50 Books About Black History For Children and Young Adults


50 Black History Books for Children and Young Adults

The current Black Lives Matter movement is the latest in a centuries-long struggle against slavery, then oppression, hatred, and systemic racism for black Americans. Here is a collection of books for all ages about the historic struggle of Black people. There are Black history books on this list about black people fighting for equal rights during the revolutionary war and the civil war, during the Jim Crow Era, and post-segregation. 

Many of these books have been written by Black authors, but it is important to note that the publishing industry still publishes more books about Black and Brown people written by White authors than it does books about the Black experience written in Black voices. At a time when the nation is amplifying melanated voices, readers may want to prioritize books written by Black authors when selecting from this list. 

For books about Black people fighting for equal rights in the modern era, check out this list of 50 books about race to read right now

Just so you know, we may get a small share of the sales made through the links on this page.

Picture books

1. Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace

written and illustrated by Ashley Bryan

Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace

Get it HERE.

This picture book memoir is about Ashley Bryan’s experience serving as a Black soldier in a segregated army in World War 2. Bryan recounts stories of racism on the front line as well as moments of kindness that saw him through. The text is supported by historical letters and diary entries. 

2. Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave

written by Laban Carrick Hill and illustrated by Bryan Collier

Black history books Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave

Get it HERE.

Very little is known about Dave the Potter, a slave in South Carolina in the 1800s and a skilled potter. This book focuses on Dave’s pottery and shows in detail Dave working tirelessly, meticulously over his art. The book includes extensive back matter that gives historical details about Dave and includes some photographs of his surviving pottery.

3. The Bell Rang

written and illustrated by James E. Ransome

Black history books The Bell Rang

Get it HERE.

Ransome received a Corretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award for this book about a runaway slave and the hope and fear his family experiences as they imagine that maybe – just maybe – he made it north to freedom. 

4. A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919

by Claire Hartfeld 

Black history books A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919

Get it HERE.

A violent racial conflict erupts when a Black boy is killed by a White man throwing rocks after he swims too close to the white beach. This book looks deeply at racial conflict in America and includes lots of historical reference material and photos. 

5. The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist

by Cynthia Levinson and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton 

black history books The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist

Get it HERE.

In this picture book that shows you are never too young to make a difference, Aubrey Faye Hendricks is nine years old when she decides to join the Children’s March in Birmingham to help end segregation. 

6. Finding Langston

by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Finding Langston  Black History Books

Get it HERE.

In 1946, Langston’s family moves north from Alabama to Chicago, where Langston discovers the non-segregated Chicago Public Library. He reads poetry by his namesake, Langston Hughes, and through poetry learns to cope with loss. 

7. Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968

by Alice Faye Duncan and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 Black History Books

Get it HERE.

In 1968, after two Black sanitation workers are killed due to unsafe work conditions, sanitation workers go on strike. Martin Luther King, Jr. is called to Memphis help with the protests. In Memphis, Rev. Dr. King delivers his famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech and is assassinated the next day. This picture book recounts these events through the eyes of a child.  

8. The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth, and Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore

by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Black history books The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth, and Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore

Get it HERE.

In the 1930s, Lewis Michaux Sr. opened a Harlem bookstore he named the National Memorial African Bookstore, which is visited by famous Black Americans such as Malcom X and Langston Hughes. The story of the bookstore’s contribution to helping people fight for equality is told through the eyes of Michaux’s son, Lewis Jr. 

9. Let the Children March

by Monica Clark-Robinson and illustrated by Frank Morrison

Black history books Let the Children March

Get it HERE.

Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired an amazing historical event known today as the Birmingham Children’s Crusade after he spoke in 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama. Children marched and protested segregation laws. This has a powerful message that everyone’s voice can make a difference. 

10. Before She Was Harriett

by Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by James E. Ransome 

Before She Was Harriett Black History

Get it HERE.

This is a beautiful biography in verse about the woman we know today as Harriet Tubman but who was known by many different names during her lifetime as a spy and liberator.  

11. Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life

written and illustrated by Ashley Bryan

Get it HERE.

This picture book looks at the monetary value of slaves according to plantation documents and contrasts the “so-called worth” of slaves against their self-worth and rich inner lives. This book is unique and unlike any other picture book on the market as it uses a combination of historical documents, poetry, and collage to deliver a powerful message about the worth of a human life.

12. The Price of Freedom: How One Town Stood Up to Slavery

by Dennis Brindell Fradin and Judith Bloom Fradin and illustrated by Eric Velasquez 

The Price of Freedom: How One Town Stood Up to Slavery  Black History Books

Get it HERE.

John Price is a runaway slave who crosses the Ohio River from Kentucky into Ohio. Price lives with the people of Oberlin, Ohio until the slave catchers come. When the townspeople hear of Price’s capture, some of them band together to secure his freedom. Price’s rescuer’s spend three months in jail and their subsequent abolitionist voices contributes to the unrest leading up to the Civil War. 

Black History Books for Middle Grades

13. The Parker Inheritance

by Varian Johnson

The Parker Inheritance Black History Books

Get it HERE.

Candance finds an old letter addressed to her grandmother, who was run out of town in shame. Her family doesn’t talk about it. When Candance reads the letter, she uncovers an injustice and a mystery. With the help of her best friend she sets out to set things right. 

14. The Watsons go to Birmingham – 1963

by Christopher Paul Curtis

Black history books The Watsons Go To Birmingham

Get it HERE.

Kenny and his family travel to Birmingham, hoping Grandma can get Byron, Kenny’s 13-year-old brother, to straighten up. They end up in Birmingham during one of the most volatile parts of the entire civil rights era. 

15. Lions of Little Rock

by Kristin Levine

Black history books The Lions of Little Rock

Get it HERE.

Best friends Marlee and Liz do everything together until one day, Liz disappears and the rumor mill says she was passing White. Marlee doesn’t care and does everything in her power to find her friend.

16. Revolution

by Deborah Wiles

Revolution Black History Books

Get it HERE.

Revolution is the second book in the Sixties Trilogy. These three books can be read out of order, but characters from the first make a cameo on Revolution. This story takes place in Mississippi in 1964 during the Freedom Summer, a volunteer-led voter registration drive to register as many Black voters as possible. Revolution tells this story from Sunny’s perspective, a young girl who is coming of age during a revolution.

17. Fire From the Rock

by Sharon Draper

Fire From the Rock Black history books

Get it HERE.

Fire From the Rock is about Sylvia, who has the opportunity to be one of the first black students to integrate into Central High School in 1957. Racial tensions turn her town into a powder keg. Sylvia decides to be a part of the change. 

18. Stella By Starlight

by Sharon Draper

Stella By Starlight  Black History Books

Get it HERE.

Stella lives in the Depression-era segregated south, a reality she has largely made peace with, when the KKK, which has been relatively quiet during her lifetime, decides to rear its ugly head. Stella is faced with violent racism and decides to fight back. 

19. The Surrender Tree/El árbol de la rendición: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom/Poemas de la Lucha de Cuba por su Libertad

by Margarita Engle

The Surrender Tree/El árbol de la rendición: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom/Poemas de la Lucha de Cuba por su Libertad  Black History books

Get it HERE.

Engle’s book is based on the true story of Rosa la Bayamesa, a field nurse in 1896 Cuba. Cuba has been torn apart by three wars and people have been placed in camps with not enough food, water, or supplies. Rosa turns caves into hidden hospitals and helps to heal her war-torn country.

20. Unbound

by Ann Burg

Unbound Black History books

Get it HERE.

In this novel in verse, Grace is forced to work in the Big House instead of the slave cabins. Grace witnesses firsthand the cruelty of the plantation master and missus. Soon, Grace and her family are forced to flee to the Great Dismal Swamp, a story based off true events of slaves and Indigenous people forging long-term communities in swamps. 

21. My Name is Henry Bibb: A Story of Slavery and Freedom

by Afua Cooper

My Name is Henry Bibb: A Story of Slavery and Freedom Black Book History

Get it HERE.

Henry Bibb escaped slavery to become the founder of a Black newspaper. Author Afua Cooper spends the majority of this book on Bibb’s life in slavery before his escape to freedom, and the details of the cruelty he experienced are both necessary and harrowing. 

22. Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet

by Andrea Cheng

Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet_ Black History Books

Get it HERE.

History doesn’t know much about the man known as Dave the Potter, who made beautiful pottery and inscribed it with his name and short poems about his life as a slave. What we do know is recounted here in verse. 

23. The Rock and the River

by Kekla Magoon

The Rock and the River Black history books

Get it HERE.

Sam’s father believes in nonviolent protest, but Sam’s brother and best friend Stick wants to join the Black Panthers. As Sam’s life unfolds against the backdrop of racial tension in 1968 Chicago, he must decide for himself which path he will follow. 

24. Eliza’s Freedom Road: An Underground Railroad Diary

by Jerdine Nolen and illustrated by Shadra Strickland

Eliza’s Freedom Road: An Underground Railroad Diary Black History Books

Get it HERE.

After Eliza’s mother is sold to a different plantation and Eliza overhears talk of finding herself at the slave auction, Eliza decides to run away. She travels along the Underground Railroad with advice from her mother about how to safely travel at night ringing in her ears. 

25. March Forward, Girl: From Young Warrior to Little Rock Nine

by Melba Pattillo Beals

March Forward, Girl: From Young Warrior to Little Rock Nine Black History Books

Get it HERE.

Melba Beals recounts the story of how she became a renowned civil rights activist in this memoir. Beals is one of the Little Rock Nine, an author, and recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal. This is her story. 

26. Remember: The Journey to School Integration

by Toni Morrison 

Black history books Remember The Journey to School Integration

Get it HERE.

Toni Morrison imagines fictional dialogue and inner narratives of children against the backdrop of photographs from the era of desegregation. 

27. We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March

by Cynthia Levinso

We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March Black History Books

Get it HERE.

In 1963, 4,000 children participated in the Children’s March to desegregate Birmingham. We’ve Got a Job tells this story through the eyes of four young marchers at the heart of the action.

Black History Books for Young Adults 

28. Spite Fences: A Story of Hope, Redemption, and Justice in the 1960’s South

by Trudy Krishner

Black history books Spite Fences: A Story of Hope, Redemption and Justice in the 1960's South

Get it HERE.

Spite Fences is set in the Jim Crow South and centers around Maggie Pugh, a 13-year-old who resents the limitations placed on poor people and black people – she’s both. Maggie uses her camera to find her truth and tell her story.

29. Dread Nation

by Justina Ireland

Black history books Dread Nation

Get it HERE.

Justina Ireland imagines a zombie apocalypse that coincides with the Civil War. Even though the nation’s fighting is interrupted by literal zombies, racism does not take a break. In this story, young Black women are trained to be attendants, high-class servants who protect white families from the undead. Jane McKeene is training to be an attendant but is really just biding her time to get home to her mother when Black people start disappearing. Jane’s plans are derailed as she aims to find out why. 

30. One Crazy Summer

by Rita Williams Garcia

One Crazy Summer Black History Books

Get it HERE.

Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern travel across the country to spend the summer with their mother who left them seven years ago for a new life in California. They are expecting a summer filled with Disneyland trips, but instead, their mother enrolls them in a summer camp run by the Black Panthers. 

31. Their Eyes Were Watching God

by Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God  Black History Books

Get it HERE.

A classic that students will absolutely encounter in college if they don’t meet it in high school, Their Eyes Were Watching God follows a strong female protagonist named Janey as she searches for love and a meaningful life against the backdrop of life after emancipation, when Black people were freed but not free.

32. Kindred

by Octavia Butler

Kindred Black History Books

Get it HERE.

Kindred is a modern classic. The story follows Dana, a Black woman living in modern times who is abruptly time-travelled back to the south where she spends time in the slave quarters. She has no control over her time travelling and her journeys back to plantation get longer and more dangerous as the novel goes on. 

33. The Steep and Thorny Way

by Cat Winters

The Steep and Thorny Way Black History Books

Get it HERE.

This retelling of Hamlet is set in 1920s Oregon, a time when the KKK is active and malicious. The part of Hamlet is given to Hanalee, a Black woman who watches her father die and friends disappear. To get to the bottom of the mystery of her father’s death, Hanalee tracks down a night “haint” to get some answers. 

34. Underground Railroad

by Colson Whitehead

Underground Railroad

Get it HERE.

Cora and Caesar escape together on the Underground Railroad, which in this novel is not a empheral network of houses, faint signs, and whispers. Instead, in this novel the Underground Railroad is quite literal, in which train conductors operate a secret network of underground tracks. The horrors of slavery are foregrounded in this novel as Cora makes her escape.

35. Copper Sun

by Sharon Draper

Copper Sun Black history books

Get it HERE.

This novel about slavery starts before most – in it, a young girl is stolen from her home in Africa and sold into slavery. The content is brutal, as was the reality of slavery. 

36. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume One: The Pox Party

by M. T. Anderson

Black history books The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume One: The Pox Party

Get it HERE.

Octavian Nothing is set just before the Revolutionary War. In it, young Octavian and his mother are subjects in an experiment designed to test whether people of African descent have the capacity to be as intelligent and civilized as White people. Octavian Nothing looks into slavery in the North during the revolution, a perspective few books take. 

37. Chains

by Laurie Halse Anderson

Chains Black History Books Bored Teachers

Get it HERE.

Chains is the first book in a trilogy that is followed up by Forge and Ashes. This story follows Isabel, a slave during the Revolutionary War. At her own great risk, Isabel spies on her owners for the patriot army. 

38. Come Juneteenth

by Ann Rinaldi

Black history books Come Juneteenth

Get it HERE.

Juneteenth is celebrated on June 19, the day Gordon Granger read slaves in Texas the Emancipation Proclamation. The Emancipation Proclamation officially freed slaves on January 1, 1863, but the last remaining slaves in the confederacy didn’t go free until Juneteenth. In this novel, Ann Rinaldi tells the story of Sis Goose, a Texas slave who nonetheless considers her owners family. When Union soldiers show up at her plantation and she discovers that she could have had her freedom two years prior had her “family” been honest with her, she runs away. 

39. Hang a Thousand Trees With Ribbons: The Story of Phillis Wheatley

by Ann Rinaldi

Hang a Thousand Trees With Ribbons: The Story of Phillis Wheatley Black History Books Bored Teachers

Get it HERE.

Phillis Wheatley is stolen from her home in Senegal and sold into slavery where she is purchased by a Boston family, where she becomes America’s first published Black poet. 

40. Jefferson’s Sons: A Founding Father’s Secret Children

by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Black history books Jefferson’s Sons: A Founding Father’s Secret Children

Get it HERE.

This book is a meticiously researched but fictionalized look at the life of Thomas Jefferson through the eyes of three of his slaves – two of whom are his own children. 

41. 47

by Walter Mosley

Black history books 47

Get it HERE.

47 is part historical fiction, part science fiction. Slave number 47 meets Tall John, a runaway slave and alien who encourages 47 to fight for his own liberation. 

42. Warriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High

by Melba Pattillo Beales 

Black history books Warriors Don't Cry

Get it HERE.

Beales was one of the Little Rock Nine, a group of nine Black students who enrolled in Central High School immediately following the supreme court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. Beales looks unflinchingly at the overt and violent racism the Little Rock Nine encountered. 

43. Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March

by Lynda Blackmon Lowery and illustrated by PJ Loughran

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March _ Black History Books

Get it HERE.

Author Lynda Blackmon Lowery was the youngest marcher in the voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery. She was jailed 11 times before she turned 15. This is her powerful memoir about what it means to be a nonviolent protestor in the face of violence. 

Nonfiction

44. March Trilogy

by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell 

March Trilogy Black History Books

Get it HERE.

The March Trilogy is a series of three graphic novels following the activism of lifelong civil rights activist John Lewis. Lewis today is a Georgia congressman and recipient of the Medal of Freedom, but his life has been defined by his role in the civil rights movement, from 1963’s March on Washington to meeting Martin Luther King to nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins. This memoir trilogy sets Lewis’ personal story alongside the backdrop of the larger civil rights movement. 

45. We Are Not Yet Equal: Understanding Our Racial Divide

by Carol Anderson and Tonya Bolden 

We Are Not Yet Equal: Understanding Our Racial Divide Black history books

Get it HERE.

This is a young adult adaptation of the book White Rage. This book looks at the history of civil rights victories as well as the roadblocks that have been placed in front of them. It delves deeply into five broad civil rights moments including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, the War on Drugs, and the election of President Obama. 

46. Hidden Figures The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

by Margot Lee Shetterly

Hidden Figures The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race

Get it HERE.

A group of brilliant female mathematicians are relegated to teaching in segregated schools until the labor shortage of World War 2 meant they suddenly had a shot at jobs in the aeronautics field. Their jobs help launch rockets into outer space, but even while working for Virginia’s Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, the women are forced to deal with racist coworkers and segregated working conditions. 

47. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

by Rebecca Skloot

Black history books The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Get it HERE.

Henrietta Lacks, a Black, poor tobacco farmer, has her cells taken from her during a routine medical procedure without her knowledge. These cells, due to their ability to reproduce forever, become a major medical breakthrough, launching a multi-million dollar industry, yet Henrietta’s family has seen no profits from these cells. 

48. 12 Years a Slave

by Solomon Northup

Black history books 12 Years a Slave

Get it HERE.

This is Solomon Northup’s memoir. In it, he tells the story of being born a free man in the north, kidnapped, and forced into slavery, until family in New York are able to discover his whereabouts and secure his release. 

49. She Came to Slay: The Life and Times of Harriett Tubman

By Erica Armstrong Dunbar

Black history books She Came to Slay: The Life and Times of Harriett Tubman_ Black History Books Bored Teachers

Get it HERE.

This biography is more a tribute to Harriet Tubman than a dry recounting of facts. It paints Tubman as a strong, complex woman. The author includes illustrations, photos, and sidebars to enhance her narrative. 

50. To Write in the Light of Freedom: The Newspapers of the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Schools

edited by William Sturkey and Jon N. Hale

Black history books To Write in the Light of Freedom: The Newspapers of the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Schools

Get it HERE.

In Mississippi during the summer of 1964, Black students in the south enrolled in Freedom Schools, temporary schools that were part of the greater civil rights movement. The mission of these schools was to help organize Black people in the south to achieve greater equality. This book is a collection of student journalism written in freedom schools. It’s a fantastic primary source and would be ideal in a high school journalism program.

Other book lists from Amy’s bookshelf you’ll love:

50 Black History Books for Children and Young Adults


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AuthorAmy

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I am an unrepentant lover of words - and lucky me, I spend all day, every day immersed in them. When I'm not teaching, I'm reading. Or writing. Or teaching eager (and sometimes not-so-eager) adolescents about the power of the written word. I live on the scenic Oregon Coast with my dog, two cats, and five-year-old son.

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