Children’s Books That Tackle Slavery in America

The United States of America has long struggled with its sordid past. The ultimate travesty of slavery haunts its every achievement, and the temptation to overlook the horrors is ever present. In recent times, certain children’s books – set in slaver’s America, have sugarcoated the history, perhaps in the criminally misguided attempt to soften the country’s cruelty to young audiences. It is of paramount importance that we educate children about the truth of slavery. It would be a disservice to society to hide the terrible price of the privilege this country enjoys. A list of three children’s books that treat American slavery with the appropriate honesty was compiled by the New York Times Book Review; and each of the featured works is amazing in their ability to portray the horrors of slavery without failing to communicate the strength and humanity of its victims.


FREEDOM OVER ME: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to LifeWritten and illustrated by Ashley Bryan

Using original slave auction and plantation estate documents, Ashley Bryan offers a moving and powerful picture book that contrasts the monetary value of a slave with the priceless value of life experiences and dreams that a slave owner could never take away.


My Name is James Madison Hemings By Jonah Winter, Illustrated by Terry Widener


In an evocative first-person account accompanied by exquisite artwork, Winter and Widener tell the story of James Madison Hemings’s childhood at Monticello, and, in doing so, illuminate the many contradictions in Jefferson’s life and legacy.


In The Shadow Of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives By Kenneth C. Davis 

Through the powerful stories of five enslaved people who were “owned” by four of our greatest presidents, this book helps set the record straight about the role slavery played in the founding of America.

Feature image courtesy of