6 Children's Books About African American Women Who Broke Barriers
Updated: Jan 12
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Fannie Lou Hamer, Misty Copeland, and Katherine Johnson all have something in common. They didn't let society's limitations dictate what they could achieve. Here are books that will inspire children to work hard for the life they want to create.
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
This is the amazing true story of four African American female mathematicians at NASA who helped achieve some of the greatest moments in our space program.
This book brings to life the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, four African American women who lived through the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the movement for gender equality, and whose work forever changed the face of NASA and the country.
Rosa by Nikki Giovanni (Author), Bryan Collier (Illustrator)
Fifty years after her refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus, Mrs. Rosa Parks is still one of the most important figures in the American civil rights movement. This tribute to Mrs. Parks is a celebration of her courageous action and the events that followed.
Award-winning poet, writer, and activist Nikki Giovanni's evocative text combines with Bryan Collier's striking cut-paper images to retell the story of this historic event from a wholly unique and original perspective.
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
"When it comes to justice, there is no easy way to get it. You can't sugarcoat it. You have to take a stand and say, 'This is not right.'" - Claudette Colvin
On March 2, 1955, an impassioned teenager, fed up with the daily injustices of Jim Crow segregation, refused to give her seat to a white woman on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Instead of being celebrated as Rosa Parks would be just nine months later, fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin found herself shunned by her classmates and dismissed by community leaders. Undaunted, a year later she dared to challenge segregation again as a key plaintiff in Browder v. Gayle, the landmark case that struck down the segregation laws of Montgomery and swept away the legal underpinnings of the Jim Crow South.
Discover the life of Michelle Obama--a story about working for change by Christine Platt
Michelle Obama is one of the most important women in American history. Before she served as the first Black first lady of the United States, Michelle was a smart and studious kid who wanted to give back to her community. She became a lawyer so that she could help people understand the law and get the legal aid they needed.
When she became first lady, she continued to help people--especially young people--in many ways. Explore how Michelle went from being a young girl growing up on the South Side of Chicago to an American role model and leader in the White House.
Firebird by Christine Taylor-Butler by Misty Copeland (Author), Christopher Myers (Illustrator)
In her debut picture book, Misty Copeland tells the story of a young girl--an every girl--whose confidence is fragile and who is questioning her own ability to reach the heights that Misty has reached. Misty encourages this young girl's faith in herself and shows her exactly how, through hard work and dedication, she too can become Firebird.
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement Carole Boston Weatherford (Author), Ekua Holmes (Illustrator)
"I am sick and tired of being sick and tired." Despite fierce prejudice and abuse, even being beaten to within an inch of her life, Fannie Lou Hamer was a champion of civil rights from the 1950s until her death in 1977. Integral to the Freedom Summer of 1964, Ms. Hamer gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention that, despite President Johnson’s interference, aired on national TV news and spurred the nation to support the Freedom Democrats.
...and so many more
There are so many books we could have chosen to include in this list. This list just scratches the surface of the many children's books that feature barrier breaking African American women. For more great book lists, visit our Women's History Booklist or our Picture Book Biographies Booklist.