Black Heritage Picture Books

This list contains titles that celebrate African-American history and culture. Our family is an American family including my husband, Ben, and I who are white and our sons who are black and biracial. We want our home library to have plenty of books that feature stories that examine and celebrate our sons’ heritage. As our boys grow, we will introduce books with more complex and painful themes related to the history of racism in the United States.


Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears by Verna Aardema

A retelling of the African folktale with vibrant illustrations. We love the audio reading of this by James Earl Jones.

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Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe

An African folktale about two sisters, one self-centered and one servant-hearted, and a prince who decides which one will become the new princess.

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This is the Rope by Jaqueline Woodson

A beautiful book that tracks one family through three generations as they move from South Carolina to New York City. We love the audiobook.

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We Are The Ship by Kadir Nelson

This book is full of vibrant illustrations and plenty of profiles of the many black baseball players and their experiences. Excellent on audio too.

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This Jazz Man by Karen Erhardt

This lively, informative counting book takes a jazz twist on the “This Old Man” nursery rhyme. It celebrates jazz music and the skillful greats like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and others.

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Trombone Shorty by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews

This inspiring book shares the story of a young boy who grows up to play jazz music. It offers beautiful descriptions of his life as a boy in New Orleans.

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Ben’s Trumpet by Rachel Isadora

This book is about a young boy growing up in the jazz era of the 1920s who wants to play the trumpet.

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Stealing Home Jackie Robinson: Against the Odds by Robert Burleigh

A brief, poetic depiction of Jackie Robinson stealing home. Lovely, expressive illustrations. A good introduction to Robinson for younger children.

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I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley

This book shares the story of a young girl who learns to celebrate her hair’s beauty and versatility.

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Seven Candles for Kwanzaa by Andrea Davis Pinkney

This informative book describes a family celebrating Kwanzaa week. It shows how each of the seven Kwanzaa values is expressed within a loving, vibrant family.

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I Have a Dream by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., paintings by Kadir Nelson

This book shares excerpts from King’s speech which he gave August 28, 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington. Nelson’s illustrations are stunning. Book includes an audio CD of King’s speech in his voice.

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Anansi the Spider by Gerald McDermott

An adaptation of the Ashanti folktale about Anansi the spider and the six sons whose unique skills allow them to help their father when he faces danger.

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Rap a Tap Tap: Here’s Bojangles–Think of That! by Leo and Dianne Dillon

This book follows the famous tap dancer, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, as he makes his way through a city and charms everyone he passes.

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The Bat Boy and His Violin by Gavin Curtis

This story is about a young violinist and his father, the manager of the Negro League baseball team–the Dukes. The boy inspires a flailing team with his music, and the father reinforces that his love for his son won’t change and that some things are more important than winning games.

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In My Momma’s Kitchen by Jerdine Nolen

This book is comprised of vignettes that center around one woman’s kitchen. It portrays scenes of an African-American family in each season of the year. It is heartfelt, light-hearted, and shows the value of family bonds.

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