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.
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
Would you like some free graphic organisers that focus on Martin Luther King Jr.?
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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.
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.
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.
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.
Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!