Review: Choosing Brave : How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement

Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement by Angela Joy and Janelle Washington is a stunning picture book biography that captures a difficult lesson in American history for young readers in a remarkably age-appropriate way. Choosing Brave follows the life of Mamie Till-Mobley, who was the mother of Emmett Till. Emmett Till was a young Black boy who was murdered after he allegedly whistled at a white woman in Mississippi in 1955. Mamie Till-Mobley’s response to this tragedy ignited the Civil Rights Movement and caused her to become The Mother of The Movement.

Title: Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and
Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement

Author: Angela Joy
Illustrator: Janelle Washington
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan Kids)
Published: September 6, 2022
Format: Picture Book

Choosing Brave documents Mamie’s childhood in which her family moved from Mississippi to Illinois during the Great Migration and follows along as she excels at school and graduates at the top of her class. Mamie becomes what many considered an “old maid” when she is unmarried at 18, so she is pressured to marry Louis Till. They have a little boy named Emmett shortly before Louis joins the army and leaves Mamie a widow at the age of 23.

Emmett is raised by Mamie and her mother, who cares for him while Mamie works. When he contracted polio as a child, Emmett recovered but developed a stutter. Mamie taught him a trick to help – by whistling, Emmett could take a moment to stop and get the words out. When he was 14, Emmett Till traveled to visit family in Mississippi, where his body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River a little over a week after he arrived.

Since 1955, there have been many versions of the events that lead to the murder of Emmett Till. As someone who writes non-fiction, I know the challenges this kind of historical ambiguity can create for authors, but Angela Joy handles it flawlessly. She addresses the shifting story, but holds fast to the facts.

Even more impressive to me is the way that Choosing Brave handles the murder of Emmett Till in an age-appropriate way. When I say age-appropriate, I don’t mean that it is skipped over or minimized in any way. Angela Joy does not shy away from the brutality and injustice of Emmett Till’s murder, but directly addresses horrible truths that are too often left out of history books with poetic text. The juxtaposition of the beautiful lyrical language with the horrible act of violence is absolutely haunting.

The illustrations by debut illustrator Janelle Washington are absolute perfection. The paper-cut illustrations are so unique and incredibly moving on every single spread.

Choosing Brave captures the bravery, resilience, and grace of Mamie Till-Mobley, who shared her unimaginable grief and pain with the world. She bared her soul to the country and turned a tragedy into a movement for change. I have a feeling this book is going to win a lot of awards this year, and I cannot recommend it enough.

With extensive backmatter, including an author’s note, illustrator’s note, soundtrack, glossary, and timeline of the events of Emmett Till’s death (including the passing of The Emmett Till Antilynching Act in 2022) Choosing Brave is an absolute must-have for classrooms. I believe this is especially true for the classrooms of white children whose ancestors’ brutality and hatred are so often hidden from them “for their own good”.

It will be officially released next week (September 6, 2022), but you can preorder today wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Thank you so much to Roaring Brooks Press and Macmillan Kids for sending me a review copy of Choosing Brave. I am honored to share Mamie Till-Mobley’s and Emmett Till’s stories today.

About The Author:

Before graduating from the University of Minnesota, Angela Joy attended NYU and Spelman College. Angela then traveled as a background vocalist, also working in television and movie soundtracks. She lives in southern California with her family. To learn more about Angela and her work please visit her website at angelajoyblog.com.

About The Illustrator:

Janelle Washington is a self-taught paper-cut artist from Virginia. She has permanent silhouettes housed at the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, DC, and Downing-Gross Community Arts Center in Newport News, Virginia. Please visit Jannelle’s website washingtoncuts.com for more information about her and her work.

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Review: The Faith Of Elijah Cummings (PLUS GIVEAWAY!)

For the last day of Black History Month, I want to share another picture book biography celebrating the life of an icon of Black History. The Faith of Elijah Cummings: The North Star of Equal Justice by Carole Boston Weatherford and Laura Freeman shares the inspiring life story of Elijah Cummings.

Title: The Faith of Elijah Cummings: The North Star of Equal Justice
Author: Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrator: Laura Freeman
Publisher: Random House Kids
Published: January 11, 2022
Format: Picture Book

Beginning with his childhood in South Carolina as a child of sharecroppers, young readers follow Elijah’s journey all the way to the U.S. House of Representatives and the Congressional Black Caucus. Growing up in America in the 50’s, Elijah Cummings was no stranger to discrimination, segregation, or racism, and this picture book does not shy away from those subjects. Instead, Carole Boston Weatherford beautifully highlights Elijah Cumming’s faith and the way it allowed him to persevere and become a warrior for equality and change.

Laura Freeman’s illustrations pair perfectly with Weatherford’s text and bring Elijah’s story to life with every page turn. Fans of Standing on Her Shoulders and The Highest Tribute will be happy to see the familiar way she captures emotion in the faces of her subjects.

As Carole Boston Weatherford’s titles always do, The Faith of Elijah Cummings includes a wonderful backmatter. The timeline and excerpt from the Congressional Black Caucus would make a great addition to history lessons. The Faith of Elijah Cummings is a must have for school and classroom libraries!

You can purchase your copy of The Faith of Elijah Cummings today, wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Thank you so much to Blue Slip Media and Random House Kids for sending me a review copy of this powerful book. I am honored to share Elijah Cummings’ story with readers today.

About The Author:

Carole Boston Weatherford, a two-time NAACP Image Award winner, is the author of the Newbery Honor Book Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom, as well as three Caldecott Honor Books, including Freedom in Congo Square and Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom. She also wrote Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins. Born in Baltimore, she first encountered Elijah Cummings when he was president of the Monumental City Bar Association, an affiliate of the National Bar Association, for which she was publicist. Weatherford teaches at Fayetteville State University, in North Carolina.

About The Illustrator:

Laura Freeman is a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honoree. Her work has been recognized with an NAACP Image Award, reached the New York Times bestseller List, and been honored by the Society of Illustrators, the Georgia Center for the Book, and in the annuals for Communication Arts and American Illustration. In addition to illustrating books, Laura’s art can be found on a wide range of products, from dishes and textiles to greeting cards, and her editorial images are frequently seen in the New York Times and other periodicals. She invites you to visit her website, LFreemanArt.com, to discover more about her.


I am excited to announce that I am giving away a copy of The Faith of Elijah Cummings, along with a copy of Opal Lee and What it Means to be Free by Alice Faye Duncan and Keturah A. Bobo and My First Heroes: Black History by Silver Dolphin Books to help you bring Black history into your reading year round! You can find all the entry details on the Rafflecopter giveaway.

This giveaway is open to US residents only. One lucky winner will be notified via email on March 8, 2022. Good luck and happy reading!

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Review: Ablaze With Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas

Today I want to share another picture book biography with you all, because you know they’re my favorites. Following the life of Alma Thomas, the first Black woman to have her work added to the White House Collection, Ablaze With Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas by Jeanne Walker Harvey and Loveis Wise is a wonderful selection for both Black History Month and Women’s History Month.

Title: Ablaze With Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas
Author: Jeanne Walker Harvey
Illustrator: Loveis Wise
Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s
Published: February 22, 2022
Format: Picture Book

Beginning with Alma’s childhood in Georgia, where her family filled their home with creativity despite the racism they faced, Ablaze With Color follows her story through her successful career as an educator, all the way to the day her art was hung in the Old Family Dining Room of The White House. This stunning picture book biography is a celebration of Alma Thomas’ art, and the beauty and joy she brought to the world.

The illustrations by Loveis Wise perfectly capture that beauty and joy. The vibrant colors on every page mirror Alma’s signature style and bring her remarkable story to life.

With substantial backmatter, including an Author’s Note, Illustrator’s Note, and timeline, Ablaze With Color is a must-have for the shelves of classrooms and school libraries.

Ablaze With Color officially released yesterday (February 22, 2022), so you can pick up your copy wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Many thanks to Blue Slip Media and Harper Collins Children’s for sharing a review copy of Ablaze With Color with me. I am so honored to learn about Alma Thomas and share her story today.

About The Author:

Jeanne Walker Harvey has been a longtime docent at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Just like Alma Thomas, Jeanne believes that art brings us joy. Her other picture books include Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines and My Hands Sing the BluesRomare Bearden’s Childhood Journey. Jeanne studied literature and psychology at Stanford University. She lives in Northern California. Visit her online at www.jeanneharvey.com.

About The Illustrator:

Loveis Wise is a nonbinary illustrator and designer from Washington, DC, now based in Los Angeles. They have collaborated and imagined with clients such as the New Yorkerthe New York Times, HarperCollins, Google, Disney Hyperion, and Adobe, to name a few. Their work often speaks to themes of joy, mindfulness, and liberation. 

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Review: Opal Lee and What It Means To Be Free

If you’re looking for a picture book biography to celebrate Black History Month, I have a great selection for you today. Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth by Alice Faye Duncan and Keturah A. Bobo is a beautiful picture book celebrating Opal Lee, a teacher and civil rights activist who led a movement to make Juneteenth a national holiday.

Title: Opal Lee and What it Means To Be Free
Author: Alice Faye Duncan
Illustrator: Keturah A. Bobo
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Published: January 11, 2022
Format: Picture Book

In Opal Lee and What it Means to Be Free, young readers follow along as Miss Opal Lee shares a Juneteenth story. Beginning with the history of Juneteenth, she recounts the stories passed down to her about June 19, 1865, when the enslaved people of Galveston, Texas were finally informed of their freedom two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was passed. Miss Opal Lee shares stories of Juneteenths from her childhood during the Jim Crow era, including the Juneteenth when her family’s Texas home was burned down by angry, racist neighbors.

Even through the discussion of the struggles faced by Black people throughout history, Alice Faye Duncan does a beautiful job of highlighting the joys in Opal Lee’s life and the celebration of freedom that Juneteenth is. As Miss Opal Lee says, “Good and bad work together like the sun and rain.”, and that balance is found throughout the entire book.

The illustrations by New York Times bestselling illustrator Keturah A. Bobo do not disappoint. She brings Opal Lee’s story to life on every page with her familiar style.

The backmatter contains a recipe for Juneteenth Red Punch, a timeline detailing the journey to Juneteenth being signed into law as a federal holiday by Joe Biden (With a 94 year old Opal Lee by his side), and detailed information about Opal Lee’s life, making it a great selection for classrooms, school libraries, and homeschoolers.

You can find your copy of Opal Lee and What it Means to Be Free where books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Thank you so much to Thomas Nelson for sharing this inspiring book with me. I am honored to be able to share Miss Opal Lee’s story with everyone today!

Abouth The Author:

Alice Faye Duncan is a National Board Certified Teacher, who writes for young learners. Memory is her motivation. She writes to help children remember important moments from African American history. Her books are celebrated for vivid imagery and lyrical texts that sound like music. Alice’s most popular titles include A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks; Just Like a Mama; Honey Baby Sugar Child; and Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop, which received a 2019 Coretta Scott King Honor Medal. Alice lives in Memphis, Tennessee, where at a young age, her mother nurtured her writing talent with prayer, poetry books, and praise. Her website is http://www.alicefayeduncan.com.

About The Illustrator:

Keturah A. Bobo is an artist and New York Times bestselling illustrator known for creating vibrant images that are relatable and distinguishable. She is passionate about creating art that inspires, uplifts, and advocates for her community. Keturah has received notable praises for her colorful illustrative style that brings the story to life and resonates with the viewer. She graduated with a BFA from Columbus College of Art and Design and lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her family of entrepreneurs. Visit Keturah online at http://www.keturahariel.com.

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Review: All Star: How Larry Doby Smashed the Color Barrier in Baseball

We all know that Jackie Robinson was the first Black major league baseball player, but how much do you know about the second? All Star: How Larry Doby Smashed the Color Barrier in Baseball by Audrey Vernick and Cannaday Chapman introduces young readers to the man who joined the major leagues just eleven weeks after Jackie Robinson.

Title: All Star: How Larry Doby Smashed the Color Barrier in Baseball
Author: Audrey Vernick
Illustrator: Cannaday Chapman
Publisher: Clarion Books
Published: January 4, 2021
Format: Picture Book

Beginning with his childhood in Camden, South Carolina, All Star follows Larry Doby all the way to the day he helped his team win the World Series with a game-winning home run in 1948. Highlighting the changes we’ve seen since Larry Doby’s career as well as the changes we fight for today, All Star doesn’t shy away from the racism found in America and it’s favorite pastime. From detailing Larry’s first day in the dugout to pointing out the racism of Cleveland’s team name and logo in the author’s note, All Star eloquently addresses progress with young readers, inspiring them to continue changing things for the better.

Cannaday Chapman’s powerful artwork pairs perfectly with Audrey Vernick’s text. The illustrations are filled with emotion and brings Larry Doby’s story to life on every single page.

The back matter contains an author’s note with more detail about Larry’s life, a bibliography, and the iconic photo of Larry Doby and pitcher Steve Gromek embracing after their World Series victory, making this a fantastic educational resource for classroom and school libraries.

All Star officially releases tomorrow (January 4, 2021), but you can preorder your copy today wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you.)

Thank you so much to Clarion Books for providing me with a review copy of All Star: How Larry Doby Smashed the Color Barrier in Baseball. I am honored to share Larry’s story on Mutually Inclusive.

About The Author:

Audrey Vernick is author of several novels and many picture books, including Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team. She lives with her family near the ocean in New Jersey. Visit her online at audreyvernick.com and on Twitter @yourbuffalo.

About The Illustrator:

Cannaday Chapman is the illustrator of the picture book biographies All-Star: How Larry Doby Smashed the Color Barrier in Baseball and Feed Your Mind: The Story of August Wilson, and his work has been featured in the New York Times and on the cover of The New Yorker. He was born in upstate New York and studied illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, and he currently lives and works in Berlin, Germany.

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Flashback Friday – The Teachers March: How Selma’s Teachers Changed History

Today marks the 65th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, and I can’t think of a better title to share for Flashback Friday than The Teachers March: How Selma’s Teachers Changed History by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace. Originally released in September 2020, this picture book shares the story of Reverend F. D. Reese and the 1965 Selma Teachers’ March.

Title: The Teachers March: How Selma’s Teachers Changed History
Author: Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace
Illustrator: Charly Palmer
Publisher: Calkin’s Creek
Published: September 29, 2020
Format: Picture Book

Reverend F. D. Reese was a science teacher at R. B. Hudson High School who encouraged 104 Selma, Alabama teachers to march from the school to the county courthouse to demand the right to register to vote. The Teachers March follows his journey, along with the other teachers who were often seen as “respectable” members of society who had “better sense than to march”. The teachers were afraid they would lose their jobs or be arrested if they spoke up, but with the help of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Reverend F. D. Reese convinced the teachers that the vote was worth fighting for and organized the Teachers March of 1965.

The teachers of R. B. Hudson High School were not granted the right to register to vote on that January day in 1965, but they did inspire others to march, including beauticians, barbers, undertakers, and even their own students. That summer, with Selma jails filled with thousands of citizens who demanded the right to vote, including many schoolchildren, the Voting Rights Act was passed.

Though The Voting Rights Act was passed back in 1965, voting rights are still under attack today. Since 2013, The US has seen a rise in voter suppression laws, including discriminatory voter ID requirements, polling place closures, blocking access to voting by mail, and even a law that prohibits providing water to voters waiting in line. It is imperative to share the stories of how freedoms were won with children today so they can understand what is at stake. When my son learns of the voter suppression that is taking place in this country, I want him to know that it is a direct affront to the thousands of men and women who put their jobs, bodies, and lives on the line to stand up for “freedom and justice for all”. The Teachers March is a wonderful resource to help him make that connection.

Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace carefully detail the events of the march, and do not omit the “uglier” truths of injustice faced by Black citizens in the sixties. They highlight the fact that teachers taught their students the Constitution every day, though they were not granted the freedoms promised in it. They do not shy away from the rage, hatred, and violence faced by the protestors who were demanding equality.

The backmatter provides both an Authors’ note and Illustrator’s Note. The Authors’ note provides further detail on several teachers who participated in the March, highlighting their lives after the march. I especially appreciated the Illustrator’s Note from Charly Palmer. In this note, he shares that he hired a photographer to restage images from the Teachers March, which he used as his source material. I found the idea so creative, and it clearly worked! The illustrations instantly take readers to that day in 1965, proving an authentic atmosphere for the story.

I am ashamed to admit that I never heard of Reverend F. D. Reese until I read The Teachers March. As a child in an Alabama public school, I was required to take Alabama History in the fourth grade. Regretfully, I did not learn about the Teachers March of 1965 or Reverend Reese back then. This is a prime example of the need to explore an accurate and inclusive history lesson in our classrooms today. The Teachers March fills a gap left in many textbooks, and is an absolute must have for the classroom.

You can find a copy of The Teachers March wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)

Thank you so much to Boyds Mills & Kane for providing me with a review copy of this amazing book. I am so thrilled to have the opportunity to share it with the children in my life, ensuring they know more about the history of the state they live in than I did at their age.

About The Authors:

Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace are award-winning writers of nonfiction titles including First Generation: 36 Trailblazing Immigrants and Refugees Who Make America Great and Blood Brother: Jonathan Daniels and His Sacrifice for Civil Rights, which won the International Literacy Association’s Social Justice Award and a YALSA Award nomination for Excellence in Nonfiction. Sandra’s picture-book biography Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery is the NCTE 2019 Orbis Pictus winner for Outstanding Nonfiction. You can find them online at sandraneilwallace.com and richwallacebooks.com.

About The Illustrator:

Charly Palmer is an award-winning graphic designer and illustrator. He also teaches design, illustration, and painting, most recently at Spelman College. His two recent picture books are There’s a Dragon in My Closet and Mama Africa, which won the 2018 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award. Please visit Charly online at www.charlypalmer.com.

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Your Life Matters – A Validating Picture Book For Black Children

I am so honored to be able to share Your Life Matters with you all today. This beautiful picture book is an empowering reminder for Black children that their lives matter. No matter what they see on TV or social media, no matter what whispers they overhear, no matter the shouts that may be directed at them, Your Life Matters communicates the message all Black children need to hear. They are seen, and they matter.

Written by Chris Singleton, who lost his mother in the 2015 Charleston church shooting, this book encourages young readers to persevere through racial adversity by validating their very existence. Each page features a famous Black hero mentoring a child and encouraging them use their heart, voice, courage, and strength to follow their dreams.

As well as uplifting Black children, Your Life Matters is a great resource to discuss race with non-Black children. The honest depiction of Black children’s experiences provide an age-appropriate example to use in conversations about race, highlighting the way their experiences may differ from that of their Black friends or classmates..

I loved the illustrations by Taylor Barron and the way they bring a bright atmosphere to such a serious topic.

The back matter also contains short biographies for young readers who would like to learn more about the Black heroes listed, such as Maya Angelou, Barack Obama, and Katherine Johnson.

Your Life Matters is published by Bushel & Peck Books, who has an amazing “book-for-book promise”. Bushel & Peck Books donates one book to a child in need for every book they sell. You can even nominate a school or organization to receive donations at their website bushelandpeckbooks.com.

Your Life Matters officially releases next week (March 9, 2021), but you can preorder it today on Bookshop and Amazon. You can also purchase your copy directly from Bushel & Peck Books. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and continue bringing content to you. Your support is always appreciated!)

Chris Singleton is a former professional baseball player and inspirational speaker who travels the country speaking to students. You can learn more about him and his work at his website chrissingleton.com.

Taylor Barron is an artist based in Paris, France. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at taylorbarron.com.

I would like to thank Bushel & Peck Books for kindly providing a review copy of Your Life Matters. I am truly honored to be able to share this beautiful book with such an important message.

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Opening The Road: Victor Hugo Green and His Green Book

As we enter the second week of Black History Month, I want to share Opening The Road by Keila Dawson with you all.

This inspiring picture book biography details Victor Hugo Green’s creation and distribution of The Negro Motorist Green Book, or as most people call it today, The Green Book.

In the late 1930’s, Black Americans were not guaranteed safe travel throughout the United States. Segregation barred Black motorist’s access to establishments like gas stations, rest areas, or hotels. The high number of “sundown towns”, all white communities that excluded non-white individuals after dark though intimidating and often violent tactics, made it dangerous for Black Americans to travel long distances.

Inspired by a Jewish newspaper, Victor Hugo Green, a US Postal Service worker in Harlem, decided to write a book to help Black travelers find safe options. The Green Book allowed trips to be planned with hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and many other businesses that welcomed Black customers. This travel guide became an invaluable resource for Black Americans throughout the country, and it flew off shelves, eventually selling over two million copies.

I love that the illustrations by Alleanna Harris bring life not just to Victor’s story, but also to the stories of many Black families who were able to safely enjoy family vacations.

Victor’s story highlights the resilience Black Americans have shown amid the countless obstacles facing them throughout our nation’s history. In the face of enormous challenges like segregation and racism, Victor, Alma, and all of Victor’s Postal service friends found a way to distribute vital information throughout the country, allowing numerous travelers safe passage.

The back of the book contains a fantastic author’s note that includes more historical detail, context around why The Green Book is relevant to conversations about safety in Black communities today, and information on current projects inspired by The Green Book, as well as a timeline.

You can purchase a copy of Opening The Road wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: These are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and continue bringing content to you. Your support is always appreciated!)

Keila Dawson is an author, editor, and former teacher based in Cincinnati, OH. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at keiladawson.com.

Alleanna Harris is an artist and illustrator based in New Jersey. To learn more about her and her work, please visit her website at alleannaharris.com.

I would like to thank Beaming Books for sending me a review copy of this amazing book. I am so grateful to be able to share Victor Hugo Green’s story.

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28 Picture Books For Black History Month

Today marks the beginning of Black History Month, and I want to share a list of 28 books to read this month (one for every day) that both celebrate and educate about Black History.

Black History Month has its roots in America all the way back to 1926, when historian Carter G. Woodson created “Negro History Week”. This celebration eventually evolved into Black History Month, a month dedicated to recognizing the historical people and events that were all too often left out of the history books.

I have to be honest with you all, this is one of the hardest lists I’ve ever had to write. I really struggled, not because of the subject matter or the holiday itself, but because 28 books just isn’t enough. Narrowing the entire Black experience down to one list is simply an impossible task.

Though there are obviously many more stories to be heard, I tried to include a variety of books from different periods of history that will speak to a variety of young readers with varied interests. I also tried to include historical figures that many people may not have heard of yet.

So, without further ado, here are my choices for Black History Month.

The ABC’s of Black History by Rio Cortez, Illustrated by Lauren Semmer (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Letter by letter, The ABCs of Black History celebrates a story that spans continents and centuries, triumph and heartbreak, creativity and joy.

It’s a story of big ideas––P is for Power, S is for Science and Soul. Of significant moments––G is for Great Migration. Of iconic figures––H is for Zora Neale Hurston, X is for Malcom X. It’s an ABC book like no other, and a story of hope and love.

In addition to rhyming text, the book includes back matter with information on the events, places, and people mentioned in the poem, from Mae Jemison to W. E. B. Du Bois, Fannie Lou Hamer to Sam Cooke, and the Little Rock Nine to DJ Kool Herc.”

Little Leaders: Bold Women In Black History by Vashti Harrison (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Featuring 40 trailblazing black women in American history, Little Leaders educates and inspires as it relates true stories of breaking boundaries and achieving beyond expectations. Illuminating narration paired with irresistible illustrations bring to life both iconic and lesser-known female figures of Black history such as abolitionist Sojourner Truth, pilot Bessie Coleman, chemist Alice Ball, politician Shirley Chisholm, mathematician Katherine Johnson, poet Maya Angelou, and filmmaker Julie Dash.

Among these biographies, readers will find heroes, role models, and everyday women who did extraordinary things – bold women whose actions and beliefs contributed to making the world better for generations of girls and women to come. Whether they were putting pen to paper, soaring through the air, or speaking up for the rights of others, the women profiled here were all taking a stand against a world that didn’t always accept them.

The leaders in this book may be little, but they all did something big and amazing, inspiring generations to come.”

Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History by Vashti Harrison (Bookshop | Amazon)

“An important book for readers of all ages, this beautifully illustrated and engagingly written volume brings to life true stories of black men in history. Among these biographies, readers will find aviators and artists, politicians and pop stars, athletes and activists. The exceptional men featured include writer James Baldwin, artist Aaron Douglas, filmmaker Oscar Devereaux Micheaux, lawman Bass Reeves, civil rights leader John Lewis, dancer Alvin Ailey, and musician Prince.

The legends in Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History span centuries and continents, but each one has blazed a trail for generations to come.”

Overground Railroad by Lesa Cline-Ransome, Illustrated by James Ransome (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Climbing aboard the New York bound Silver Meteor train, Ruth Ellen embarks upon a journey toward a new life up North– one she can’t begin to imagine. Stop by stop, the perceptive young narrator tells her journey in poems, leaving behind the cotton fields and distant Blue Ridge mountains.

Each leg of the trip brings new revelations as scenes out the window of folks working in fields give way to the Delaware River, the curtain that separates the colored car is removed, and glimpses of the freedom and opportunity the family hopes to find come into view. As they travel, Ruth Ellen reads from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, reflecting on how her journey mirrors her own– until finally the train arrives at its last stop, New York’s Penn Station, and the family heads out into a night filled with bright lights, glimmering stars, and new possiblity.

James Ransome’s mixed-media illustrations are full of bold color and texture, bringing Ruth Ellen’s journey to life, from sprawling cotton fields to cramped train cars, the wary glances of other passengers and the dark forest through which Frederick Douglass traveled towards freedom. Overground Railroad is, as Lesa notes, a story “of people who were running from and running to at the same time,” and it’s a story that will stay with readers long after the final pages.”

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 by Alice Faye Duncan, Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Bookshop | Amazon)

“This picture book tells the story of a nine-year-old girl who in 1968 witnessed the Memphis sanitation strike – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final stand for justice before his assassination – when her father, a sanitation worker, participated in the protest.

In February 1968, two African American sanitation workers were killed by unsafe equipment in Memphis, Tennessee. Outraged at the city’s refusal to recognize a labor union that would fight for higher pay and safer working conditions, sanitation workers went on strike. The strike lasted two months, during which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was called to help with the protests. While his presence was greatly inspiring to the community, this unfortunately would be his last stand for justice. He was assassinated in his Memphis hotel the day after delivering his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” sermon in Mason Temple Church. Inspired by the memories of a teacher who participated in the strike as a child, author Alice Faye Duncan reveals the story of the Memphis sanitation strike from the perspective of a young girl with a riveting combination of poetry and prose.”

What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?: The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan by Chris Barton, Illustrated by Ekua Holmes (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Even as a child growing up in the Fifth Ward of Houston, Texas, Barbara Jordan stood out for her big, bold, booming, crisp, clear, confident voice. It was a voice that made people sit up, stand up, and take notice.

So what do you do with a voice like that?

Barbara took her voice to places few African American women had been in the 1960s: first law school, then the Texas state senate, then up to the United States congress. Throughout her career, she persevered through adversity to give voice to the voiceless and to fight for civil rights, equality, and justice.

New York Times bestselling author Chris Barton and Caldecott Honoree Ekua Holmes deliver a remarkable picture book biography about a woman whose struggles and mission continue to inspire today.”

Gordon Parks: How The Photographer Captured Black and White America by Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by Jamey Christoph (Bookshop | Amazon)

“His white teacher tells her all-black class, You’ll all wind up porters and waiters. What did she know? Gordon Parks is most famous for being the first black director in Hollywood. But before he made movies and wrote books, he was a poor African American looking for work. When he bought a camera, his life changed forever. He taught himself how to take pictures and before long, people noticed. His success as a fashion photographer landed him a job working for the government. In Washington DC, Gordon went looking for a subject, but what he found was segregation. He and others were treated differently because of the color of their skin. Gordon wanted to take a stand against the racism he observed. With his camera in hand, he found a way. Told through lyrical verse and atmospheric art, this is the story of how, with a single photograph, a self-taught artist got America to take notice.”

The Power Of Her Pen: The Story Of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne by Lesa Cline-Ransome, Illustrated by John Parra (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Ethel Payne always had an ear for stories. Seeking truth, justice, and equality, Ethel followed stories from her school newspaper in Chicago to Japan during World War II. It even led her to the White House briefing room, where she broke barriers as the only black female journalist. Ethel wasn’t afraid to ask the tough questions of presidents, elected officials, or anyone else in charge, earning her the title, “First Lady of the Black Press.”

Fearless and determined, Ethel Payne shined a light on the darkest moments in history, and her ear for stories sought answers to the questions that mattered most in the fight for Civil Rights.”

One Step Further: My Story of Math, the Moon, and a Lifelong Mission by Katherine Johnson, Joylette Hylick, and Katherine Moore, Illustrated by Charlene Pinkney Barlowe (Bookshop | Amazon)

“This inspirational picture book reveals what is was like for a young black mother of three to navigate the difficult world of the 1950s and 60s and to succeed in an unwelcoming industry to become one of the now legendary “hidden figures” of NASA computing and space research.

Johnson”s own empowering narrative is complemented by the recollections of her two daughters about their mother”s work and insights about how she illuminated their paths, including one daughter”s fight for civil rights and another”s journey to become a NASA mathematician herself. The narrative gracefully weaves together Johnson”s personal story, her influence on her daughters” formative years, her and her daughters” fight for civil rights, and her lasting impact on NASA and space exploration. Filled with personal reflections, exclusive family archival photos, and striking illustrations, readers will be immersed in this deeply personal portrayal of female empowerment, women in STEM, and the breaking down of race barriers across generations. Historical notes, photo/illustration notes, and a time line put the story into historical and modern-day context.

The inspirational tale of Johnson”s perseverance is both intimate and global, showcasing the drive of each generation to push one step further than the last. With its evocative family album-style format and novel approach to storytelling, One Step Further is sure to inspire the next generation of rising stars.”

Let The Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson, Illustrated by Frank Morrison (Bookshop | Amazon)

I couldn’t play on the same playground as the white kids.
I couldn’t go to their schools.
I couldn’t drink from their water fountains.
There were so many things I couldn’t do.


In 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, thousands of African American children volunteered to march for their civil rights after hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak. They protested the laws that kept black people separate from white people. Facing fear, hate, and danger, these children used their voices to change the world. Frank Morrison’s emotive oil-on-canvas paintings bring this historical event to life, while Monica Clark-Robinson’s moving and poetic words document this remarkable time.”

In The Garden With Dr. Carver by Susan Grigsby, Illustrated by Nicole Tagdell (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Sally is a young girl living in rural Alabama in the early 1900s, a time when people were struggling to grow food in soil that had been depleted by years of cotton production. One day, Dr. George Washington Carver shows up to help the grown-ups with their farms and the children with their school garden. He teaches them how to restore the soil and respect the balance of nature. He even prepares a delicious lunch made of plants, including “chicken” made from peanuts. And Sally never forgets the lessons this wise man leaves in her heart and mind. Susan Grigsby’s warm story shines new light on a Black scientist who was ahead of his time.”

Song in a Rainstorm: The Story of Musical Prodigy Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins by Glenda Armand, Illustrated by Brittany Jackson (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Born blind into a life of slavery, Thomas Wiggins was dismissed as a “useless burden.” But through the loving protection of his family, he went on to become one of the greatest musicians of his time. From Tom’s childhood on a plantation to his performances in the concert halls of Europe, Glenda Armand shares the beautiful and at times heartbreaking story of a long-overlooked musical great, the love that supported him, and the struggle for freedom.”

You can also read my full review of Song In A Rainstorm for more detail.

Harlem’s Little Blackbird by Renee Watson, Illustrated by Christian Robinson (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Born to parents who were both former slaves, Florence Mills knew at an early age that she loved to sing, and that her sweet, bird-like voice, resonated with those who heard her. Performing catapulted her all the way to the stages of 1920s Broadway where she inspired everyone from songwriters to playwrights. Yet with all her success, she knew firsthand how prejudice shaped her world and the world of those around her. As a result, Florence chose to support and promote works by her fellow black performers while heralding a call for their civil rights. Featuring a moving text and colorful illustrations, Harlem’s Little Blackbird is a timeless story about justice, equality, and the importance of following one’s heart and dreams.”

Playing to Win: How Althea Gibson Broke Barriers and Changed Tennis Forever by Karen Deans, Illustrated by Elbrite Brown (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Although stars like Serena Williams cite Althea Gibson as an inspiration, Gibson’s story is not well-known to many young people today. Growing up tough and rebellious in Harlem, Althea took that fighting attitude and used it to go after her goals of being a tennis champion, and a time when tennis was a game played mostly by wealthy white people in country clubs that excluded African Americans.

In 1956, she became the first Black American to win a major championship when she won at The French Open. When she won the celebrated Wimbledon tournament the following year, Gibson shook hands with the Queen of England. Not bad for a kid from the streets of Harlem.

With determination and undeniable skill, Althea Gibson become a barrier-breaking, record-setting, and world-famous sportswoman. This new and updated edition of this inspirational biography contains recent information on the impact of Gibson’s legacy.”

Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome, Illustrated by James Ransome (Bookshop | Amazon)

“We know her today as Harriet Tubman, but in her lifetime she was called by many names. As General Tubman she was a Union spy. As Moses she led hundreds to freedom on the Underground Railroad. As Minty she was a slave whose spirit could not be broken. As Araminta she was a young girl whose father showed her the stars and the first steps on the path to freedom.

This lush, lyrical biography in verse begins with a glimpse of Harriet Tubman as an old woman, and travels back in time through the many roles she played through her life: spy, liberator, suffragist and more. Illustrated by James Ransome, whose paintings for The Creation won a Coretta Scott King medal, this is a riveting introduction to an American hero.”

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, Illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Originally performed for ESPN’s The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present. Robust back matter at the end provides valuable historical context and additional detail for those wishing to learn more.”

We Are The Supremes by Zoë Tucker, Illustrated by Salini Perera (Bookshop | Amazon)

“This inspiring picture book tells the story of the friendship between Flo, Mary, and Diana, and how by supporting each other they overcame hardship to become international superstars.

It’s 1960, and Flo, Mary, and Diana are three friends with big ambitions. They want to be superstars! But 1960s America was not the easiest place for young black girls from the projects to make it big. They audition for the new Motown Records label, but the manager says NO. Not to be put off, the girls try again, and this time, they succeed. They become…The Supremes!

They travel the world, singing hit after hit. Of course they have falling outs, like all friends do, but with a shared dream to keep their friendship strong, they became the USA’s most successful vocal group ever.”

You can also read my full review of We Are The Supremes for more detail.

The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage by Selina Alko, Illustrated by Sean Qualls (Bookshop | Amazon)

“For most children these days it would come as a great shock to know that before 1967, they could not marry a person of a race different from their own. That was the year that the Supreme Court issued its decision in Loving v. Virginia.

This is the story of one brave family: Mildred Loving, Richard Perry Loving, and their three children. It is the story of how Mildred and Richard fell in love, and got married in Washington, D.C. But when they moved back to their hometown in Virginia, they were arrested (in dramatic fashion) for violating that state’s laws against interracial marriage. The Lovings refused to allow their children to get the message that their parents’ love was wrong and so they fought the unfair law, taking their case all the way to the Supreme Court – and won!”

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Bookshop | Amazon)

“In the 1930s, Lewis’s dad, Lewis Michaux Sr., had an itch he needed to scratch―a book itch. How to scratch it? He started a bookstore in Harlem and named it the National Memorial African Bookstore.

And as far as Lewis Michaux Jr. could tell, his father’s bookstore was one of a kind. People from all over came to visit the store, even famous people―Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, and Langston Hughes, to name a few. In his father’s bookstore people bought and read books, and they also learned from each other. People swapped and traded ideas and talked about how things could change. They came together here all because of his father’s book itch. Read the story of how Lewis Michaux Sr. and his bookstore fostered new ideas and helped people stand up for what they believed in.”

Patricia’s Vision: The Doctor Who Saved Sight by Michelle Lord, Illustrated by Alleanna Harris (Bookshop | Amazon)

“The inspiring story of Dr. Patricia Bath, a groundbreaking ophthalmologist who pioneered laser surgery—and gave her patients the gift of sight.

Born in the 1940s, Patricia Bath dreamed of being an ophthalmologist at a time when becoming a doctor wasn’t a career option for most women—especially African-American women. This empowering biography follows Dr. Bath in her quest to save and restore sight to the blind, and her decision to “choose miracles” when everyone else had given up hope. Along the way, she cofounded the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, invented a specialized laser for removing cataracts, and became the first African-American woman doctor to receive a medical patent.”

Freedom In Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Bookshop | Amazon)

“This poetic, nonfiction story about a little-known piece of African American history captures a human’s capacity to find hope and joy in difficult circumstances and demonstrates how New Orleans’ Congo Square was truly freedom’s heart.

Mondays, there were hogs to slop,

mules to train, and logs to chop.

Slavery was no ways fair.

Six more days to Congo Square.

As slaves relentlessly toiled in an unjust system in 19th century Louisiana, they all counted down the days until Sunday, when at least for half a day they were briefly able to congregate in Congo Square in New Orleans. Here they were free to set up an open market, sing, dance, and play music. They were free to forget their cares, their struggles, and their oppression. This story chronicles slaves’ duties each day, from chopping logs on Mondays to baking bread on Wednesdays to plucking hens on Saturday, and builds to the freedom of Sundays and the special experience of an afternoon spent in Congo Square. This book includes a forward from Freddi Williams Evans (freddievans.com), a historian and Congo Square expert, as well as a glossary of terms with pronunciations and definitions.”

A Ride to Remember: A Civil Rights Story by Sharon Langley and Amy Nathan, Illustrated by Floyd Cooper (Bookshop | Amazon)

“A Ride to Remember tells how a community came together—both black and white—to make a change. When Sharon Langley was born in the early 1960s, many amusement parks were segregated, and African-American families were not allowed entry. This book reveals how in the summer of 1963, due to demonstrations and public protests, the Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Maryland became desegregated and opened to all for the first time. Co-author Sharon Langley was the first African-American child to ride the carousel. This was on the same day of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Langley’s ride to remember demonstrated the possibilities of King’s dream. This book includes photos of Sharon on the carousel, authors’ notes, a timeline, and a bibliography.”

When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill, Illustrated by Theodore Taylor III (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Before there was hip hop, there was DJ Kool Herc.

On a hot day at the end of summer in 1973 Cindy Campbell threw a back-to-school party at a park in the South Bronx. Her brother, Clive Campbell, spun the records. He had a new way of playing the music to make the breaks―the musical interludes between verses―longer for dancing. He called himself DJ Kool Herc and this is When the Beat Was Born. From his childhood in Jamaica to his youth in the Bronx, Laban Carrick Hill’s book tells how Kool Herc came to be a DJ, how kids in gangs stopped fighting in order to breakdance, and how the music he invented went on to define a culture and transform the world.”

Opal’s Greenwood Oasis by Quraysh Ali Lansana and Najah-Amatullah Hylton, Illustrated by Skip Hill (Bookshop | Amazon)

“The year is 1921, and Opal Brown would like to show you around her beautiful neighborhood of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Filled with busy stores and happy families, Opal also wants you to know that “everyone looks like me.”

In both words and illustrations, this carefully researched and historically accurate book allows children to experience the joys and success of Greenwood, one of the most prosperous Black communities of the early 20th Century, an area Booker T. Washington dubbed America’s Black Wall Street.

Soon after the day narrated by Opal, Greenwood would be lost in the Tulsa Race Massacre, the worst act of racial violence in American history. As we approach the centennial of that tragic event, children have the opportunity through this book to learn and celebrate all that was built in Greenwood.”

You can also read my full review of Opal’s Greenwood Oasis for more detail.

Lift as You Climb: The Story of Ella Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell, Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Bookshop | Amazon)

““What do you hope to accomplish?” asked Ella Baker’s granddaddy when she was still a child.
Her mother provided the answer: “Lift as you climb.”

Long before the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, Ella Baker worked to lift others up by fighting racial injustice and empowering poor African Americans to stand up for their rights. Her dedication and grassroots work in many communities made her a valuable ally for leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and she has been ranked as one of the most influential women in the civil rights movement. In the 1960s she worked to register voters and organize sit-ins, and she became a teacher and mentor to many young activists.

Caldecott Honor winner R. Gregory Christie’s powerful pictures pair with Patricia Hruby Powell’s poignant words to paint a vivid portrait of the fight for the freedom of the human spirit.”

Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks by Suzanne Slade, Illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Gwendolyn Brooks (1917–2000) is known for her poems about “real life.” She wrote about love, loneliness, family, and poverty—showing readers how just about anything could become a beautiful poem. Exquisite follows Gwendolyn from early girlhood into her adult life, showcasing her desire to write poetry from a very young age. This picture-book biography explores the intersections of race, gender, and the ubiquitous poverty of the Great Depression—all with a lyrical touch worthy of the subject. Gwendolyn Brooks was the first Black person to win the Pulitzer Prize, receiving the award for poetry in 1950. And in 1958, she was named the poet laureate of Illinois. A bold artist who from a very young age dared to dream, Brooks will inspire young readers to create poetry from their own lives.”

Sugar Hill: Harlem’s Historic Neighborhood by Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Bookshop | Amazon)

“Take a walk through Harlem’s Sugar Hill and meet all the amazing people who made this neighborhood legendary. With upbeat rhyming, read-aloud text, Sugar Hill celebrates the Harlem neighborhood that successful African Americans first called home during the 1920s. Children raised in Sugar Hill not only looked up to these achievers but also experienced art and culture at home, at church, and in the community. Books, music lessons, and art classes expanded their horizons beyond the narrow limits of segregation. Includes brief biographies of jazz greats Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Sonny Rollins, and Miles Davis; artists Aaron Douglas and Faith Ringgold; entertainers Lena Horne and the Nicholas Brothers; writer Zora Neale Hurston; civil rights leader W. E. B. DuBois and lawyer Thurgood Marshall.”

Kamala Harris: Rooted In Justice by Nikki Grimes, Illustrated by Laura Freeman (Bookshop | Amazon)

“When Kamala Harris was young, she often accompanied her parents to civil rights marches—so many, in fact, that when her mother asked a frustrated Kamala what she wanted, the young girl responded with: “Freedom!”

As Kamala grew from a small girl in Oakland to a senator running for president, it was this long-fostered belief in freedom and justice for all people that shaped her into the inspiring figure she is today. From fighting for the use of a soccer field in middle school to fighting for the people of her home state in Congress, Senator Harris used her voice to speak up for what she believed in and for those who were otherwise unheard. And now this dedication has led her all the way to being elected Vice President of the United States.

Told in Nikki Grimes’s stunning verse and featuring gorgeous illustrations by Laura Freeman, this picture book biography brings to life a story that shows all young people that the American dream can belong to all of us if we fight for one another.”

I hope you all enjoyed the list, and maybe even found a few places or people that are new to you or your young readers.

What are your favorite books to read and share for Black History Month? Be sure to share any favorites I missed in the comments below!

If you are someone who only reads books about or by Black folks during Black History Month, I want to encourage you to read like every month is Black History Month. I hope you will use this list as a starting point, because there are thousands of other amazing titles that are not included in this list, but are great books to read in any month.

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