I have compiled a list of 7 children’s books with black main characters. Books are a wonderful way to introduce children to the world around them. While I enjoy personification, I mostly enjoy children’s books that feature actual children as main characters. It is especially sweet when those children look similar to me.
If you have sought out books with black main characters you may have noticed that race is usually the theme of the book. Five of the books on this list happen to have brown characters but are not race-focused. Two of the books will address racial matters. If you are looking to simply add diversity to your library or specifically looking to introduce black history in America to your children you will find this list helpful.
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This sweet story follows a little brown boy in his red snow bib as he explores the joys and wonder of his first snow day. Written and illustrated by American author Ezra Jack Keats, The Snowy Day was published in 1962 during the civil rights movement. Keats had a desire to make the African-American children of his home city, New York, the main characters in a picture book. The Snowy Day was a milestone in American history as it features the first African-American protagonist in a full-color picture book. This story and its illustrations are simply delightful. Learn more about The Snowy Day and Author Ezra Jack Keats here. Also, check out the animated version of this storybook in the video below.
Mama Panya’s Pancakes is a wonderful tale from Kenya about Mama Panya and her son Adika. The story follows their quest to make pancakes for dinner. Children will see friendship and generosity on display as they journey through this endearing tale. Additionally, children will get to see life in Kenya as the book is set in the East African country.
When Marian Sang is the gorgeously illustrated and written, true account, of one of the most celebrated singers of the twentieth century, Contralto, Marian Anderson. This book features lofty lyrics from timeless songs and gives a brief peek at the ills of segregation in a way that is not too heavy for the youngest readers. Hope is weaved through each page as we follow Marian’s life. From singing in her church choir in Philadelphia to an accomplished vocalist commanding audiences in France and Russia. Marian sings for world leaders. In 1955 Marian becomes the first African American singer to perform as a member of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters is based on a traditional African Tale. A fable of pride proceeding a fall and good versus evil. This beautifully illustrated story was one of my favorite books as a child.
Next on the list of 7 Children’s Books with Black Main Characters is Corduroy. This sweet and heartwarming children’s picture book is a classic. Corduroy is the perfect story to introduce the topic of patience to young children. Lisa is not able to bring Corduroy home when she first sees him, however, she exercises patience until she is able to return to the store with enough money to purchase Corduroy as her own.
In The Patchwork Quilt, we follow Tanya as she helps her grandmother and mother make a beautiful quilt that tells the history of their family. This soft and realistic watercolors used for the illustrations help bring this story of this contemporary family to life.
In Uncle Jed’s Barbershop, first time author, Margaree King Mitchell seamlessly highlights many themes. Read of Sara Jean’s Uncle Jed as he works toward the American Dream. Uncle Jed is described as the only black barber in his town and dreams of one day owning his own barbershop. He is faced with many obstacles while reaching for his goal but is able to overcome them all. Entrepreneurship, budgeting, segregation, and The Great Depression are all touched on in this story, however, the relationship between Sara Jean and Uncle Jed stands out and keeps the story a delightful and uplifting one.
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If you enjoyed this list of 7 children’s books with black main characters, check out my post about The Story About Ping.