Picture Books for Black History Month in the Classroom

If you're looking for picture books for Black History Month, you've come to the right place. Each title in the list tells the story of an important figure or event in black history. So whether you're looking for something to read aloud during Black History Month or want to use these books as teaching tools, you'll find something that's just right for you.

Picture Books for Black History Month in the Classroom

Why Read Picture Books for Black History Month?

No matter your school's and classroom's cultural makeup, your students need access to books celebrating black history and culture. Black children need to see themselves and their ancestors represented in books. Other children need to read about the experiences and lives of those different from themselves to educate and counter racism and prejudice.

Black History Month, observed in America during February and October in the UK, offers the opportunity to celebrate the history, art and culture of people often under-represented in literacy and media. 

When teaching about black history and culture, it's essential to use picture books that celebrate the beauty, difficulties and diversity of African American life. These picture books should be accessible all year round, not only during Black History Month.

You will find some activities for Black History Month activities below the picture books, which provide ways to teach and discuss racism, slavery, and prejudice.

FREE Activities for Black History Month

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Picture Books for Black History Month

These picture books for Black History Month explore many aspects of black history and culture, including

  • Role models who fought for change and equal rights.
  • Scientists and inventors who improved all our lives. 
  • People who experienced racism and prejudice and fought for tolerance and equality.
  • Positive relationships that inspire and empower.

Althea Gibson: The Story of Tennis' Fleet-of-Foot Girl by Megan Reid

Althea Gibson grew up in Harlem and tennis was her passion. Every time she lost a match, she worked harder. Through her determination and resilience, Althea overcame racist and sexist attitudes to become the first black winner of Wimbledon, US and French Open tennis championships.

Read to promote discussions on racism, overcoming adversity, commitment, and perseverance.

Althea Gibson: The Story of Tennis' Fleet-of-Foot Girl by Megan Reid

Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome

This is the first of two picture books for Black History Month on this list by Lesa Cline-Ransome. Harriet Tubman led hundreds of slaves to freedom, but this biography describes the other names she used at different times during her life.

Use this book to discuss remarkable women, slavery, civil rights and the underground railroad.

Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome

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

In 1930s Harlem, Lewis Michaux Sr. opened the National Memorial African Bookstore. The shop became a hub for fostering new ideas and empowering people to make changes.

Promotes the importance of books, learning from others and the community.

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

Coming to England: An Inspiring True Story Celebrating the Windrush by Floella Benjamin

Baroness Floella Benjamin recalls her journey from Trinidad to London as part of the Windrush generation. The ten-year-old grew up to educate millions of children on TV and become a member of the House of Lords.

Use to discuss overcoming adversity, hope, and determination.

Coming to England: An Inspiring True Story Celebrating the Windrush by Floella Benjamin

Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 by Helaine Becker

Katherine Johnson was one of the real-life heroes of the Apollo 13 moon landing because of her mathematical abilities, curiosity and determination.

This biography shows Katherine's journey to becoming an important part of NASA and an inspirational woman in STEM.

Counting on Katherine by Helaine Becker

Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles

Joe and John are best friends. Before 1964, John, who is black, may not use the pool. The Civil Rights Act allows John to legally use all public places, but the local pool closes rather than allow black people to use it. Joe is dismayed and cannot understand why Joe doesn’t have the same rights as himself.

Use to promote discussions on civil rights, prejudice, equality, segregation and fairness.

Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles

Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America by Carole Boston Weatherford

This is the first of several picture books for Black History Month on this list by Carole Boston Weatherford. Gordon Parks, born in 1912, lived in a time of limited prospects for a poor African American. He bought a camera for $7.50 and taught himself to take photos. He saw people being treated differently because of their race and used his camera to take a stand against racism.

Gordon followed his dream despite the prejudice he faced and brought awareness to others who faced intolerance. This biography highlights civil rights, artists, black history and social justice.

Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America by Carole Boston Weatherford

Granny Came Here on the Empire Windrush by Patrice Lawrence

When asked by her teacher to choose an inspirational person, Ava picks her Granny. She learns how her grandmother travelled to England on the Empire Windrush and bravely built a life for herself in a new country.

Read to promote discussions on risk-taking, inspiration, overcoming adversity, resilience and immigration.

Granny Came Here on the Empire Windrush by Patrice Lawrence

Harlem's Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills by Renée Watson

Florence Mills was born to former slaves and grew up in a “teeny-tiny, itsy-bitsy house” in Washington, D.C. Her voice captivated people from a young age, and she made her way to Broadway. She used her success to make a stand against intolerance and racism. Unfortunately, there are no recordings of Florence Mills’ voice.

This biography promotes discussions on overcoming adversity, civil rights, courage and inspiring women.

Harlem's Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills by Renée Watson

Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine

Henry Brown, a slave, overcomes many challenges, including being torn from his family who were sold as slaves. Working at a warehouse he comes up with the idea of achieving his dream of freedom by mailing himself to the North. Reinforces themes of freedom, overcoming adversity and resilience.

Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Hidden Figures tells the inspirational story of four black women who worked at NASA in the 1940s. Their intelligence and determination changed the world by putting a man on the moon.

A powerful picture book to promote gender roles, tolerance, inquirers and perseverance.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

I Am a Promise by Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce

Shelly-Ann's commitment to hard work and encouragement from loved ones helped her achieve multiple gold medals in the Olympics. We learn about her childhood in Jamaica to becoming one of the greatest sprinters of all time. 

Read to promote discussions on determination, resilience, inspiration, encouragement and commitment.

I Am a Promise by Shelly Ann Fraser Pryce

John Agard's Windrush Child by John Agard

Follow a child's journey to England on board the Empire Windrush. The boy waves goodbye to his Caribbean home and sets sail for a new country and new home. 

Promotes discussions on black history, hope, a new home, resilience, overcoming adversity and challenges.

John Agard's Windrush Child by John Agard

The Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States by Alliah L. Agostini

Juneteenth started in Texas on June 19, 1865. On this day, enslaved people learned of their freedom. The celebrations grew every year, particularly as Black Texans moved across America. Juneteenth officially became an official holiday in 2021.

The Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States by Alliah L. Agostini

Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice by Nikki Grimes

Explore the story of the first woman, the first Black person, and the first South Asian American to become Vice President of the United States. Read how Kamala Harris’ immigrant parents instilled in her a passion for freedom and justice.

Promotes gender roles, female role models, empowerment, social justice and equality.

Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice Activities and Comprehension Questions

Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson

Narrated by a child who joined the 1963 civil rights march in Birmingham, Alabama. Through their words, we see the harsh consequences for children protesting after hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak. Children were jailed and treated with disdain by many adults. Regardless, they took a stand and used their voice to change the world.

Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson

Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten by Laura Veirs

Elisabeth Cotten taught herself to play her brother’s right-handed guitar upside down and backward as she was left-handed. She created her own music as a teenager and composed the song ‘Freight Train’

Read this biography to discuss growth mindset, determination and Black History Month.

Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten by Laura Veirs

Lillian's Right to Vote by Jonah Winter

Lillian, a one-hundred-year-old African American woman, is determined to walk up the steep hill to her polling station to make her voice heard. During her journey, she remembers the difficult voting history of her family. After the passing of the Fifteenth Amendment her great-grandfather voted for the first time, she witnessed her parents registering to vote and she marched from Selma to Montgomery.

Lillian's Right to Vote by Jonah Winter

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed

As a child, Mae Jemison dreamed of travelling into space. Her curiosity, intelligence, and determination led to her becoming the first African American woman to travel in space.

Use to promote gender roles, inspiring women, perseverance, and inspiration.

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed

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

Ilyasah Shabazz writes about the childhood of her grandfather, Malcolm Little, later known as Malcolm X. We learn about his natural leadership, his curiosity, and his nurturing family. His optimism is tested when he experiences intolerance and tragedies, including the death of his father by the Ku Klux Klan.

Promotes discussions on black history, activism and racism.

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

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport

A biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. uses quotes from his important speeches to tell his life story. The book includes a timeline and further resources to learn about this influential man.

Use to discuss black history, civil rights, segregation, freedom, courage, integrity and activism.

Martin's Big Words Activities and Comprehension Questions

My Name Is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth by Ann Turner

Former slave, Isabella Baumfree, became the preacher Sojourner Truth, fighting for abolitionist and women’s rights movements. Use to discuss how adversity can be used for change, black history, abolition and women’s rights.

My Name Is Truth by Ann Turner

Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson

This biography of Nelson Mandela starts with his childhood before moving on to his life in Johannesburg. He saw how powerless and poor black Africans were, and the injustice started his lifelong fight for equality in South Africa. First as a lawyer and then as a resistance fighter, leading to his imprisonment. He finally saw the abolishment of apartheid before being elected as president of South Africa.

Read this biography to promote discussions on black history, freedom, social justice and equality.

Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson

Nina: A Story of Nina Simone by Traci N. Todd

Nina Simone, born Eunice Kathleen Waymon, sang before she talked and learned to play the piano very young. Classical composers influenced her music because she loved how Bach's started softly and ended like thunder. During the Civil Rights Movement, Nina used her voice in protest to fight against racial inequality and discrimination.

Read this biography to promote civil rights, discrimination, and social justice discussions.

Nina: A Story of Nina Simone by Traci N. Todd

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard

Mary Walker was born into slavery in 1848, and at the age of 116 she learned to read. She witnessed the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement, and through her perseverance, she showed you’re never too old to learn.

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard

Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth by Alice Faye Duncan

Opal Lee, the grandmother of Juneteenth, was born in Texas in 1926. She grew up celebrating Juneteenth but found many Americans had never heard of it. Opal led a movement to bring national recognition of Juneteenth. It became a federal holiday in 2021.

Read this biography to promote discussions on civil rights, discrimination, social justice, activism and black history.

Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free by Alice Faye Duncan

Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment by Parker Curry

When Parker Curry visited the National Portrait Gallery, she looked up to see a portrait of a queen. The powerful painting of Michelle Obama captured Parker’s imagination about the possibilities of her future regardless of race, class, or gender.

Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment by Parker Curry

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

This is the second of two picture books for Black History Month on this list by Lesa Cline-Ransome. Ethel Payne fought for her education despite the adversity and racism she faced. After graduating in journalism, she wrote about segregation and racism, before becoming one of three black journalists to be issued a press page for the White House.

Ethel asked tough questions and was a vocal critic of those in power for their lack of action in the civil rights movement.

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

RESPECT: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul by Carole Boston Weatherford

This is the second of several picture books for Black History Month by Carole Boston Weatherford. Aretha’s father was a preacher and gospel singer, and she sang in the choir at his Detroit church. He recognised his daughter’s talent, and she recorded her first album when she was 14 years old. Aretha was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and she used her platform to fight against injustice.

Read to promote discussion on overcoming adversity, prejudice, activism and influence.

RESPECT: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul by Carole Boston Weatherford

Rise!: From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou by Bethany Hegedus

This biography of the poet Maya Angelou describes how she turned the adversity of her childhood into an inspiring life as a mother, writer, activist and humanitarian.

Rise!: From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou by Bethany Hegedus

Ron's Big Mission by Rose Blue and Corinne J. Naden

Ron loved visiting his local library to read books about the world of aviation. But the policy of segregation in South Carolina meant he couldn’t take home books. This brave young boy challenged this injustice through determination and peaceful resistance. His success meant that anyone, regardless of background or ethnicity, could have a library card.

Based on a true event in the life of Ron McNair, a scientist and astronaut. He tragically died, along with six others, in the 1986 Challenger explosion.

Ron's Big Mission by Rose Blue and Corinne J. Naden

Rosa by Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni celebrates the life of the inspirational Rosa Parks. Over 50 years ago, Rosa refused to give up her seat on a bus during segregation in Alabama.

Read to promote discussions on the inspiration and courage of one woman, black history, civil rights, and racism.

Rosa by Nikki Giovanni

Salt in His Shoes by Deloris Jordan

A young Michael Jordon thought about giving up his basketball dream because of his size. His parents shared with him the qualities that make a champion, patience, determination, and hard work.

Salt in His Shoes by Deloris Jordan

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library by Carole Boston Weatherford

This is the third of several picture books for Black History Month by Carole Boston Weatherford. Arturo Schomburg was an Afro–Puerto Rican who moved to Harlem. When his collection of African literature, art and music threatens to burst out of his house he created and curated a collection at New York Public Library. Today, scholars from around the world still use the collection.

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library by Carole Boston Weatherford

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant

In the late 1800s, Horace Pippin drew anyone around him. He filled notebooks while fighting during WWI, but he could not create his art when he was shot. Through practice and patience, Horace regained the use of his arm and started creating art again.

Use to teach overcoming adversity, perseverance, a growth mindset and determination.

A Splash of Red by Jen Bryant

Song for Jimi: The Story of Guitar Legend Jimi HendrixSong for Jimi: The Story of Guitar Legend Jimi Hendrix

Read about the early life of Jimi Hendrix and how he became a legendary performer and musician. Learn how he overcame a challenging childhood, persisted in creating music and played epic performances at Monterey and Woodstock festivals. The book also includes a timeline, references and discography.

Read this book, written in verse, to promote discussions on overcoming adversity, determination, and persistence.

Song for Jimi: The Story of Guitar Legend Jimi Hendrix

The Teachers March! by Sandra Neil Wallace

Reverend F. D. Reese was a teacher, principal and leader of the Voting Rights Movement in Selma, Alabama. He recognised the respect felt towards educators and organised a teacher only march for voting rights. In 1965, black teachers left their classrooms to march to the courthouse to register to vote.

The book includes an interview with Reverend F.D. Reese and other teachers, photographs and a timeline.

The Teachers March! by Sandra Neil Wallace

This Is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration by Jacqueline Woodson

Woodson writes about one African America family and the effect of the Great Migration on them. As the family moves from South Carolina to New York, a piece of rope symbolizes the journey and connections of the three generations of the family.

This Is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration by Jacqueline Woodson

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander

Kwame Alexander’s poem pays tribute to African Americans who fought against injustice by showing determination, passion, grit and courage. Search the illustrations for Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Jesse Owens, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley and many more.

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander

Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole

A girl is frightened when she discovers a slave hiding in a barn. Her compassion takes over when she saw the fear in their eyes and she cares for them even when slave hunters come looking for the escaped slave. She is rewarded with a doll as a token of gratitude.

This wordless story promotes themes of black history, courage, inference and asking questions.

Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole

Voice of Freedom Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford

This is the last of several picture books for Black History Month on this list by Carole Boston Weatherford. Fannie Lou Hamer was a champion of equal voting rights, but she had to overcome prejudice, verbal abuse and a beating which nearly killed her. In 1964 she gave a televised speech that prompted people to support the Freedom Democrats.

Told in verse the book shares Fannie Lou Hamer’s life from her tough childhood, showing determination, courage and hope and standing up for social rights.

Voice of Freedom Fannie Lou Hamer- The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement

We March by Shane W. Evans

A family joins protesters, young and old, on August 28, 1963, for the March on Washington. They march from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, where they listen to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech that advocates for racial harmony.

We March by Shane W. Evans

When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Marian Anderson was determined to overcome the prejudice she faced to become a musician. She sang throughout America and Europe. She is most known for singing at the Lincoln Memorial in front of a crowd of 75,000 people.

Read to promote discussion on racial barriers, overcoming adversity, prejudice, courage and civil rights.

When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson by Pam Muñoz Ryan

White Water by Michael S. Bandy

As Michael quenches his thirst with gritty water from a fountain, he is curious whether the water from the white-only fountain is better. Set in the segregated South just before the civil rights movement, he plucks up the courage to taste the white water, only to realise it is exactly the same.

Promotes discussions on civil rights, racism, segregation, courage and prejudice.

White Water by Michael S. Bandy

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson

Audrey lived in Alabama during the Civil Rights movement. She saw first-hand the mistreatment and discrimination of people because of their skin colour. Despite knowing the dangers, she marched to end segregation after hearing Dr. Martin Luther King talk. Audrey Faye Hendrick, at nine, was the youngest child arrested and placed in jail.

This powerful book about a young girl taking a stand will help children realize they too have a voice, no matter their age.

The Youngest Marcher

What Next?

Visit Embrace Race to read more about choosing picture books with diverse characters. Explore these activities for black history month that you can use in your classroom.

BBC: Black and British: A Forgotten History

BBC Teach: Black History Month – Teacher Resources 

GCHQ: Black History Month – My Black Heroes

iCivics: Black History Month: Lesson Plans and Resources for the Classroom

Learning for Justice: Black History Month: Teaching the Complete History

National Education Union: Black History Matters

NEA: Black History Month Lessons & Resources

Stonewall Scotland: Black History Month – lesson plans for primary schools

Kids Black History YouTube Channel

What picture books for Black History Month do you recommend? Let me know in the comments!

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Picture Books for Black History Month in the Classroom

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