of Juneteeth will give young readers much to think about. Use the included QR code to access a musical performance of the text by the author and cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
Buy it: Build a House on Amazon
This moving biography really resonates with upper elementary and middle school kids. What would it be like to have to go to school at night, in secret?
Buy it: Midnight Teacher: Lilly Ann Granderson and Her Secret School on Amazon
Introduce students to this critical figure in organizing the historic event known for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Bayard Rustin poured himself into the Civil Rights Movement despite being discriminated against for being gay.
Buy it: A Song for the Unsung: Bayard Rustin, the Man Behind the 1963 March on Washington on Amazon
We appreciate that this title highlights two trans people of color—including Marsha Johnson, a Black trans woman—who were instrumental in the gay rights movement. It’s a good introduction for younger kids and could inspire additional research for older students.
Buy it: Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution! on Amazon
It’s important to include Black history books in your collection that highlight the contributions of children. In 1963 in Alabama, a group of children courageously marched to protest against discrimination and hate.
Buy it: Let the Children March on Amazon
Here’s the ultimate #OwnVoices Black history book for kids. Help students see inside the heart and mind of the brave six-year-old that took on school segregation.
Buy it: I Am Ruby Bridges on Amazon
Thurgood Marshall devoted his life to eliminating racial injustice in the United States legal system. This biography shares pivotal experiences and achievements during his rise to becoming the first Black Supreme Court justice.
Buy it: Thurgood on Amazon
As a longtime influential politician and the first Black congresswoman, Shirley Chisholm “chose her verbs carefully” to empower and create change. The unique text style is perfect for inspiring discussions about impactful verbs.
Buy it: Shirley Chisholm Is a Verb! on Amazon
Told through keywords in a nod to her iconic hit song, this biography of Aretha Franklin is a tribute fit for a queen. We love pairing it with a video of her performance at the 2008 Presidential Inauguration to bring her enduring impact to life for students.
Buy it: R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul on Amazon
We appreciate Black history books for kids that tackle less common but still important topics. Pique students’ interest and invite them to find out more about the history of hip-hop and rap. Also, share the author’s note with students about the relationship of rap and hip-hop to poetry as an engaging introduction to exploring Black poetry.
Buy it: The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-Hop on Amazon
This is one of the best Black history books we’ve seen that integrates a biography within the larger historical context of the Civil Rights Movement for kids. Nina Simone, born Eunice Waymon, was both a musical prodigy and brave activist.
Buy it: Nina: A Story of Nina Simone on Amazon
Full of anecdotes to catch kids’ attention, this biography introduces kids to a pillar of American literature in a memorable way. It could inspire students’ own “storycatching” during a narrative writing unit too.
Buy it: Jump at the Sun on Amazon
Maya Angelou rose above significant childhood trauma to become one of the most influential voices in U.S. history. This moving narrative and the accompanying timeline do a fantastic job bringing her to life for students. Pair this with Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem by Amanda Gorman, to introduce students to the next generation of change-making Black literary icons as well.
Buy it: Rise! From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou on Amazon
Arturo Schomburg, an Afro-Latino from Puerto Rico, was a law clerk and collector of African and African American literature and artifacts. He established the Negro Division of the New York Public Library to house his massive collection of materials. Decades later, the division was renamed in his honor. Today, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is an important part of the Harlem community and an essential resource for scholars.
Buy it: Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library on Amazon
Celebrate the creativity of an iconic 20th-century Black artist with a fascinating first-person narrative, energizing art, and discussion-worthy quotes. Alma Thomas was the first Black woman to have an exhibition at the Whitney Museum and a painting at the White House.
Buy it: Ablaze With Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas on Amazon
Students who love performing arts will be inspired by this revisiting of Misty Copeland’s childhood experiences as a young ballerina. To share more information for older students, pair this with Black Ballerinas: My Journey to Our Legacy by Misty Copeland.
Buy it: Bunheads on Amazon
Paul R. Williams’ natural talent and resilient tackling of life’s “curves” helped him become a celebrated architect.
Buy it: Curve & Flow: The Elegant Vision of L.A. Architect Paul R. Williams on Amazon
An innovation by accident or spite, George Crum, an African American chef, is credited with inventing one of the oldest snacks in food history: the potato chip.
Buy it: Mr. Crum’s Potato Predicament on Amazon
A pioneer of the farm-to-table movement before it was known as such, Edna Lewis was a strong supporter of natural foods and healthy eating. She became an award-winning chef at a time when few women and few Black people entered the professional cooking world.
Buy it: Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie on Amazon
We love how this title celebrates four different but connected individuals. Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden all made key contributions to the space race during their work at NASA, breaking both gender and racial barriers in the process. (We can’t wait to create a class chart with details about each of these four amazing women!)
Buy it: Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race on Amazon
Neil deGrasse Tyson’s contributions to the field of astrophysics are unparalleled. We love this biography for its engaging and relatable tone.
Buy it: Starstruck: The Cosmic Journey of Neil deGrasse Tyson on Amazon
Many kids dream of traveling in space, and Mae Jamison was the first African American woman to achieve that dream. Younger kids will connect with the encouraging message, and older kids can use the back matter to learn more about this important figure in history.
Buy it: Mae Among the Stars on Amazon
Dr. Bath became a doctor at a time when it was difficult for women and people of color to enter the medical field. Although faced with racism, she did not let that—or anything else—stop her. She went on to become a staunch advocate for eye health and also pioneer techniques in ophthalmology.
Buy it: The Doctor With an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath on Amazon
At a time when medical schools were segregated, Vivien Thomas took a research assistant job at a medical school, hoping that proximity would draw him closer to his dream of becoming a doctor. He took advantage of opportunities to conduct research and practice, but racism prevented him from being credited for his innovations. He pioneered a technique for open-heart surgery on infants that is still used today.
Buy it: Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas on Amazon
Kids love stories about inspiring athletes, but inspiring athletes who are also sisters take it to another level. This biography of a fearsome duo is as energetic as one of their tennis matches.
Buy it: Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams on Amazon
This inspirational autobiography introduces kids to a tenacious running phenom and also the spirit of Jamaica. Expect plenty of playground races after reading!
Buy it: I Am a Promise on Amazon
Your students who are obsessed with basketball will love this accessible but fascinating look at the roots of the sport. We love it as a mentor text for choosing a compelling informational writing topic too.
Buy it: More Than Just a Game: The Black Origins of Basketball on Amazon
Effa Manley was the first woman to own a baseball team, the Newark Eagles, and the first woman to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Manley was a staunch advocate for Black players and succeeded despite the racism and sexism she faced.
Buy it: She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story on Amazon
Before Tiger Woods, there was Charlie Sifford. Sifford endured racism in the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) throughout his career. However, he persevered and eventually became the first Black golfer to win a PGA tournament and achieve ranking among white golfers.
Buy it: Charlie Takes His Shot on Amazon
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