Books Celebrating Black Americans

February 1, 2022

Reading is an effective way to open discussions with your children about the world around them. Books can act as a window into other cultures and a mirror for our own experiences. Kids who see their own experiences reflected in books gain self-confidence, and reading about experiences different from their own helps kids develop curiosity and empathy.

At United Through Reading we celebrate the diverse world we live in through our quarterly book gives and Storytime Starter Kit. We consciously choose books that celebrate Americans of all ethnicities.

These open up conversations between parents and children about issues of equity, diversity and inclusion, and can open the door for difficult conversations.

We have compiled a list of books celebrating Black Americans from our recent book gives. We hope these help you pick the next book for your UTR recordings; you can order your next book from our book order form or through the App today.

Escape North!: The Story of Harriet Tubman (Step Into Reading, Level 4) by Monica Kulling
This book is ideal for elementary school kids, the easy to read book follows Harriet Tubman’s life from being born a slave to her freedom and leading others to freedom as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. She later worked as a suffragette and spy during the Civil War.

You Should Meet Mae Jemison by Laurie Calkhoven
The You Should Meet series is a great introduction for young readers to incredible Americans and this book is no different. Learn all about Mae Jemison, the first African-American female astronaut. She was also a chemical engineer and doctor; she served in the Peace Corps as a doctor and then as a general practitioner before applying to NASA’s astronaut program and eventually going to space.

Pretty Brown Face by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney
A fun board book pick for babies and toddlers. Discover the unique facial features that make this baby boy (and your child) beautiful in this book by award winning author-illustrator couple Andrea Davis and Brian Pinkney.

Jackie Robinson: He Led the Way (Penguin Young Readers, Level 3) by April Jones Prince and Robert Casilla
Jackie Robinson was the first black major league baseball player in 1947. This trailblazing American was Most Valuable Player during his career and also was a leader in the Civil Right Movement. Your young reader will enjoy this book about one of sport’s greatest players.

Chasing Space (Young Readers’ Edition) by Leland Melvin
This inspiring memoir was adapted from the adult version written by football star, NASA astronaut, and professional dream chaser, Leland Melvin. Read his remarkable journey from his shortened NFL career to orbiting Earth on the International Space Station. His story focuses on how he used his creative problem-solving skills and positive attitude to reach his dreams.

Hidden Figures (Young Readers’ Edition) by Margot Lee Shetterly
This powerful story of four African-American female mathematicians at NASA who helped achieve some of the greatest moments in our space program is a great read for your tween. These remarkable women were known as “human computers,” and made all of their calculations using pencils, slide rules, and adding machines; these calculations would ultimately launch rockets and astronauts into space

Girl with a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague by Julia Finley Mosca
Raye Montague was set on becoming an engineer after touring a submarine as a young girl. She overcame racism and sexism in every step of her career, including keeping her greatest accomplishments a secret for many years. Read the pioneering mathematician’s story about how she changed the course of ship design forever.

Follow Your Dreams, Little One by Vashti Harrison

This beautifully illustrated board book highlights true stories of black men in history. The exceptional men featured include artist Aaron Douglas, civil rights leader John Lewis, dancer Alvin Ailey, lawman Bass Reeves, tennis champion Arthur Ashe, and writer James Baldwin. The legends in this book span centuries and continents, but what they have in common is that each one has blazed a trail for generations to come.

Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream by Deloris Jordan and Roslyn M. Jordan

Michael Jordan. The mere mention of the name conjures up visions of basketball played at its absolute best. But as a child, Michael almost gave up on his hoop dreams, all because he feared he’d never grow tall enough to play the game that would one day make him famous. That’s when his mother and father stepped in and shared the invaluable lesson of what really goes into the making of a champion—patience, determination, and hard work.

I am Jackie Robinson by Brad Meltzer

Jackie Robinson always loved sports, especially baseball. But he lived at a time before the Civil Rights Movement, when the rules weren’t fair to African Americans. Even though Jackie was a great athlete, he wasn’t allowed on the best teams just because of the color of his skin. Jackie knew that sports were best when everyone, of every color, played together. He became the first Black player in Major League Baseball, and his bravery changed American history and led the way to equality in all sports in America.

I am Rosa Parks by Brad Meltzer

Rosa Parks dared to stand up for herself and other African Americans by staying seated and organizing the Montgomery Bus Boycott. As a result, she helped end public bus segregation and launch the country’s Civil Rights Movement.

Ryan Hart #1: Ways to Make Sunshine by Renée Watson

Ryan Hart has a lot on her mind–school, self-image, and especially family. Her dad finally has a new job, but money is tight. That means some changes, like selling their second car and moving into a new (old) house. But Ryan is a girl who knows how to make sunshine out of setbacks. As her brother says when he raps about her, she’s got the talent that matters most: it’s a talent that can’t be seen, she’s nice, not mean! Ryan is all about trying to see the best in people, to be a good daughter, a good sister, a good friend. But even if her life isn’t everything she would wish for, when her big brother is infuriating, her parents don’t quite understand, and the unexpected happens, she always finds a way forward, with grace and wit. And plenty of sunshine.

Looking for more books? We recommend checking out this list from our partners at First Book of books by African American Authors and Illustrators. We will also continue to add to this list as we add books about and by Black Americans.