This book list contains African Americans who aren’t well known to many people. Thankfully, there are picture books that can help us all be more informed about these influential and inspiring people!
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’re looking for diverse picture books to add to your classroom library, check out The Ultimate List of Diverse 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. 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 list on Bookshop here.
Mamie “Peanut” Johnson (1935-2017) loved baseball wanted to play professionally. She could not play for the white All-American Girls Professional Baseball Leagues, so she joined the men in the Negro Leagues. Mamie is known as the first female pitcher in the league. Bookshop Affiliate Link
Mary Walker (1848-1969) learned how to read at 116 YEARS OLD!
She lived through 26 presidents. 😲 In The Oldest Student, we find out why she didn’t learn how to read and write until later in her life. Bookshop Affiliate Link
Junius G. Groves (1859-1925) was what we would consider an agricultural scientist who, in one year, grew around twelve million potatoes. His success in farming would make him one of the wealthiest African Americans in the 19th century. Bookshop Affiliate Link
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
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
Horace Pippin (1888-1946) loved to paint when he was a child, but he put his passion to the side and went to fight in World War I. After the war, a life-changing injury, Horace finds a way to paint again. Bookshop Affiliate Link
George Moses Horton (1798-1884) was a poet and was the first southern African American man to published. Bookshop Affiliate Link
Melba Liston (1926-1999) was a self-taught trombone player from Kansas City, Missouri. In Little Melba and Her Big Trombone, we follow Melba’s journey to becoming a renowned jazz musician. Bookshop Affiliate Link
Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977) was a civil rights leader who was determined to make a change. Her story is heartbreaking, but it was why she refused to let the brutality of racism continue.
This is an excellent book that I highly recommend for parents and teachers to read. This book contains content and language that is more appropriate for older elementary/middle school students. You should use your best judgment if you’re reading this to your students. Bookshop Affiliate Link
Dr. Carter Godwin Woodson (1875-1950) was a historian that dug for the facts. He collected information so that he could share African and African-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. Bookshop Affiliate Link
Lewis H. Michaux (1895-1976) was a civil rights activist and owned the National Memorial African Bookstore in Harlem. The bookstore not only sold books but was a meeting place for some of the most notable African Americans at this time. You could frequently see Malcolm X give speeches here. Muhammed Ali, W.E.B. Dubois, Langston Hughes, Earth Kitt, and others were visitors of The National Memorial African Bookstore. Lewis Michaux’s bookstore would become the most prominent place to find books by and about African Americans. Bookshop Affiliate Link
Vivien Thomas (1910-1985) was a medical researcher during the Great Depression that had dreams of going to medical school. He worked hard to save money to go to school but lost all his savings during the Great Depression. This book takes us through his journey of becoming a medical pioneer. With his research and inventions, 1944 he assisted in the first open-heart surgery of a child. Babies today still benefit from Vivien Thomas’ medical efforts. If you’ve never seen the movie about him, it’s called Something the Lord Made, check it out! Bookshop Affiliate Link
At the age of 85, Bill Traylor(1853-1949) would become an artist in Montgomery, Alabama. His story proves it is never too late to start over. Bookshop Affiliate Link
Dr. Patricia Bath (1942-2019) loved science as a girl and turned her passion into a career. After attending medical school at Howard University, she interned at Harlem Hospital Center, where she found that African-Americans were two times more likely to be blind than whites. She began performing eye surgeries for free to members of this community to help them regain their sight.
Dr. Bath studied overseas, where she learned more about laser cataract surgery and eventually invented the laserphaco probe. Later in her career, she became the first woman ophthalmologist at UCLA and became the chief of their residency program. Bookshop Affiliate Link
I love the Amazing Scientists Series because they feature some amazing women that are unknown to most of us. This book is all about the engineer, Raye Montague (1935-2018). After seeing her first boat, Raye knew she wanted to become an engineer. Of course, at that time, African Americans becoming engineers was almost impossible. But, she would become an engineer and get a job working for the Navy, where she would design ships. Bookshop Affiliate Link
Gordon Parks (1912-2006) was the first African American to write and direct a major film and the first African American photographer at Vogue and Life magazines. Bookshop Affiliate Link