Ever wonder how to teach black history to your children or students? Forget the marginalized version presented in textbooks. We can all agree that those versions rob children of a rich, edifying, and accurate education. Instead, opt for books that also tell history from the black perspective—books that bring black history to life!
Living books should be in every child’s home library. They are books written by someone with a passion for the material or by someone who has experienced the story first hand. These books typically lead to greater retention of the material. That’s because living books engage young readers and present historical facts in such a way that children hardly realize they are learning.
Below, I included a list of living books we are enjoying at the moment. My boys are in the second and fifth grade and they truly love reading living books as part of our family-style history curriculum. Living books have opened the door to so many important conversations in our home. I hope they bring a rich educational experience to your family or classroom, too!
1. The Kidnapped Prince | The Life of Olaudah Equiano
This book is a modernized and shortened version of the original autobiography by Olaudah Equiano. At just eleven-years-old, Olaudah was kidnapped from his home in Benin, Africa, and spent eleven years as a slave in the Western world until he was able to purchase his freedom. Olaudah tells young readers what that experience was like; from the horrors of the slave ship to the celebration of his new life as a freedman.
2. Crispus Attucks | Black Leader of Colonial Patriots
This book chronicles the youth of the Massachusetts slave, Crispus Attucks. After joining the colonial patriots in their struggle for freedom, Crispus Attucks was the first man to die in the American Revolution and was honored as a hero.
3. Phoebe the Spy
This book tells the tale of a young girl named Phoebe who gets a job as George Washington’s housekeeper, but her real mission is to find out who is trying to kill him. Warned by her father to act in secret, Phoebe must learn who she can trust as she makes friends along the way. However, she is running out of time, as word on the street suggests the person plotting against Washington will act soon.
4. Black Heroes of the American Revolution
This book highlights black men and women who made enormous contributions to U.S. independence during the American Revolution. Young readers will learn about Edward Hector, the brave wagoner of Brandywine; artilleryman and slave Austin Dabney; William Lee, the aide and closest companion of George Washington throughout the war; and many others.
5. Dear America: I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly | The Diary of Patsy a Freed Girl
This book is about the inspiring story of twelve-year-old Patsy, a freed girl who becomes a great teacher. Patsy’s secret ability to read and write allows her to forge a better life for herself and her community. The story is set in Mars Bluff, South Carolina, during the Reconstruction era, immediately after the end of the American Civil War. Part of the Dear America series for young readers, this book was named a Coretta Scott King Honor Book in 1998.
6. A Different Mirror for Young People | A History of Multicultural America
This book brings American history alive through the words of people, both young and old, who recorded their experiences in diaries, letters, and poems. It was written by Ronald Takaki (1939–2009) who was recognized as one of the foremost scholars of American ethnic history.
7. No More! Stories and Songs of Slave Resistance
This beautifully illustrated book spans the period from the early days of slavery to the Emancipation Proclamation. Drawing from authentic accounts, No More offers a chronology of resistance in all its forms, from comical trickster tales and secret “hush harbors” to spirituals with coded lyrics with active calls to escape.
8. Heart and Soul | The Story of America and African Americans
This gorgeously illustrated book captures the inspiring story of African Americans and their journey toward liberty and justice in the United States. It’s a wonderful introduction to the history of America and African Americans from the colonial days through the civil rights movement.
9. ‘Who Was’ and ‘Who Is’ Black History Book Series
The Who Was and Who Is book series offer a multitude of wonderfully written books on Black History. You can find many books about black politicians, athletes, abolitionists, and more. You can also find books about historical events like the March on Washington, the Civil Rights Movement, and much more by searching for their What Was and What Is series.
10. Africa Amazing Africa | Country by Country
This beautiful book celebrates all 55 countries on the African continent. It explores the geography, people, animals, history, resources, and cultural diversity of each unique African country.
I hope you enjoyed this book list. We all agree that black history should be learned and celebrated year-round by children of all races and cultures. Black history is such an integral part of world history that those who don’t study it miss the opportunity to be edified and inspired.
Check out my black history activities below!
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