Books For Kids: Frederick Douglass

Words Set Me Free: The Story of Young Frederick Douglass

By Lesa Cline-Ransome, Illustrated by James E. Ransome

This picture book biography chronicles the youth of Frederick Douglass, one of the most prominent African American figures in American history. Douglass spent his life advocating for the equality of all, and it was through reading that he was able to stand up for himself and others. This is a moving and captivating look at the young life of the inspirational man who said, “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.”

Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History

By Walter Dean Myers, Illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Frederick Douglass was a self-educated slave in the South who grew up to become an icon. He was a leader of the abolitionist movement, a celebrated writer, an esteemed speaker, and a social reformer, proving that, as he said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

Who Was Frederick Douglass

By April Jones Prince, Illustrated by Robert Squier

Born into slavery in Maryland in 1818, Frederick Douglass was determined to gain freedom. Once he realized that knowledge was power, he secretly learned to read and write to give himself an advantage. After escaping to the North in 1838, as a free man he gave powerful speeches about his experience as a slave. He was so impressive that he became a friend of President Abraham Lincoln.

Frederick Douglass: The Last Day of Slavery

By William Miller, Illustrated by Cedric Lucas

Born into slavery, young Frederick Douglass dreams of the day he and his people will be free. Yet until that day, his only escape is through the books he reads. They take him to worlds far from his own. When a menacing overseer named Covey sees that Frederick is different from the other slaves, he sets out to “break” him. But Frederick’s surprising response to Covey’s brutality is an act of courage that frees forever what no person can hold captive: his spirit. 

Frederick Douglass Abolitionist Hero

By George E. Stanley, Illustrated by Meryl Henderson

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery. He was separated from his family when he was young. He worked day and night and was beaten for no other reason than the color of his skin. How could anyone ever overcome such overwhelming odds? But Frederick eventually became a famous abolitionist, author, statesman, and reformer. He triumphed over impossible obstacles and paved the way for others to achieve freedom.

Frederick Douglass: National Geographic Readers

By Barbara Kramer

Discover the world of one of America’s most celebrated abolitionists, writers, and orators and learn about his life, achievements, and the challenges he faced along the way.

Frederick Douglass (True Books)

By Josh Gregory

Born into slavery, Frederick Douglass knew from an early age that all people deserved freedom. Discover how he secretly educated himself and taught fellow slaves how to read. And how he escaped to freedom and became one of the nation’s most persuasive voices for abolition.

Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglas

By Dean Robbins, Illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Aiko

Two friends, Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass get together for tea and conversation. They recount their similar stories fighting to win rights for women and African Americans. This story is inspired by a statue in their hometown of Rochester, New York, which shows the two friends having tea.

The book descriptions used are primarily from the publishers.

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Books For Kids: Coretta Scott King

Coretta Scott

By Ntozake Shange, Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Walking many miles to school in the dusty road, young Coretta Scott knew the unfairness of life in the segregated south. A yearning for equality began to grow. Together with Martin Luther King, Jr., she gave birth to a vision of change through nonviolent protest. It was the beginning of a journey with dreams of freedom for all. 4-8 years

Coretta Scott King: First Lady of Civil Rights

By George E. Stanley, Illustrated by Meryl Henderson

Coretta Scott King is well known for being the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and for her own civil rights and world peace activism. She also received many awards and honorary degrees. But before she did all of those impressive things, Coretta was a strong little girl who could out climb anyone in her neighborhood, was very close to her dad, and had a beautiful singing voice. Coretta learned that if you work hard enough, your dreams can come true. 8-12 years

Who Was Coretta Scott King

By Gail Herman, Illustrated by Gregory Copeland

Growing up in Alabama, Coretta Scott King graduated valedictorian from her high school before becoming one of the first African American students at Antioch College in Ohio. It was there that she became politically active and joined the local chapter of the NAACP. After her marriage to Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta took part in the Civil Rights Movement. Following her husband’s assassination in 1968, she assumed leadership of the movement. 8-12 years

Coretta Scott King: Dare to Dream

By Angela Shelf Medearis, Illustrated by Anna Rich

From her childhood encounters with discrimination to her activism as an adult, Coretta Scott King dreamed of finding a place where people were treated equally. This biography tells the story of how she came to stand up against prejudice and violence during the African American Civil Rights Movement. 8-12 years

Women Who Broke the Rules: Coretta Scott King

By Kathleen Krull, Illustrated by Laura Freeman

Coretta Scott King, the wife of civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., established her own career in activism. She took part in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, worked to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and founded the Center for Nonviolent Change. She dedicated her life to fighting for civil rights. 6-9 years

A Book To Share With Kids:

My Life, My Love, My Legacy

By Coretta Scott King and Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds

Coretta’s is a love story, a family saga, and the memoir of an extraordinary black woman in 20th century America. She was a brave leader, who, in the face of hatred, stood committed, proud, forgiving, nonviolent, and hopeful every day of her life. 

The book descriptions used are primarily from the publishers. Although I have added the age ranges that the publishers used, these books can be for all children and adults too. 

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Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman is the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad. Born into slavery about 1822, in Maryland, she escaped from the Brodess Farm in 1849, and traveled undetected to Philadelphia in the free state of Pennsylvania.

One of nine children, her parents named her Araminta and called her Minty. At age five or six she was “hired out” to a nearby family to care for their baby. Minty watched over the baby and if it cried, Minty was whipped. As a child she was hit with a metal object meant for another slave. She was severely wounded and suffered from seizures and headaches for the rest of her life. But she recovered from her injury and was able to work on the farm. She plowed, hauled logs, and drove oxen. When Minty married John Tubman around 1844, she changed her name to Harriet, her mother’s name. 

Slave Notice Published by Eliza Brodess

In 1849, Edward Brodess, her owner died. Harriet believed that she and members of her family would be sold by his widow, Eliza. Harriet and her brothers Ben and Harry slipped away. Because they had been “hired out,” Eliza Brodess did not learn of their escape right away. She published a runaway slave notice two weeks later. But Ben and Harry soon changed their minds and returned home. They convinced Harriet to return with them. Shortly after, she escaped again and made her way to freedom by night with the help of abolitionists and freed slaves on the Underground Railroad.

“When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields and I felt like I was in heaven.”

Harriet Tubman (left) and  Former Slaves She Helped Rescue

Once a free woman, Harriet decided to return to Maryland to help family members and other slaves travel to freedom. She returned thirteen times in about ten years and guided 70 slaves north.* Harriet guided the people she helped at night. She liked to travel in the winter months when the days were shorter. And Harriet knew that if she left on Saturday nights, the runaway slave notices wouldn’t be printed in the newspapers until Monday. Harriet worked as a conductor on the Underground Railroad by leading escaping slaves through a network of safe houses. She earned the nickname “Moses of her people” by guiding slaves safely to northern states and Canada. 

A Woodcut of Harriet Tubman Dressed in Her Civil War Clothing

In 1860, at the start of the Civil War, Harriet became a scout, spy, and a nurse for the Union Army. She helped lead a raid on South Carolina plantations that liberated over 700 slaves.

Harriet Tubman in 1910

When the war ended, Harriet moved to Auburn, New York. She cared for her aging parents, whom she had helped to escape north, and other people who needed her help. She later became part of the suffrage movement and spoke publicly for women’s right to vote. Harriet died of pneumonia in 1913, an American hero. 

“I never ran my train off the track and never lost a passenger.” — Harriet Tubman

All photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

*Recent research gives the numbers as thirteen trips, 70 slaves, and disputes earlier figures.

You may like: Books for Kids — Underground Railroad

Books For Kids About Harriet Tubman:

Before She Was Harriet

By Lesa Cline-Ransome, Illustrated by James E. Ransome

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom

By Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Who Was Harriet Tubman?

By Yona Zeldis McDonough, Illustrated by Who HQ

Escape North! The Story of Harriet Tubman

By Monica Kulling, Illustrated by Teresa Flavin

Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman

By Alan Schroeder, Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney


Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad

by Ann Petry


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Books For Kids: Civil Rights Movement

If You Were a Kid in the Civil Rights Movement

By Gwendolyn Hooks, Illustrated by Kelly Kennedy

Joyce Jenkins has recently moved to a new town with her family. She will soon be attending a segregated school for the first time. Connie Underwood is trying to figure out what her twin brothers are planning in secret. The two girls find themselves in the middle of a civil rights demonstration. The fight for equality will the country forever. 

Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins

By Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue

There were signs all throughout town telling eight-year-old Connie where she could and could not go. But when Connie sees four young men take a stand for equal rights at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, she realizes that things may soon change. This event sparks a movement throughout her town and region. And while Connie is too young to march or give a speech, she helps her brother and sister make signs for the cause. Changes are coming to Connie’s town, but Connie just wants to be able to sit at the lunch counter and eat a banana split like everyone else.

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks,

A Young Civil Rights Activist

By Cynthia Levinson, Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Nine-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks intended to go places and do things like anybody else. So when she heard grown-ups talk about wiping out Birmingham’s segregation laws, she spoke up. As she listened to the preacher’s words, smooth as glass, she sat up tall. And when she heard the plan: picket those white stores, march to protest those unfair laws, and fill the jails — she stepped right up and said, “I’ll do it. Audrey Faye Hendricks was confident and bold and brave as can be. Hers is the remarkable and inspiring story of one child’s role in the Civil Rights Movement. 

Child of the Civil Rights Movement

By Paula Young Shelton, Illustrated by Raul Colon

Paula Young Shelton, daughter of Civil Rights activist, Andrew Young, brings a child’s unique perspective to an important chapter in America’s history. Paula grew up in the deep south, in a world where whites had and blacks did not. With an activist father and a community of leaders surrounding her, including Uncle Martin (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,) Paula watched and listened to the struggles. She eventually joined with her family, and thousands of others, in the historic march from Selma to Montgomery.

Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation

By Andrea Davis Pinkney, Illustrated by Brian Pinkney

Rosa Parks took a stand by keeping her seat on the bus. When she was arrested, her supporters protested by refusing to ride. Soon a community of thousands came together to help each other. Some started taxi services, some rode bikes, but many walked. After 382 days, they walked Jim Crow laws right out of town. Boycott Blues presents a poignant, blues-infused tribute to the men and women of the Montgomery bus boycott who refused to give up until they got justice.

Freedom Summer

By Deborah Wiles, Illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue

Joe and John Henry are a lot alike. They both like shooting marbles, they both want to be firemen, and they both love to swim. But there’s one important way they’re different, Joe is white and John Henry is black. In the South in 1964, John Henry isn’t allowed to do everything his best friend is. Then a law is passed that forbids segregation. The town pool opens to everyone. Joe and John Henry are so excited they race each other to the pool, only to discover that it takes more than a new law to change people’s hearts.

We March

By Shane W. Evans

On August 26, 1963, a remarkable event took place. More than 250,000 people gathered in our nation’s capital to participate in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The march began at the Washington Memorial and ended with a rally at the Lincoln Memorial, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech. The thrill of this day is brought to life in We March, even for the youngest reader. 

A Sweet Smell of Roses

By Angela Johnson, Illustrated by Eric Velazquez

There’s a sweet smell in the air as two young girls sneak out of their house, down the street, and across town to where men and women are gathered, ready to march for freedom and justice. A Sweet Smell of Roses is inspired by countless children and young adults who took a stand and participated in the Civil Rights Movement. 

The book descriptions used are primarily the publishers.

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Other posts you may like:

Books For Kids: Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mahalia Jackson’s Words Changed History


Books For Kids — Underground Railroad

What Was the Underground Railroad?

by Yona Zeldis McDonough, Illustrated by Lauren Mortimer

No one knows where the term Underground Railroad came from–there were no trains or tracks, only “conductors” who helped escaping slaves to freedom. Including real stories about “passengers” on the “Railroad,” this book chronicles slaves’ close calls with bounty hunters, exhausting struggles on the road, and what they sacrificed for freedom. 

Eliza’s Freedom Road: An Underground Railroad Diary

By Jerdine Nolan, Illustrated by Shadra Strickland

It is 1852 in Alexandria, Virginia. Eliza’s mother has been sent away. It is Abbey, the cook, who looks after Eliza, when Eliza isn’t taking care of the Mistress. Eliza has the quilt her mother left her. And the memory of the stories she told her to keep her close. The Mistress’s health begins to fail. Eliza overhears the Master talk of her being traded. She takes to the night.

She follows the path and the words of the farmhand Old Joe, “ … travel the night … sleep the day. Go East. Your back to the set of the sun until you come to the safe house where the candlelight lights the window.” All the while, Eliza recites the stories her mother taught her along her Freedom Road from Maryland to St. Catherine’s, Canada.

Freedom’s a-Callin’ Me

By Ntozake Shange, Illustrated by Rod Brown

Fleeing on the Underground Railroad meant walking long distances. Swimming across streams. Hiding in abandoned shanties, swamps, and ditches. And always on the run from slave trackers and their dogs. 

The Underground Railroad operated on secrecy and trust. But who could be trusted? There were free black and white men and women helping. They risked their lives too. Because freedom was worth the risk. 

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad

By Ellen Levine, Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Henry Brown doesn’t know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves’ birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom. But that dream seems farther away than ever. He is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. 

Henry grows up and marries. But he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows what he must do. He will mail himself to the North in a crate. After a long journey, Henry finally has a birthday. It’s his first day of freedom.

The Patchwork Path: A Quilt Map to Freedom

By Bettye Stroud, Illustrated by Erin Susanne Bennett 

Hannah’s papa has decided to make the run for freedom. Her patchwork quilt is not just a precious memento of Mama. It’s a series of hidden clues that will guide them along the Underground Railroad to Canada. 


by Henry Cole

A farm girl discovers a runaway slave hiding in the barn. She is at once startled and frightened. But the stranger’s fearful eyes weigh upon her conscience. She must make a difficult choice. Will she have the courage to help him?

Under the Quilt of Night

by Deborah Hopkinson, Illustrated by James E. Ransome

A runaway slave girl spies a quilt hanging outside a house. The quilt’s center is a striking deep blue. This is a sign that the people inside will help her. But can she navigate the Underground Railroad? Can she lead her family to freedom?

You may also like Harriet Tubman

The book descriptions used are primarily the publishers.

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Books For Kids — Jazz


By Walter Dean Myers

Illustrated by Christopher Myers

There’s a crazy syncopation/and it’s tearing through the nation/and it’s bringing sweet elation/to every single tune. It’s Jazz. From bebop to New Orleans, from ragtime to boogie, and every style in between, this collection of Walter Dean Myers’s energetic and engaging poems takes readers on a musical journey from jazz’s beginnings to the present day.

Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald

by Roxane Orgill, Illustrated by Sean Qualls

When Ella Fitzgerald danced the Lindy Hop on the streets of 1930s Yonkers, people passing by said goodbye to their loose change. For a girl who was orphaned and hungry, with raggedy clothes and often no place to spend the night, small change was not enough. One amateur night at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, Ella made a discovery: the dancing beat in her feet could travel up and out of her mouth in powerful song — and the feeling of being listened to was like a salve to her heart.

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

By Katheryn Russell-Brown

Illustrated by Frank Morrison

Melba Doretta Liston loved the sounds of music from as far back as she could remember. As a child she daydreamed about beats and lyrics, and hummed along with the music from her family’s Majestic radio. At the age of seven, Melba fell in love with a big, shiny trombone, and soon taught herself to play the instrument. By the time she was a teenager, Melba’s extraordinary gift for music led her to the world of jazz. She joined a band led by trumpet player, Gerald Wilson, toured the country, and became famous.

Trombone Shorty

By Troy Andrews, Illustrated by Bryan Collier

Hailing from the Treme neighborhood in New Orleans, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews got his nickname by wielding a trombone twice as long as he was tall. A prodigy, he was leading his own band by age six, and today he headlines the legendary New Orleans Jazz Fest.

Before John Was a Jazz Giant:

A Song of John Coltrane

By Carol Boston Weatherford

Illustrated by Sean Qualls

Young John Coltrane was all ears. And there was a lot to hear growing up in the South in the 1930s. There were preachers praying, music on the radio, and the bustling sounds of the household. These vivid noises shaped John’s own sound as a musician. This picture book is a rich hymn to the childhood of jazz legend John Coltrane.

Who Was Louis Armstrong?

By Yona Zeldis McDonough

Illustrated by John O’Brien

If not for a stint in reform school, young Louis Armstrong might never have become a musician. A teacher at Colored Waifs Home gave him a cornet, promoted him to band leader, and recognized talent in this tough kid from the even tougher New Orleans neighborhood of Storyville. It was Louis’s own passion and genius that pushed jazz into new and exciting realms.

This Jazz Man

By Karen Ehrhardt, Illustrated by R.G. Roth

SNAP! BOMP! BEEDLE-DI-BOP! In this toe-tapping jazz tribute, the traditional “This Old Man” gets a swinging makeover, and some of the era’s best musicians take center stage. The tuneful text and vibrant illustrations bop, slide, and shimmy across the page as Satchmo plays one, Bojangeles plays two…right on down the line to Charles Mingus, who plays nine, plucking the strings that sound divine.

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

By Patricia Hruby Powell

Illustrated by Christian Robinson

Josephine Baker worked her way up from the slums of St. Louis to the grandest stages in the world. Her powerful story is one of struggle and triumph and is an inspiration.

How Jelly Roll Morton Invented Jazz

By Jonah Winter, Illustrated by Keith Mallett

This unusual and inventive picture book riffs on the language and rhythms of old New Orleans and turns its focus to one of America’s early jazz heroes, Jelly Roll Morton.

The book descriptions used are primarily from the publishers.

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Lincoln and Kennedy: A Pair to Compare

Gene Barretta asks in his book Lincoln and Kennedy: A Pair to Compare: “How much could these two presidents have in common?” The answer is: an amazing amount.

100 Years Apart

Abraham Lincoln was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1846. He was nominated to be a vice-presidential candidate in 1856. And he was elected president in 1860.

John F. Kennedy was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1946. He was nominated to be a vice-presidential candidate in 1956. And he was elected president in 1960.

Their vice-presidents were born one hundred years apart. Lincoln’s (second v.p) in 1808 and Kennedy’s in 1908.

Lincoln defeated Stephen A. Douglas born in 1813 and Kennedy defeated Richard M. Nixon born in 1913 in their respective presidential bids.


Lincoln’s secretary was Mrs. Kennedy and Kennedy’s secretary was Mrs. Lincoln.

Lincoln’s second vice-president was Andrew Johnson. Kennedy’s vice-president was Lyndon B. Johnson. 

Civil Rights

Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation giving freedom to slaves living in the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Kennedy proposed civil rights laws to end segregation and discrimination of African-Americans. He gave a speech in 1963, a few months before his death, outlining these laws. Kennedy’s successor, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.


Both presidents were assassinated on a Friday shortly before a major holiday — Lincoln before Easter and Kennedy before Thanksgiving.

We know the two assassins by three names: John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln’s assassin, and Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy’s assassin.

Booth shot Lincoln in a theater. He was captured in a barn that served as a warehouse storing tobacco. Oswald shot Kennedy from a warehouse, The Texas Book Depository. He was captured in a theater. Both men were killed soon after the assassinations.

Lincoln and Kennedy: A Pair to Compare has many more examples comparing these two great presidents.

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Books For Kids — Jackie Robinson

Who Was Jackie Robinson?

By Gail Herman, Illustrated by John O’Brien

As a kid, Jackie Robinson loved sports. And why not? He was a natural at football, basketball, and, of course, baseball. But beyond athletic skill, it was his strength of character that secured his place in sports history. In 1947, Jackie joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking the long-time color barrier in Major League Baseball. It was tough being the first, not only did “fans” send hate mail but some of his own teammates refused to accept him.

Stealing Home

Jackie Robinson Against All Odds

By Robert Burleigh and Mike Wimmer

Man on third. Two outs. The pitcher eyes the base runner, checks for the signs. The fans in the jammed stadium hold their breath. Flapping his outstretched arms like wings, number 42 leads off again. It is September 1955, game one of the World Series, the Yankees versus the Dodgers, and Jackie Robinson is about to do the unbelievable, attempt to steal home in a World Series game. Is it possible? Yes, it is, if you are Jackie Robinson.

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson

By Bette Bao Lord

Shirley Temple Wong sails from China to America with a heart full of dreams. Her new home is Brooklyn, New York. America is indeed a land full of wonders, but Shirley doesn’t know any English so it’s hard to make friends. Then a miracle happens: baseball! It’s 1947 and Jackie Robinson star of the Brooklyn Dodgers is everyone’s hero. He proves that a black man, the grandson of a slave, can make a difference in America. By watching Jackie, Shirley begins to truly feel at home in her new country, and that America really is the land of opportunity — both on and off the field.

The Hero Two Doors Down:

Based on the True Story of Friendship Between a Boy and a Baseball Legend

By Sharon Robinson

Eight year old Stephen Satlow lives in Brooklyn, New York, which means he only cares about one thing, the Dodgers. Steve hears a rumor that an African-America family is moving to his neighborhood. It’s 1948, and some of his neighbors are against it. Steve knows this is wrong. His hero, Jackie Robinson, broke the color barrier in baseball the year before. And as it turns out, Steve’s new neighbor is Jackie Robinson. Written by Jackie Robinson’s daughter Sharon.

Jackie Robinson He Led the Way

By April Jones Prince

Illustrated by Robert Casilla

Jackie Robinson became the first black Major League Baseball player of the modern era when he stepped onto the field as a Brooklyn Dodger in 1947. This book follows Jackie from childhood through his career as an award winning baseball player and a hero of the civil rights movement.

When Jackie and Hank Met

by Cathy Goldberg Fishman

Illustrated by Mark Elliott

Jackie Robinson and Hank Greenberg were two very different people. But they both became Major League Baseball players and they both faced a lot of the same challenges in their lives and careers. For Jackie, it was his skin color, for Hank, his religion. On May 17, 1947, these two men met for the first time colliding at first base in a close play. While the crowd urged them to fight, Jackie and Hank chose a different path. This is the story of two men who went on to break the barriers of race and religion in America sports and became baseball legends in the process.


by Peter Golenbock, Illustrated by Paul Bacon

This is the moving story of how Jackie Robinson became the first black player on a Major League baseball team when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1940s, and how on a fateful day in Cincinnati, Pee Wee Reese took a stand and declared Jackie his teammate. 

I am Jackie Robinson

By Brad Meltzer

Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos

Jackie Robinson always loved sports, especially baseball. But he lived at a time before the Civil Rights Movement. Even though Jackie was a great athlete, he wasn’t allowed on the best teams just because of the color of his skin. Jackie knew that sports were best when everyone, of every color, played together. He became the first black player in Major League Baseball, and his bravery changed history and led the way to equality in all American sports.

The book descriptions used are primarily from the publishers.

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Henry “Box” Brown and the Underground Railroad

Henry’s Freedom Box

A True Story from the Underground Railroad

Author Ellen Levine and illustrator Kadir Nelson bring Henry “Box” Brown’s amazing story to life in Henry’s Freedom Box.

One of the most famous slaves on the Underground Railroad didn’t travel by foot. Henry Brown, with the help of two friends, mailed himself from Richmond, Virginia, to Philadelphia. The wooden box he traveled in measured only 3 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 2 feet, 8 inches deep.

Henry Brown began his life as a slave in Louisa Country, Virginia in about 1815.  In Henry’s Freedom Box, author Ellen Levine writes these words: Henry and his brothers and sisters worked in the big house where the master lived. Henry’s master had been good to Henry and his family. But Henry’s mother knew things could change. “Do you see those leaves blowing in the wind? They are torn from the trees like slave children are torn from their families.”

At age 15, his master gave Henry to his son. From then on, Henry worked in a tobacco factory away from his family.

Henry married Nancy, a slave owned by a different master. One day, Henry watched as pregnant Nancy and their three children were led away, sold to a North Carolina plantation. Henry knew he would never see them again.

With the loss of Nancy and their children, Henry decided to escape slavery and make his way to a free state. Henry devised a dangerous plan. He would travel by steamboat, train, and wagon in a wooden box. Henry asked his friend, a free black, James Smith, and Dr. Samuel Smith, a white man who opposed slavery, to help him.

On March 23, 1849, Henry was nailed shut in the box with only biscuits, some water, and a tool, called a gimlet, to make air holes. Dr. Smith shipped Henry to The Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Society. He wrote on the box: “This Side Up With Care” hoping to keep Henry right side up during the trip. But Henry spent part of the trip upside down with blood rushing to his head. Once, Henry thought he would die that way, until two men on the steamboat moved Henry’s box and sat on top. Lucky for Henry the move put him right side up again. 

Henry was delivered to the Anti-Slavery Society safely after spending 27 hours inside the box. Four men opened the wooden box and welcomed Henry to freedom. Newspapers reported Henry’s story and he became known around the world as Henry “Box” Brown, a free man. 

Books About The Underground Railroad For Kids:

What Was the Underground Railroad?

by Yona Zeldis McDonough

Unspoken: A Story From the Underground Railroad

by Henry Cole

The Patchwork Path: A Quilt Map to Freedom

By Bettye Stroud, Illustrated by Erin Susanne Bennett

Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt

by Deborah Hopkinson, Illustrated by James Ransome


To Learn More About Henry “Box” Brown, Visit:

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Books For Kids — Andrea Davis Pinkney

Eight books by award winning children’s author, Andrea Davis Pinkney.

Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride

Andrea Davis Pinkney and Illustrator Brian Pinkney

Born into slavery, Belle had to endure the cruelty of several masters before she escaped to freedom. But she knew she wouldn’t really be free unless she was helping to end injustice. That’s when she changed her name to Sojourner and began traveling across the country, demanding equal rights for black people and for women. Many people weren’t ready for her message, but Sojourner was brave and her truth was powerful. And slowly, but surely as Sojourner’s step-stomp stride, America began to change.

Martin and Mahalia His Words, Her Song

Andrea Davis Pinkney and Illustrator Brian Pinkney

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and his strong voice and powerful message were joined and lifted in song by world-renowned gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. It was a moment that changed the course of history and is imprinted in minds forever. 

The Red Pencil

Andrea Davis Pinkney and Illustrator Shane W. Evans

Life in Amira’s peaceful Sudanese village is shattered when Janjaweed attackers arrive, unleashing unspeakable horrors. After losing nearly everything, Amira needs to find the strength to make the long journey on foot to safety at a refugee camp. She begins to lose hope, until the gift of a simple red pencil opens her mind — and all kinds of possibilities.

Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters

Andrea Davis Pinkney and Illustrator Stephen Alcorn

Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus and sparked a boycott that changed America. Harriet Tubman helped more than three hundred slaves escape the South on the Underground Railroad. Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

The lives these women led are part of an incredible story about courage in the face of oppression; about the challenges and triumphs of the battle for civil rights; and about speaking out for what you believe in — even when it feels like no one is listening.

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down

Andrea Davis Pinkney and Illustrator Brian Pinkney

This picture book celebrates the momentous Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in, when four college students staged a peaceful protest that became a defining moment in the struggle for racial equality and the growing civil rights movement. 

Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America

Andrea Davis Pinkney and Illustrator Brian Pinkney

Hand in Hand presents the stories of ten men from different eras in American history, organized chronologically to provide a scope from slavery to modern day. Profiles of: Benjamin Banneker, Frederick Douglas, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B DuBois, A. Phillip Randolph, Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Barack H. Obama II.

Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound

Andrea Davis Pinkney

Berry Gordy began Motown in 1959 with an $800 loan from his family. He converted the garage of a residential house into a studio and recruited teenagers from the neighborhood, including: Smokey Robinson, Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Diana Ross, to sing for his new label. The country was on the brink of a cultural revolution, and one of the most powerful agents of change in the following decade would be this group of young black performers from urban Detroit.

A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the 

Creation of The Snowy Day

Andrea Davis Pinkney

and Illustrators Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher

The story of The Snowy Day begins more than one hundred years ago, when Ezra Jack Keats was born in Brooklyn, New York. The family were struggling Polish immigrants. Despite Keats’ obvious talent, his father worried that Ezra’s dream of being an artist was an unrealistic one. But Ezra was determined. For more than two decades, Ezra had kept pinned to his wall a series of photographs of an adorable African American child. In Keats’ hands, the boy morphed into Peter, a boy in a red snowsuit, out enjoying the pristine snow. The book became The Snowy Day, the first mainstream book to feature an African American child.

Andrea Davis Pinkney

The book descriptions used are primarily the publishers.

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