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The 12 Best Books for Celebrating Black History At Every Age

Black history is American history, and while February shines a spotlight on the subject, we’ve pulled together some titles you’ll be reaching for year-round.

Sarah Burns

Man Reading to Kid

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“History” typically calls to mind stuffy high-school textbooks, dry facts, and lists of dates; Black history shifts the imagery to include figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks — as well it should. But history is so much more than a boring school subject, Black contributions extend well past these two trailblazers, and learning about them is important at any age!

Ages 0-5

Babies’ brains soak up information like a parched sponge submerged into a bucket of sudsy knowledge, but they need tools to help them understand and process all that brain-wrinkling intelligence. These titles will introduce and normalize antiracist language and concepts to kids and parents because you’re never too old to learn and lead by example.

Little People Big Dream Harriet Tubman

Easily the most well known “conductor” in American history, this book introduces Harriet Tubman to the newest generation. Her story of resistance and bravery is retold in vibrant illustrations, and simple words so they’re easy to understand for the youngest of aspiring historians, and future civil rights leaders. 

Anti-Racist Baby

Born out of a need for a tool to talk about anti-racism with his four-year-old daughter, author Ibrim X. Kendi wrote Antiracist Baby to have a jumping-off point in starting those conversations. The words and ideas introduced may be new to many toddlers, which in turn may prompt them to ask questions. Critical thinking is essential in the fight against racism, and preschoolers are just beginning to flex those new thinking muscles. This book is a great way to give your chatty three-nager some new words to play with!

Little People Big Dreams Black Voices Book Set

Okay, okay, so this isn’t just one book, it's actually three combined into an essential compendium! It’s perfect for any wee one to start their journey into learning about black voices and stories that have shaped our history. Featuring three hardcover books about Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr and Maya Angelou, these are stories of empowerment, resistance, and dreaming of a better future.

Woke Baby

Woke Baby is playful prose that highlights the silly, adorable things babies do, but it’s also a wish for a generation to grow up in a society that understands their potential is limitless. The clever, hopeful verse is inspiring, and is sure to be a new nursery favorite that’s perfect for babies who cry – for justice!

Ages 6-10

Around this age, our brains are working on developing emotional skills, and learning empathy, so we don’t end up as mean, uncaring little jerkfaces later in life. With this budding capacity for emotional awareness, and natural curiousness about the lives of others, biographies and autobiographies make naturally compelling options for young readers.

Lillian's Right to Vote

It’s voting day, and though the hill is steep, and her knees aren’t what they used to be, as long as Lillian’s alive, nothing could keep her away. Stirring, powerful, and thought-provoking, Lillian’s Right to Vote follows the journey Lillian’s family undertook for her to reach that very moment. Writer Jonah Winter personalizes the struggles of the civil rights movement with care and empathy, and the story jumps off the pages with richly colorful, charming imagery by Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner Shane W. Evans. 

Stella’s Stellar Hair

What’s a gal to do when her hair refuses to behave? Ask her aunties, of course! Join Stella on a trip across the universe on a quest to find a look that can tame her tresses, and be true to her own personal style. At each planet we’re introduced to different, gorgeously illustrated hairstyles from the African diaspora. It’s a story of self-love, empowerment, and a joyful celebration of African American culture.

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read

In a story that spans from the Civil War, to the Civil Rights movement, this is the inspiring tale of the tenacious Mary Walker. At the age of 116, Walker enrolled in a literacy class to fulfill her lifelong dream of learning to read. Born enslaved, Walker gained her freedom at 15, became a mother at 20, and lived a selfless life working odd jobs to take care of her family and community. By the time she’d turned 114, she was the last remaining survivor of her family, and at the age of 116, Walker enrolled in a literacy class to fulfill her lifelong dream of learning to read. In Mary Walker’s own immortal words, “You’re never too old to learn.”

This is the Rope

When is a rope much, much more than a rope? For one close-knit family, it a literal tie to their roots. This poignant, lyrically-written tale of tradition is an intimate view into one family’s experience during The Great Migration, as the family makes the daunting move from the rural southall the way to New York City. Richly illustrated with stunning oil paintings, follow the family through the years, and discover what it means to work towards a better tomorrow without losing touch with the past.

Thurgood

What’s a funny, fast-talking lawyer from Baltimore doing before the highest court in the land? Well, when it comes to Thurgood Marshall – Mr. Civil Rights himself, you can be sure he’s doing the best he can! Star student, talented lawyer, charming, and disarming, Thurgood Marshall’s legacy of fighting and winning civil rights cases before the Supreme Court is only part of his storied life and career. Learn more about this pivotal icon, the landmark cases he won, and how they changed the course of history.

That is My Dream!

A stunning picture book adaptation of Langston Huges celebrated poem, Dream Adaptation, originally written in 1926. Framed through the eyes of a young African-America boy living under the oppression of segregation, and racial prejudice, the message is as relevant now as it was then, carrying with it the hope of better life, full of possibility, and limitless opportunities. At its heart, it’s a story of freedom, pride, and hope for the future.

Ages 10 and Up

Around 10 years old we begin real journey of discovering one’s individuality, ways of connecting with others, and bulking up on some serious critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Middle school is an age where we developmentally level-up, all while learning how to deal with peer pressure, bullies, and struggling with the primal, impulsive need to challenge any authority. These are titles that tap into the action-oriented, compassionate reasoning centers of the brain that helps middle schoolers thrive.

Young Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present

Honoring the spirit of Black History Month means listening to black voices. Storyteller and renowned activist Jamia Wilson is here to inspire with 52 icons that are – and were – at the top of their field. Readers will walk away from this book with a deeper understanding of each of their historical contributions, their impact, and the barriers they overcame in their own lives that would change the world forever.

This Book is Anti-Racist

Unfortunately, racism is not a thing of the past; it’s been hard-baked into our culture since before the birth of our nation, passed from generation to generation – but what if we could break that cycle? This book is about putting in the work, digging deep, and accepting hard truths. It explores how different races have been mistreated, oppressed, and exploited, but also invites us to revel in uplifting stories of resistance, courage, and joy. This book is about changing the way we think about identity, ethnicity, and race, so we can be the change we seek for generations to come.