Picture Books of African American Firsts

Jan, 13, 2020

PICTURE BOOKS OF AFRICAN AMERICAN FIRSTS. Celebrate Black History with picture books. #diversebooks #blackhistorymonth

This list of books contains people who fought for the right to follow their dreams. Every individual on this list faced many obstacles that would have stopped some, but it didn’t stop them. Their perseverance is what makes these individuals unique and the first!

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 or home library, check out The Ultimate List of Diverse Picture Books. The books on this list are amazing!

Are you looking for diverse picture books to add to your classroom or home library? This list of diverse picture books is perfect for you! #diversepicturebooks

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. ❤️

Charlie Takes His Shot: How Charlie Sifford Broke the Color Barrier in Golf by Nancy Churnin

Charles “Charlie” Luther  Sifford (1922-2015) was the first African-American to play on the PGA Tour.

What Do You Do With a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan By Chris Barton

Barbara Jordan (1936-1996) was the first African-American congresswoman to come from the south.⁣

She is known for her powerful voice; her most well-known speech was her opening speech for Richard Nixon’s impeachment investigation.⁣

Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson by Leda Schubert

Raven Wilkinson (1935-2018) was the first African American ballerina to join a major classical ballet troupe.


This is an amazing book about the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin (1942-2018). Aretha Franklin was the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. 

The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath by Julia Finley Mosca

Dr. Patricia Bath (1942-2019) was the African-American to woman complete their residency as an ophthalmologist and the first African-American woman to receive a medical patent. 

Althea Gibson: The Story of Tennis’ Fleet-of-Foot Girl

Playing to Win: The Story of Althea Gibson by Karen Deans

Nothing but Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson by Sue Stauffacher

Althea Gibson (1927-2003) was the first African American to compete and win at Wimbledon.

Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America by Carole Boston Weatherford

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. 

Mamie on the Mound: A Woman in Baseball’s Negro Leagues by Leah Henderson

Mamie “Peanut” Johnson (1935-2017) was the first female pitcher to play in the Negro Leagues.

Thurgood by Jonah Winter

Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) was the first African American Supreme Court Justice.

Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton By Don Tate

George Moses Horton (1798-1884) was a poet and was the first southern African American man to published.

Jesse Owens Fastest Man Alive by Carole Boston Weatherford

Jesse Owens (1913-1980) was the first American to win four track and field gold medals at a single Olympics.

Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal By Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Bass Reeves (1838-1910) was the first African American to become a U.S. Marshal in the West.


Game Set Match: Champion Arthur Ashe by Crystal Hubbard

Arthur Ashe (1943-1993) is the only African American man to win the singles title at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open.


Brave Ballerina: The Story of Janet Collins by Michelle Meadows

Using rhyme, the author briefly tells Janet Collins’s (1917-2003) story of how she became the first African American prima ballerina in 1951.

Do you do daily read alouds in your reading block? Have you tried interactive read alouds? Interactive read alouds are a great way to engage your students while you’re reading. You can use interactive read alouds to teach or reteach reading skills from your lesson. More importantly, interactive read alouds are great way to trick your students into learning reading skills! #interactivereadalouds #readaloud #readalouds #readaloudtips


The Free Interactive Read Aloud Guide


Melissa Nikohl


  1. Reply


    September 13, 2020

    Love to see this every day !

    • Reply

      Melissa Nikohl

      September 17, 2020

      Thank you so much! It’s a great list! Definitely one of my favorites!

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