33 Books Featuring Black Heroes and Characters That Every Kid Should Read

Editor’s Note: We have updated all shopping links in this article to link out to Black owned bookstores. Please help us in supporting these businesses.

 

There’s a notion that diverse children’s toys or diverse children’s books are only important for children from diverse backgrounds—but that is entirely untrue. It’s vital for all kids to see a true landscape of people reflected in their toys and books. It’s important for us all to learn the vital contributions of the incredible humans who have come before us and live alongside us. It’s necessary for the lines between “us” and “other” to disappear completely.

Books are not the only way to go about this work, but they are a start. When children are surrounded by diversity, it becomes a regular part of their life. So, be vigilant. Start young. Talk about hard things. Learn with your kids. Do the work. It’s always worth it.

 

Board Books

Vashti Harrison

Dream Big, Little One

This beautifully illustrated board book edition of instant bestseller "Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History" showcases women who changed the world and is the perfect goodnight book to inspire big dreams.

Vashti Harrison

Think Big, Little One

This book teaches the little ones to follow their biggest dreams by introducing them to 18 different trailblazing women creators.

Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara

Little People, Big Dreams: Harriet Tubman

Follows the incredible life of Harriet Tubman, the Underground Railroad conductor who "never lost a single passenger."

Editors of Caterpillar Books

The Story of Rap

Bop along with the greats in this adorable baby book that introduces little ones to the rappers that started it all!

Anna Membrino

I Look Up To... Serena Williams

This board book distills tennis superstar Serena Williams's excellent qualities into an eminently shareable read-aloud text with graphic, eye-catching illustrations.

Anna Membrino

I Look Up To... Michelle Obama

This board book distills Michelle Obama's excellent qualities into deliciously illustrated little baby-sized bites with text designed to share and read aloud.

Brad M. Epstein

Barack Obama 101: My First Presidential Board Book

The entire family can share all the memories and history of his election as the 44th President of the United States!

Alison Oliver

Be Bold, Baby: Oprah

Celebrate Oprah Winfrey’s most motivational and powerful moments, with quotes from the media mogul and vibrant illustrations.

 

Picture Books

Roda Ahmed

Mae Among the Stars

A beautiful picture book for sharing, inspired by the life of the first African American woman to travel in space, Mae Jemison

Vashti Harrison

Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History

An illustrated board book showcasing true stories of Black men throughout history.

Vashti Harrison

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History

An illustrated board book showcasing true stories of Black women throughout history.

Marlena Nkene

African American Legends for Little Learners

Introductory series to teach young learners about Black history using bright and engaging illustrations.

Ellen Levine

Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad

A stirring, dramatic story of a slave who mails himself to freedom.

Carole Boston Weatherford

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library

In luminous paintings and arresting poems, two of children's literature’s top African-American scholars track Arturo Schomburg’s quest to correct history.

Monica Clark-Robinson

Let the Children March

Tells the story of thousands of African American children who marched in Birmingham, Alabama for their civil rights after being inspired by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Margot Lee Shetterly

Hidden Figures

The incredibly inspiring true story of four black women who helped NASA launch men into space.

Shane W. Evans

We March

An illustrated story about the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and African American civil rights movement.

Doreen Rappaport

Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This picture-book biography is an excellent and accessible introduction for young readers to learn about one of the world's most influential leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Brad Meltzer

I Am Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman's heroic and pivotal role in the fight against slavery is the subject of the 14th picture book in this New York Times bestselling biography series.

Kelly Starling Lyons

Dream Builder: The Story of Architect Philip Freelon

This celebrates a contemporary black STEAM role model, a man whose quiet work enabled the creation of an iconic building reflecting America's past and future.

Brad Meltzer

I Am Jackie Robinson

This New York Times bestselling picture book biography series by Brad Meltzer has an inspiring message: we can all be heroes.

Laban Carrick Hill

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave

This book tells the story of Dave, who despite having been a slave, was an extraordinary artist, poet, and potter living in South Carolina in the 1800s.

Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara

Little People, Big Dreams: Wilma Rudolph

New in the critically acclaimed "Little People, BIG DREAMS series," discover the life of Wilma Rudolph, the remarkable sprinter and Olympic champion.

Kwame Alexander

The Undefeated

Originally performed for ESPN's "The Undefeated," this poem is a love letter to Black life in the United States.

Louise Borden

Fly High!: The Story of Bessie Coleman

This book chronicles the story of Bessie Coleman, who became the first African-American to earn a pilot's license.

Rita Lorraine Hubbard

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read

Imagine learning to read at the age of 116! Discover the true story of Mary Walker, the nation's oldest student who did just that.

Jonah Winter

Barack

A glowing picture book biography of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama.

Parker Curry

Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment

A visit to Washington, D.C.’s National Portrait Gallery forever alters Parker Curry’s young life when she views First Lady Michelle Obama’s portrait.

Renee Watson

Harlem's Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills

This book tells the story of the inspiring true story of singer, performer, and activist, Florence Mills.

Sandra Neil Wallace

Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery

Discover the remarkable true story of NFL star Ernie Barnes: a boy who followed his dreams and became one of the most influential artists of his generation.

Carole Boston Weatherford

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom

This poetic book is a resounding tribute to Tubman's strength, humility, and devotion.

Howard Bryant

Sisters and Champions: The True Story of Venus and Serena Williams

An inspiring picture book sports biography about two of the greatest female tennis players of all-time! Venus and Serena Williams: best friends, sisters, champions.

Lupita Nyong'o

Sulwe

A stunningly illustrated book—written by Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o—about a young girl's journey with colorism, self-esteem, and learning that true beauty comes from within.

 

Read More: Not Sure How to Talk to Your Kids About Race? Here’s How to Start

 

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