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30 Must-Read Children’s Books for Black History Month

NHR collection of children's books for Black History Month.

February is Black History Month, and in that spirit, we’ve put together a list of some excellent children’s books celebrating African American culture and history. This list doesn’t even cover all of the books we have at the tutoring sites, much less available in the literary world, so if you want more recommendations, talk to your Site Director, or come back tomorrow for recommendations for adults! Happy reading!

Early Elementary


Fiction


Ada Twist, Scientist, by Andrea Beaty, Illustrated by David Roberts
“Ada Twist’s head is full of questions. Like her classmates Iggy and Rosie, Ada has always been endlessly curious. But when her fact-finding missions and elaborate scientific experiments go too far, her frazzled parents banish her to the Thinking Chair. Will all that thinking change Ada’s mind?”

Firebird, by Misty Copeland, Illustrated by Christopher Myers
“American Ballet Theatre dancer Misty Copeland writes of a young dancer whose confidence is fragile. Through hard work and dedication, Misty shows her how she can reach the same heights as Misty, even becoming the Firebird, Misty Copeland’s signature role.”

I Am Enough, by Grace Byers, Illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo
“I Am Enough is an essential book for everyone—an inspiring lyrical ode to loving who you are, respecting others, and being kind to one another.”

Mae Among the Stars, by Roda Ahmed, Illustrated by Stasia Burrington
“When Little Mae was a child, she dreamed of dancing in space. She imagined herself surrounded by billions of stars floating, gliding, and discovering. Follow Mae as she learns that if you can dream it and you work hard for it, anything is possible. Inspired by the story of Mae Jemison, the first African American woman in space.”

The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson, Illustrated by Rafael López
“There are lots of reasons to feel different. Maybe it’s how you look or talk, or where you’re from. Maybe it’s what you eat or something just as random. Whatever it is, it’s not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody knows you, but somehow you do it.”


Non-Fiction


Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope, by Nikki Grimes, Illustrated by Bryan Collier
“On January 8, 2008, Barack Obama told us, ‘Yes, we can.’ On November 4, 2008, we did.”

My Name is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth, by Ann Turner, Illustrated by James Ransome
“Here is the celebrated story of how former slave Isabella Baumfree transformed herself into the preacher and orator Sojourner Truth, one of the most inspiring and important figures of the abolitionist and women’s rights movements.”

The Girl With a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague, by Julia Finley Mosca, Illustrated by Daniel Rieley 
“After touring a German submarine in the early 1940s, young Raye set her sights on becoming an engineer. Little did she know sexism and racial inequality would challenge that dream every step of the way, even keeping her greatest career accomplishment a secret for decades. Through it all, the gifted mathematician persisted—finally gaining her well-deserved title in history: a pioneer who changed the course of ship design forever.”

The Story of Ruby Bridges, by Robert Coles, Illustrated by George Ford
“As the first black child to attend an all-white elementary school, Ruby Bridges shows us all how brave and how forgiving a six-year-old child can be.”

You Should Meet Katherine Johnson, by Thea Feldman, Illustrated by Alyssa Peterson
“Katherine Johnson worked for the NASA space program in the early 1950s. She was such a brilliant mathematician she could figure out the math needed to send a rocket to the moon in her head—without the help or a computer or a calculator. You should meet Katherine Johnson!”

MidLate Elementary


Fiction


Gone Crazy in Alabama, by Rita Williams-Garcia
“Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern are off to Alabama to visit their grandmother Big Ma and her mother, Ma Charles. Across the way lives Ma Charles’s half sister, Miss Trotter. The two half sisters haven’t spoken in years. As Delphine hears about her family history, she uncovers the surprising truth that’s been keeping the sisters apart. But when tragedy strikes, Delphine discovers that the bonds of family run deeper than she ever knew possible.”

Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest series, by Marti Dumas, Illustrated by Marie Muravski
“Giant afro. Even bigger brain. Jaden Touissant is a fiver year-old who knows it all. I mean, really knows it all. Animal Science. Great Debater. Master of the art of ninja dancing. There’s nothing Jaden Touissant can’t do. The only problem is that grown-ups keep trying to convince him that, even though he’s really smart, he doesn’t know EVERYTHING. The thing is…he kind of does.”

Meet Addy American Girl series 
“Addy Walker, an American Girl, is a nine-year-old born into slavery who escapes to freedom with her mother during the Civil War.”

Sounder, by William H. Armstrong
Sounder traces the keen sorrow and the abiding faith of a poor African-American boy in the 19th-century South. The boy’s father is a sharecropper, struggling to feed his family in hard times. Night after night, he and his great coon dog, Sounder, return to the cabin empty-handed. Then, one morning, almost like a miracle, a sweet-smelling ham is cooking in the family’s kitchen. At last the family will have a good meal. But that night, an angry sheriff and his deputies come, and the boy’s life will never be the same.”

The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis
“Enter the hilarious world of ten-year-old Kenny and his family, the Weird Watsons of Flint, Michigan. There’s Momma, Dad, little sister Joetta, and brother Byron, who’s thirteen and an ‘official juvenile delinquent.’ When Momma and Dad decide it’s time for a visit to Grandma, Dad comes home with the amazing Ultra-Glide, and the Watsons set out on a trip like no other. They’re heading south. They’re going to Birmingham, Alabama, toward one of the darkest moments in America’s history.”


Non-Fiction


Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, by Vashti Harrison
“Featuring forty trailblazing black woman in American history, Little Leaders educates and inspires as it relates trues stories of breaking boundaries and achieving beyond expectations.”

Through My Eyes, by Ruby Bridges
“This is the story of a pivotal event in history as Ruby Bridges saw it unfold around her. Ruby’s poignant words, quotations from writers and from other adults who observed her, and dramatic photographs recreate an amazing story of innocence, courage, and forgiveness.”

Who Was? series
“A series of illustrated biographies for young readers featuring significant historical figures, including artists, scientists, and world leaders.” Relevant titles for BHM include: Who Is Barack Obama?, What Was the March on Washington?, Who Was Jackie Robinson? What Was the Underground Railroad?, Who Was Jessie Owens?, and Who Was Rosa Parks?

28 Days: Moments in Black History That Changed the World, by Charles R. Smith and Illustrated by Shane W. Evans
“Perfect for Black History Month, and every month, this powerful book by Coretta Scott King winners Charles R. Smith Jr. and Shane W. Evans looks at twenty-eight extraordinary events (and a potential twenty-ninth) that changed the course of black history…and all of our history.

Middle and High School


Fiction


Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred D. Taylor
“Set in Mississippi at the height of the Depression, this is the story of one family’s struggle to maintain their integrity, pride, and independence in the face of racism and social injustice. And it is also Cassie’s story–Cassie Logan, an independent girl who discovers over the course of an important year why having land of their own is so crucial to the Logan family, even as she learns to draw strength from her own sense of dignity and self-respect.”

The Bluford series
“The Bluford Series is a collection of twenty-one young adult novels that focus on the lives of a group of high school students and their families. The series draws its name from the school which many of the characters attend: Bluford High, named after Guion ‘Guy’ Bluford, America’s first black astronaut. Set in contemporary urban America, ach novel addresses complex topics relevant to the lives of today’s students: family, friendship, trust, isolation, violence, and peer pressure, to name a few.”

The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander
“Josh and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood. He’s got mad beats too, beats that tell his family’s story in verse. But both brothers must come to grips with growing up, on and off the court, as they realize breaking the rules can come at a terrible price, resulting in a game-changer for their entire family.”

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
“Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor black neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Kahlil, at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.”


Non-Fiction


Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson
“Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement.”

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, by Phillip Hoose
“Fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white woman on a segregated city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. But instead of being celebrated as Rosa Parks was when she took a similar stand nine months later, Claudette was shunned by her classmates and dismissed by community leaders. Still, her brave, spontaneous act laid the groundwork for the Montgomery bus boycott; and a year later she helped end that boycott by testifying as a key plaintiff in the landmark bus case Browder v. Gayle.

Hidden Figures: Young Readers’ Edition, By Margot Lee Shetterly
“This book is the powerful story of four African-American female mathematicians at NASA who helped achieve some of the greatest moments in our space program….It brings to life the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, who lived through the Civil Rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the movement for gender equality, and whose work forever changed the face of NASA and the country.”

Just Mercy (Adapted for Young Adults): A True Story of the Fight for Justice, by Bryan Stevenson
“In this very personal work, Bryan Stevenson recounts many and varied stories of his work as a lawyer in the U.S. criminal justice system on behalf of those in society who have experienced some type of discrimination and/or have been wrongly accused of a crime and who deserve a powerful advocate and due justice under the law.”

MARCH Books One—Three, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
“MARCH is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.”