black history month book covers

52 Books to Celebrate Black History in Your Classroom

In the last few years, educators and avid readers collectively recognized the urgency of reading anti-racist books and exercising self-education. It was apparent, perhaps more so than other years, why Black stories matter, especially in the classroom. While recognizing Black pain and struggle remains an important focus, celebrating Black joy, families, and achievements is just as crucial.

Lori Prince, Senior Director Merchandising at First Book shared, “We want to make sure that all readers see the full breadth of the Black experience, not just stories of trauma and oppression.”

We may celebrate Black History Month in February, but Black history is now – this minute, this year, this decade. Give readers of any age the tools they need to learn more with First Book’s 52 books for 28 days, a hand-picked selection of fantastic reads, designed especially for educators.

52 Books for the Classroom

PreK – 1st Grade 

  1. Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison
    Featuring 18 trailblazing Black women in American history, Dream Big, Little One is the irresistible board book adaptation of Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History  
  2. Mommy’s Khimar (First Book Special Edition) by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, illustrated by Ebony Glenn 
    A young Muslim girl spends a busy day wrapped up in her mother’s colorful headscarf, called a khimar, in this sweet and fanciful picture book.
  3. Love Is Loud: How Diane Nash Led the Civil Rights Movement by Sandra Neil Wallace, illustrated by Bryan Collier
    Meet Diane Nash, a civil rights leader who worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis, in this illuminating nonfiction picture book.
  4. Ty’s Travels: Zip, Zoom! by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Nina Mata
    Ty can’t wait to ride his brand-new scooter at the park. Other kids zip and zoom by like race cars, but all Ty can do is wobble! Ty wants to give up, but a new friend helps Ty give it another try.
  5. I Am Enough (First Book Special Edition) by Grace Byers, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo
    I Am Enough is the book everyone needs—a gorgeous, lyrical ode to loving who you are, respecting others, and being kind to one another—from actor and activist Grace Byers and talented newcomer Keturah A. Bobo.
  6. Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson 
    The team behind the Newbery Medal winner and Caldecott Honor book Last Stop on Market Street once again delivers a surprising and timely picture book that helps readers discover that you can’t really know someone just by looking at them. 
  7. Stacey’s Extraordinary Words by Stacey Abrams, illustrated by Kitt Thomas
    An empowering debut picture book from iconic voting rights advocate and #1 New York Times bestselling author, Stacey Abrams, about a little girl who discovers the power of words after competing in a spelling bee—inspired by Stacey’s own childhood.
  8. Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o, illustrated by Vashti Harrison  
    From Academy Award–winning actress Lupita Nyong’o comes a powerful, moving picture book about colorism, self-esteem, and learning that true beauty comes from within.

2nd – 3rd Grade

  1. The ABCs of Black History by Rio Cortez, illustrated by Lauren Semmer
    This beautiful alphabet picture book presents key names, moments, and places in Black history with text lyrically written by poet Rio Cortez.
  2. A Ride to Remember: A Civil Rights Story by Sharon Langley and Amy Nathan, illustrated by Floyd Cooper 
    The true story of how a ride on a carousel made a powerful civil rights statement. A Ride to Remember reveals how in the summer of 1963, due to demonstrations and public protests, the Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Maryland became desegregated and opened to all for the first time. 
  3. Ready to Fly: How Sylvia Townsend Became the Bookmobile Ballerina by Lea Lyon, illustrated by Jessica Gibson
    Ready to Fly is an inspiring picture book about the life of African American dancer Sylvia Townsend, who taught herself how to dance ballet by reading books she borrowed from a bookmobile as a young girl.
  4. An American Story by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Dare Coulter
    New York Times Bestselling author Kwame Alexander pens a powerful picture book that tells the story of American slavery through the voice of a teacher struggling to help her students understand its harrowing history.
  5. Big Papa and the Time Machine by Daniel Bernstrom, illustrated by Shane W. Evans 
    Both tender and whimsical, Big Papa and the Time Machine follows a grandfather and grandson who travel through timein and out of moments in Big Papa’s twentieth-century lifeand discover the true meaning of being brave along the way. 
  6. When We Say Black Lives Matter by Maxine Beneba Clarke
    In this joyful exploration of the Black Lives Matter motto, a loving narrator relays to a young Black child the strength and resonance behind the words. With deeply saturated illustrations rendered in jewel tones, Maxine Beneba Clarke offers a gorgeous, moving, and essential picture book.
  7. Stamped (For Kids): Racism, Antiracism, and You adapted by Sonja Cherry-Paul, illustrated by Rachelle Baker
    This chapter book edition of the groundbreaking #1 bestseller by luminaries Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds is an essential introduction to the history of racism and antiracism in America.
  8. A Day for Rememberin’: Inspired by the True Events of the First Memorial Day by Leah Henderson, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
    With poignant prose and celebratory, powerful illustrations, A Day for Rememberin’ shines light on the little-known history of this important holiday and reminds us never to forget the people who put their lives on the line for their country.
  9. Ways to Make Sunshine by Renée Watson, illustrated by Nina Mata 
    Award-winning author Renée Watson’s Ramona-esque series stars an irrepressible girl and her lovable family, and is filled with spirit, kindness, and sunshine. 
  10. The Magnificent Makers #1: How to Test a Friendship by Theanne Griffith, illustrated by Reggie Brown
    With the help of a hilarious and odd scientist, the Magnificent Makers embark on out-of-this-world adventures that help them master the science concepts they are learning in school. Each book in this chapter books series also includes two science activities kids can do at home!
black history month book covers

4th – 5th Grade 

  1. The Teachers March! How Selma’s Teachers Changed History by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace, illustrated by Charly Palmer
    Demonstrating the power of protest and standing up for a just cause, this exciting tribute to the educators who participated in the 1965 Selma Teachers’ March introduces a little-known but truly critical moment in civil rights history.
  2. Black Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black Boyhood edited by Kwame Mbalia
    Celebrate the joys of Black boyhood with stories from seventeen bestselling, critically acclaimed Black authors—including Jason Reynolds (the Track series), Jerry Craft (New Kid), and Kwame Mbalia (the Tristan Strong series)!
  3. Serena Says by Tanita S. Davis 
    Award-winning author Tanita S. Davis delivers a heartwarming and humorous middle grade tale about a young girl who finds her own voice through vlogging and learns to speak out. 
  4. Class Act by Jerry Craft 
    Jerry Craft follows up the critically acclaimed and Newbery award-winning New Kid with this poignant and funny companion graphic novel about Jordan’s friend Drew, who has his own struggles at Riverdale Academy Day School. 
  5. Root Magic by Eden Royce
    From debut writer Eden Royce comes a wondrous Southern gothic story set in South Carolina in the 1960s—an unforgettable tale of courage, friendship, and Black Girl Magic.
  6. Build a House by Rhiannon Giddens, illustrated by Monica Mikai
    Grammy Award winner Rhiannon Giddens celebrates Black history and culture in her unflinching, uplifting, and gorgeously illustrated picture book debut.
  7. From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks 
    This middle grade debut by Janae Marks follows Zoe Washington after she receives an unexpected letter on her twelfth birthday from the incarcerated father she’s never met. Her courageous journey to uncover the truth about his imprisonment is brimming with equal parts mystery and heart.
  8. The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis 
    A classroom favorite for over 25 years, Curtis’ award-winning tale of an unforgettable family on a journey south reminds us that even in the hardest times, laughter and family can help us get through anything. 
  9. The Ashe Brothers: How Arthur and Johnnie Changed Tennis Forever by Judy Allen Dodson, illustrated by David Wilkerson
    In 1968, Arthur Ashe climbed his way to the top of the tennis world in a time filled with racial tension and segregation. But his success didn’t happen without help.
  10. Blended by Sharon M. Draper 
    Eleven-year-old Isabella’s blended family is more divided than ever in this thoughtful story about divorce and racial identity from the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Sharon M. Draper. 

6th – 8th Grade 

  1. Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston 
    Readers are raving about this exhilarating debut middle grade fantasy series filled with #blackgirlmagic, about a young girl who must earn a spot at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs in order to find her missing brother. 
  2. We Are Your Children Too: Black Students, White Supremacists, and the Battle for America’s Schools in Prince Edward County, Virginia by P. O’Connell Pearson
    This revelatory and gripping nonfiction middle grade book explores a deeply troubling chapter in American history that is still playing out today: the strange case of Prince Edward County, Virginia, the only place in the United States to ever formally deny its citizens a public education, and the students who pushed back.
  3. Sincerely Sicily by Tamika Burgess
    From the Desk of Zoe Washington meets Lupe Wong Won’t Dance in Sincerely Sicily, a debut middle grade by Tamika Burgess that follows Sicily Jordan as she learns to use her voice and find joy in who she is—a Black Panamanian fashionista who rocks her braids with pride—while confronting prejudice both in the classroom and at home.
  4. Your Legacy: A Bold Reclaiming of Our Enslaved History by Schele Williams, illustrated by Tonya Engel
    Beginning in Africa before 1619, Your Legacy presents an unprecedentedly accessible, empowering, and proud introduction to African American history for children.
  5. Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler by Ibi Zoboi
    From bestselling author Ibi Zoboi, a middle grade biography in verse and prose of science fiction visionary Octavia Butler.
  6. Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes 
    From award-winning and bestselling author Jewell Parker Rhodes comes a powerful coming-of-age story about two brothers, one who presents as white, the other as black, and the complex ways in which they are forced to navigate the world, all while training for a fencing competition. 
  7. Figure It Out, Henri Weldon by Tanita S. Davis
    Tanita S. Davis, author of Partly Cloudy and Serena Says, has written a funny, warm middle grade novel about the complex calculations it takes for everyone to balance the equations of their lives while handling a learning disability.
  8. March: Book One by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell 
    Book One in the ground-breaking graphic novel series spans Congressman John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall. 
  9. Before the Ever After by Jaqueline Woodson 
    National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson’s stirring novel-in-verse explores the cost of professional sports on Black bodies and how a family moves forward when their glory days have passed.
  10. Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace by Ashley Bryan 
    From celebrated author and illustrator Ashley Bryan comes a deeply moving picture book memoir about serving in the segregated army during World War II, and how love and the pursuit of art sustained him.
  11. The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson, illustrated by Nikkolas Smith
    The 1619 Project’s lyrical picture book in verse chronicles the consequences of slavery and the history of Black resistance in the United States, thoughtfully rendered by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and Newbery honor-winning author Renée Watson.
  12. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas 
    Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. 

9th – 12th Grade 

  1. Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden 
    In this searing historical novel, Tonya Bolden pens an intimate portrait of a young woman who risks everything for a future of her own making.
  2. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi 
    Through a gripping, fast-paced, and energizing narrative written by beloved award-winner Jason Reynolds, this book shines a light on the many insidious forms of racist ideas—and on ways readers can identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their daily lives.
  3. Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam
    With spellbinding lyricism, award-winning author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam tell a moving and deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth, in a system designed to strip him of both.
  4. Whiteout: A Novel by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon
    As Atlanta is blanketed with snow just before Christmas, twelve teens prepare to shelter in place all over the city, in this novel of Black joy and cozy, sparkling romance—by the same unbeatable team of authors who wrote the New York Times bestseller Blackout!
  5. Pet by Akwaeke Emezi 
    This award-winning, genre-defying novel by the New York Times bestselling author Akwaeke Emezi explores themes of identity and justice and asks: How do you share the truth when the world around you is in denial?
  6. Love Radio by Ebony LaDelle
    Hitch meets The Sun Is Also a Star in this witty and romantic teen novel about a self-professed teen love doctor with a popular radio segment who believes he can get a girl who hates all things romance to fall in love with him in only three dates.
  7. Blackout: A Novel by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon
    A power outage. A sweltering summer night. And romance flickering in the dark…Brimming with Black teen joy and swoony romance, this New York Times bestselling blockbuster novel of intertwined narratives by six award-winning YA authors has sparked and glowed in the hearts of readers, who can now pick up this paperback edition just in time for summer!
  8. Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People by Kekla Magoon
    Revolution in Our Time puts the Panthers in the proper context of Black American history, from the first arrival of enslaved people to the Black Lives Matter movement of today. Kekla Magoon’s eye-opening work invites a new generation of readers grappling with injustices in the United States to learn from the Panthers’ history and courage, inspiring them to take their own place in the ongoing fight for justice.
  9. Love Is a Revolution by Renée Watson
    Award-winner Renée Watson’s love story about not only a relationship but how a girl finds and falls in love with who she really is.
  10. Ain’t Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds, illustrated by Jason Griffin
    Prepare yourself for something unlike anything: A smash-up of art and text for teens that viscerally captures what it is to be Black. In America. Right Now. Written by #1 New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Jason Reynolds.
  11. Kings of B’more by R. Eric Thomas
    Two Black queer best friends face their last day together with an epic journey through Baltimore in this magnetic YA debut by bestselling author of Here for It R. Eric Thomas.
  12. Just Mercy: A True Story of the Fight for Justice (Adapted for Young Adults) by Bryan Stevenson 
    In this very personal work—adapted from the original #1 bestseller—renowned lawyer and social justice advocate Bryan Stevenson offers a glimpse into the lives of the wrongfully imprisoned and his efforts to fight for their freedom as the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.

How to Shop & Support

First Book adds new books to the Marketplace weekly! Visit often to see what new books we’ve added to our selection of titles about Black history, books featuring Black characters and cultures, and books by Black authors and illustrators. All Title I educators are eligible to shop the Marketplace to add these books to their classrooms. If you are not a Title I educator, but still want to support First Book, you can shop these titles at Bookshop, with 10% of your purchase donated to First Book.

Join the Network

Educators can join First Book’s network — the largest and fastest-growing network of educators, schools, and programs serving children in need across the United States and Canada — to bring these titles to your classroom.

This blog was last updated on February 1, 2023.

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