An Incredible Collection of Kids’ Books to Honor Black History
A Collection of Kids’ Books to Honor Black History was curated by Dr. Laura Kieselbach
The Children’s Book Review
As a mother, I often seek ways to encourage understanding of all cultures and instill in my boys the importance of realizing all people have a story, a history we may not know. This collection of black history books serves as an excellent tool to do just that—either at home for family reading or in the classroom as a teaching tool of culture and experience. The list of available diversity and representation texts for children is growing. For children, young and old alike, to truly learn the lived experience of any culture, be it their own or another, reading is the pathway towards a new understanding.
The books in this collection serve as a means to learn about incredible black figures in history and are perfect for all kids ages 6-10.
This sweetly illustrated children’s book tells the powerful story of young Carter G. Woodson, who grew up known as the father of black history. Born to freed slaves in 1875 Virginia, Carter’s father taught him the significance of learning to read in a world where black children only attended school during the off-seasons of farming. He did not graduate high school until the age of 20 and spent most of his younger days working in the coal mines, often reading the newspaper to the black men who worked there with him. He went on to graduate with a Ph.D. from Harvard and, in 1926, established Negro History Week, now known as Black History Month. Against all odds and inspired by the men of the coal mines – many of whose story would never be found in history books, this children’s book gracefully recounts the success of a young black man committed to freedom, equality, and knowledge.
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August Wilson was born in Pittsburgh, PA, in 1945 as Frederick August Kittel, Jr. His mother, Daisy Wilson, who raised him in the absence of his German father and read to him every night, taught him to value learning, reading, and knowing about the world around him. He read everything he could get his hands on – soup cans, cereal boxes, clothing labels, street signs. He experienced racial prejudice from peers and received doubt from his teachers, so he dropped out of school but did not stop reading. He often went to libraries to read, eateries to watch people, and spent days walking the streets of Pittsburgh to understand how the world’s people interact. He later became a writer, and thus, this story is told in acts and verse. It is an eloquent representation of this young black writer’s life and struggles and how he used the world from his childhood to inform his writing later in life.
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Written by Jehan Jones-Radgowski
Illustrated by Poppy Kang
Ages 6-12 | 40 Pages
Publisher: Capstone Editions | ISBN-13: 978-1-5435-1281-6
Using the cover of night, Robert Smalls, a black man born into slavery on April 5, 1839, in Beaufort, SC, disguised himself as the captain of the Planter, a Confederate steamship. The Confederation relied on the Planter to transport weapons. Getting caught would ensure a harsh punishment and guaranteed capture, perhaps even death. Smalls and the crew, enslaved men seeking freedom, traveled the perilous journey in the early hours of May 13, 1862, past several heavily armed Confederate forts. Their goal was to meet their families hiding in secret then enter Union territory where escaped slaves were given shelter. It would involve a ten-mile journey and a careful entry to their destination so as not to be mistaken for actual Confederates. Their story is told in this beautifully crafted book through suspenseful artwork and perceptive prose. It is a tale of courage and hopes alongside the peril of the Civil War era. Robert Smalls made that escape and later went on to become an American Congressman and a hero.
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Written by Gwendolyn Hooks
Illustrated by Simone Agoussoye
Ages 6-12 | 40 Pages
Publisher: Capstone Editions | ISBN-13: 978-1-5435-1280-9
Ona Judge was an African American woman born into slavery in 1773 and enslaved to the Washington family, first at the family’s plantation at Mount Vernon—later, after George Washington became president, at the President’s House in Philadelphia, then the nation’s capital city. This story tells of her journey to freedom. She was a skilled and trustworthy slave but risked everything she knew to flee to freedom. Inspired by free black women she saw in the market selling pepperpot stew, she believed freedom was possible for her, too. When she was living in the President’s Mansion in Philadelphia, she enlisted the help of Richard Allen, a free black man who was a minister, a chimney sweep, and free. With the help of his trusted circle, she escaped to New Hampshire, where she started a new life. The Washington’s continued to search for her, creating a years-long hunt. Her persistence and wit allowed her to stay hidden and ultimately free, despite the harrowing dangers she often faced. Told in prose, this book offers a look at the contradiction of what the founding fathers meant by freedom during the inception of the United States.
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Written by James Weldon Johnson
Illustrated by Elizabeth Catlett
Ages 6-10 | 32 Pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books | ISBN-13: 978-1-68119-955-9
“Lift Every Voice and Sing” has been a cornerstone hymn chronicling the black experience for more than a hundred years. This hymn was written by a schoolteacher and an activist in 1900 and was declared the official African American national anthem by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Johnson was asked to participate in a birthday celebration for Abraham Lincoln and this song was the result. Put to music written by Johnson’s brother, Rosamond Johnson, the song is considered one of the most spiritually uplifting songs ever written. Elizabeth Catlett, the artist whose illustrations are used to complement this inspiring piece of music, is a Harlem Renaissance artist best known for her unique representations of the stories of black men, women, and children. Paired together, the art and the words of this book offer a beautiful backdrop to the musically told celebration of black lives.
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The book list A Collection of Kids’ Books to Honor Black History was curated by Dr. Laura Kieselbach. Follow along with our articles and reviews tagged with Black History Books for Kids, to discover more great titles just like these ones.
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