Black History Month: Book Recommendations

African-American History Month, celebrated every February, is a federally recognized event that explores the unique social, cultural, and economic history of one group of marginalized Americans who have contributed invaluably to American society. According to the Library of Congress site dedicated to the month, the month-long celebration we know today began in 1976, while before it was only one week.

Here is a selection of books and websites that might be useful as you explore Black history with your kids. Take a look at this post for books on celebrating different skin colors and racial diversity in general, and this post for a list of fiction chapter books to share with your older students! (I will be book talking a book each week in library class in February.)


Time for Kids

Reading Rockets

Library of Congress

Books available in NTS Library (Non-Fiction and Picture Books):

General History:

  • Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson (973 Nel)

An simple introduction to African-American history, from Revolutionary-era slavery up to the election of President Obama.

Slavery, Underground Railroad, and Abolitionism:

  • Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine (E LEV)

A fictionalized account of how in 1849 a Virginia slave, Henry “Box” Brown, escapes to freedom by shipping himself in a wooden crate from Richmond to Philadelphia.

  • Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson

A young slave stitches a quilt with a map pattern which guides her to freedom in the North.

  • Under the Quilt of Night by Deborah Hopkinson (E HOP)

A young girl flees from the farm where she has been worked as a slave and uses the Underground Railroad to escape to freedom in the north.

  • Ellen’s Broom by Kelly Starling Lyons (E LYO)

Ellen remembers to bring the broom her parents used in their wedding ceremony–before they were legally allowed to get married–and is excited to accompany them to the courthouse when the law changes and they are allowed to officially become man and wife.

  • Big Jabe by Jerdine Nolen (E Nol)

Momma Mary tells stories about a special young man who does wondrous things, especially for the slaves on the Plenty Plantation.

  • Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter (E WIN)

By following the directions in a song, “The Drinking Gourd,” taught them by an old sailor named Peg Leg Joe, runaway slaves journey north along the Underground Railroad to freedom in Canada.

  • Fighters against American Slavery by Stephen R. Lilley

Highlights the careers of leading abolitionists including Benjamin Lundy, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, and John Brown.

  • The Underground Railroad for Kids: From Slavery to Freedom with 21 Activities by Mary Kay Carson (973.7 CAR)
  • Harriet Tubman by Gillian Gosman (92 Tub)

Provides information about the life of Harriet Tubman, and discusses her role in American history as an escaped slave who risked her freedom to lead other slaves to safety along the Underground Railroad.

  • Black Abolitionists and Freedom Fighters by Kimberly Hayes Taylor (920 Tay)
  • Harriet Tubman and the Freedom Train by Sharon Shavers Gayle (92 Tub)
  • Slavery and the Underground Railroad: Bound for Freedom by Carin T. Ford (973 FOR)
  • Lincoln, Slavery, and the Emancipation Proclamation by Carin T. Ford (973.7 FOR)

Civil Rights Movement:

  • Rosa Parks by Gillian Gosman (92 Par)
  • Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip M. Hoose

Celebrates the life and actions of fifteen-year-old African American Claudette Colvin who was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus almost a year before RosaParks committed the same act of civil disobedience. Includes black-and-white photographs, sidebars, first-person accounts, and reproduced documents.

  • Through My Eyes: The Autobiography of Ruby Bridges (92 BRI)

Ruby Bridges recounts the story of her involvement, as a six-year-old, in the integration of her school in New Orleans in 1960.

  • Rosa by Nikki Giovanni (92 Par)
  • This is the Dream by Diane Z. Shore (811 Sho)
  • Leaders of Black Civil Rights by Marjorie Vernell (323 Ver)
  • A Dream of Freedom: The Civil Rights Movement from 1954 to 1968 by Diane McWhorter (323.1196 MCW)
  • The Civil Rights Movement by John M. Dunn (323.1 Dun)
  • A Time for Justice: America’s Civil Rights Movement (VHS Video)
  • We have several biographies on MLK Jr. in the 92 Kin section.

Assorted Biographies of Important Black Americans:

  • When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson, Voice of a Century by Pam Munoz Ryan (E RYA)
  • I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America by Brian Lanker (305.1 LAN)

A celebration of seventy-five portraits of black women who have changed our world and times.

  • Coretta Scott King by Cynthia Klingel (92 Kin)
  • Frederick Douglass by John Passaro (92 Dou) & Frederick Douglass (VHS Video)




One thought on “Black History Month: Book Recommendations

  1. […] As your older readers move past picture books, even as an in-class tool, you may struggle to keep Black History Month fresh and relevant for your students. Here is a selection of chapter books that can supplement your in-class instruction in an interesting and age-appropriate way. If you’re looking for a list of teaching aids for Black History Month, check this post. […]


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