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18 Biographies, Picture Books & Graphic Novels for Kids that are Perfect for Black History Month

Celebrate Black achievement, innovation, and history during Black History Month! Our collection of picture books bring alive the stories of little-known Black heroes who have fought for justice, made new scientific discoveries, created great art and music, and made this world a better place to live.


You Are My Pride: A Love Letter from Your Motherland by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by E. B. Lewis

In this powerfully written and beautifully illustrated picture book by award-winning author and illustrator team Carole Boston Weatherford and E. B. Lewis, Mother Africa addresses her offspring of all colors in all corners of the earth, reminding us of our timeless bond.

Brown Sugar Babe by Charlotte Watson Sherman, illustrated by Akem

Written as a letter from a mother to her beautiful child, the inspiration for the story comes from an actual experience the author had with her daughter, who once claimed as a toddler she wanted to be pink. Brownness is a topic every parent of Black and Brown children knows they must discuss eventually. This book is an affirmation that this topic doesn’t have to be explored alone, but instead with the guidance and love of a trusted guardian.

Mermaid Kenzie: Protector of the Deeps by Charlotte Watson Sherman, illustrated by Geneva Bowers

Beautifully written in African American Vernacular English, this poetic picture book includes back matter with information about how plastic winds up in our oceans and examples of people–some of them kids, like Kenzie–who have worked to protect the sea. Mermaid Kenzie celebrates the ways that all of us, no matter how small, can make a difference.

Graphic Novels

Garvey’s Choice: The Graphic Novel by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III

This emotionally resonant novel in verse by award-winning author Nikki Grimes celebrates choosing to be true to yourself.

Garvey’s father has always wanted Garvey to be athletic, but Garvey is interested in astronomy, science fiction, reading—anything but sports. Feeling like a failure, he comforts himself with food. Garvey is kind, funny, smart, a loyal friend, and he is also overweight, teased by bullies, and lonely.

Black Heroes of the Wild West: Featuring Stagecoach Mary, Bass Reeves, and Bob Lemmons by James Otis Smith

Black Heroes of the Wild West

Exploring American history and finding diversity at its roots!

This graphic novel by JAMES OTIS SMITH celebrates the extraordinary true tales of three black heroes who took control of their destinies and stood up for their communities in the Old West. Born into slavery in Tennessee, Mary Fields became famous as “Stagecoach Mary,” a cigar-chomping, cardplaying coach driver who never missed a delivery. Bass Reeves, the first black Deputy US Marshal west of the Mississippi, was one of the wiliest lawmen in the territories, bringing thousands of outlaws to justice with his smarts. Bob Lemmons lived to be 99 years old and was so good with horses that the wild mustangs on the plains of Texas took him for one of their own.

Poetry and Verse

If you love rhythm, rhyme, and verse, these titles are for you.

Garvey in the Dark by Nikki Grimes

Capturing the shock and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic through the eyes of Garvey, a beloved character, Nikki Grimes’s newest novel in verse shows readers how to find hope in difficult times.

Carver: A Life in Poems by Marilyn Nelson

This biography in verse was awarded a Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Author Honor award. George Washington Carver is associated with the creation of peanut butter, yet his true motivations and achievements are often left unsaid. Carver was driven by scientific curiosity, devotion to the betterment of Black Americans, and his Christian faith to discover better ways to farm. Beautiful prose and photographs throughout give readers a detailed look at Carver as a scientist, as well as the tools he used and the world he lived in.

Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes

This memoir in verse by Printz Honor and Sibert Honor-winning author Nikki Grimes takes place during Grimes’s tumultuous childhood in the 1950s and 1960s. It gives young readers a first-person perspective to the drama of Grimes’s family’s life as it unfurls during critical moments in the Civil Rights-era New York City area.

Voices from the March on Washington by George Ella Lyon and J. Patrick Lewis

A poignant collection of powerful poems weaves together multiple voices to tell the story of the March on Washington, DC, in 1963. Each character in the book brings a unique perspective to their experience of being at the march—walking shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers, hearing Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech, heading home inspired.

Non-Fiction / Historical Fiction

Evicted! The Struggle for the Right to Vote by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by Charly Palmer

With a story told through the eyes of a child, this critical civil rights book for middle-graders examines Tennessee’s Fayette County Tent City Movement in the late 1950s and reveals what is possible when people unite and fight for the right to vote. Powerfully conveyed through interconnected stories, Evicted! combines poetry, prose, and stunning illustrations to shine light on this forgotten history.

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

This multiple award-winning picture book will help young readers understand the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It 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.

Seeking Freedom: The Untold Story of Fortress Monroe and the Ending of Slavery in America written by Selene Castrovilla, illustrated by E.B. Lewis

In this dramatic Civil War story, a courageous enslaved fugitive teams up with a cunning Union general to save a Union fort from the Confederates–and triggers the end of slavery in the United States. This is the first children’s nonfiction book about the unsung Black hero who remains relevant today and to the Black Lives Matter movement. 


Born to Swing: Lil Hardin Armstrong’s Life in Jazz by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Michele Wood

Award-winning author Mara Rockliff and acclaimed illustrator Michele Wood brilliantly capture the rhythms and passions of “Hot Miss Lil” Hardin Armstrong, legendary jazz pianist, composer, and bandleader—and a female pioneer on the music stage.

Rosa’s Bus: The Ride to Civil Rights by Jo S. Kittinger, illustrated by Steven Walker

Award-winning author Mara Rockliff and acclaimed illustrator Michele Wood brilliantly capture the rhythms and passions of “Hot Miss Lil” Hardin Armstrong, legendary jazz pianist, composer, and bandleader—and a female pioneer on the music stage.

The Teachers March! How Selma’s Teachers Changed History by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace, illustrated by Charly Palmer

In the 1960s, Reverend F.D. Reese was a leader of the Voting Rights Movement in Selma, Alabama. As a teacher and principal, he recognized that his colleagues were greatly respected in the city. But, could he convince them to risk their jobs—and perhaps their lives—by organizing a teachers-only march to the county courthouse to demand their right to vote? Demonstrating the power of protest and standing up for a just cause, this acclaimed picture book is an exciting tribute to the educators who participated in the 1965 Selma Teachers’ March.

Lizzie Demands a Seat!: Elizabeth Jennings Fights for Streetcar Rights by Beth Anderson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis

This book focuses on the bravery and integrity of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Jennings, a Black schoolteacher, who in 1854 fought back when she was unjustly denied entry to a New York City streetcar, sparking the beginnings of the long struggle to gain equal rights on public transportation.

Buzzing with Questions: The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner by Janice N. Harrington, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III

Called “understated, fully realized, deftly written, and utterly absorbing” in a starred School Library Journal, this nonfiction picture book focuses on the life and discoveries of Charles Henry Turner, the first Black entomologist, and his discoveries about ants, bees, and other insects.

Molly, by Golly!: The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighter by Dianne Ochiltree, illustrated by Kathleen Kemly

This legendary tale introduces young readers to Molly Williams, an African American cook for New York City’s Fire Company 11, who is considered to be the first known female firefighter in U.S. history. One winter day in 1818, when many of the firefighting volunteers are sick with influenza and a small wooden house is ablaze, Molly jumps into action and helps stop the blaze, proudly earning the nickname Volunteer Number 11.

Coming Soon!

Preorder these Fall titles now from Calkins Creek and learn more about the Civil Rights movement. Watch our social media for cover reveals soon.

Coretta’s Journey: The Life and Times of Coretta Scott King by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Who was Coretta Scott King? Her black-veiled image at the funeral of her husband Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was moving and iconic. This book introduces readers to the woman behind the veil—a girl full of spunk and pluck, bravery and grit.

A Long Time Coming: A Lyrical Biography of Race in America from Ona Judge to Barack Obama by Ray Anthony Shepard, illustrated by: R. Gregory Christie

This collective biography-in-verse of six important Black Americans from different eras, including Ona Judge, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barack Obama, chronicles the diverse ways each fought racism and shows how much—and how little—has changed for Black Americans since our country’s founding.

Invincible: Fathers and Mothers of Black America by Wade Hudson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis

This lyrical picture book explores the birth of Black America, focusing on the little-known men and women who fought for justice and for an America where freedom truly rang for all. We’re familiar with the founding fathers of white America, but who are the founding fathers (and mothers!) of Black America?