The Top 5 Black History Books for Kids

May 24, 2023

by United Way NCA

As we strive to empower younger generations, it is critical to introduce them to diverse perspectives and experiences. By exposing children to literature that celebrates Black history and culture, they can explore the stories of Black heroes and learn about the struggles and achievements of this community throughout American history. In this article, we will highlight some of the best Black history books for kids to educate and inspire them to stand up for what is right and work toward creating a more equitable world for all. 

For children, literature provides an opportunity to learn about and connect with the rich cultural heritage of the Black community. Themes of community and perseverance are especially prominent in our selection of books, as they showcase the importance of unity, support and togetherness in the face of adversity.

However, it is important to acknowledge that Black Americans are often disproportionately affected by systemic issues such as poverty and discrimination, which can lead to household income falling below the ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) Threshold. In the National Capital Area, 47% of Black households are ALICE, and in DC, 63% of Black households are living below the ALICE Threshold.

By shedding light on these issues through education and awareness, these books also serve as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for social justice and equality. Through learning about the experiences of their fellow Americans, children can develop empathy and a sense of responsibility to work toward a more just and equitable future for all.

5 Black History Books for Kids

These five books offer a valuable opportunity for children to learn about important figures and events in Black history. With engaging storytelling and vibrant illustrations, these books are suitable for a range of ages, from young children to early adolescents. 

By reading these books, children can gain a deeper understanding of the contributions and struggles of Black Americans and be inspired to make positive changes in their communities.

1. The Children’s Crusade: American Civil Rights Movement

The Children’s Crusade: American Civil Rights Movement by Ann Bausum is a powerful book that sheds light on the often-overlooked role young people played in the civil rights movement. This book focuses on the community-organizing efforts of children and teenagers who risked their lives to fight for justice and equality. 

By highlighting the bravery and resilience of these young activists, Ann Bausum’s work has the power to inspire readers of all ages to fight for what is right and work toward a more just and fair society. We recommend this book for children and young adults ages 10 and up.

2. Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer by Carole Boston Weatherford is a stirring biography about Fannie Lou Hamer, a civil rights leader who dedicated her life to building and empowering her community. The book chronicles Hamer’s journey from a sharecropper in Mississippi to delivering a speech at the Democratic National Convention that inspired the nation to take up arms in the fight for equality. 

With her powerful voice and unwavering determination, Hamer inspired and mobilized innumerable individuals to fight for justice and equality. Weatherford’s work is an excellent introduction to the life and legacy of a truly remarkable woman. We recommend this book for children ages 12 and up. 

3. Let the Children March

Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson is a moving picture book that recounts the story of the Birmingham Children’s Crusade, one of the most significant events during the civil rights movement. Clark-Robinson’s work focuses on the courageous actions of young people who fought against segregation and discrimination, despite the risks involved. Through peaceful protests and acts of civil disobedience, these children brought about change and inspired others to join the fight to end segregation. 

This book is a powerful reminder of the importance of standing up for what is right, even in the face of adversity. We recommend this book for children ages 6 to 9.

4. Something Beautiful

Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth is a heartwarming picture book that emphasizes the power of community to create positive change. Sharon Dennis Wyeth’s book follows a young girl looking for something beautiful in her struggling neighborhood and discovers it in unexpected places. Throughout her journey, she learns about the importance of working together to make a difference and the transformative power of small acts of kindness. 

This book is recommended for children ages 4 to 8 and is a powerful reminder that no matter how challenging our circumstances may be we can always find beauty and hope in the world around us.

5. The Story of Ruby Bridges

The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles is a poignant picture book that recounts the inspiring true story of Ruby Bridges, the first African American child to desegregate the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans, Louisiana. Coles’ book focuses on the supportive community that rallied around Ruby as she bravely faced discrimination and hatred from those against integration. 

Thanks to the unwavering support of her family, teachers and civil rights leaders, Ruby overcame the many obstacles that stood in her way and paved the way for future generations of Black students. We recommend this book for children ages 5 to 8.

Get Involved in Your Community

The books highlighted above provide children with powerful examples of the importance of community in creating positive change and standing up for what is right. The stories of civil rights leaders, young activists and everyday people working to make a difference in their communities continue to inspire and educate young readers about the power of collective action.

As we celebrate Black history, we must also remember that many Black communities still face significant challenges, with household incomes falling below the ALICE threshold. We must all do our part to support and uplift these communities through giving, advocating and volunteering.

If you’re looking to get involved, we have many resources available to help you take action and learn more about ways to support your community and help make a difference in the lives of those who need it most. Together, we can create a brighter, more equitable future for all. When none are ignored, all will thrive.

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