Children’s books are immensely crucial in teaching kids core values and important life lessons. Representation in these books absolutely matters, and kids of all cultures and backgrounds should be portrayed in what they read. The POC community is full of powerful artists who create content for kids who need representation. Here we have curated 9 children’s books about Black history written by Black authors and illustrators!
1. Black Boy, Black Boy by Ali Kamanda and Jorge Redmond, Illustrated by Ken Daley
This children’s book encourages young Black boys to dream up what they want to be and go for it. It highlights the successful careers of inspirational men in Black history who paved the way for young people today. This aims to inspire young Black boys through those role models who paved the way for them!
2. Go Forth and Tell: The Life of Augusta Baker, Librarian and Master Storyteller by Breanna J. McDaniel, Illustrated by April Harrison
Go Forth and Tell highlights the story of Augusta Baker, who was the first Black coordinator of children’s services at the New York Public Library. Baker was a beloved librarian and storyteller who educated and inspired authors such as Audre Lorde and James Baldwin. What she told centered around Black stories as she endorsed other librarians, teachers, and writers. She was definitely an inspirational woman, and her story deserves to be heard!
3. Your Legacy: A Bold Reclaiming of Our Enslaved History by Schele Williams, Illustrated by Tonya Engel
Your Legacy is a picture book that powerfully introduces children to African American history. It honors and celebrates enslaved ancestors in such an accessible way for kids to take in. This book celebrates their ancestors’ accomplishments and acknowledges their sacrifices.
4. Sing A Song: How “Lift Every Voice and Sing” Inspired Generations by Kelly Starling Lyons, Illustrated by Keith Mallett
Sing A Song is about how Lift Every Voice and Sing impacted generations of Black families and inspired them to resist systemic racism and oppression. Parents passed the song down to their children, and those children continued that tradition as well. Lift Every Voice and Sing is known as the Black National Anthem and was even sung at the Civil Rights Movement. This song has been extremely impactful, and Sing A Song honors that.
5. Jimmy’s Rhythm & Blues: The Extraordinary Life of James Baldwin by Michelle Meadows, illustrated by Jamiel Law
Released just this year in January, Jimmy’s Rhythm & Blues celebrates James Baldwin’s 100th birthday anniversary. It is the first-ever illustrated biography on Baldwin who was a famous writer and activist. This book tells the story of Baldwin as a young boy and how he came to find true power in writing. Meadows introduces children to the inspiring man that Baldwin was and chronicles the life of this man who left a significant mark on many generations.
6. Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, Illustrated by Luisa Uribe
About the beauty and history behind names, Your Name is a Song is about a little girl who is frustrated because her teachers and classmates keep mispronouncing her name. Her mother then teaches her the musicality of African, Asian, Black-American, Latinx, and Middle Eastern names through song. The little girl doesn’t want to return to school but then feels empowered by this new understanding and can’t wait to return to school. This book is perfect because it shows the beauty of names and gives young readers a new understanding of each other.
7. The Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States by Alliah L. Agostini, Illustrated by Sawyer Cloud
The Juneteenth Story introduces the history of the holiday to children. It details the evolution of the holiday and how it commemorates the day the enslaved people of Texas learned they were free. The book gives a timelines that tells the events that led to the emancipation and why it took so long for the enslaved people of Texas to hear the news. The Juneteenth Story is an accessible book for kids that shows them the importance of the American holiday.
8. What is Black Lives Matter? by Lakita Wilson, Illustrated by Gregory Copeland
This book comes from the bestselling series of books called the Who HQ Now. It tells the history of the Black Lives Matter social and political movement which advocates for non-violent civil disobedience and protests against all racially motivated violence against Black people, especially police brutality. What is Black Lives Matter? gives kids a handy guide to the history behind the important movement that still stands strong today.
9. The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales by Virginia Hamilton, Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon
Virginia Hamilton tells stories of folktales to children through The People Could Fly. She details animal tales, supernatural tales, cautionary tales, and slave tales of freedom. The book includes 40 beautiful paintings by Leo and Diane Dillon.
It’s critical that children are exposed to educational books that teach them about history or other kids’ cultures. Being represented is a key factor that sets the tone for a child’s experience of life and society. It’s not only important for kids to be represented, but for other children to also be introduced to those of the POC community so they can gain understanding and compassion. Reading these 9 books to your children is a great start to helping kids of all cultures comprehend Black history.
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