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Our Recommended Books for Juneteenth

Now an official federal holiday, Juneteenth observes the effective end of slavery in America. Commemorate the occasion by reading these books that celebrate the amazing stories and accomplishments of Black Americans from our history.

Lizzie Demands a Seat! Elizabeth Jennings Fights for Streetcar Rights

A Bank Street College of Education Best Book of the Year • NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book • ILA Children’s Book Award Nonfiction Honor • Winner of Bank Street College of Education’s Flora Stieglitz Straus Award for excellence in nonfiction • Chicago Public Library Best Informational Book for Older Readers• Shortlist for inaugural Goddard Riverside CBC Youth Book Prize for Social Justice • Finalist, Jane Addams Children’s Book Award

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Jennings was an African American school teacher, 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. Lizzie Demands a Seat! tells her story.

Buzzing with Questions: The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner


An entomologist is a scientist who studies bugs—and Charles Henry Turner was the first Black American entomologist. Turner’s story is told in Buzzing with Questions, a fascinating picture book for young readers that highlights his unstoppable quest for knowledge and his passion for science.

Rooting for Plants: The Unstoppable Charles S. Parker, Black Botanist and Collector

NSTA-CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book • NSTA-CBC Best STEM Book • A CCBC Choice • A Bank Street Best Children’s Book

Meet Charles S. Parker, an unsung yet trailblazing Black scientist who made major contributions to the fields of botany (the study of plants) and mycology (the study of fungi) in this inspiring STEM/STEAM picture book biography from the creators of Buzzing with Questions.

Molly, By Golly! The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighter

Molly, By Golly! is the story of 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. Young readers will enjoy plucky Molly Williams’s legendary adventure as they learn how fires were fought in the early 1800s.

Answering the Cry for Freedom: Stories of African Americans and the American Revolution

Uncover the lives of thirteen African-Americans who fought during the Revolutionary War: Boston King, Agrippa Hull, James Armistead Lafayette, Phillis Wheatley, Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman, Prince Hall, Mary Perth, Ona Judge, Sally Hemings, Paul Cuffe, John Kizell, Richard Allen, and Jarena Lee. Answering the Cry for Freedom is a nonfiction book for kids 9-12 years spotlights charismatic individuals who answered the cry for freedom, focusing on the choices they made and how they changed America both then and now.

A Long Time Coming: A Lyrical Biography of Race in America from Ona Judge to Barack Obama

A School Library Journal Best Book • A Booklist Editors’ Choice  • A Kirkus Best Book • Texas Topaz Nonfiction Reading List • Finalist, SCBWI Golden Kite Award for Nonfiction Text for Older Readers • Named to the 2024 Capitol Choices list • A Bank Street Best Children’s Book

This YA 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.

Born to Swing: Lil Hardin Armstrong’s Life in Jazz

Born to Swing is the story of “Hot Miss Lil” Hardin Armstrong, legendary jazz pianist, composer, and bandleader — and a female pioneer on the music stage. Born in Memphis, just a little way from the famous music hotspot Beale Street, Lil grew up inspired by famous jazz musicians including Mister W. C. Handy and Jelly Roll Morton.

Sing and Shout! The Mighty Voice of Paul Robeson

Bank Street College of Education Best Book of the Year * Chicago Public Library Best Informational Book for Older Readers

When faced with the decision to remain silent or be ostracized, Paul Robeson chose to sing, shout, and speak out. Sing and Shout explores how Robeson’s love of African American spirituals and deep empathy towards the suffering of others drove his long, fervent mission as a civil rights activist and his career as an artist.

Seeking Freedom: The Untold Story of Fortress Monroe and the Ending of Slavery in America

ALSC Notable Children’s Book CCBC Choices 2023 • A New York Public Library Best Book for Kids Bank Street Best Book of the Year

During the Civil War, George Scott, along with a group of other escaped slaves, pled for sanctuary at Fortress Monroe in Virginia. The fort’s commander, Benjamin Butler, protected the slaves, calling them “contraband.” The information and heroism of George Scott saved the fort from enemy hands and ultimately the plight of the contrabands that convinced President Lincoln that slavery MUST be abolished. Seeking Freedom tells this dramatic Civil War story.

Traveling Shoes: The Story of Willye White, US Olympian and Long Jump Champion

Untold until now, here is the story of Black sprinter and long-jumper Willye B. White, who went from picking cotton as a child in Mississippi to competing and winning in the 1956 and 1964 Olympics.

Queen of the Track: Alice Coachman, Olympic High-Jump Champion

Here is a story of Alice Coachman, the first African-American woman to win an Olympic gold medal.

Now or Never! Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Infantry’s War to End Slavery

A Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Book

George E. Stephens and James Henry Gooding not only served in the Massachusetts 54th Infantry, the well-known black regiment, but were also war correspondents who published eyewitness reports of the battlefields. Now or Never! is the riveting dual biography of two little-known but extraordinary African-American Union soldiers.

Coretta’s Journey: The Life and Times of Coretta Scott King

A Horn Book Fanfare Book • Center for the Studies of Multicultural Children’s Literature Best Book of 2023 • Eureka! Nonfiction Childrens’ Honor Award  • A Chicago Public Library Best Book • A Bank Street Best Children’s Book

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.

Invincible: Fathers and Mothers of Black America

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.

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968

Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book • School Library Journal Best Book of the Year • Booklist Editors’ Choice • Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Book • Booklist Top 10 Diverse Books for Middle Grade or Older Readers • Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books

This award-winning book will help kids understand the life and legacy of Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

★”(A) history that everyone should know: required and inspired.” —Kirkus Reviews


Shortlist, Goddard Riverside/CBC Young People’s Book Prize for Social Justice 

This critical civil rights book for middle-graders examines the little-known 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 and told through the eyes of a child, this book combines poetry, prose, and stunning illustrations to shine light on this forgotten history.

Birmingham Sunday

Jane Addams Children’s Honor Book • NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor Book • Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Book of the Year

This nonfiction picture book focuses on Birmingham Sunday, a fateful day and significant part of the Civil Rights movement, and places it in historical context.

A Negro League Scrapbook

Featuring lively verse, fascinating facts, and archival photographs, here is a celebration of the Negro Leagues and the great players who went unrecognized in their time.