Home School StuffSurf the NetAbout the LibraryKids Catalog
Fun and GamesKids ReadParents and TeachersHoustonHome

African American Booklist

A Celebration of Heritage, Tradition, and Achievement

The National Education Association (NEA) has created this comprehensive reading list of 100 titles that celebrate African American heritage, tradition, and achievement. 

Catherine Reef.  A. Philip Randolph:  Union Leader and Civil

Rights Crusader   Discusses the life of union leader and civil rights activist, A. Philip Randolph, who played a prominent role in furthering racial equality for African Americans. These contributions include organizing the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1925 and his leadership and speeches during the Civil Rights movement.  (Grades 5-8)

Denise Lewis Patrick.  The Adventures of Midnight Son

After his parents help him escape from slavery on a cotton plantation, thirteen-year-old Midnight finds freedom in Mexico and becomes a cowboy on a cattle drive to Kansas.  (Grades 4-8)

Ashley Bryan.  All Night, All Day:  A Child's First Book of African

American Spirituals   A selection of twenty spirituals, that distinctive music from the time of slavery. Includes piano accompaniment and guitar chords.  (All Grades)

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson.  Almost to Freedom

Tells the story of a young girl's dramatic escape from slavery via the Underground Railroad, from the perspective of her beloved rag doll.  (Grades 1-4)

Caroline Evensen Lazo.  Arthur Ashe

Traces the tennis career of Arthur Ashe and describes the discrimination he faced as he worked to master "the white man's game."  (Grades 5-8)

Linda Lowery.  Aunt Clara Brown, Official Pioneer

A biography of the freed slave who made her fortune in Colorado and used her money to bring other former slaves there to begin new lives. (Grades 2-4)

Linda Lowery.  One More Valley, One More Hill:  The Story of

Aunt Clara Brown  Chronicles the life of the woman called Aunt Clara Brown, who was born into slavery and became a pioneer and entrepreneur, earning money to bring other former slaves to a new start in Colorado.  (Grades 6 and up)

James Ransome.  Aunt Flossie's Hats (and Crab Cakes Later)

Sara and Susan share tea, cookies, crab cakes, and stories about hats when they visit their favorite relative, Aunt Flossie.  (Grades K-3)

Donald Crews.  Bigmama's

Visiting Bigmama's house in the country, young Donald Crews finds his relatives full of news and the old place and its surroundings just the same as the year before.  (Grades PreK-2)

Gina De Angelis.  The Black Cowboys

An account of the adventurous African Americans whose exploits contributed to the legends of the Wild West.  (Grades 5-8)

Phil Mendez.  The Black Snowman

Through the powers of a magical kente, a black snowman comes to life and helps young Jacob discover the beauty of his black heritage as well as his own self-worth.  (Grades 3-5)

Michael Halperin.  Black Wheels

(Grades 8 and up)

Toni Morrison.  The Bluest Eye

The story of an eleven-year-old black girl who wants very badly to be blonde and blue-eyed and have a different life.  (Grades 11 and up)

Lois P. Nicholson.  Booker T. Washington:  A Modern Moses

Covers the life of Booker T. Washington from his early childhood as a Virginia slave through his rise to founder of the Tuskegee Institute.  (Grades 4-7)

Evelyn Coleman.  Born in Sin

Despite serious obstacles and setbacks, fourteen-year-old Keisha pursues her dream of becoming an Olympic swimmer and medical doctor.  (Grades 7 and up)

Joyce Carol Thomas.  Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea

A collection of poems exploring the theme of African-American identity.  (All grades)

Christopher Paul Curtis.  Bud, Not Buddy

Ten-year-old Bud, a motherless boy living in Flint, Michigan, during the Great Depression, escapes a bad foster home and sets out in search of the man he believes to be his father--the renowned bandleader, H.E. Calloway of Grand Rapids.  (Grades 4-7)

James Haskins.  Carter G. Woodson:  The Man Who Put "Black"

in American History   A biography of the son of former slaves who received a Ph. D. in history from Harvard and devoted his life to bringing the achievements of his race to the world's attention.  (Grades 4-6)

Marilyn Nelson.  Carver:  A Life in Poems

This collection of poems provides a lyrical account of the life of George Washington Carver, a man born into slavery who went on to head the agricultural department at the Tuskegee Institute.  (Grades 6 and up)

Faith Ringgold.  Cassie's Word Quilt

Names the people and objects that make a girl's New York City apartment, school, and neighborhood special.  (Grades PreK-K)

James Haskins.  Champion:  The Story of Muhammad Ali

A biography of Muhammad Ali, from his childhood in Louisville, Kentucky, his legendary boxing career, and his conversion to Islam and opposition to the war in Vietnam, to his appearance at the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta.  (Grades 3-6)

Alice Walker.  The Color Purple

Set in the period between the world wars, this novel tells of two sisters, their trials, and their survival.  (Grades 10 and up)

James Haskins and Kathleen Benson.  Conjure Times:  Black

Magicians in America  Throughout American history, black magicians have achieved great skill in both the magician's tricks of the trade as well as the psychology of entertaining an audience. However, because of slavery and, later, racial segregation and discrimination, few have been able to make their living as magicians. Those who have succeeded are rare indeed, and although some have left a mark on history, many exist only as names on old playbills or in newspaper advertisements. (Grades 6 and up)

Irene Smalls.  Don't Say Ain't

In 1957, a young girl is torn between life in the neighborhood she grew up in and fitting in at the school she now attends.  (Grades 2-4)

Ntozake Shange.  Ellington Was Not a Street

In a reflective tribute to the African-American community of old, noted poet Ntozake Shange recalls her childhood home and the close-knit group of innovators that often gathered there.   (All grades)

Francis Bok.  Escape from Slavery:  The True Story of My Ten

Years in Captivity and My Journey to Freedom in America  Escape from Slavery is at once a riveting adventure, a story of desperation and triumph, and a window revealing a world that few have survived to tell.  (Grades 8 and up)

Virginia L. Kroll.  Especially Heroes

After talking about heroes and martyrs at school, a young girl gets a first-hand look at heroism when her father and several others protect their neighbor from a group of racists.  (Grades 3-5)

James A. Baldwin.  The Fire Next Time

Sophisticated exploration of issues raised by and the potential consequences of racial prejudice, by an award-winning African-American writer.  (Grades 10 and up)

Andrea Davis Pinkney.  Fishing Day

When Reenie and her mother, who are African Americans, go fishing, Reenie decides to share the secret of their success with their needy white neighbors.  (Grades K-3)

Harriett Gillem Robinet.  Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule

Born with a withered leg and hand, Pascal, who is about twelve years old, joins other former slaves in a search for a farm and the freedom which it promises.  (Grades 4-7)

Patricia and Fredrick McKissack.  Frederick Douglass:  Leader

Against Slavery  Simple text and illustrations describe the life and accomplishments of this famous abolitionist.  (Grades 1-4)

Doreen Rappaport.  Freedom River

Describes an incident in the life of John Parker, an ex-slave who became a successful businessman in Ripley, Ohio, and who repeatedly risked his life to help other slaves escape to freedom.  (Grades 2-5)

Joyce Hansen and Gary McGowan.  Freedom Roads:  Searching

for the Underground Railroad   The Underground Railroad was meant to be a set of secret pathways, but its traces have been obscured by time. The authors, Coretta Scott King Honor winners, show how archaeologists and historians sift through corn cobs and root cellars, study songs and quilts, and use the latest technology to reconstruct those heroic journeys.  (Grades 5-9)

Pat McKissack.  Goin' Someplace Special

In segregated 1950s Nashville, a young African American girl braves a series of indignities and obstacles to get to one of the few integrated places in town: the public library.  (Grades 2-5)

Andrea Davis Pinkney.  Hold Fast to Dreams

Twelve-year-old Deirdre, whose passion for photography has earned her the nickname "Camera Dee," feels uncomfortable being the only black student at her new school.  (Grades 5 and up)

Jacqueline Woodson.  Hush

Twelve-year-old Toswiah finds her life changed when her family enters the witness protection program.  (Grades 7 and up)

Angela Johnson.  I Dream of Trains

The son of a sharecropper dreams of leaving Mississippi on a train with the legendary engineer Casey Jones.  (Grades PreK-2)

Natasha Anastasia Tarpley.  I Love My Hair

A young African American girl describes the different, wonderful ways she can wear her hair.  (Grades PreK-2)

Dennis Brindell Fradin and Judith Bloom Fradin.  Ida B. Wells: 

Mother of the Civil Rights Movement   The acclaimed civil rights leader Ida B. Wells (1862-1931) is brought vividly to life in this accessible and well-researched biography. Wells was a founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and she helped black women win the right to vote. But what she is most remembered for is the success of her lifelong crusade against the practice of lynching--called by some "our nation's crime"--in the American South. She fought her battle by writing and publishing countless newspaper articles and by speaking around the world.  (Grades 5 and up)

Javaka Steptoe.  In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall:  African Americans

Celebrating Fathers  A collection of poems celebrating African-American fathers by Angela Johnson, E. Ethelbert Miller, Carole Boston Weatherford, and others.  (Grades 3 and up)

Jerdine Nolan.  In My Momma's Kitchen

(Grades K-3)

Eloise Greenfield.  In the Land of Words:  New and Selected

Poems   In this collection of twenty-one poems, National Council of Teachers of English Excellence in Poetry for Children Award winner Eloise Greenfield journeys to a place where words, creativity, and imagination abound. Featuring the poems "In the Land of Words," "Books," and "Poem," as well as favorites such as "Nathaniel's Rap" and "Way Down in the Music," this tribute to the written word invites readers to look within themselves and discover what inspires them.  ( Grades 2-6)

Ralph Ellison.  Invisible Man

The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of "the Brotherhood", and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be.  (Grades 11 and up)

Charles A. Taylor.  Juneteenth:  A Celebration of Freedom

Juneteenth: A Celebration of Freedom expresses the jubilation that occurred on June 19, 1865 when African American people in Texas were the last to be freed from the horrors of US slavery, over two months after the end of the Civil War and two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.  (Grades 4-7)

Sylviane Anna Diouf.  Kings and Queens of West Africa

A survey of the historical regions and kingdoms of West Africa including biographies of Mansa Musa, Emperor of Mali (c. 1280-1337); Osei Tutu, King of Asante (c. 1660-1717); and Ndate Yalla Mbodj, Queen of Walo (c. 1810-1860).  (Grades4-7)

Mildred D. Taylor.  The Land

After the Civil War Paul, the son of a white father and a black mother, finds himself caught between the two worlds of colored folks and white folks as he pursues his dream of owning land of his own.  (Grades 6 and up)

Denise Lewis Patrick.  A Lesson for Martin Luther King Jr.

(Grades K-2)

Rita Williams-Garcia.  Like Sisters on the Homefront

Troubled fourteen-year-old Gayle is sent down South to live with her uncle and aunt, where her life begins to change as she experiences the healing power of the family.  (Grades 8 and up)

Robert Burleigh.  Lookin' for Bird in the Big City

A fictionalized account of the time when, as a teen-age music student, trumpeter Miles Davis spent many hours trying to find Charlie Parker in New York City.  (Grades 1-3)

Nathan McCall.  Makes Me Wanna Holler:  A Young Black Man in

America   In this "honest and searching look at the perils of growing up a black male in urban America" ("San Francisco Chronicle"), "Washington Post" reporter Nathan McCall tells the story of his passage from the street and the prison yard to the newsroom of one of America's most prestigious papers. (Grades 10 and up)

Walter Dean Myers.  Malcolm X:  By Any Means Necessary

A forthright and courageous account of the life of Malcolm X, militant leader in the Nation of Islam, a Muslim minister, a target of the F.B.I., and a guest of Arab princes. Discusses the complexity of this man whose life reflected the major issues of our times.  (Grades 5 and up)

Khephra Burns.  Mansa Musa

A fictional account of the nomadic wanderings of the boy who grew up to become Mali's great fourteenth-century leader, Mansa Musa.  (Grades 3-6)

Doreen Rappoport.  Martin's Big Words:  The Life of Dr. Martin

Luther King, Jr.  This picture book biography of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. brings his life and the profound nature of his message to young readers through his own words, using quotes from some of his most beloved speeches to tell his life story in a simple, direct way.  (Grades PreK-3)

Virginia Kroll.  Masai and I

Linda, a little girl who lives in the city, learns about East Africa and the Masai in school, and imagines what her life might be like if she were Masai.  (Grades 2-4)

Claire Hartfield.  Me and Uncle Romie:  A Story Inspired by the

Life and Art of Romare Bearden  A boy from North Carolina spends the summer in New York City visiting the neighborhood of Harlem, where his uncle, collage artist Romare Bearden, grew up. Includes a biographical sketch of Bearden and instructions on making a story collage.  (Grades 1-4)

Carter G. Woodson.  The Mis-Education of the Negro

Originally released in 1933, "The Mis-Education of the Negro continues to resonate today, raising questions that readers are still trying to answer. The impact of slavery on the Black psyche is explored and questions are raised about our education system, such as what and who African Americans are educated for, the difference between education and training, and which of these African Americans are receiving. Woodson provides solutions to these challenges, but these require more study, discipline, and an Afrocentric worldview.  (Grades 11 and up)

Sharon G. Flake.  Money Hungry

All thirteen-year-old Raspberry Hill can think of is making money so that she and her mother never have to worry about living on the streets again.  (Grades 7-9)

Marie Bradby.  More than Anything Else

Nine-year-old Booker works with his father and brother at the saltworks but dreams of the day when he'll be able to read.  (Grades K-3)

Richard Wright.  Native Son

Set in 1940 Chicago, "Native Son" tells the explosive story of a young poverty-stricken black man who obtains a job as a chauffeur to a wealthy white family. However, tragedy ensues when he accidentally kills his employer's daughter. Vainly trying to cover his act, the eventual discovery of his crime unleashes a savage manhunt fueled by racial hatred and the fury of a white society.  (Grades 11 and up)

Matthew A. Henson.  A Negro Explorer at the North Pole

(Grades 8 and up)

William Miller.  Night Golf

(Grades 2-4)

Polly Greenberg.  Oh Lord, I Wish I Was a Buzzard

(Grades PreK-K)

Anne Rockwell.  Only Passing Through:  The Story of Sojourner

Truth   The inspiring story of how a woman, born a slave with no status or dignity, transformed herself into one of the most powerful voices of the abolitionist movement.  (Grades 2-5)

Gwendolyn Battle-Lavert.  Papa's Mark

After his son helps him learn to write his name, Samuel T. Blow goes to the courthouse in his Southern town to cast his ballot on the first election day ever on which African Americans were allowed to vote.  (Grades 1-3)

Wade Hudson, ed.  Pass It On:  African-American Poetry for

Children   An illustrated collection of poetry by such Afro-American poets as Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni, Eloise Greenfield, and Lucille Clifton.  (Grades K-5)

Virginia Hamilton.  The People Could Fly:  American Black

Folktales   Retold Afro-American folktales of animals, fantasy, the supernatural, and desire for freedom, born of the sorrow of the slaves, but passed on in hope.  (All grades)

Maya Angelou.  Phenomenal Woman:  Four Poems Celebrating

Women   Maya Angelou is considered one of America's finest poets. Here, four of her most highly acclaimed poems are assembled in a beautiful gift edition that provides a feast for the eyes as well as the heart.  (Grades 8 and up)

Sandra Belton.  Pictures for Miss Josie

(Grades K-4)

Leo and Diane Dillon.  Rap a Tap Tap:  Here's Bojangles-Think of

That   In illustrations and rhyme describes the dancing of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, one of the most famous tap dancers of all time.  (Grades PreK-2)

John Armistead.  The Return of Gabriel

In the summer of 1964, a thirteen-year-old white boy whose best friend is black is caught in the middle when civil rights workers and Ku Klux Klan members clash in a small town near Tupelo, Mississippi.  (Grades 5-8)

William Miller.  Richard Wright and the Library Card

Based on a scene from Wright's autobiography, Black boy, in which the seventeen-year-old African-American borrows a white man's library card and devours every book as a ticket to freedom.  (Grades 2-5)

Tonya Bolden.  Rock of Ages:  A Tribute to the Black Church

A poem celebrating the role of church in the lives and history of African Americans, from the time of slavery through the struggle for civil rights to the well-established churches of today.  (Grades K-3)

Alex Haley.  Roots:  The Saga of an American Family

While Haley created certain unknown details of his family history, ROOTS is definitely based on the facts of his ancestry, and the six generations of people--slaves and freedmen, farmers and lawyers, an architect, teacher--and one acclaimed author--descended from Kunte Kinte. But with this book, Haley did more than recapture the history of his own family. He popularized genealogy for people of all races and colors; and in so doing, wrote one of the most important and beloved books of all time.  (Grades 11 and up)

James Haskins.  Separate but Not Equal:  The Dream and the

Struggle    From colonial times to present day, this book covers Black education in America.   (Grades 7 and up)

Angela Shelf Medearis.  Seven Spools of Thread:  A Kwanzaa

Story   When they are given the seemingly impossible task of turning thread into gold, the seven Ashanti brothers put aside their differences, learn to get along, and embody the principles of Kwanzaa. Includes information on Kwanzaa, West African cloth weaving, and instructions for making a belt.  (Grades 2-5)

Sharon Dennis Wyeth.  Something Beautiful

When she goes looking for "something beautiful" in her city neighborhood, a young girl finds beauty in many different forms.  (Grades 2-4)

W. E. B. DuBois.  The Souls of Black Folk

W.E.B. Du Bois was the foremost black intellectual of his time. The Souls of Black Folk (1903), his most influential work, is a collection of fourteen beautifully written essays, by turns lyrical, historical, and autobiographical. Here, Du Bois records the cruelties of racism, celebrates the strength and pride of black America, and explores the paradoxical "double-consciousness" of African-American life.  (Grades 10 and up)

William H. Armstrong.  Sounder

Angry and humiliated when his sharecropper father is jailed for stealing food for his family, a young black boy grows in courage and understanding by learning to read and through his relationship with his devoted dog Sounder.  (Grades 4-7)

Elisa Carbone.  Stealing Freedom

A novel based on the events in the life of a young slave girl from Maryland who endures all kinds of mistreatment and cruelty, including being separated from her family, but who eventually escapes to freedom in Canada.  (Grades 6-10)

Michelle Y. Green.  A Strong Right Arm:  The Story of Mamie

"Peanut" Johnson  Fueled by her passion for the game and buoyed by the inspiration of Jackie Robinson, Mamie Johnson is determined to be a professional baseball pitcher. From the time she insists on trying out for the all-male all-white Police Athletic League team until she becomes one of only three women to play in the Negro Leagues, this biography of Mamie Johnson's life shows that courage-and a fierce curveball-can make a childhood dream come true.  (Grades 4-7)

Robert D. San Souci.  Sukey and the Mermaid

Unhappy with her life at home, Sukey receives kindness and wealth from Mama Jo the mermaid.  (Grades K-3)

Trudier Harris.  Summer Snow:  Reflections from a Black

Daughter of the South  (Grades 11 and up)

Dinah Johnson.  Sunday Week

Describes the activities that a community of people engage in all week long as they wait for Sunday, the best day of all.  (Grades PreK-2)

Deborah Hopkinson.  Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt

A young slave stitches a quilt with a map pattern which guides her to freedom in the North.  (Grades K-3)

Ann Rinaldi.  Taking Liberty:  The Story of Oney Judge, George

Washington's Runaway Slave  After serving Martha Washington loyally for twenty years, Oney Judge realizes that she is just a slave and must decide if she will run away to find true freedom.  (Grades 6 and up)

Nikki Grimes.  Talkin' About Bessie

A biography of the woman who became the first licensed Afro-American pilot.  (Grades 3-6)

Mary E. Lyons.  Talking With Tebe:  Clementine Hunter, Memory

Artist   Born in northwest Louisiana in 1886. Called Tebé by her family, Hunter lived and worked on Melrose Plantation for more than 75 years. In colors as bright as the Louisiana sky, she shows the backbreaking work required to pick cotton, gather figs, cut sugar cane, and harvest pecans. Tebé's art portrays the good times, too. Scenes of baptisms, weddings, and church socials celebrate a rich community life that helped the workers survive. Hunter's work holds a special place in art history. She was the first self-taught artist to receive a fellowship from the Rosenwald Fund, in 1945, and the first self-taught African-American woman artist to receive national media attention. Between 1945 and 1987, over fifty museums and galleries showed her works. (Grades 5 and up)

Joy Jones.  Tambourine Moon

Noni is afraid as she and her grandaddy walk home, until he tells her how he met her Granma Ismay one dark night in Alabama and how the big yellow moon came to light up the sky.  (Grades K-2)

Zora Neale Hurston.  Their Eyes Were Watching God

Fair and long-legged, independent and articulate, Janie Crawford sets out to be her own person -- no mean feat for a black woman in the '30s. Janie's quest for identity takes her through three marriages and into a journey back to her roots.  (Grades 11 and up)

Chinua Achebe.  Things Fall Apart

Driven by ambition, Okonkwo works tirelessly to gain prosperity and prestige in his village. But he is harsh as well as diligent. As he sees the traditions of his people eroded by white missionaries and government officials, he lashes out in anger. "Things Fall Apart" traces the growing friction between village leaders and Europeans determined to save the heathen souls of Africa. Its hero, a noble man who is driven by destructive forces, speaks a universal language.  (Grades 10 and up)

Ruby Bridges.  Through My Eyes:  The Autobriography of Ruby

Bridges  Ruby Bridges recounts the story of her involvement, as a six-year-old, in the integration of her school in New Orleans in 1960.  (Grades 4 and up)

Julius Lester.  To Be a Slave

A compilation, selected from various sources and arranged chronologically, of the reminiscences of slaves and ex-slaves about their experiences from the leaving of Africa through the Civil War and into the early twentieth century.  (Grades 5 adn up)

Amy Littlesugar.  Tree of Hope

Florrie's daddy used to be a stage actor in Harlem before the Depression forced the Lafayette Theater to close, but he gets a chance to act again when Orson Welles reopens the theater to stage an all-black version of Macbeth.  (GradesK-3)

Harriette Gillem Robinet.  Twelve Travelers, Twenty Horses

On the way to California with their kind new master, thirteen-year-old Jacob, his mother, and other slaves are caught up in adventures that include trying to stop a plot to help the South secede from the Union.  (Grades 5-7)

Margaree King Mitchell.  Uncle Jed's Barbershop

Despite serious obstacles and setbacks Sarah Jean's Uncle Jed, the only black barber in the county, pursues his dream of saving enough money to open his own barbershop.  (Grades PreK-3)

Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard.  Virgie Goes to School With Us Boys

In the post-Civil War South, a young African American girl is determined to prove that she can go to school just like her older brothers.  (Grades 2-5)

Kathryn Lasky.  Vision of Beauty:  The Story of Sarah Breedlove

Walker   A biography of Sarah Breedlove Walker who, though born in poverty, pioneered in hair and beauty care products for black women, and became a great financial success.  (Grades 3-6)

Willie Perdomo.  Visiting Langston

A poem to celebrate the African American poet, Langston Hughes, born on February 1, 1902.  (Grades 2-4)

Christopher Paul Curtis.  The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963

The ordinary interactions and everyday routines of the Watsons, an African American family living in Flint, Michigan, are drastically changed after they go to visit Grandma in Alabama in the summer of 1963.  (Grades 4-7)

Pam Munoz Ryan.  When Marian Sang:  The True Recital of

Marian Anderson    An introduction to the life of Marian Anderson, extraordinary singer and civil rights activist, who was the first African American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera, whose life and career encouraged social change.  (Grades K-3)