Books For Kids — The 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?

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 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 kids 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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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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Books For Kids — Martin Luther King, Jr.

I Have A Dream

By Martin Luther King, Jr., Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

On August 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave one of the most powerful and memorable speeches in our nation’s history. His words, paired with Caldecott Honor winner Kadir Nelson’s magnificent paintings, make for a picture book certain to be treasured by children and adults. The themes of equality and freedom for all are not only relevant today, fifty years later, but also provide young readers with an important introduction to our nation’s past. (Audio CD included)

My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Martin Luther King, III, Illustrated by A.G.

What was it like growing up as a son of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? This picture book memoir provides insight into one of history’s most fascinating families and into a special bond between father and son. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s son gives an intimate look at the man and the father behind the civil rights leader. Mr. King’s remembrances show both his warm, loving family and a momentous time in American history.

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King

By Jean Marzollo, Illustrated by J. Brian Pinkney

This book is a beautifully rendered study of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life told in simple, straightforward language for even the youngest readers. The illustrations convey both the strength and gentleness of Dr. King’s character. This book carries his central message of peace and brotherhood among all people. 

Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Doreen Rappaport, Illustrated by Brian Collier

Doreen Rappaport weaves the immortal words of Dr. King into a captivating narrative to tell the story of his life. With stunning art by acclaimed illustrator Bryan Collier, this book is an unforgettable portrait of a man whose dream changed America.

Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.?

By Bonnie Bader, Illustrated by Nancy Harrison

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was only twenty-five when he helped organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Soon he was organizing African Americans across the country in support of desegregation, and civil rights. Maintaining nonviolent and peaceful tactics even when his life was threatened, Dr. King was also an advocate for the poor and spoke out against racial and economic injustice. 


Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song

By Andrea Davis Pinkney, Illustrated by 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. 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 stories of these two powerful voices and lives are told side-by-side — as they would one day walk — following the journey from their youth to a culmination at this historical event when they united as one. This book inspires kids to find their own voices and speak up for what is right.

Martin Luther King, Jr. and the March on Washington

By Frances E. Ruffin, Illustrated by Stephen Marchesi

On August 28, 1963, more than 250,000 people came to the nation’s Capitol. They came by plane, by bus, by car, even on roller skates, to speak out against segregation and to demand equal rights for everyone. They came to hear the words of a very special leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. This book captures the spirit of this landmark day in American history and brings Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech to life for young children.

Martin Luther King, Jr. 

By Kitson Jazynka

In this Level 2 biography, readers will learn about the fascinating life and legacy of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

The book descriptions used are primarily the publishers.

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Marian Anderson Let Freedom Sing

On Easter Sunday, April 9, 1939, Marian Anderson sang before an audience of over 75,000 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The free concert was broadcast on the radio to millions.

Marian, a child prodigy, considered to be one of the best singers of her time, sang for audiences in America and throughout Europe. She sang for President Franklin Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt at the White House and at New York City’s Carnegie Hall. But in Washington, D.C., in 1939, it was a different story.


Marian Anderson

Howard University hoped to have Marian give a concert at Constitution Hall. The sponsors of the hall, The Daughters of the American Revolution, refused. They had instituted a whites only policy. When Americans heard about the refusal, many wrote letters to newspapers in protest, and the First Lady announced her resignation from the DAR.


Marian Anderson and Eleanor Roosevelt

When Howard University then asked an all-white school to hold the concert, they refused. Where would Marian be free to sing? According to the FDR Presidential Library, Eleanor Roosevelt worked behind the scenes to insure that the concert would go on. With President Roosevelt’s approval, Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes, announced that the concert would be held in front of the Lincoln Memorial.


Marian Anderson

On that cold Easter Sunday, Marian sang in her clear, beautiful contralto voice. You can see her initial nervousness in this video and then hear her sing America.

Marian Anderson sang twice more at the Lincoln Memorial, once in 1952, and again in 1963 at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his I Have a Dream speech. Marian Anderson and Eleanor Roosevelt became good friends.

Books For Kids:


When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson

by Pam Munoz Ryan, Illustrated by Brian Selznick


Eleanor, Quiet No More

by Doreen Rapport, Illustrated By Gary Kelley

To learn more, visit the FDR Presidential Library at:

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Books To Share:



When Marian Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan


Eleanor Quiet No More: The Life of Eleanor Roosevelt by Doreen Rapport

The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton Poet

Author-Illustrator Don Tate opens his Crystal Kite Award winning book, The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton Poet with these words: “George loved words. He wanted to learn how to read, but George was enslaved.” 

Don Tate tells the story of George Moses Horton born a slave in North Carolina in the late 1700s. As a child, George listened to the words in songs and in sermons and from the Bible. And he listened to the white children on the plantation recite the alphabet, until he too, could recite it.  But George could not read. It was forbidden for slaves to learn to read.


George Moses Horton

Then, George found a spelling book and taught himself to read. And George read everything he could. It was poetry he loved to read most. So George began to write poems, memorizing them.

I feel myself in need

   Of the inspiring strains of ancient lore,

My heart to lift, my empty mind to feed,

   And all the world explore.

When he was seventeen, George became the property of his master’s son and was taken away from his family. On Sundays, George traveled eight miles to the University of North Carolina’s campus to sell the plantations’ vegetables and fruit. He recited his poetry and students there were amazed that he, a slave, had written them.

I know that I am old

   And never can recover what is past,

But for the future may some light unfold

   And soar from ages blast.

George recited his poems and they were written down by students. He began to sell them for 25 cents and sometimes for clothing. 

I feel resolved to try,

   My wish to prove, my calling to pursue,

Or mount up from the earth into the sky,

   To show what Heaven can do.

A writer and poet and professor’s wife, Caroline Lee Hentz taught George to write. Now George wrote down the poems he had created and memorized. And through her work, George became the first American slave to be published, first in the Gazette, a Massachusetts newspaper. Published work in more newspapers followed.

My genius from a boy,

   Has fluttered like a bird within my heart;

But could not thus confined her powers employ,

   Impatient to depart.

George worked out an arrangement with his master, paying him with the money he earned writing and working small jobs. This allowed George to stay at the University and work as a full-time writer. But George was still owned by his master.

She like a restless bird,

   Would spread her wing, her power to be unfurl’d,

And let her songs be loudly heard,

   And dart from world to world. — George Moses Horton, Myself

George continued to write, and in 1829 published a book of poetry The Hope Of Liberty. George became the first Southern African-American to publish a book. But George could not gain his freedom with the book’s earnings. His master would not allow it. And as the abolitionist movement grew, so did repression in the South. Although The Hope of Liberty contained anti-slavery material, George knew that now under North Carolina law, he could be severely punished if he continued to write against slavery. 


The Poetical Works of George M. Horton about “life, love, death, and friendship” was published in 1845. During the years of the American Civil War, George had to return to work on his master’s farm.  At the end of the war, as a free man, he left the farm and traveled with the 9th Michigan Cavalry Volunteers. As they traveled through North Carolina, George wrote his third poetry collection, Naked Genius, published in 1865.

George lived in Philadelphia until his death in about 1883. The poetry of George Moses Horton is in the public domain and available online.


Author-Illustrator Don Tate

Visit him at:

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Books For Kids — Kadir Nelson

Eight books by award-winning artist, author and illustrator Kadir Nelson: 

Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan In Pursuit of a Dream

by Delores Jordan and Roslyn M. Jordan,

Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

The mere mention of the name conjures up visions of basketball played at its absolute best. But as a child, Michael almost gave up on his hoop dreams, all because he feared he’d never grow tall enough to play the game that would one day make him famous. That’s when his mother and father stepped in and shared the invaluable lesson of what really goes into the making of a champion — patience, determination, and hard work. 


Ellington Was Not A Street

by Ntozake Shange, Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Noted poet Ntozake Shange recalls her childhood home and the close-knit group of innovators that often gathered there. These men of vision, brought to life in the majestic paintings of artist Kadir Nelson, lived at a time when the color of their skin dictated where they could live, what schools they could attend, and even where they could sit on a bus or in a movie theater. Yet in the face of this tremendous adversity, these dedicated souls and others like them not only demonstrated the importance of Black culture in America, but also helped issue in a movement that “changed the world.”


Heart and Soul: The Story of Americans and African Americans

by Kadir Nelson

The story of American and African Americans is a story of hope and inspiration and unwavering courage. This is the story of the men, women, and children who toiled in the hot sun picking cotton for their masters; it’s about the America ripped in two by Jim Crow laws; it’s about the brothers and sisters of all colors who rallied against those who would dare bar a child from an education. It’s a story of discrimation and broken promises, determination, and triumphs.


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.


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 when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devasted when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: He will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday — his first day of freedom.


Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom

by Carole Boston Weatherford, Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

This poetic books is a resounding tribute to Tubman’s strength, humility, and devotion. With proper reverence, Weatherford and Nelson do justice to the woman who, long ago, earned over and over the name Moses.


Abe’s Honest Words: The Life of Abraham Lincoln (Big Words)

by Doreen Rappaport, Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

From the time he was a young boy roaming the forests of the unsettled Midwest, Abraham Lincoln knew in his heart that slavery was deeply wrong. A voracious reader, Lincoln spent every spare moment of his days filling his mind with knowledge, from history to literature to mathematics, preparing himself to one day lead the country he loved toward greater equality and prosperity.

A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis

by Matt De La Pena, Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

On the eve of World War II, African-American boxer Joe Louis fought German Max Schmeling in a bout that had more at stake than just the world heavyweight title. For much of America, their fight came to represent America’s war with Germany. This elegant and powerful picture book biography centers on this historic fight in which the American people came together to celebrate our nation’s founding ideals.

Visit Kadir Nelson at:


The book descriptions used are primarily the publishers.

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Vivien Thomas Saved “Blue Babies”

In Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas, author Gwendolyn Hooks tells the story of how a former carpenter developed a life-saving medical procedure. The surgical technique allowed babies born with the condition tetralogy of Fallot, or blue baby syndrome, to live.


Vivien Thomas

Vivien Thomas was born in 1910 into a segregated American south. He dreamed of a career in medicine. Vivien saved for college working alongside his carpenter father. But when the stock market crashed in 1929, he lost his savings.

Not giving up on his dream, he interviewed for a position at the Vanderbilt University Hospital. He would work with Dr. Alfred Blalock as a surgical research technician. Vivien was not told when hired that he would receive less pay than the white research technicians. His official classification was “janitor.”

Vivien quickly learned to conduct experiments independently. He became an indispensable assistant to Dr. Blalock. The doctor was then offered the Chief of Surgery position at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He accepted only if Vivien would be his research technician.

The move to Baltimore from Nashville was difficult for Vivien and his family. They met with increased segregation. They found it difficult to rent an apartment. In her book Gwendolyn Hooks writes: “Vivien refused to let the prejudice of others interfere with his work.”


Drs. Blalock and Taussig

Dr. Helen Taussig, a pediatric cardiologist spoke to Dr. Blalock. She asked if he could devise a procedure for her young heart patients. This procedure would involve open-heart surgery. Dr. Blalock gave the assignment to Vivien.

Vivien studied the hearts of blue babies in a pathology museum. He noted the defects that prevented blue blood from entering the lungs for oxygenation. He decided that a procedure that he and Dr. Blalock had tried at Vanderbilt would be the answer.

A shunt would connect an artery from the heart with an artery going to the lungs. Vivien next made a small needle. It could be used on babies to suture the arteries. Then Vivien successfully performed the procedure on animals.


Vivien Thomas Stands On A Stool Behind Dr. Blalock

The first procedure on a baby was conducted on November 29, 1944. Vivien stood on a stool behind Dr. Blalock directing the successful operation.

Over 150 times, he stood behind Dr. Blalock. He answered the doctor’s questions while the doctor performed the operation. The procedure became known as the Blalock-Taussig shunt.

The two physicians received national and international recognition. They were nominated for a Nobel prize. But Vivien Thomas’s name was never mentioned.


Vivien Thomas’s Portrait At Johns Hopkins

It wasn’t until 1971, that Vivien Thomas was publicly recognized for his contribution to medical science. His portrait hangs in the Blalock Building at Johns Hopkins. Directly across the hall is Dr. Blalock’s portrait. Johns Hopkins University honored Vivien Thomas with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 1976.

With author Gwendolyn Hooks’s book Tiny Stitches, children can read and learn about the dedicated medical researcher. He overcame racial prejudice to save the lives of “blue babies.” Visit Gwendolyn Hooks at:


Vivien Thomas

To learn more, visit Johns Hopkins at:

Jason Wright, a future Ken Burns, narrates this wonderful video.

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