Are you looking to teach your students or children about the Harlem Renaissance? This collection of picture books will help get you started!
In this list, you will find books about the well known and unknown stars of this intellectual movement!
I’ve also included fiction picture books about this era.
I will update this list as I find more books. Follow me on Instagram to get updates and ideas for other picture books!
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.
This is a very thorough book of Josephine Baker’s (1906-1975) life. Whether you’re a teacher or parent, don’t expect to read this entire book in a day. The author uses time periods as chapters, so there’s always a good stopping point! You’ll be an expert on this international star after reading this book!
Here’s a much shorter and simpler book about Josephine Baker. The book begins when Josephine is a little girl in St. Louis, Missouri (my hometown). Since it is a shorter book than the book above, it doesn’t have as many details, but there is enough for you to get an overview of her life. If you’re short on time, grab this one!
Augusta Savage (1892-1962) loved sculpting as a young girl and her principal was so impressed with her talent, he paid her to teach the other students. Eventually, Augusta leaves home and moves to New York and becomes a prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance.
Langston Hughes (1902-1967) is on a train to go visit his father. On the way there he finds inspiration to write a poem. Dreams and Dream Deferred are great poems to pair with this book.
James Van Der Zee (1886-1983) realized he wanted his first camera after seeing his family’s portrait. Eventually, Van Der Zee became the go-to photographer of the Harlem Renaissance. He photographed the rich and the poor. In the afterword, you get to see some of his photographs!
This book is based on a real event that happened to the musician Bessie Smith (1894-1937) . One night while performing, Bessie gets some unexpected and unwanted visitors. After this night, her fans learn that Bessie’s voice isn’t the only thing powerful about her.
Billie Holiday (1915-1959) knew she wanted to be somebody at a young age. At 15 years old she began performing in Harlem. Eventually Billie got tired of the discrimination she and others faced and agreed to sing a song that would express the pain of racism.
Billie Holiday loved all her dogs, but you could find Mister always by her side. She would fit in perfectly with all the dog owners who take their dogs with them everywhere lol.
This book is a must-read, but it is not meant to be read in one sitting. Arturo Schomburg (1874-1938) was a book collector and historian that collected African-American Artifacts. Schomburg collected these artifacts to show the achievements of people of African descent. Some of his contributions include the work of artists, writers, and musicians of the Harlem Renaissance. Members of the Harlem Renaissance also looked to him for their history.
Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson (1875-1950) was a historian that was highly respected by many others during this time period. He worked with W.E.B. Dubois, Langston Hughes, Arturo Schomburg, and more. Dr. Woodson eventually created Negro History Week, which would eventually become Black History Month. This book gives us a glimpse of his life and work.
Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) was a well-known author during the Harlem Renaissance. In this book we learn about her relationship with her mother, who encouraged Zora to follow her dreams.
Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington’s (1899-1974) parents made the decision to enroll him in piano lessons. At the time, Duke was not pleased, he wanted to play baseball. Eventually Duke learned to love the piano and would go on to become a critically acclaimed jazz composer.
Duke Ellington along with his friend Billy Strayhorn turn Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite into a swinging jazz number.
When Marian (1897-1993) Sang gives you a glimpse into the life of Marian Anderson. Since I didn’t know much about her before reading the book, I like that the book started with her life as a child and ended when she became a professional singer.
When Dizzy Gillespie (1917-1993) was a kid he got in trouble for breaking all the rules. As he got older, he learned how breaking music rules could help him become known around the world. Although he was a child during the Harlem Renaissance, there is no doubt this movement influenced is music.
Do you know who Satchmo is? It’s Louis Armstrong (1901-1971)! In Satchmo’s Blues, we learn how he gets his first trumpet and we can infer on how it would change his life forever.
Illustrator Bryan Collier gives us great visuals to James Weldon Johnson’s (1871-1938) song, Lift Every Voice and Sing.
Sugar Hill was once known as an elite African-American neighborhood and a stomping ground for African-Americans during and after the Harlem Renaissance. This book quickly goes over who and what you would seen while hanging in Sugar Hill.
Lonnie and uncle Bates, travel back in time into the 1920’s where they meet all the stars of the Harlem Renaissance. I would read this book as a way to end your students or child’s study of the Harlem Renaissance.
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