A selected list of children's novels, poetry books, and picture books about African American history and the African American experience. (Those books with "xz" are picture books, which have text and illustrations, and are written for younger readers.)

Ashley Bryan's ABC of African American poetry.

Bryan, Ashley.
Call Number: xz Ed.a folio

Grades K - 4

Each letter of the alphabet is represented by a line from a poem by different African American poets, describing an aspect of the black experience.

Black cowboy, wild horses : a true story

Lester, Julius,
Call Number: xz

Grades K - 3

A black cowboy is so in tune with wild mustangs that they accept him into the herd, thus enabling him singlehandedly to take them to the corral.

Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything in it

Frazier, Sundee Tucker, 1968-
Call Number: x

Mixed-race Brendan loves science, Tae Kwon Do and his family, and he's very surprised to learn that the president of the local rock collectors' club is the white grandfather he's never met.

Brick by Brick

Smith, Charles R., Jr.
Call Number: xz

Grades K - 4

Describes the building of the White House, the home of the United States President, and how it took many hands, several of them slaves', who will be remembered throughout history for their extraordinary feat.

Bud, Not Buddy

Curtis, Christopher Paul.
Call Number: x

Gr. 4 and up. 10-year-old Bud escapes a bad foster home and sets out in search of a man he believes is his father, renowned bandleader, H.E. Calloway. Winner of the 2000 Newbery Medal.

City shapes

Murray, Diana,
Call Number: xz

The colors of us

Katz, Karen.
Call Number: xz

Grades pre-K - 2

Seven-year-old Lena and her mother observe the variations in the color of their friends' skin, viewed in terms of foods and things found in nature.

The Crossover

Alexander, Kwame
Call Number: x

(Gr. 4-6)  Fourteen-year-old twin basketball stars Josh and Jordan wrestle with highs and lows on and off the court as their father ignores his declining health.  

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave

Hill, Laban Carrick.
Call Number: xz

Grades K - 4

Chronicles the life of Dave, a nineteenth-century slave who went on to become influential poet, artist, and potter.Gorgeous illustrations by Bryan Collier, including one fold-out page.

Ellington Was Not a Street

Shange, Ntozake.
Call Number: x 811 S528 folio

Gr. 3 and up. Shange's poem "Mood Indigo" pays tribute to several African American men who made important contributions to 20th century culture: Paul Robeson, W.E.B. DuBois, Ray Barretto, Dizzy Gillespie, "Sonny Til" Tilghman, Kwame Nkrumah, and Duke Ellington. Includes brief biographies of each.

Goin' Someplace Special

McKissack, Pat, 1944-
Call Number: xz

Gr. 3-5. In segregated 1950s Nashville, TN, a young African American girl braves a series of obstacles to get to the public library, one of the few integrated places in the town.

Gone Crazy in Alabama

Williams-Garcia, Rita,
Call Number: x

Granddaddy's turn : a journey to the ballot box

Bandy, Michael S,
Call Number: xz

Grades 1 - 3  

One morning, when Granddaddy heads into town in his fancy suit, Michael knows that something very special must be happening--and sure enough, everyone is lined up at town hall! For the very first time, Granddaddy is allowed to vote, and he couldn't be more proud. But can Michael be patient when justice just can't come soon enough?

The Great Migration : journey to the North

Greenfield, Eloise.
Call Number: x 811 G812-12
Gr. 2-5. Shines a spotlight on The Great Migration in the United States, where over a million African Americans moved to the North, with free verse poetry and intricate, mixed media illustrations.

Henry's freedom box

Levine, Ellen.
Call Number: xz

Grades K - 4

A fictionalized account of how in 1849 a Virginia slave, Henry "Box" Brown, escapes to freedom by shipping himself in a wooden crate from Richmond to Philadelphia. Stunningly illustrated by Kadir Nelson.

If a tree falls at lunch period

Choldenko, Gennifer, 1957-
Call Number: x
There is a new African-American student at Kirsten and Rory’s all-white private school.  He’s tall, nice looking and well dressed.  And it turns out that he is related to one of the two girls.  This children’s fiction title addresses the issue of marital conflict in addition to interracial relationships.

Jalani and the lock

Pace, Lorenzo.
Call Number: xz
K-Gr. 2. Introduces the concept of slavery through the simply told story of how Jalani was taken from Africa, then made to work all day and never play again until he was finally set free. Colorful childlike illustrations soften the harshness of his situation without making light of it.

The legend of Bass Reeves : being the true and fictional account of the most valiant marshal in the West

Paulsen, Gary.
Call Number: x
Born a slave, Bass grows up to be the most successful federal marshal in the West.

Lola loves stories

McQuinn, Anna.
Call Number: xz
PreK-K. Both parents are shown playing an integral part in helping a young child become ready to read.

Me and Uncle Romie : a story inspired by the life and art of Romare Bearden

Hartfield, Claire.
Call Number: xz
Gr. 2-5. A fictional story of a young North Carolina boy going to spend the summer with his uncle, a famous artist in New York City. At first he is uneasy about being away from his own parents, but he is welcomed, introduced to many new things, and has a good time. Includes instructions and ideas for creating collages, plus information about the real Romare Bearden.

Never forgotten

McKissack, Pat, 1944-
Call Number: x 811 M158
Gr. 4 and up. Free verse poems and incredible artwork describe a father's grief after his son is taken from their home in Mali and sold into slavery in America. Heart-wrenching and inspiring.

Ninth Ward

Rhodes, Jewell Parker.
Call Number: x
Gr. 4 and up. Twelve-year-old Lanesha has a gift for communicating with the dead. She survives Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans with help from her caretaker, the elderly Mama Ya-Ya, who can see the future.

One Crazy Summer

Williams-Garcia, Rita
Call Number: x

Grades 4-8. During the summer of 1968, eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters travel to Oakland, California to visit their mother, who abandoned them as babies. While there, they reluctantly spend time at a summer camp run by the Black Panthers.

P.S. Be Eleven

Williams-Garcia, Rita.
Call Number: x

Papa's mark

Battle-Lavert, Gwendolyn.
Call Number: xz
Gr. 2-4. To prepare for the first county election in which "colored folk" are allowed to vote, Simms helps his father learn to write his own name so he can sign for his ballot instead of just making an X.

Pink and Say

Polacco, Patricia.
Call Number: xz

K – Grade 3.  Say Curtis describes his meeting with Pinkus Aylee, a black soldier, during the Civil War, and their capture by Southern troops. Based on a true story about the author's great-great-grandfather.

Precious and the Boo Hag

McKissack, Pat, 1944-
Call Number: xz

Grades K - 3

Home alone with a stomachache while the family works in the fields, a young girl faces up to the horrifying Boo Hag that her brother warned her about.

Rap a tap tap : here's Bojangles-- think of that!

Dillon, Leo.
Call Number: xz
K-Gr. 1. This delightful rhyming chant-along introduces Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, the great tap dancer who was the highest paid black entertainer during the Great Depression.

The red rose box

Woods, Brenda
Call Number: x

After a hurricane kills Leah and Ruth's parents in 1954, the sisters move to Los Angeles to start a new life with their aunt and uncle.

Ron's big mission

Blue, Rose.
Call Number: xz

Grades K - 3

One summer day in 1959, nine-year-old Ron McNair, who dreams of being a pilot one day, walks into the Lake City, South Carolina, public library and insists on checking out some books, despite the rule that only white people can have library cards. Includes facts about McNair, who grew up to be an astronaut.

Show way

Woodson, Jacqueline.
Call Number: xz
Gr. 1-5. Quilts tell the story of one family's experience with slavery, emancipation, and triumph.

The Snowy Day

Keats, Ezra Jack.
Call Number: xz Ed.h

Grades pre-K - 1

The adventures of a little boy in the city on a very snowy day.

These hands

Mason, Margaret H., 1954-
Call Number: xz

Grades pre-K - 3

This grandfather's hands weren't allowed to touch the dough in the Wonder Bread factory, but they could join with other hands to write petitions, carry signs, and change the world.

An African American man tells his grandson about a time when, despite all the wonderful things his hands could do, they could not touch bread at the Wonder Bread factory. Based on stories of bakery union workers; includes historical note.

This is the rope : a story from the Great Migration

Woodson, Jacqueline.
Call Number: xz

Grades K -3

A rope passed down through the generations frames an African American family's story as they journey north during the time of the Great Migration.

Under the freedom tree

VanHecke, Susan.
Call Number: x 811 V255
Grades 1 - 4
Tells of the Civil War's first contraband camp that began when three escaped slaves were granted protection at a Union-held fort, prompting runaway slaves to seek freedom there and build the country's first African American community.


Evans, Shane.
Call Number: xz

Grades K - 3

A family uses the Underground Railroad to escape slavery. Sparsely worded but powerful.

We are America : a tribute from the heart

Myers, Walter Dean, 1937-
Call Number: x 811 M996-6
Gr. 3 and up. Award-winning father and son team create a lovely, if often painful, tribute that celebrates America and the people and events that make up her complicated, crazy history. Illustrations celebrate the famous and the infamous, and teachers and parents will find plenty to share and discuss.

We March

Evans, Shane.
Call Number: xz

Grades pre-K - 3

A young family's participation in the 1963 March on Washington is described in 57 well-chosen words. The Illustrations and brief text portray the events of the 1963 march in Washington,D.C., where the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. delivered an historic speech.

Zora and Me

Bond, Victoria, 1979-
Call Number: x

Gr. 5 and up. A coming of age novel about the life of a young Zora Neale Hurston as told from the perspective of her best friend Carrie. Zora uses folkloric stories to explain what she does not yet fully understand - class struggles, racial tensions, murder, and death while growing up in Eatonville, Florida, one of the nation's first all-black towns.