Posts Tagged ‘black history’

Last year I started a little challenge with my kids to read 365 books together. Partway through the year my daughter and I got sucked into some chapter book series that took us longer to finish, so our progress slowed down. But in February we checked out a couple dozen books related to African American history and plowed through them during Black History Month.

People frequently ask me what books we read to our kids about Black History, specifically slavery and Civil Rights. I’ve been meaning to compile a list for some time and I’ve finally done it! Here are twenty of them that we’ve loved that you can either find at your own library or order for your own collection online. If you do through our links we get a little kickback at no extra cost to you.

Not all of these are specifically related to Black History, but all are great children’s books that show diversity and many do dive into civil rights or slavery in ways that’s gentle enough for young children. I’ll point out our top favorites with an asterisk!

1. Little Melba and Her big Trombone*: The story of Melba Doretta Liston from daydreaming about music to to learning about her extraordinary gift. We loved this book about a trailblazing musician who followed her passion.

2. An American Girl: Meet Addy: The story of one girl’s family’s dangerous escape from slavery. Based in 1864 this is a great story of love, hope and freedom.

3. Make Way for Dyamonde: Not a story of black history but one hilarious book that’ll teach your kids a thing or two about being the new kid in town and trying to make a friend. Dyamonde has an upbeat and spunky attitude that has you rooting for her from the start.

4. Firebird: Ballerina Misty Copeland Shows a Young Girl How to Dance Like the Firebird: The title says it all. Gorgeous illustrations and a sweet story of a girl learning to believe in herself.

5. This Is the Dream: A touching yet simple story written as a poem in rhyme that takes you through the Civil Rights Era and the people who were fighting for equality.

6. Goin’ Someplace Special*: This was one of our favorite stories. Based in a 1950s segregated south, a little girl is on her way someplace special, where all are welcome no matter the color of their skin. We loved the mystery of wondering where she was going then the grand reveal.

7. Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojourner Truth*: We tend to hear a lot of stories about Harriet Tubman but this is a beautifully-told story of another inspiring abolitionist: Sojourner Truth and how she came by her name.

8. A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin: Last year in our homeschool co-op we did a unit on Horace Pippin. This book tells the story of this self-taught painter who’s love of art and perseverance still inspires us today.

9. The Piano*: The story of a little black girl growing up in the early 1900s who loves music and learns to play piano from her employer. The older woman’s hands are to stiff to play the keys but together they learn to make music.

10. Of Thee I Sing: One of our favorite books that has a fun take on famous, strong individuals throughout history.

11. When God Made You*: I don’t know what I love more about this book. The gorgeous illustrations or the beautiful words. This book helps start a discussion about how God has a plan for their life, and they have a special reason for being here. At the end of the book the author drives the point home to love one another as sisters and brothers. Not a history book but definitely one worth reading to remind our children how they are unique, and how we’re all connected.

12. Grace for President: A fun story about a little girl running for class president. A great way to teach kids about the electoral college.

13. Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.*: This is a book we go back to time and time again. We read it every MLK Day and usually again and again through the year. The inspiring words remind us the importance of making change through light and love.

14. The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage*: Another book we like to read time and time again. A short story sharing the story of the Lovings, an interracial couple who took their case all the way to the Supreme Court, eventually overturning laws against interracial marriage. Crazy to believe this was only a generation ago.

15. Early Sunday Morning: June has a big solo coming up at church. She’s nervous but as the weekend goes on she gets love and encouragement from her family and friends.

16. Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt*: A great children’s book about the underground railroad. A little girl is learning how to sew and she designs a quilt that doubles as a map to freedom.

17. Dancing in the Wings*: A sassy young lady who doesn’t let her physical challenges hold her back, but makes them work for her. From the illustrations to the captivating story we love this book!

18. Follow the Drinking Gourd: My daughter first heard this book in Kindergarten. Pretty pictures and an easy introduction to the Underground Railroad.

19. Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African-Americans: A story over a hundred years of African-American history told from a 100-year-old narrator’s perspective. Take it slow, but the illustrations are absolutely breathtaking.

20. What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors: A fascinating book about Black inventors you may or may not know about. From who invented the ice cream scoop to open heart surgeons. It may not be as interesting for younger kids but definitely kids in the upper-elementary grades and beyond.

Those are some of our favorites we’ve come across so far. We’ll be sure to update this list as we add more. What have been some of your favorites? Have you read any of these? Share in the comments!

*Denotes our favorites!

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with kids.

Growing up my parents didn’t spend a lot of time educating us on Black history. What we did learn, we learned in school… Which wasn’t much. And was often uncomfortable. When you’re the only black kid in class and topics like slavery and civil rights are being discussed things get weird.
I don’t want that for my kids. I want them to grow up knowing, understanding and appreciating Black History–Never feeling uncomfortable discussing it with peers, but empowered.

This school year has turned into a subtle year of Black History studies. It’s not like we purposely study it every day (we are actually studying about early pioneers officially but bouncing around thanks to our fascination with the Hamilton musical) but it’s come up a lot.

I knew this year I’d be going to do the MLK march with kids. I’d done them in college, and a couple since, but I wanted to start the tradition with my own children. This year for the first time I brought my kids downtown to the MLK March to the Texas Capitol and we had the time of our lives. I hope this is a tradition we keep for many years to come.

I’m going to back up for a minute to our visit to  Washington D.C. a few months ago, where we say the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial and where he gave his infamous speech.

Visiting DC

Washington DC with kids

We visited the new African American History museum in Washington D.C., the MLK Memorial and stood in the spot where he gave his I Have a Dream speech.


Washington DC with kids


Then several of our books about Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks and the Lovings are easily some of our go-tos. Beyond that, last week I randomly picked up an American Girl story on CD from the library. It’s Addy’s story. Lil’ J fell in LOVE with these stories. We’re already on book 5 of 6. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s about a little girl who was born into slavery, and the story of her family escaping and trying to reunite.

It’s opened the doors to a lot of conversations about the history of our country, and some candid yet very casual conversations about skin color and differences. She LOVES Dr. King, and she had his birthday circled on her calendar.

A day after her birthday is our nations birthday and we get fireworks. The day after my birthday is Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. We get to reflect on how far we’ve come, and how we can help bring even more unity in the world.

MLK March with Kids

In the past we’ve done little crafts and celebrated with “Peace Pie” (a simple dessert tradition we started). This year we added in the kids’ first MLK march to the state capitol building. I packed my son’s balance bike in the car before we left (best decision ever) and they had a blast! We brought canned foods to donate to the Capital Area Food bank. Did you know MLK Day is also now known as a national day of service?

mommy and me mlk

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with kids.

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with kids.

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with kids.

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with kids.

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with kids.

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with kids.

We can’t wait to go next year.

Listening and Reading

When we got home we watched the I Have a Dream speech twice and followed along in a beautiful illustrated storybook I picked up at Half Priced Books for $3! I just checked to see if it’s on Amazon but it looks like it’s only available through scholastic.

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with kids.

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with kids.

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with kids.

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with kids.

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with kids.

Talking and Tasting

We put together some snacks and listened/read the speech while they filled their bellies. Afterwards we called Grandma Nan (my grandmother) and talked to her about some of what she remembers from that day. She told us she was in high school and wanted to go hear the speech but her dad wouldn’t let her! Lil’ J could not understand why he didn’t let her go.

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with kids.


Before we cut into our third annual Peace Pie after dinner my daughter said we each needed to say something we’re thankful that Dr. King helped bring about.

“That he taught love, not hate,” my sweet daughter said.

She’s getting it.

I hope it’s one of those days they remember for a long time. I know it will be for me.

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with kids.

And now I photo dump the rest of our day all over you. Forgive me/ enjoy!

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with kids.
Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with kids.
Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with kids.
Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with kids.
Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with kids. Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with kids.

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with kids.

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with kids.

Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with kids.
Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with kids. MLK March with kids.


If you made it this far let me know if you did anything to celebrate, or your plans for next year!

Why I took my kids to an MLK march (and you should too!)

“What was your mom like?” I asked my 97-year-old great grandfather as I drove him to the airport.

He was leaving after a quick trip to visit with us. It’s not often people get to converse with their great-grandparents. I feel very fortunate. Every time my great-grandpa Griffin comes to town, I want to ask him a slew of questions. I ask about his stories, how he’s seen the world change, and what important lessons he’s learned in his 97 years of living.

I think this would be natural for anyone to have a desire to learn more about their history–Where they come from. Especially African Americans, whose history can only go back so far. Sometimes I feel like I’m grasping for any knowledge I can find that ties me to specific people. So I can know what magnificent people I’m related to. Whose blood runs through my blood.

Making strong roots- our black history

I wanted to know a little about a generation before him, about my great-great grandmother.

Annie was her name, and he told me a story about her that has impacted him to this day. It’s a story that can’t be categorized as simply being black history. It’s specifically a part of my family history, but a lesson I feel most connected to as a parent.

“In 1922,” he started. How he can remember exact years I’ll never understand! “I was playing with marbles, and she came in and told me to get a switch because I wasn’t suppose to be playing with marbles.”

My great-grandpa stopped his story for a moment concerned he’d told me it before.

“No, no, I haven’t heard it!” I encouraged him to go on.

“She was very angry with me,” He started again. “I asked her why I shouldn’t be playing with marbles. She told me because it was Sunday. But she hadn’t told me I couldn’t play marbles on Sunday.”

He told me he was upset because he always tried to follow the rules. But this was one he didn’t know of.

“So I stood up straight and firmly talked back to her and said ‘But you didn’t tell me!’”

Immediately my great-grandpa told me he was worried he had overdone it. Pushed his luck. He didn’t normally talk back to adults and was very respectful.

In a firm voice, his mother told him to come here.

He worried he was going to get it. He walked towards her and awaited his punishment.

“She reached out and grabbed me,” he told me. “She embraced me in a hug and said she loved me.”

He said his mother told him that he was right, she hadn’t told him not to play on Sunday before.

“I knew she loved me,” he told me. “That is when I really learned what love was.”

He knew there was nothing he could do that would cause her to stop loving him. My great-grandpa was only 4 at the time, yet that memory lasted with him his entire life.

My thought immediately went to my children. What am I doing and saying to them daily that could stay with them their entire lives?

“We need more love,” my Grandpa Griffin said. “More love and understanding in the world.”

Wise words I hope to take to heart and put in motion as I raise my children and remind them of the simple, yet powerful lesson their great-great-great grandmother taught her son one Sunday afternoon.

Hi! I’m Jennifer Borget


I'm a part-time journalist, full-time wife and mother striving to make the world a better place and inspiring others to do the same. This is the space where I share my journey in making the most of every day.

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