Picture Books About the Harlem Renaissance

Jan, 11, 2020

Picture Books About the Harlem Renaissance. Learn about all the known and unknown stars in this era. These books also make a great selection of children's books for black history month. #blackhistorymonth #diversebooks

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 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.

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

Overground Railroad By Lesa Cline-Ransome

We’ve all heard of The Underground Railroad…but do you know about the Overground Railroad?⁣

This book is essential to the study of the Harlem Renaissance because the Great Migration led to the increased Black American populations in the North. Which in New York, significantly contributed to the Harlem Renaissance.⁣

Although slavery was over, many Black American families were still chained to the South because of the corrupt sharecropper system.⁣

Some families had to break their leases by abandoning their leased farms to escape the system.⁣

Many did so by train. The mass exodus of the South is called The Great Migration. ⁣

This book was good at giving us one family’s experience on their trip out of the South.⁣

The narrator is a little girl who is reading a book by Frederick Douglas, who made a similar journey.⁣

There are plenty of learning opportunities with this book. Bookshop Affiliate Link

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker By Patricia Hruby Powell

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! Bookshop Affiliate Link

Jazz Age Josephine by Jonah Winter

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! Bookshop Affiliate Link

In Her Hands: The Story of Sculptor Augusta Savage By Alan Schroeder

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. Bookshop Affiliate Link

Langston’s Train Ride By Robert Burleigh

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.

Take a Picture of Me James Van Der Zee! By Andrea J. Loney

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! Bookshop Affiliate Link

Harlem’s Little Blackbird:Florence Mills By Renee Watson 

Florence Mills (1896-1927), the Queen of Happiness was a singer, dancer, and actor. She was given her first Broadway part at the age of four. This is a great book about the international star, the illustrations make me love this book even more. Bookshop Affiliate Link

Bessie Smith and the Night Riders By Sue Stauffacher 

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.

Strange Fruit : Billie Holiday and the Power of a Protest Song By Gary Golio

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. Bookshop Affiliate Link

Mister and Lady Day: Billie Holiday and the Dog who Loved Her By Amy Novesky

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. Bookshop Affiliate Link

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library By Carole Boston Weatherford

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. Bookshop Affiliate Link

Carter Reads the Newspaper by Deborah Hopkinson

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. Bookshop Affiliate Link

Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree By William Miller

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. Bookshop Affiliate Link

Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra By Andrea Davis Pinkney

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. Bookshop Affiliate Link

Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite By Anna Harwell Celenza

Duke Ellington along with his friend Billy Strayhorn turn Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite into a swinging jazz number. Bookshop Affiliate Link

When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson By Pam Munoz Ryan 

When Marian Sang gives you a glimpse into the life of Marian Anderson (1897-1993). 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. Bookshop Affiliate Link

Dizzy By Jonah Winter

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.

Satchmo’s Blues By Alan Schroeder

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. 

Lift Every Voice and Sing By James Weldon Johnson

Illustrator Bryan Collier gives us great visuals to James Weldon Johnson’s (1871-1938) song, Lift Every Voice and Sing. 

Harlem’s Historic Neighborhood Sugar Hill

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. Bookshop Affiliate Link

Harlem Renaissance Party By Faith Ringgold

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. Bookshop Affiliate Link

Like this list? Check out more like it below!

Check out these picture books for Black History Month. This book list has 29 books that can help children and yourself highlight some of the known and relatively unknown members of the Black community.


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Melissa Nikohl


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    July 13, 2020

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      Melissa Nikohl

      July 14, 2020

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