Children’s Books for Black History Month: Find these books at your local library or purchase through the affiliate links provided for your convenience.
The African American experience is one all Americans ought to understand, but parents often just don’t know where to begin. Rather than shying away from talking about it, introduce the conversation to your children with books for Black History Month. Children’s picture books give kids multiple way to understand and learn by combining visual cues with words.
Tonight, don’t shy away from important books. Embrace these children’s books for Black History Month, which focus on not just history but also the African-American experience. And don’t let the conversation end here! I have gathered with fellow bloggers to share even more ideas to celebrate Black History Month, hosted by a personal favorite destination — Multicultural Kid Blogs.
I write so often about books, I’ve put them in one central location and created a collection of all of my book lists on The Jenny Evolution! Find more great reading book lists here.
Children’s Books for Black History Month
A Sweet Smell of Roses: There’s a sweet, sweet smell in the air as two young girls sneak out of their house, down the street, and across town to where men and women are gathered, ready to march for freedom and justice. Inspired by countless children and young adults who took a stand, two Coretta Scott King honorees offer a heart-lifting glimpse of children’s roles in the civil rights movement.
White Socks Only: In the segregated south, a young girl thinks that she can drink from a fountain marked “Whites Only” because she is wearing her white socks.
Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation: Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney present a poignant, blues-infused tribute to the men and women of the Montgomery bus boycott, who refused to give up until they got justice.
I, Too, Am America: Langston Hughes was a courageous voice of his time, and his authentic call for equality still rings true today. Beautiful paintings from Barack Obama illustrator Bryan Collier accompany and reinvent the celebrated lines of the poem “I, Too,” creating a breathtaking reminder to all Americans that we are united despite our differences. This picture book of Langston Hughes’s celebrated poem, “I, Too, Am America,” is also a Common Core Text Exemplar for Poetry.
Child of the Civil Rights Movement (Junior Library Guild Selection): In this Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of the Year, Paula Young Shelton, daughter of Civil Rights activist Andrew Young, brings a child’s unique perspective to an important chapter in America’s history. Paula grew up in the deep south, in a world where whites had and blacks did not. With an activist father and a community of leaders surrounding her, including Uncle Martin (Martin Luther King), Paula watched and listened to the struggles, eventually joining with her family—and thousands of others—in the historic march from Selma to Montgomery.
Ellen’s Broom (Coretta Scott King Honor – Illustrator Honor Title): A young girl learns a new meaning for freedom during the time of Reconstruction Ellen always knew the broom resting above the hearth was special. Before it was legal for her mother and father to officially be married, the broom was what made them a family anyway. But now all former slaves who had already been married in their hearts could register as lawful husband and wife. When Ellen and her family make the long trip to the courthouse dressed in their best, she brings the broom her parents had jumped so many years before. Even though freedom has come, Ellen knows the old traditions are important too. After Mama and Papa’s names are recorded in the register, Ellen nearly bursts with pride as her parents jump the broom once again.
Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt: As a seamstress in the Big House, Clara dreams of a reunion with her Momma, who lives on another plantation–and even of running away to freedom. Then she overhears two slaves talking about the Underground Railroad. In a flash of inspiration, Clara sees how she can use the cloth in her scrap bag to make a map of the land–a freedom quilt–that no master will ever suspect.
Freedom Summer: Joe and John Henry are a lot alike. They both like shooting marbles, they both want to be firemen, and they both love to swim. But there’s one important way they’re different: Joe is white and John Henry is black, and in the South in 1964, that means John Henry isn’t allowed to do everything his best friend is. Then a law is passed that forbids segregation and opens the town pool to everyone. Joe and John Henry are so excited they race each other there…only to discover that it takes more than a new law to change people’s hearts.
This Is the Rope: A Story From the Great Migration: The story of one family’s journey north during the Great Migration starts with a little girl in South Carolina who finds a rope under a tree one summer. She has no idea the rope will become part of her family’s history. But for three generations, that rope is passed down, used for everything from jump rope games to tying suitcases onto a car for the big move north to New York City, and even for a family reunion where that first little girl is now a grandmother.
Hope’s Gift: A poignant story celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. It’s 1862 and the Civil War has turned out to be a long, deadly conflict. Hope’s father can’t stand the waiting a minute longer and decides to join the Union army to fight for freedom. He slips away one tearful night, leaving Hope, who knows she may never see her father again, with only a conch shell for comfort. Its sound, Papa says, echoes the promised song of freedom. It’s a long wait for freedom and on the nights when the cannons roar, Papa seems farther away than ever. But then Lincoln finally does it: on January 1, 1863, he issues the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves, and a joyful Hope finally spies the outline of a familiar man standing on the horizon.
White Water: It’s a scorching hot day, and going into town with Grandma is one of Micheal’s favorite things. When the bus pulls up, they climb in and pay their fare, get out, walk to the back door, and climb in again. By the time they arrive in town, Micheal’s throat is as dry as a bone, so he runs to the water fountain. But after a few sips, the warm, rusty water tastes bad. Why is the kid at the “Whites Only” fountain still drinking? Is his water clear and refreshingly cool? No matter how much trouble Michael might get into, he’s determined to find out for himself. Based on a transformative experience co-author Michael Bandy had as a boy, this compelling story sheds light on the reality of segregation through a child’s eyes, while showing the powerful awareness that comes from daring to question the way things are.
Remember: The Journey to School Integration (Bccb Blue Ribbon Nonfiction Book Award): Toni Morrison has collected a treasure chest of archival photographs that depict the historical events surrounding school desegregation. These unforgettable images serve as the inspiration for Ms. Morrison’s text—a fictional account of the dialogue and emotions of the children who lived during the era of “separate but equal” schooling. Remember is a unique pictorial and narrative journey that introduces children to a watershed period in American history and its relevance to us today.
Ruth and the Green Book: Ruth was so excited to take a trip in her family’s new car! In the early 1950s, few African Americans could afford to buy cars, so this would be an adventure. But she soon found out that black travelers weren’t treated very well in some towns. Many hotels and gas stations refused service to black people. Daddy was upset about something called Jim Crow laws… Finally, a friendly attendant at a gas station showed Ruth’s family The Green Book. It listed all of the places that would welcome black travelers. With this guidebook—and the kindness of strangers—Ruth could finally make a safe journey from Chicago to her grandma’s house in Alabama.
Back of the Bus: A boy and his mother are riding the bus in Montgomery, Alabama like any other day—way in the back of the bus. The boy passes time by watching his marble roll up and down the aisle with the motion of the bus… Until a big commotion breaks out from way up front. With simple words and powerful illustrations, Aaron Reynolds and Coretta Scott King medalist Floyd Cooper recount the pivotal arrest of Rosa Parks at the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement.
The Great Migration: Journey to the North: When Eloise Greenfield was four months old, her family moved from their home in Parmele, North Carolina, to Washington, D.C. Before Jan Spivey Gilchrist was born, her mother moved from Arkansas and her father moved from Mississippi. Both settled in Chicago, Illinois. Though none of them knew it at the time, they had all become part of the Great Migration. In this collection of poems and collage artwork, award winners Eloise Greenfield and Jan Spivey Gilchrist gracefully depict the experiences of families like their own, who found the courage to leave their homes behind during The Great Migration and make new lives for themselves elsewhere.
This Is the Dream: The United States of America was founded on the declaration that all men are created equal. But nearly two hundred years after that proclamation, America was still deeply segregated. Slowly but surely, powerful leaders as well as everyday citizens spoke up for their dreams and beliefs. Soon, a people proud and strong stood up as one for their rights, and a new America came to be.
Ben and the Emancipation Proclamation: A self-taught young slave astonishes his fellow prisoners by reading aloud the newspaper account of Lincoln’s new emancipation proclamation. Based on actual events.
We March: On August 28, 1963, a remarkable event took place–more than 250,000 people gathered in our nation’s capital to participate in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The march began at the Washington Monument and ended with a rally at the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech, advocating racial harmony. Many words have been written about that day, but few so delicate and powerful as those presented here by award-winning author and illustrator Shane W. Evans. When combined with his simple yet compelling illustrations, the thrill of the day is brought to life for even the youngest reader to experience.
Goin’ Someplace Special: There’s a place in this 1950s southern town where all are welcome, no matter what their skin color…and ‘Tricia Ann knows exactly how to get there. To her, it’s someplace special and she’s bursting to go by herself. When her grandmother sees that she’s ready to take such a big step, ‘Tricia Ann hurries to catch the bus heading downtown. But unlike the white passengers, she must sit in the back behind the Jim Crow sign and wonder why life’s so unfair. Still, for each hurtful sign seen and painful comment heard, there’s a friend around the corner reminding ‘Tricia Ann that she’s not alone. And even her grandmother’s words — “You are somedbody, a human being — no better, no worse than anybody else in this world” — echo in her head, lifting her spirits and pushing her forward.
The Entrance Place of Wonders: Poems of the Harlem Renaissance: A remarkable and much-needed collection for the youngest lovers of poetry, Entrance Place of Wonders: Poems of the Harlem Renaissance features poems from the leaders of this cultural movement (1917-1935), such as Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Claude McKay, and James Weldon Johnson, as well as many newly discovered writers. These celebratory, life-affirming works will inspire children, parents, and educators while paying homage to one of the most exciting and significant times in American history.
Don’t forget to see how other parents are sharing Black History Month with their kids.