Entertainment and Activities

Black History Month Children’s Books

Henry's Freedom Box children's book

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad
By Ellen Levine

Recommended ages: 6 and up

This is the incredible story of Henry “Box” Brown escaping slavery by shipping himself to the north in a wooden crate. We learn that as a boy, Henry doesn’t know his age because nobody keeps records of slaves’ birthdays. As an adult working in a warehouse, he decides to take a major risk and mail himself in a box — to a world where he can have a “birthday” (his first day of freedom).

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This Jazz Man children's book

This Jazz Man
By Karen Ehrhardt

Recommended ages: 3 and up

Music and dance are great themes to explore with little kids during Black History Month. Preschoolers will love this toe-tapping, finger-snapping tribute to African-American jazz giants, set to the rhythm of the classic children’s song “This Old Man.” The lively illustrations invite kids to “Deedle-di-bop!” along with classic musicians Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Bill “Bojangles” and more.

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Whoever You Are, diversity children's book

Whoever You Are
By Mem Fox

Recommended ages: 4 and up

This book doesn’t directly address Black History, but it offers a preschooler-friendly introduction to the related concepts of diversity and equality. Award-winning author Mem Fox tells little ones that wherever they are, whatever they look like, and no matter their customs, there are other kids like them all around the globe: “Joys are the same, and love is the same. Pain is the same, and blood is the same.”

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Follow the Drinking Gourd children's book

Follow the Drinking Gourd
By Jeanette Winter

Recommended ages: 5 and up

This is a folktale about a white sailor named “Peg Leg Joe” teaching a group of slaves a song to “follow the drinking gourd” (the Big Dipper) north to escape slavery. The rhythmic story and colorful paintings help show children the importance of the Underground Railroad — the secret path to freedom for thousands of African-Americans.

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The Other Side children's book

The Other Side
By Jacqueline Woodson

Recommended ages: 5 and up

The fence behind Clover’s house marks the town line that separates black people from white people. Clover’s mother warns her that it isn’t safe to cross the fence, but Clover is curious to meet Anna, the white girl who lives on the other side. The two girls work around the rules of segregation and form an unlikely friendship by sitting together on top of the fence.

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Martin Luther King children's book

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

Recommended ages: 5 and up

The author weaves immortal quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.’s writings and speeches into this award-winning biography for kids. The multimedia illustrations carry readers from King’s youth — when he first noticed “Whites Only” signs — through his remarkable life as a leader of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. (Check out these additional resources for Martin Luther King Day.)

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Harriet Tubman children's book

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom
By Carole Boston Weatherford

Recommended ages: 5 and up

Introduce children to Harriet Tubman, the champion of the Underground Railroad who earned the nickname “Moses” for leading hundreds of slaves to freedom. Spirited text and paintings portray how Tubman’s compassion, courage, and deep religious faith helped her lead 19 trips from the south to the north in order to help fellow African-Americans.

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Tar Beach children's book

Tar Beach
By Faith Ringgold

Recommended ages: 5 and up

It’s 1939, and young Cassie Louise Lightfoot is picnicking with her family and friends on “tar beach” — the hot, black rooftop of her family’s Harlem apartment. Cassie lays down and dreams that she is soaring above New York City — finding beauty in the views of the George Washington Bridge (which her father helped build) while also noting the signs of social injustice in the crowded city below.

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Teammates, Jackie Robinson children's book

Teammates
By Peter Golenbock

Recommended ages: 6 and up

This book takes us back to 1947, when Jackie Robinson became the first African-American player in Major League Baseball. He was taunted and terrorized by baseball fans, opposing players, and even his own teammates on the Brooklyn Dodgers. Historical photos and watercolor illustrations transport us to the fateful game when Pee Wee Reese, the Dodgers shortstop, embraced Robinson on the field as his teammate in front of a heckling crowd of spectators.

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Heart and Soul children's book

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African-Americans
By Kadir Nelson

Recommended ages: 8 and up

This richly illustrated 108-page book chronicles the immense challenges and important societal contributions of African-Americans throughout history. It’s told from the unique perspective of a wise, old African-American “Everywoman” narrator whose ancestors arrived on slave ships and who lives to proudly cast a vote for the nation’s first black president.

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Who Was Rosa Parks children's book

Who Was Rosa Parks?
By Yona Zeldis McDonough

Recommended ages: 8 and up

Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott will always have an important legacy in Black History. This 112-page biography from the kid-friendly “Who Was …” series shares lesser-known facts about the black woman who bravely refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in Alabama in 1955.

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African American inventors children's book

What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors
By Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld

Recommended ages: 8 and up

Did you know that African-American inventors had a hand in everything from the ice-cream scoop and the refrigerated food truck to cortisone cream and open-heart surgery? In this book co-authored by NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, kids can learn about the great minds behind important inventions, product improvements, and scientific and medical discoveries that we take for granted.

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Watsons Go to Burmingham children's book

The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963
By Christopher Paul Curtis

Recommended ages: 8 and up

This middle-grade novel is narrated by 9-year-old Kenny — the younger brother in a middle-class African-American family from Michigan. Kenny’s older brother, Byron, is a juvenile delinquent who could use some stern discipline from their no-nonsense grandmother, who lives in Alabama. When the family heads south to bring Byron to Grandma’s house, unthinkable events happen and shape the family’s life forever.

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Kidnapped Prince children's book

The Kidnapped Prince: The Life of Olaudah Equiano
Adapted by Ann Cameron

Recommended ages: 9 and up

This is the true biography of Olaudah Equiano, an African prince who was kidnapped at age 11 and sold into slavery in England, the U.S., and the West Indies, until he was able to buy his freedom more than a decade later. His best-selling autobiography was first published in 1789 and has been shortened and modernized in Cameron’s version, which remains true to the gripping original script.

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Nightjohn children's book

Nightjohn
By Gary Paulsen

Recommended ages: 12 and up

This brutally accurate account of slavery in the 1850s centers around an unforgettable character named Nightjohn. He is a former slave who escapes to freedom in the north, but returns to the south to teach others how to read. At the Waller plantation, the punishment for slaves who read is dismemberment, but Nightjohn and his brave 12-year-old student named Sarny take enormous risks in order to expand their minds.

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