Inspired by Our History

This week explores books focused on black leaders in history, science, business, sports, music, and more. This list gives all children a great opportunity to meet a new leader or to learn more about a leader they already know.

Years 0-3

Board Books

Dream Big Little One
 Dream Big, Little One.
Vashti Harrison. Featuring 18 trailblazing black women in American history, this book is an adaptation of the popular book by the same author titled Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History. EyeSeeMe Link 

The Obamas
 The Obamas: A Lift-the-Flap Book.
Violet Lemay. Motivational words and moments in the Obama presidency mix with big concepts like Peace, Love, Hope, Dreams, the Environment, and Equality to reveal Obamas' contributions to the world stage.  EyeSeeMe Link 

Who was martinWho was Martin Luther King, Jr.? Lisbeth Kaiser. A toddler-friendly biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.   EyeSeeMe Link

Years 3 - 7

Flying HighFlying High: The Story of Gymnastics Champion Simone BilesWhen Simone Biles was a child, she went into foster care until her grandparents adopted her. Always active, they enrolled her in gymnastics where she would eventually compete to become a multi-gold medalist. Amazon Link 


Look Up with Me Look Up with Me, Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Life Among the Stars. Jennifer Berne. Illustrator: Lorraine Nam. Neil deGrasse Tyson’s love of the stars, curiosity, and hard work led him to become a leading astrophysicist admired, respected, and loved by people all over the world. Amazon Link  

malcolm litte
 Malcolm Little
Ilyasah Shabazz. Illustrator: AG Ford. Before he became Malcolm X, a little boy confronted great adversity and learned how to become a leader. EyeSeeMe Link 

Serena The Littlest Sister
 Serena: The Littlest Sister
. Karlin Gray. Illustrator: Monica Ahanonu. This empowering biography showcases Serena Williams’s rise to becoming a tennis legend, the strength of sisterhood, and how her family played a critical part in her path to greatness.  Amazon Link

malcolm litte
Bad News for Outlaws.
Vaunda Micheaux Nelson. Illustrator: R. Gregory Christie. This is the story of the legendary lawmaker, Bass Reeves, who was the first African-American Deputy U.S. Marshall west of the Mississippi and made over 3,000 arrests in the Old West. Amazon Link 

 Mae Among the Stars
Roda Ahmed. Illustrator: Stasia Burrington. From the time she was a young girl, Mae Jemison knew that she loved science and wanted to go to space. She became the first African-American woman to travel to space. EyeSeeMe Link 

Ibtihaj Muhammad BB
 Ibtihaj Muhammad: Muslim American Champion Fencer and Olympian (Breakout Biographies)
Daniel R. Faust. The story of how Ibtihaj Muhammad trained hard to become an Olympic medalist in fencing. She’s also from Maplewood! Amazon Link 


Maya angelou
 Maya Angelou (Little People, Big Dreams series)
Lisbeth Kaiser. Illustrator: Leire Salaberria. The picture biography of Maya Angelou and how she confronted pain and adversity to find hope and become a famous writer and activist. EyeSeeMe Link 

Let the children march
 Let the Children March
Facing violence from hoses, dogs, and people, thousands of children marched for civil rights in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. Amazon Link 

Bayard Rustin
 Bayard Rustin
J.P. Miller. Illustrator: Markia Jenai. Bayard Rustin was an LGBTQ+ and civil rights activist best known for being an advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, organizing the March on Washington, and posthumously received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013. Amazon Link 

  Beyoncé: Shine Your Light
Sarah Warren. Illustrator: Geneva Bowers. Beyoncé went from being a shy girl to a brilliant singer, powerful entertainer, and strong businesswoman. EyeSeeMe Link 

Martins Big
 Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Doreen Rappaport. Illustrator: Bryan Collier. Dr. Martin Luther King’s biography told to children using his own wordsAmazon Link 

 ellington was not a street
Ntozake Shange. Illustrator: Kadir Nelson. Ntozake tells her story as a little girl growing up among great men before they were thought of as the names for our streets. EyeSeeMe Link 


LeBron James
 LeBron James: The Boy Who Became King
Anthony Curcio. The children’s biography of basketball star, activist, and businessman LeBron James. Amazon Link 

Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrator: Kadir Nelson. This story describes Harriet Tubman’s spiritual journey as she struggled. EyeSeeMe Link 

RuPaul Charles
 RuPaul Charles (People of Pride)
Little Bee Books. Illustrator: Vincent Chen. RuPaul has been instrumental in the recognition and acceptance of people in the LGBTQ+ community and of drag culture. Amazon Link  

Becoming Muhammad Ali
 Muhammad Ali: A Champion is Born
Gene Barretta, Illustrator: Frank Morrison. The unforgettable childhood story of legendary boxing champion Muhammad Ali and how one pivotal moment set him on his path to become the Greatest of All Time. One fateful day, this proud and bold young boy had that bike stolen, his prized possession, and he wouldn’t let it go. Not without a fight. This would be the day he discovered boxing. And a champion was born. Amazon Link 

Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara. Illustrator: Cachetejack. This biography tells the history of the icon, Prince, who combined different genres of music including funk, disco, and soul to create his own sound leading to megahits in the United States and all over the world. Amazon Link  

 Bessie Coleman: Bold Pilot Who Gave Women Wings
Martha London. In the 1920s, Bessie Coleman became the first African-American and Native American woman pilot.  Amazon Link 

Hank Aaron
 Hank Aaron: Brave in Every Way
Peter Golenbock. Illustrator: Paul Lee. With the support of his mother and father and while fighting against racism, Hank Aaron worked hard to become a baseball legend, break the longstanding home run record, and inspire fans all over the world. Amazon Link 


I Have a Dream
 I Have a Dream
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Illustrator: Kadir Nelson. An illustrated version of Dr. King’s world-renown “I Have a Dream” speech. EyeSeeMe Link 


Coretta Scott
 Coretta Scott
Ntozake Shange. Illustrator: Kadir Nelson. A poetic biographical highlight of Coretta Scott’s childhood and her fight for civil rights with her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  EyeSeeMe Link 

Katie Lajiness. Follow Drake’s journey to becoming a Grammy award-winning musician. Amazon Link 

She Loved Baseball
 She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story
Audrey Vernick. Illustrator: Don Tate. From the time she was a girl, Effa Manley loved baseball and would later own the baseball team, the Newark Eagles. EyeSeeMe Link 

Marvelous Cornelius
 Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans. 
Phil Bildner. Illustrator: John Parra. This book is based on the real-life of inspirational street sweeper Cornelius Washington in New Orleans.  EyeSeeMe Link 

Wilma Rudolph
 Wilma Rudolph (Little People Big Dreams series)
Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara. Illustrator: Amelia Flower. Wilma Rudolph contracted polio as a young child and was told that she would never walk again. She persevered and became the fastest sprinter in the world, breaking Olympic records, and winning gold medals. EyeSeeMe Link 


Promises to Keep
 Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America.
Sharon Robinson. The story of baseball legend Jackie Robinson with additional information from the author, his daughter. Amazon Link 

Aretha Franklin
 Aretha Franklin
 (Little People Big Dreams series). 
Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara. Illustrator: Amy Blackwell. This book tells the story of Aretha Franklin who was the best-selling rhythm and blues singer of all time and the first woman to be installed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Amazon Link 


My Daddy Dr Martin Luther King
 My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King III. Illustrator: AG Ford. This picture book memoir, My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King III, provides insight into one of history’s most fascinating families and into a special bond between father and son.  EyeSeeMe Link 

The Legendary Miss Lena Horne
 The Legendary Miss Lena Horne
Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrator: Elizabeth Zunon. This book celebrates the life of singer, actress, and civil rights activist, Lena Horne. EyeSeeMe Link 


 Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop
Alice Faye Duncan. Illustrator: R. Gregory Christie. Through the eyes of a child, this book teaches about Martin Luther King and the Sanitation Strike of 1968. Amazon Link 

Rons Big Mission
 Ron’s Big Mission
Rose Blue. Illustrator: Corinne Naden.  At nine years old, Ron McNair thinks that it’s unfair that he is not allowed to check out books from his local library. Later, McNair would use his own principles of Justice to further his career at NASA and become one of the astronauts on the Challenger shuttle to space. EyeSeeMe Link 

Fancy Party Gowns
 Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe
Deborah Blumenthal. Illustrator: Laura Freeman. A beautiful picture book about Ann Cole Lowe, a little-known African-American fashion designer who battled personal and social adversity in order to pursue her passion for making beautiful gowns and went on to become one of society's top designers. Amazon Link 


We Shall Overcome
 We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song
Debbie Levy. Illustrator: Vanessa Brantley-Newton. From its roots in American slavery, the song We Shall Overcome has inspired civil rights and social justice activists all over the world. EyeSeeMe Link

Years 7 - 12

Kamala HarrisKamala Harris: Rooted in Justice. Nikki Grimes. Illustrator: Laura Freeman. When a little girl is told at school that she can’t become President, her mother tells her the story of then-Senator Kamala Harris from the time she marched with her parents for justice as a little girl all the way up to her becoming a candidate for President. EyeSeeMe

 Black Heroes of the Wild West
 Black Heroes of the Wild West. 
James Otis Smith. A graphic novel celebrating the true stories of three black heroes of the Old West: “Stagecoach Mary'' Fields, Deputy U.S. Marshal Bass Reeves, and Bob Lemmons. EyeSeeMe Link 

 Beyonce Queen of the Spotlight
 Beyoncé: Queen of the Spotlight (Trailblazers).
Ebony Joy Wilkins. This biography highlights Beyoncé’s rise to become a megastar and dominant businesswoman. EyeSeeMe Link 

Shirley Chisholm is a Verb
 Shirley Chisholm is a Verb.
Veronica Chambers. Illustrator: Rachelle Baker. Shirley Chisholm was the first black woman to serve as a United States Congresswoman and, later, to run for President. 
EyeSeeMe Link 

Black Lives Matter From Hashtag to the Streets
 Black Lives Matter: From Hashtag to the Streets.
Dr. Artika R. Tyner. This book provides historical and modern context and information about the Black Lives Matter movement. 
EyeSeeMe Link  

Little Leaders Bold Women in Black History
 Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History. 
Vashti Harrison. This New York Times bestselling book introduces readers to 40 black women who helped change their communities and the world. EyeSeeMe Link 

Little Legends Exceptional Men in Black HistoryLittle Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History. Vashti Harrison. Beautiful illustrations highlight brief biographies of black male leaders. EyeSeeMe Link 

Who is Stevie Wonder

 Who is Stevie Wonder? 
Jim Gigliotti. Illustrator: Stephen Marchesi. Award winner Icon Stevie Wonder is one of the most successful singers and songwriters of all time. 
Amazon Link 

A Black Woman Did That
 A Black Woman Did That.
Malaika Adero. Illustrator: Chanté Timothy. Including well-known figures such as Stacey Abrams, Shonda Rhimes, and Meghan Markle, this book spotlights women leaders who have helped change the world. 
Amazon Link  

The Undefeated
 The Undefeated. 
Kwame Alexander. Illustrator. Kadir Nelson. This beautiful poem provides a framework for black history month by highlighting black leaders – the known and unknown – through time. 
EyeSeeMe Link 

 Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher. 
Zora Neale Hurston. Alicia D. Williams. Illustrator: Jacqueline Alcántara. From the time he was young, Zora Neale Hurston loved listening to (“catching)” and creating her own stories. This book follows Zora’s struggles and triumphs on her journey to becoming an author, anthropologist, and filmmaker. 
EyeSeeMe Link 

 Starstruck: The Cosmic Journey of Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Kathleen Krull. Illustrator: Paul Brewer. When 9 year-old Neil first saw the stars at New York City’s Hayden Planetarium, he was hooked and worked hard to become a world-renowned astrophysicist who would inspire astronomers and a new generation of young scientists to reach for the stars. 
Amazon Link 

Become a Leader Like Michelle Obama
 Become a Leader Like Michelle Obama. 
Caroline Moss. Illustrator: Sinem Erkas. Michelle Obama always knew that she would use her voice to empower girls. This book provides insights into how she became a leader. 
Amazon Link  

The Story of John Lewis
 The Story of John Lewis: A Biography Book for Young Readers. 
Tonya Leslie. Civil rights leader and icon John Lewis served as a Member of Congress and inspired people throughout the world to get into “good trouble” and fight for racial and social justice. Amazon Link    

Diversity and Entertainment
 Diversity and Entertainment: Black Lives in the Media (The Fight for Black Rights).
Amanda Jackson Green. More than the megablockbuster The Black Panther, this book discusses the long history of Black representation in entertainment and how increased diversity continues to shape television and movies. 
Amazon Link 

Who Were the Tuskegee Airmen
 Who Were the Tuskegee Airmen?
Sherri L. Smith. Illustrator: Jake Murray. This book emphasizes the thrilling missions conducted by the Tuskegee Airmen while also highlighting the lives of these brave men who would pave the way for integrating the US armed forces. EyeSeeMe Link   

We Rise We Resist We Raise Our Voices
 We Rise. We Resist. We Raise Our Voices.
Wade Hudson & Cheryl Willis Hudson (eds.). Fifty diverse children’s authors advise children about how to deal with all of the divisiveness in the world around them. 
EyeSeeMe Link   

Rosa Nikki Giovanni
Nikki Giovanni. Illustrator: Bryan Collier. This biography discusses the thoughts and actions that led to Rosa Parks refusing to move to the back of the civil rights marches and actions that followed. 
EyeSeeMe Link 


Sylvia and Marsha
 Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution: The Story of the Trans Women of Color Who Made LGBTQ+ Histor
y. Joy Michael Ellison. Illustrator: Teshika Silver. This illustrated book discusses the lives of Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, two transgender women of color who helped kickstart the Stonewall Riots and dedicated their lives to fighting for LGBTQ+ equality. 
Amazon Link  

The Oldest Student
 The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read.
Rita Lorraine Hubbard. Illustrator: Oge Mora. Born into slavery, Mary Walker wanted to learn how to read even though it was illegal for her to learn. This book shows Mary’s long journey to learning how to read at age 116 years old. 
Amazon Link 

What Color Is My World
 What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors. 
  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Raymond Obstfeld, A.G. Ford (Illustrator), Ben Boos (Illustrator).  Black inventors and innovators are highlighted in this look at little-known people who shared a desire to improve people's lives. Shared through a story of a family who moves into a house that needs work, the handyman educates the twins who now live there. EyeSeeMe Link  

Dream Big Dreams
 Dream Big Dreams: Photographs from Barack Obama's Inspiring and Historic Presidency.
Pete Souza. This book shares photographs from Barack Obama’s Inspiring and Historic Presidency.  Amazon Link 

 When the Beat was Born
 When the Beat was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop.
Laban Carrick Hill. Illustrator: Theodore Taylor III. This biography discusses the history of DJ Herc, one of the artists who helped create hip hop. 
EyeSeeMe Link  

101 Black Women in Science
 101 Black Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics: Leaders in Black History.
L.A. Amber. This book encourages children to learn more about black women who have excelled in STEM-related professions. 
Amazon Link  

We are the Ship
 We are the Ship. 
Kadir Nelson. The story of the unsung heroes of the Negro Baseball League and their fight against racism in baseball. 
Amazon Link  

What Do You Do with a Voice Like That
 What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?: The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. 
Chris Barton. Ekua Holmes. Barbara Jordan used her voice to fight for justice, equality, and civil rights. Barbara Jordan, a civil rights leader and attorney, used her voice to fight for justice, equality, and civil rights. She became the first African American elected to the Texas Senate and the first woman and first African American elected to Congress from Texas. EyeSeeMe Link   

Long Walk to Freedom Nel
 Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela. 
Nelson Mandela (abridged by Chris Van Wyk). Illustrator: Paddy Bouma. The abridged autobiography of Nelson Mandela about his fight against South Africa’s racist apartheid system and his path to becoming president abridged for young readers. 
Amazon Link  

Song in a Rainstorm
 Song in a Rainstorm: The Story of Musical Prodigy Thomas “Blind Tom” Wiggins.
Glenda Arnand. Illustrator: Brittany Jackson. Born into slavery and with blindness, Tom Wiggins became one of the greatest musicians of his time and would inspire musicians worldwide, including Sir. Elton John.  Amazon Link 

The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes
 The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes.
Julia Finley Mosca. Illustrator: Daniel Rieley. Fighting against racism and sexism, Dr. Patricia Bath becomes a leading ophthalmologist. 
EyeSeeMe Link   

Changing the Equation
 Changing the Equation: 50+ US Black Women in STEM.
Tonya Bolden. This book explores Black women who have changed the world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) in America. Amazon Link  

 Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions. 
Chris Barton. Illustrator: Don Tate. Johnson’s love of robots, space, and invention led him to develop the popular toy known as the Super Soaker. 
EyeSeeMe Link  

The Girl with a Mind for Math
 The Girl with a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague.
Julia Finley Mosca. Illustrator: Daniel Rieley. Raye Montague was a pioneer who changed the course of ship design forever.  
EyeSeeMe Link 

Schomburg The Man Who Built a Library
 Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library.
Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrator: Eric Velasquez. This biography traces the life of Arthur Schomburg, who collected books, letters, music, and art from Africa and the African diaspora to create the world-renowned Schomburg Center or Research in Black Culture. EyeSeeMe Link   

A Computer Called Katherine
 A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon.
Suzanne Slade. Illustrator Veronica Miller Jamison. The story of Katherine Johnson whose mathematical computations helped put men on the moon. 
Amazon Link  

Alvin Ailey Andrea Pinkney
 Alvin Ailey.
Andrea Davis Pinkney. Illustrator: Brian Pinkney. This children’s book shares the story of choreographer and dancer Alvin Ailey. 
EyeSeeMe Link 

Henrys Freedom Box
 Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad.
  Ellen Levine.  A stirring, dramatic story of a slave who mailed himself to freedom by a Jane Addams Peace Award-winning author and a Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist. 
EyeSeeMe Link 

The Power of Her Pen
 The Power of Her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne.
Lesa Cline-Ransome. Illustrator: John Parra. Ethel L. Payne was a leading journalist addressing the issues that impacted the black community in the United States and internationally. She was one of only three black reporters with press credentials in the White House Press Corps. 
EyeSeeMe Link 

Nelson Mandela Kadir
 Nelson Mandela.
Kadir Nelson. This book tells the story of a boy who is determined to change the racist apartheid laws and practices of South Africa and who will eventually become the president of his country. 
Amazon Link 

Taking Flight
 Michaela DePrince: From War-Torn Childhood to Ballet Fame (Movers, Shakers, and History Makers)
Michaela de Prince, Carrie Myers. As an orphan in war-torn Sierra Leone, Michaela DePrince dreamed of becoming a ballerina. After being adopted and moving to the United States, she worked hard to become a famous ballet dancer.  
Amazon Link 

Heart and Soul The Story of America and African Americans
 Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans. 
Kadir Nelson. A historical overview of the history of African-Americans and America from colonialism to the civil rights struggle with stunning illustrations. 
EyeSeeMe Link 

Space Race
 Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race. 
Margot Lee Shetterly. Illustrator: Laura Freeman. This book discusses the real-life stories of four black women who were critical to NASA’s space exploration program and launching the first US astronauts into space. 
EyeSeeMe Link 

 28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World. 
Charles R. Smith, Jr. Illustrator: Shane W. Evans.  This book highlights some key dates that influenced black history - from Crispus Attucks, the first man shot in the Boston Massacre, which sparked the Revolutionary War, to the death of Madame C. J. Walker, who after years of adversity became one of the wealthiest black Americans, to the inauguration of Barack Obama, the first black president in the US. 
EyeSeeMe Link 

Karen Latchana Kenney. This biography discusses how Lizzo went from being a child in band camp to becoming the opening act of a superstar to becoming a star in her own right. 
Amazon Link 

A Champion is Born
 Becoming Muhammad Ali
James Paterson & Kwame Alexander. Illustrator: Dawud Anyabwile. When Muhammad Ali was a boy, he was Cassius Clay. This biographical novel tells the story of Cassius Clay and the struggles he faced on his way to becoming the greatest boxer. EyeSeeMe Link 

Grades 6 - 8

Some Places More Than Others
 Some Places More Than Others
Renée Watson. A heartwarming and inspiring novel for middle schoolers about finding deep roots and exploring the past, the present, and the places that make us who we are. Amazon Link    

Harbor Me

 Harbor Me
Jacqueline Woodson. Jacqueline Woodson's first middle-grade novel since National Book Award winner Brown Girl Dreaming celebrates the healing that can occur when a group of students shares their stories. EyeSeeMe Link 

Grades 7 - 12

Chlorine Sky
 Chlorine Sky
Mahogany L. Browne. Chlorine Sky sounds like the story of a girl who steps out of the shadow of her best friend and figures out what it means to be her own person. EyeSeeMe Link 

 Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix for Youth
Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. The book explores how racism has played a central role in national policy, from slavery to the "War on Drugs," and beyond. EyeSeeMe Link