Black History Books for Beginning Readers

Jan, 31, 2021

The 2020-2021 school year was my first year teaching first grade. I’ve always taught upper elementary or middle school. The first thing I’ve noticed is how hard it is to find nonfiction picture books for lower elementary students. Especially books that highlight leaders in Black history. If you’re here you’ve probably run into the same problem! 

Your learners may not be ready to read these books independently, but they are simple enough that they can learn new information in one sitting. Okay, well there’s one that may take longer, but it is a necessary addition to the list!

Do me one favor, promise me that you will incorporate Black history throughout the school year, not just in February. These stories can be told all year long!

I will update this list as I find more books! Follow me on Instagram to get updates and ideas for other picture books! If there’s a book you think I should add, comment below!

If you like this list of books, you’ll love The Ultimate List of Diverse Picture Books. There are over 250 books to use in the classroom and home libraries. 

Just a friendly reminder, I am an Amazon Affiliate, so if you decided to use the links below to purchase the books, I do get a commission. The price of the books does not change for you. ❤️

I’m also a Bookshop Affiliate. Bookshop works with local independent bookstores to deliver books to your door. You can shop this entire list on Bookshop here.

Carter Reads a Newspaper

Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson (1875-1950) was a historian that dug for the facts. He collected information so that he could share African and Black American history with the world. Dr. Woodson eventually created Negro History Week, which would ultimately become Black History Month. This book gives us a glimpse of his life and work. The illustrations are done by my favorite illustrator, Don Tate.

This is the only book on this list that may take longer than one sitting to read. But, I felt that it was important to include it. Bookshop Affiliate Link

Ron’s Big Mission

Before Ron McNair (1950-1986) became a physicist and astronaut, he was just a kid who loved to read. This story is about when Ron had enough of the discriminatory laws and did what he had to do. Bookshop Affiliate Link


If you don’t know Lonnie Johnson, I KNOW you’ve played with his invention, the Super Soaker. Lonnie Johnson (1949-) is a former NASA engineer ad has over 120 patents! This book is about how he followed his passions and ended up creating one of the most popular toys to this day!  Bookshop Affiliate Link

Mae Among The Stars

Mae Jemison (1956-) is an engineer, a physicist, and is the first African-American woman to travel to space. This book tells a story about how her dream of becoming an astronaut began as a little girl. Although her parents are supportive, her teacher and classmates are not. She sure did prove them wrong! Bookshop Affiliate Link

A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put American on the Moon

Katherine Johnson (1918-2020) This book is all about Katherine Johnson’s journey to become the mathematician that helped the United States win the space race and saved Apollo 13. Bookshop Affiliate Link

Trombone Shorty

Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews (1986-) is a New Orleans musician, known for playing the trombone and trumpet. As a child, he wanted to be in a band so bad he started one with his neighborhood friends. In this book, we learn how he got his big break! Bookshop Affiliate Link

Ice Breaker: How Mabel Fairbanks Changed Figure Skating

Mabel Fairbanks (1915-2001) was a figure skater denied the right to compete in many competitions including the Olympics because she was Black. Although she was unable to compete to show the world her talent, Fairbanks took up coaching to help children of all backgrounds. Bookshop Affiliate Link

Ready to Fly: How Sylvia Townsend Became the Bookmobile Ballerina

After watching Swan Lake on t.v., Sylvia Townsend decides she wanted to learn ballet. Getting lessons wasn’t easy so she taught herself how to dance with books from a bookmobile! I LOVE this book! Bookshop Affiliate Link

Fearless Mary: Mary Fields, American Stagecoach Driver

Do you know the story of the first Black woman to become a mail carrier?⁣

In 1895, Mary Fields (1832-1914)  took the job of driving a stagecoach in the Wild West!⁣

Mary would do whatever it took to make sure her cargo was delivered safely. She fought off wolves and thieves. And she had no problem traveling the dangerous mountain trails.⁣

She even had a pet eagle to help protect her and her packages!⁣ Bookshop Affiliate Link

Want more diverse books to add to your library? Check out this list below.

Related Posts

Melissa Nikohl

Leave a Reply

Related Posts

%d bloggers like this: