Skip To Content
  • Buy Me That badge
  • Black History Month badge

26 Children's Books That Celebrate Black Heroes

From scientists and singers, to activists and artists: these books will teach children about black heroes.


1. Harlem's Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills by Renee Watson, illustrated by Christian Robinson.

Random House

Who: Florence Mills (a singer — with a voice like a bird — who was popular during the Harlem Renaissance, appeared in shows on Broadway, and became an advocate for black performers).

Buy here.

2. A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet.

Knopf Books for Young Readers

Who: Horace Pippin (an artist who overcame a war injury to his arm and went on to have his paintings displayed in museums all over the country).

Buy here.

3. Dizzy by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Sean Qualls.

Arthur A. Levine Books

Who: Dizzy Gillespie (a trumpeter, bandleader, and composer who popularized the bebop style of jazz).

Buy here.

4. Fly High!: The Story of Bessie Coleman by Louise Borden and Mary Kay Kroeger, illustrated by Teresa Flavin.


Who: Bessie Coleman (the first African American to have a pilot's license — she went all the way to France to earn her license after every American school refused to teach her).

Buy here.

5. Wangari's Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa by Jeanette Winter.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Who: Wangari Maathai (an environmentalist who began her path to winning the Nobel Peace Prize by simply planting a few seedlings).

Buy here.

6. Salt in His Shoes by Deloris Jordan with Roslyn M. Jordan, illustrated by Kadir Nelson.

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Who: Michael Jordan (pretty much the most famous basketball player of all time — this story focuses on his childhood and is written by his mother and sister).

Buy here.

7. Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Jamey Christoph.

Albert Whitman & Company

Who: Gordon Parks (a photographer who captured racism with his camera and eventually became the first black director in Hollywood).

Buy here.

8. Sojourner Truth's Step-Stomp Stride by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney.

Jump At The Sun

Who: Sojourner Truth (a freed slave who used her strength to become an abolitionist and women's rights activist).

Buy here.

9. Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illustrated by Frank Morrison.

Lee & Low Books

Who: Melba Liston (a child prodigy trombonist who played with everyone from Count Basie to Billie Holiday).

Buy here.

10. Alvin Ailey by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney.


Who: Alvin Ailey (a choreographer whose work helped popularize modern dance, and whose company still exists today).

Buy here.

11. I Am Jackie Robinson by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos.

Dial Books

Who: Jackie Robinson (the first black player in Major League Baseball).

Buy here.

12. When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III.

Roaring Brook Press

Who: DJ Kool Herc (hip-hop pioneer).

Buy here.

13. The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles, illustrated by George Ford.


Who: Ruby Bridges (the first African-American child to integrate a New Orleans school).

Buy here.

14. She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Don Tate.

Balzer + Bray

Who: Effa Manley (a sports executive and the first woman inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame).

Buy here.

15. Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington by Jabari Asim, illustrated by Bryan Collier.

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Who: Booker T. Washington (educator, university founder, and advisor to President Theodore Roosevelt).

Buy here.

16. If A Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks by Faith Ringgold.


Who: Rosa Parks (the civil rights activist who made her famous stand [or sit] when she refused to leave her seat on the bus).

Buy here.

17. Bring Me Some Apples and I'll Make You A Pie by Robbin Gourley.


Who: Edna Lewis (a chef who participated in the "farm to table" movement many years before it became the trend it is today).

Buy here.

18. Bad News for Outlaws by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.

Carolrhoda Books

Who: Bass Reeves (a former slave who became the first African-American deputy U.S. marshal).

Buy here.

19. Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Christian Robinson.

Chronicle Books

Who: Josephine Baker (a dancer, singer, and actress who was also devoted to fighting racism in the United States).

Buy here.

20. Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Kadir Nelson.


Who: Henry Brown (a young slave who mailed himself to freedom).

Buy here.

21. It Jes' Happened: When Bill Trayler Started to Draw by Don Tate, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.

Lee & Low Books

Who: Bill Traylor (a self-taught folk artist who didn't start to draw until he was in his eighties).

Buy here.

22. Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by David Diaz.

HMH Books / Via

Who: Wilma Rudolph (a runner who had polio as a child and went on to win three Olympic gold medals in one year).

Buy here.

23. Molly, by Golly! by Dianne Ochiltree, illustrated by Kathleen Kemly.

Calkins Creek

Who: Molly Williams (America's first female firefighter).

Buy here.

24. A Weed is a Flower: The Life of George Washington Carver by Aliki.


Who: George Washington Carver (a professor, botanist and inventor who devised many ways to use peanuts — well beyond just for their butter).

Buy here.

25. Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat by Roxane Orgill, illustrated by Sean Qualls.


Who: Ella Fitzgerald (the famous jazz singer, sometimes called "the first lady of song").

Buy here.

26. A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream by Kristy Dempsey and Floyd Cooper.

Philomel Books

Who: Janet Collins (the first African-American prima ballerina).

Buy here.

Want awesome DIY tips in your inbox three times a week? Sign up for the BuzzFeed DIY newsletter!

Newsletter signup form