Blogger Jennifer Schultz

Celebrate Black History Month….With Picture Books

You’re likely to have an increase in patrons looking for books pertaining to African-American history in the upcoming days and weeks due to Black History Month. Since there are many superb titles that feature the history of African-Americans, let’s chat specifically about picture books for the purposes of this discussion.

The Bat Boy and His Violin

Reginald would rather practice his violin than be a bat boy for his father’s Negro Leagues baseball team. Baseball has been offically integrated, and the team’s best players have joined the formerly all-white teams. Reluctantly, Reginald joins his father in the dugout, bringing them closer together (with each other gaining a greater appreciation of the other’s talents and interests).  This is a sweet (yet not saccharine) father-son story set against a pivotal moment in American sports.

I See the Rhythm

The history of African-American music is vividly, movingly, and triumphantly portrayed in an explosion of paintings and poetry (with an extensive timeline to boot). A companion book, I See the Rhythm of Gospel, was published in 2010.

Ruth and the Green Book

In 1952, Ruth and her family eagerly set out for a road trip from their Chicago home to visit her grandmother in Alabama. Their excitement quickly dissolves once they cross into the South and find themselves barred from using a gas station bathroom and sleeping at a hotel. Fortunately, they discover “The Green Book,” which lists businesses and homes welcoming African-American travelers. This is an eye-opening book for children and adults alike; readers will be struck by the enormous limitations and difficulties faced by African-American motorists in the pre-Civil Rights Era, and by the tight and welcoming community that offered rest and refreshment to strangers. A brief summary offers more information about the Green Book.

Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman

 Wilma Unlimited is the incredible story of Wilma Rudolph, who overcame complications from polio and poverty in order to become the first American woman to win three gold medals at one Olympics Game.  Brilliantly told and illustrated, this inspiring picture book biography is a fine read aloud for elementary school students.

It’s your turn! Tell everyone (in the comments section) about your favorite picture books that feature African-American history.





  1. Lisa

    Henry’s Freedom Box, written by Ellen Levine and illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Scholastic 2007), is a great story for sharing.

  2. P Segal

    The children’s book I co-authored, together with the story’s creator, Carol Francois, was selected by the San Francisco Board of Education as the featured book for Black History Month in the city’s elementary schools. Volunteers from the Board and three partnering organizations will go to every school to read the book to the children on February 24, 2012.

    Our book, “The Adventures of Sasha and Malia at The White House,” takes the first children back in time to help get Frederick Douglass out of captivity, so he can deliver the first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation to President Lincoln. Actor and activist Danny Glover said of it that “every child in America should read this book.” It combines history with fantasy in a beautifully illustrated story that is ideal for children from 7 to 10.

    The story’s originator, Carol Francois, got the idea from a dream shortly after the Obama inauguration. She was the daughter of the first African-American elected to public office in San Francisco, and so she felt a kinship for the Obama daughters, who entered a political environment where no black children had gone before.

    We’re absolutely proud of it and the honor given to us by the Board of Education. Needless to say, we would love to let others know about it!

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