Check out these African American history books for kids of all ages, both on and off our platform!
Black History Month is here, and it’s the perfect time for young readers to learn about and reflect on the struggles, contributions and triumphs of Black people in America throughout our nation’s history. From overcoming slavery and fighting for a more equal world to their valuable achievements in music and the arts, the Black community has given much to our society and our culture. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite children’s books to teach kids about influential figures and events in Black history, past and present.
Check out these African American history books for kids below!
African American History Books for Kids on Epic
By: Grace Hansen
Explore the life and career of Jackie Robinson in this informative picture book biography. Featuring simple text and black and white photos throughout, this book will introduce your little one to the famed athlete as well as race issues in an accessible way. They’ll also learn how he broke the color barrier for Black men in Major League baseball and went on to become one of history’s most influential civil rights activists.
By: Dean Robbins
Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass meet for tea and a chat in this kid-friendly 6-minute audiobook. Together they relate over their experiences fighting for civil rights. Anthony is known for championing labor rights and equal pay for women and Douglass for his tireless fight against slavery and segregation. Inspired by a famous statue in their hometown of Rochester, New York depicting the two having tea, it teaches young children about these important themes in a way that’s engaging and easy to understand.
Written by: Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrated by: R. Gregory Christie
This Caldecott Honor winner tells the true story of enslaved people in 19th-century Louisiana finding hope and joy even under the most oppressed conditions. All week, they labor all day long, with the exception of Sundays, when they worship in the mornings. But in the afternoons they can gather with free Blacks at Congo Square. Here they sing and dance, set up a market, play music and forget their struggles for just a little while.
Written by: Selina Alko
Illustrated by: Sean Qualls
Set between 1958 and 1967, this powerful story follows an interracial couple from Virginia who travel to Washington D.C. to realize their dream of becoming a family. After Mildred, who is Black marries Richard Loving, who is white, they return to Virgina where they’re arrested for violating the state’s interracial marriage laws. Forced to return to D.C., the Lovings refuse to send the message to their children that their love is wrong. Based on real-world events, they take their case all the way to the Supreme Court and win. This is an inspiring story of how one family’s love made a real difference in the fight for civil rights.
By: Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
In the 1930s, Lewis’s dad had an itch: a book itch. How to scratch it? He starts a bookstore in Harlem. Soon people everywhere, including the famed Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X and Langston Hughes are traveling near and far to visit the remarkable shop. What would one day be known as the National Memorial African Bookstore in Harlem, becomes a hub for the exchange of books and ideas for a generation of students, intellectuals, writers and artists. This story reveals the power of ideas to bring people together and spark positive change.
Written by: Emma E. Haldy
Illustrated by: Jeff Bane
Part of the adorable My Itty-Bitty Bio for early readers, this simple picture book tells the story of Rosa Parks from her point of view, starting in early childhood and moving through her historic bus protest and beyond. Adding to the educational factor are engaging questions throughout, like “Why do you think my parents wanted me to go to school?” It also includes a timeline of events and a glossary to help little ones grasp civil rights concepts in an age-appropriate way.
Written by: Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrated by: Frank Morrison
Explore the roots of rap with your kid in this rhyming picture book. Starting with the colorful, eye-grabbing cover and resonating through stunning illustrations throughout, this book takes kids on a captivating musical journey. They’ll travel through hip-hop’s evolution, from folktales, street rhymes and spirituals, to funk and jazz, to the art form we recognize today. Both you and your kid will learn a ton about hip-hop culture, and you’ll have plenty of fun along the way.
Written by: Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews
Illustrated by Bryan Collier
This award-winning picture book tells the true story of Grammy-nominated musician Troy Andrews during his childhood in New Orleans. Nicknamed “Trombone Shorty” because he was so small that his trombone was twice his size, he attends the New Orlean’s Jazz Heritage Festival with his mom and is invited on stage to play with the great Jazz musician Bo Diddley. From that moment forward, he’s been performing ever since. This beautiful, upbeat book is a love note to music and an ode to following your dreams.
Freedom over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams (Animated Book)
By: Ashley Bryan
Based on estate documents from an actual plantation owner, this inspiring story reveals the priceless experiences and dreams of human beings who were enslaved. Through striking paintings and poems, the book presents the lives of 11 fictional slaves, valued at less than an ox, a dress, even a chair. It imagines and interprets each of their lives, as well as their hopes, dreams and knowledge that they’re worth more than an owner or overseer would ever imagine.
Henry’s Freedom Box (Animated Book & Audiobook)
By: Ellen Levine
In this stirring true story about hope and holding on to your dreams at all costs, a young slave named Henry Brown yearns for freedom. One day his family is sold and he’s put to work in a warehouse. Then he grows up and marries a young woman, who is also a slave. But when she is also sold, he risks everything to mail himself to the North, making the arduous journey in a crate.
Martin’s Big Words (Audiobook)
By: Doreen Rappaport
In this audio version of the accessible picture-book biography, you and your kid can listen to the story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his pivotal role in the civil rights movement in his own words. Covering events from the Montgomery bus boycott to his famous “I Have a Dream” speech and fight for desegregation in Birmingham, this absorbing book presents an unforgettable portrait of a figure who forever changed America and the world.
Written by: Rich Wallace, Sandra Neil Wallace
Illustrated by: Charly Palmer
In this tribute to the Selma Teachers’ March, your kid can learn about the power of peaceful protest and standing up for what’s right. Chronicling the voting rights movement in Selma, Alabama, this book follows a group of highly respected educators who risked their jobs to march to the county courthouse and demand their right to vote. Informed by interviews with organizer Reverend F.D. Reese and several teachers who participated in the march, this colorful, illustrated nonfiction book is an exciting, highly relevant story for young readers today.
Written by: Calvin Alexander Ramsey
Illustrated by: Floyd Cooper
Set in the 1950s, this beautifully illustrated story teaches kids about what’s known as the “green book.” When young Ruth’s family gets a car, they decide to take a road trop from their home in Chicago to Alabama to visit her grandmother. But soon they discover that Black travelers aren’t treated well in some towns. Many hotels and gas stations refuse service and restaurants are reserved for white people only. But eventually, a friendly gas station attendant shows them the green book, a guidebook with lists of places welcoming to Black people. This informative piece of historical fiction teaches kids about how Black people across the nation worked together to combat the indignities of Jim Crow laws through solidarity and kindness.
Written by: Lesa Cline-Ransome
Illustrated by: James E. Ransome
We know her today as Harriet Tubman, the former slave who helped liberate countless people through the Underground Railroad. But before she became known as the “Moses of her people,” “General Tubman” and other honors, she was a young girl named Araminta. Told in evocative verse and beautiful water color illustrations, this book offers kids a powerful glimpse into the life, courage and compassion of this heroic African American woman.
Written by: Wim Coleman and Pat Perrin
Illustrated by: Courtney A. Martin and Courtney Martin
Slaves Old Ellie and Old Sam escape to the north with the aid of a sailor with a wooden leg named Peg Leg Joe. He teaches them a song about a drinking gourd, a water dipper used by slaves to drink from. But the song actually contains coded instructions that guide them through their journey along the path to freedom. With rich, bold paintings and rhythmic text, this picture book gives kids a compelling fictional account of this important map song and its significance.
Written by: By: Charles R. Smith, Jr.
Illustrated by: Shane W. Evans
This nonfiction audiobook honors famous events and Black Americans that have helped define our understanding of Black history. Told in a series of “days,” it covers 28 influential figures, from Crispus Attucks, the first man shot in the Boston Massacre, to Thurgood Marshall, the first Black appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court and Barack Obama, our first African-American president.
Written by: Cynthia Grady
Illustrated by: Michele Wood
For enslaved African Americans, the yearning for freedom was expressed in many forms, including music. Slave songs tell the story of the pain, struggles and even hope and optimism of these oppressed people. Through biblical and ancestral African rhythms and striking imagery, this book reveals the depths of their sorrow and the strength that rallied them together through their powerful songs.
By: Tom Head and Duchess Harris
With historical photos and accessible text, this book tells the story of Ruby Bridges, the six-year old girl from Mississippi who, in 1960, became the first Black student to attend a previously all-white school. Flanked by federal marshalls and her mother, Ruby walked into a New Orleans elementary school on her first day. She was frightened and confused at the crowds of protesters swarming around her, and took shelter in the principal’s office. Enduring threats and isolation for her entire first year, Ruby eventually paved the way for other Black kids to integrate into white schools. This informative chapter book is a great way to give kids perspective into the obstacles behind desegregation.
Want more engaging, educational Black history books to share with your kid? Here are several highly recommended African American History Books for Kids off our platform, all available on Amazon.
- “I Am Muhammad Ali” (audiobook), by Brad Meltzer
- “Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History,” by Vashti Harrison
- “Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride, by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney
- “Radiant Child,” by Javaka Steptoe (Caldecott and Coretta Scott King winner)
- “Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race,” by Margot Lee Shetterly
That’s our book list! Do you like these African American History Books for Kids? Check out the entire Black History Month collection on Epic!