Happy Black History Month! In our country, February is recognized as African-American History Month, which is also called Black History Month. However, if you have heard me talk about Ethnic Studies at all, you know that I STRONGLY believe that Black History should NOT be confined to just February, it should be taught year-round!

There is so much rich history and amazing leaders to learn from in Black History. I know that many of you all are looking for some quality books to uplift this month and integrate into your curriculum, homes, and libraries for the rest of the year, too. Therefore, I have listed 28 Picture Books for Black History Month and Beyond. Our Colorful Page’s list is split into three sections: 

  • Books About General History and Multiple Black Leaders
  • Books About A Specific Black Leader in History
  • Books About Specific Historical Periods & Events 

Each of these books are #OwnVoices and written by brilliant Black authors. I believe that these are the stories we need to uplift when teaching and reading about Black History to our students and kiddos. Check out these amazing books so that we can make sure Black History is taught this month and year-round!

Books About General History and Multiple Black Leaders

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, by Vashti Harrison

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Dependent on the Chapter

Age Range: 8-12 years

I love this book (and the one below as well)! Vashiti Harrison is a brilliant artist and writer. Each couple of pages focuses on an important woman in Black History with a breathtaking illustration and short blurb about their life’s work. Many teachers and families read one per day and focus on discussing that leader with their kiddos. My own students love the illustration. 

Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History, by Vashti Harrison

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Dependent on the Chapter

Age Range: 8-12 years

Vashiti Harrison followed up Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History with this book! In each chapter of Little Legends, she focuses on one brilliant man in Black History. She illustrates them and writes a little blurb about what they did in history. 

The Undefeated, by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 6-10 years

Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson are a dream author-illustrator team that produced this picture book. The Undefeated is a poem that acts as a “love letter to Black America”. It references the obstacles and triumphs that have happened in Black history and would be a good introduction to start a whole unit about Black history. 

Young, Gifted, and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present, by Jamia Wilson

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Dependent on the Hero

Age Range: 7-10 years

This book dedicates each page to a new Black hero that has changed the world in some way. Jamia Wilson writes a little blurb about that hero’s life, while Andrea Pippins adds vibrant colors through her illustrations of that hero. 

28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World, by Charles R. Smith, Jr.

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Mostly Conversation

Age Range: 6-10 years

One of the many reasons I chose this book is because it is illustrated by my favorite illustrator, Shane W. Evans! This picture book briefly tells readers about 28 days in Black History. Charles R. Smith, Jr writes a quick sentence that summarizes the event, but then goes into detail about it in a blurb below. I believe 28 Days would be perfect to teach little ones about Black History because of the engaging illustrations and content, which can be modified for length by choosing if you want to read all or some of the blurb below the summarized sentence. 

Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters, by Andrea Davis Pinkney

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 6-9 years

In this picture book, Andrea Davis Pinkney writes about ten amazing Black Women who fought for freedom and stood up to oppression. It includes biographies of Sojourner Truth, Biddy Mason, Harriet Tubman, Ida B.Wells-Barnett, Mary McLeod Bethune, Ella Josephine Baker, Dorothy Irene Height, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Shirley Chisholm. 

The ABCs of Black History, by Rio Cortez

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 5+ years

The ABCs of Black History opens with a powerful James Baldwin quote: “History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.” Cortez’s picture book uses each letter in the alphabet to tell so much about Black History. It explores words like: dyaspora, love, march, Queens, and power. This is such an amazing book to start a whole unit about Black History! 

Black Heroes: A Black History Book for Kids: 51 Inspiring People from Ancient Africa to Modern-Day U.S.A., by Arlisha Norwood, PhD

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Dependent on the Person

Age Range: 8-12 years

Black Heroes is a GREAT book to talk about the full breadth of Black History! It details the lives of 51 inspiring leaders from ancient Egytpian rulers all the way to famous modern tennis players. Often times, we only see Black History being taught from slavery to modern day so I really appreciate how this book starts at the actual beginning of Black History! Each leader has a mini-biography and a colorful portrait. 

Books About A Specific Black Leader in History

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly 

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 4-8 years

Margot Lee Shetterly transformed her New York Times bestseller into a kid-friendly, picture book. In this book, Margot Lee Shetterly tells the story of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, four Black mathematicians who were behind some of NASA’s greatest successes. Hidden Figures shows how they had to overcome sexism and racism in their STEM careers. It will be a true inspiration for any budding mathematician or scientist!

Young Kap, by Kingsley Osei

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 

Young Kap tells the story of Colin Kapernick taking a stand against the injustice happening to the Black community and taking a knee. It explores the sorrow and unfairness of Black youth being murdered that led to his activism. Young Kap is an exceptional book to continue conversations about the Black Lives Matter movement and modern activism in the Black community. 

Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice, by Nikki Grimes

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 4-8 years

In this picture book, Nikki Grimes writes verses to explore the life of Kamala Harris. It describes all her “roots” from when she was a little girl in Oakland to her life as a senator. This is a great book to learn about the life of our new Vice President! It also provides a beautiful mirror to inspire our young girls of color to reach for their dreams. 

Shirley Chisholm Is A Verb!, by Veronica Chambers

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 4-8 years old

Shirley Chisholm Is A Verb! is an informative and engaging biography about Shirley Chisholm. It details her life all the way from Barbados to her time in Congress and then to her presidential bid. Shirley Chisholm is a fantastic role model and an inspring person to learn about (she is actually now my new role model after reading this book!!). I love how this book integrates quotes that she said throughout her life and her values about what is right. 

My Story, My Dance: Robert Battle’s Journey to Alvin Ailey, by Lesa Cline-Ransome

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 4-8 years old

My Story, My Dance tells the story of Robert Battle, an artistic director for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. It starts with the day he was born in Jacksonville and details how he had to wear leg braces as a little kid. Robert Battle’s life was always integrated with music, martial arts, and then dance! He worked really hard to train in his passion, ballet, and eventually became the artistic director for Alvin Ailey. This picture book tells the biography of an awesome role model that I had never heard about until now. I love the representation of Robert Battle’s story too!

The Power of Her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne, by Lesa Cline-Ransome

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 4-8 years

This picture book begins, “Ethel Lois Payne always had an ear for stories…” What a starter sentence! The Power of Her Pen shares the story of Journalist Ethel L. Payne. It shares about her early life, the racism she faced, her teacher encouraging her writing, and her groundbreaking career as a journalist. She always asked tough questions and would be an inspiration to everyone, especially our future writers!

Mae Among the Stars, by Roda Ahmed

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Mostly Conversation

Age Range: 4-8 years old

While this book isn’t technically a biography about Mae Jemison, it was inspired by her life and a magnificent book for little ones to show them how Mae Jemison began her dream. Mae Among the Stars follows young Mae who wants to become an astronaut and works hard to reach her dreams. You can also use this book to have conversations about racism and sexism because Mae is told by someone that a nurse would be “a better job for [her]” than an astronaut. 

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, by Javaka Steptoe

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Mostly Representation

Age Range: 6+ years old

Radiant Child is about Jean-Michel Basquiat, an influential artist, as he grows up in Brooklyn and then moves to New York City as a teenager. It tells the story of his life by embracing that he was a young prodigy and emphasizing that his art did not stay inside the lines. 

My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by Martin Luther King III

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 4-8 years

My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a picture book memoir written by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s son, Martin Luther King III. It details the life of Dr. King from the perspective of his son and the rest of his family. It would be a great book to explore Dr. King’s life beyond just his important civil rights work.

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read, by Rita Lorraine Hubbard & Oge Mora

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 4-8 years

I actually got introduced to this book through an award committee I am a part of. And, oh my goodness, do I LOVE this book! The Oldest Student details the life of Mary Walker, the country’s oldest person to learn how to read. It starts in 1848 when Mary Walker was born into slavery. At 15 years old, she was freed and wanted to learn to read. However, life, struggles, joys, and racism got in the way. However, at 116, she finally learned how to read. The artwork in this book is beautiful and done by Oge Mora, the same illustrator as Thank You, Omu and Saturdays!

Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope, by Nikki Grimes

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Between Exploration & Conversation

Age Range: 5-8 years 

Barack Obama starts with a little boy and his mother talking about Barack Obama on the television. The mom starts telling the story of Barack Obama and his life to the little boy. It tells Obama’s biography in verse (which Nikki Grimes is an absolute expert in). This is an excellent book to share the history of our first Black President of the United States. 

Sisters & Champions: The True Story of Venus and Serena Williams, by Howard Bryant

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 4-8 years 

Sisters & Champions starts by talking about how much their dad, Richard Williams, believed in his daughters, Venus and Serena. The beginning talks about how people made fun of the family because of their race and how they were not rich. But, their dad kept believing in his daughter’s futures in tennis and told Venus and Serena to find the beauty in their skin color. The rest of the book details Venus and Serena’s journey to fame as pro-tennis players. I love the conversations around racism and socioeconomic discrimintaiton in this book. Plus, it’s an inspiring story of two awesome modern leaders in sports history!

Dream Builder: The Story of Architect Philip Freelon, by Kelly Starling Lyons

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Mostly Exploration

Age Range: 4-9 years old

Dream Builder shares the life of Philip Freelon, a brilliant architect! It begins with his early life and his struggles with reading. Then, his Pop Pop, a famous Harlem Renaissance painter, introduces him to art. This broadens his interests and ignites his love of art and then architecture. The book ends with Phillip Freelon designing the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. It would be great to read this book to your kids and then show them the museum website!

Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X, by Ilyasah Shabazz

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 6-10 years

Malcolm Little is the inspiring picture book biography of Malcolm X. The book starts with a childhood tale from Malcolm X’s life to share about how Malcolm learned about observation and results. It then shares about the racism Malcolm X and his family faced in a very direct and real way that needs to be taught to our students. Malcolm Little then continues to detail Malcolm X’s journey to fight for freedom and justice. I love this book especially because it was written by Malcolm X’s daughter!

I really wanted to include a picture book about Malcolm X because his history is often left out of classrooms unfortunately.  I really suggest reading this resource that has an honest and detailed explanation of why this picture book is the best about Malcolm X: “3 Contrasting Malcolm X Children Books”.

Books About Specific Historical Periods & Events

Child of the Civil Rights Movement, by Paula Young Shelton and Raul Colón 

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 4-9 years

Paula Young Shelton, the daughter of Civil Rights Movement activist Andrew Young, authors this book about her experiences as a child within the Civil Rights Movement. It brings a new perspective to the Civil Rights Movement that children can easily connect with because of the age of the protagonist. We have used this book in my classroom to launch our discussions about the Civil Rights Movement. It is also perfect to break into sections and read over many days. 

March On!: The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World, by Christine King Farris

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 8-12 years

Christine King Farris, the sister of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote this book about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the powerful March on Washington. It details the work that went into the March on Washington that bolsters the power and amazement behind that event. 

The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-Hop, by Carole Boston Weatherford

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Mostly Exploration

Age Range: 4+ years

This book tells the origins of rap and hip-hop music through rhythm and rhyme. Every student will love exploring this book about the history of one of the most beloved music genres in the world. 

Harlem Renaissance Party, by Faith Ringgold

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Mostly Exploration

Age Range: 4-8 years 

If you know me, you know I am a Faith Ringgold fan! She is an author of one of my favorite books: We Came to America. In this picture book, Faith Ringgold tells the story of Lonnie and his uncle going to Harlem in the 1920s. His uncle introduces Lonnie to so many amazing leaders from the Harlem Renaissance. This picture book would be a perfect introduction to the Harlem Renaissance! 

Harlem, by Walter Dean Myers

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Mostly Exploration 

Age Range: 2+ years

This picture book illustrates Walter Dean Myers’s poem, “Harlem”. The poem is all about Walter Dean Myers’s childhood home. It also provides a vivid description of the Harlem Renaissance. My favorite part is that this book is illustrated by Walter Dean Myers’s son, Christopher Myers!

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth, & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore, by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Mostly Conversation with Some Exploration

Age Range: 7-10 years

The Book Itch tells the story of Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore, the National Memorial African Bookstore. In the 1930s, the dad of the main character, Louis Michaux Jr, opened the book store. The pages share about the book store and how so many people came. This is a wonderful book of a somewhat unknown gem in history!

One thought on “Black History Month: 28 Picture Books for 28 Days and Beyond!

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