20+ Picture Books by Black Authors

For as long as I can remember, diverse literature has always been apart of my life. I love reading and if it sounded interesting, I’d read it! Reading a wide variety of books teaches you about other cultures, worldviews, and perspectives.

Whether you’re working on growing your personal library or headed to the library, look for these picture books by black authors.

20+ Picture Books by Black Authors

I recently read a beautiful picture book called Hello Goodbye Dog. Our main character, Zara, is black, and in a wheelchair. The story promotes inclusion with children in wheelchairs especially without feeling forceful. The bright illustrations show diversity (including Asian characters!) in the background without making it a central point of the story – it all feels natural.

This picture book list celebrates black authors – black history, black characters, and black achievements over the centuries.

Disclaimer: Some of the following links are affiliate links. I make a small commission from some of the links on this site.

Hair LoveHow to Read a BookPeeny Butter Fudge


How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander

I love Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover, and How to Read a Book is a fun, quirky picture book for kids that love bright art. The inconsistent text makes it difficult to read at times, but for kids who appreciate art: they’ll enjoy this one.

Hair Love by Matthew Cherry

Based on the Disney short, Hair Love is about a father who does his daughter’s hair for the first time.

Peeny Butter Fudge by Toni Morrison

A group of kids join their eccentric grandmother for an afternoon of fun, fairies, dancing, singing, and of course, peanut butter fudge just like their mama made when she was a little girl. 

Princess HairThunder RoseMax Found Two Sticks (Reading Rainbow Book)


Princess Hair by Sharee Miller

A gorgeous celebration of the diversity among hair types and styles! Little girls will love seeing reflections of themselves all throughout the pages of this beautifully illustrated book. Sharee Miller’s also written a book called Don’t Touch My Hair.

Thunder Rose by Jerdine Nolen

This amazing tall tale stars Rose, a larger-than-life firecracker who was born speaking full sentences. Even as a toddler, Rose could lift a cow above her head and drink it dry, shoot bolts of lightning across fields, and think faster on her feet than anyone else. When the town is bone-dry and desperately in need of some rain, it’s Rose to the rescue, lassoing a storm and bringing it on over to help the crops grow. 

Max Found Two Sticks by Brian Pinkney

One summery day, Max finds two sticks laying on the ground and begins to beat out a rhythm. As he plays, he begins to create music with the everyday sounds of the city around him. Max discovers an important truth; music is everywhere if you have the ears to hear it. 

Meet Danitra Brown by Nikki Grimes

In this delightful collection of poems, a young girl named Zuri celebrates her friendship with Danitra. She joyfully presents her bestie to the world, helping readers know and love the bright Danitra just as she does. 

Tar Beach by Faith Ringold

A Harlem family has a picnic lunch on the tar roof of their building. As they enjoy the breeze and the sights and sounds of the city bustling below, the girl dreams of flying over the George Washington Bridge that her father helped to build. 

Okra Stew: A Gullah Geechee Family CelebrationThe Other SideMax and the Tag-Along Moon


Max and the Tag-along Moon by Floyd Cooper

After visiting his grandfather, Max stares at a brilliant moon out of the window of the car. He watches the moon as it follows him closely behind, darts in and out of trees, and reflects on the water under the bridge. Max starts to realize that the moon will always be close by, just like his grandfather’s presence. 

Okra Stew by Natalie Daise

Okra Stew is set in the Gullah Geechee community of African-Americans in the southern United States. This gorgeously illustrated book includes an okra stew recipe and some words from the Gullah language.

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson tells the story of the friendship between two girls – one white and one black. If you liked this one, older students may like Woodson’s memoir (for children) called Brown Girl Dreaming.

FirebirdBefore She was HarrietI Have a Dream (Book & CD)


Firebird by Misty Copeland

Misty Copeland was the first African-American woman to be promoted as principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre. I love this story but my favorite part of Firebird is the stunning illustrations!

I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King Jr (book and CD)

In August of 1963, Martin Luther King Jr delivered a speech that would live on forever, generation through generation. This book covers his speech in an understandable and inspiring way for young kids. There are a few different versions of this book, but this one is my favorite.

Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome

In this Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book, we learn about Harriet Tubman looking back at her life. This book is not text-heavy and has beautiful illustrations. It is highly recommended. Grab the book guide here.

Shortcut by Donald Lewis

A group of children decide to take a shortcut home, using the train tracks as their pathway. As they trek along the tracks, the kids have fun playing but realize that maybe they should have walked their normal route. 

Crown: Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes

A boy goes into a barbershop to get a haircut, and leaves with a new level of confidence and excitement about the possibilities a new look might bring. He wonders if his fresh new ‘do will give him attention from the girl he likes, help him get great test scores, and more! 

Imani’s Moon by Janay Brown-Wood

A young Maasi girl named Imani wants more than anything to touch the moon. The people around her don’t believe that she will ever be able to do it, but she is determined to make her dream come true. 

Not So Different by Cyana Riley

This picture book encourages young children to recognize and celebrate the differences they see in themselves and others. Uniqueness isn’t something to be afraid of, but rather part of what makes humans so individually beautiful!

The Boy Who Didn’t Believe in Spring by Lucille Clifton

Two inner-city kids begin to search the streets for hidden spring. They search their normal places first, but can’t seem to find it. When they finally get outside their usual bounds, the boys discover spring in a place they least expect it. 


Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

Learn about the real brains behind some of NASA’s greatest moments, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden. Their mathematical skills and determination allowed them to make history in a subtle way that should be known!

Grandpa Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate, From Farm to Family

A father and daughter duo begin to make a chocolate cake for the girl’s birthday, and while they stir it together, the father begins to tell the story of the farm he grew up on. The girl’s grandfather harvested cacao beans to be processed into chocolate, and his son grew up understanding the importance of this job. As the cake is sliced and laid out on plates, the girl hears a knock and opens the door to find another surprise waiting for her. 

Memphis, Martin and the Mountaintop by Alice Faye Duncan

Told from the perspective of a nine-year-old girl, this is the story of the Memphis Sanitation Strike in 1968. The strike was a result of two African-American sanitation workers being killed on the job.

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed

Learn about Mae Jemison, a young woman who made history when she was the first African-American woman to travel with NASA to space. This book is the perfect overview of Mae’s life and a great story to inspire other young girls to follow their dreams. 

Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History by Vashti Harrison

A kid-friendly collection of Black men who helped shaped the world and made history through their contributions.

He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands by Kadir Nelson

In this book version of the popular spiritual, the author seeks to show scenes from his boyhood through the eyes of that long-ago child. Kadir Nelson helps readers experience the world as he did in childhood, vast and beautiful, through touching and poignant pictures of his family and friends. 

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vasti Harrison

A showcase of Black women who made huge strides for humanity through art, music, leadership, inventions, and more! 

A Story About Afiya by James Berry

Each morning a young girl named Afiya wakes up, puts on her white dress, and begins her day! Wherever she goes and whatever she does, imprints are left on her dress that help her capture all the adventures she becomes a part of. 

More Diverse Book Lists:

Asian History Picture Books

Civil Rights Movement Picture Books

Latin American History Books for Kids

Asian History Books for Kids 

View all of my historical book and movie lists here.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  • Hello Ms. Shank. I work at a school where I primarily serve students of color. I appreciate it when information and resources like this are shared. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  • I lead the media center at a predominantly black school. I desperately need posters and affordable art to match our newly updated and more representative book collection. Any ideas on where I might find them?

    • Hmm great question…I’m actually not sure where to find any book-type posters…you might try Etsy, but copyright may be a problem?

    • Hi, Lori. I don’t know what grade level or budget you are working with…
      – the ALA webstore has some really nice posters, under $20 each (featuring Marley Dias and Karamo Brown in the READ campaign, one with Bessy Coleman, art by Christian Robinson…and that was all on first page I looked at)
      – what about having a poster contest and the kids make the art? Maybe the winning prize is that three (or more?) student posters are framed and hung in your library. You could put out a request for poster frames on a site like Freecycle or purchase from IKEA or Blick (they offer a teacher discount) or even Amazon, whatever is in your budget
      – work with your art teacher (or art teachers if you’re at the high school level) and see if they have any students who might donate their art to decorate the library (at the elementary level, this might work like the art contest idea?)
      – reach out to local book stores and see if they have any posters that they are about to throw away