How To Use Stories To Teach Children Black History

Tips for teaching Black History to elementary school aged children. Picture books are a wonderful way to teach children Black History in America. Stories help children adopt a different point of view and develop empathy. This post features stories that help children learn Black History.

How to use picture books to teach elementary school children Black history.

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Today I’m sharing picture books to read as you teach children black history. I am a huge fan of storytelling, because the emotional impact of stories builds empathy while also helping us remember.

Today I am sharing some picture books that I have used to teach my own children Black History.

I shared other Black History books in these posts:

Visit the Black History Month Blog Hop for more inspiring activities for February.

Teach Black History Using Stories

Teach Children Black History with Picture Books About Black Slavery in the United States

The first black African slaves in America arrived during the early 1600s. Slavery based on race became a way of live in all 13 colonies. By 1750, there were about 200,000 slaves living in American colonies.


Slavery was devastating to families left behind in Africa as well. Never Forgotten tells the heartbreaking story of a father whose young son is kidnapped and sold into slavery.


A Light in the Darkness is a story about how slaves had to learn in secret, and one slave’s determination to learn and teach others in spite of the risks.

The People Could Fly tells of a fantasy American Black folktale in which select slaves knew magic words that allowed them to literally fly to freedom.

Henry’s Freedom Box tells the true story of Henry Brown, who successfully mailed himself to freedom.

There are several picture books talking about how quilts were used to help slaves escape. The Secret to Freedom includes an author’s note explaining how the quilt code worked.

I haven’t found a good picture book about daily slave life, probably because the reality is stark material for a children’s book. Please let me know if you know of one!

Teach Children Black History with Picture Books AboutPrejudice in America

Discrimination against Blacks in America infiltrated the most mundane aspects of everyday life. For example, in the 1950s and 60s, African Americans were banned from everyday factory tasks such as mixing bread in a factory. In These Hands a grandfather tells his grandson: “These hands were only allowed to sweep the floors and work the line and load the trucks. Because the bosses said white people would not want to eat bread touched by these hands.” Ultimately, the story is one of inspiration: “These hands joined other hands” and “Now any hands can touch the bread dough, no matter their color.”

Vivien Thomas was an educated Black man with every intention of becoming a doctor. The stock market crash destroyed his savings, stealing this dream. Undaunted, Viven accepted a position as a janitor and then became a research assistent at Vanderbilt University medical school. This all-white school that would not admit him as a student. Viven kept learning, and ultimately developed a procedure that was used for the first successful open-heart surgery on a child, saving the lives of thousands of “blue babies”. His white supervising doctors gave him no credit for the discovery. Thomas’s story was made into an Emmy-award-winning movie, Something the Lord Made.

Four African-American female mathematicians were the key to some of the greatest moments in our space program. Hidden Figures tells their story.

Teach Children Black History with Picture Books About Working Towards Equality

Nine-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks is the youngest known child to be arrested for civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. The Youngest Marcher tells her story – and reminds us all that you are never too young to make a difference.

I love the use of real photographs in Because They Marched, which tells the story of the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama to guarantee the right to vote to all African Americans. This was a right that the 15th amendment of the constitution had given them in 1870, but it took local activism to make it a reality nearly 100 years later.

Seeds of Freedom tells the story of one Alabama city that used creativity, courage, and cooperation to integrate their cities and schools in peace.

I would love to hear of any other Black History picture books that your recommend! I would also love to learn of any other ways you teach children Black History. Please share links on  my Facebook page, or tag me on Instagram

MaryAnne lives in Silicon Valley with her Stanford professor husband Mike and their four children. She writes about parenting through education, creativity, and play. Mama Smiles - Joyful Parenting is a space to share crafts, hands on learning activities, and family outings that enrich lives and bring families together.

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