Looking for the best Martin Luther King Jr. children’s books?
Even if you do nothing to celebrate or acknowledge Dr. King, the holiday is a wonderful opportunity to talk to children about racism, diversity, equality, kindness, friendship, and peace. Since his death in April 1968, many have stepped up to carry on his legacy including: Stacey Abrams, Bryan Stevenson, Tamika D. Mallory and others. It has truly been inspiring to see so many new activists and politicians continuing to stand up and speak out against injustices the same way Dr. King did years ago.
Below I’m sharing some great children’s books inspired by the life and legacy of one of our nation’s most prominent civil rights activists, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Let me know in the comments some of your favorite Dr. King children’s books.
Black History is American History and should be celebrated and acknowledged all year, not just in February. Black History month reminds us that although there has been some progression over the years, there is still so much work that needs to be done. It’s a time to celebrate Black Joy, learn about Black inventors, scientists, and politicians. Read books not only about civil rights, but also read books about self-love and ones that showcase Black kids being everyday kids.
I hope you’ll enjoy this FREE resource and use with your little readers, your students or on your own. If you’re an educator, why not print a poster sized copy for your classroom and work on it with your students? Parents and caregivers can also enjoy using this resource in their homes.
To create this printable, I collaborated with Briana James of Artish Reader, a talented Art student. If you’ve been following me for a while, you may remember the first project Briana and I collaborated on for my 31 Days of Women’s History coloring sheet and The Mocha Express Holiday Reading Challenge.
I talked to Briana about my idea and concept and she used her creative genius to produce this printable that corresponds to the Black History Month Theme for 2021 which is The Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity. Get in touch with Briana, give her a follow on Instagram, and support her as she continues to build up her art portfolio. It’s always such a pleasure to work with her and help support another Black woman at the same time.
This coloring printable is a fun way to celebrate Black History Month. It features an array of influential Black/Afro-Latino/a celebrities, athletes, politicians, artists and activists from past and present. You can enjoy this coloring page printed in various sizes from 11 x 17 up to 24 X 36 if you’d like jumbo poster size.
Each day during the month of February (or any time of the year), color in person or object until the whole poster is complete. I designed this printable to be used starting February 1st (in the U.S.), but you can start using it any day throughout the year you choose.
The idea is to either read a book, do research, or work on a craft project about each person featured in the list. By the end of the challenge you should be more familiar with each person and their achievements.
If you need book recommendations throughout the challenge, I have created several categorized lists in my online Bookshop and Amazon stores to assist you. Also, if purchasing new or used books isn’t in your budget, be sure to utilize your local library.
Here are a few of my book lists to help get you started:
African-American Picture Books Featuring Males
African-American Picture Books Featuring Females
Latinx & Afro-Latino Picture Books
CHECK OUT MORE OF MY RESOURCES (INCLUDING MY POPULAR PRINTABLE READING JOURNAL and 28 DAYS OF BLACK HISTORY) ON MY TEACHER’S PAY TEACHERS WEBSITE AND GIVE ME A FOLLOW OVER THERE TOO.
AS ALWAYS, THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!
February 12, 2020 marks the 120th anniversary of the song Lift Every Voice and Sing. Often called “The Black National Anthem”, Lift Every Voice and Sing was written as a poem by NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) and then set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson (1873-1954) in 1899. The song was first performed in public in the Johnsons’ hometown of Jacksonville, Florida as part of a celebration of Lincoln’s Birthday on February 12, 1900 by a choir of 500 schoolchildren at the segregated Stanton School, where James Weldon Johnson was principal.
Lift Every Voice and Sing has been a staple musical celebration of Black excellence and pride for the past 120 years. Our family adores the picture book entitled Sing a Song written by Kelly Starling Lyons and illustrated by Keith Mallett. Accompanied by gorgeous illustrations and song lyrics, the book is a beautiful reminder that each generation has had to “lift” their own voices to demand and protect their rights.
So how can you celebrate and acknowledge the anniversary of this important song? You can begin by teaching your children, grandchildren or students the the history and meaning behind the Black National Anthem. I also encourage reading an #ownvoices book that accurately depicts the history of the song. Including Sing a Song, there are other picture books you can read like: Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing, Lift Every Voice and Sing, Lift Every Voice and Sing illustrated by Bryan Collier, or Lift Every Voice and Sing: A Pictorial Tribute to the Negro National Anthem.
You can also download the Sing a Song activity sheet that goes along with the book written by Kelly Starling Lyons. Click here to download.
Watch a video about the song like this one shown below.
Lift Every Voice and Sing
Lift ev’ry voice and sing,
‘Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on ’til victory is won.
Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
‘Til now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.
I’ve had an idea to create a Black History resource for the past two years. Last year, with the help of a fellow author/illustrator Kathy Ellen Davis I provided you with a fun Black History Bingo game which was quite popular and downloaded over 5,000 times.
This year, I connected with a very talented Black illustrator named Chasity Hampton, founder of Whimsical Designs by CJ, LLC. I hired Chasity to bring my vision to life and I think she did a fantastic job. I’m so excited to share Chasity and her work with you all. She’s the illustrator who created the adorable logo for my kid’s 50 States 50 Books literacy organization.
Shameless plug for my kids and their 50 States 50 Books initiative: They are doing amazing work collecting and donating diverse children’s books to kids across America who don’t have access to diverse literature. Their story was featured in Time Magazine for Kids and The Huffington Post just to make a few. Just like last year, their goal is to collect and donate 2,500 diverse children’s books to each of the 50 United States. If you’d like to donate new or gently used books or monetary gifts to help their cause, please visit their website for details on how you can help. You can also follow their popular Instagram account here.
Ok, back to the printable. My goals for creating this Black History resource for you are twofold:
1) To provide parents, grandparents, educators, librarians, etc. with a fun and engaging resource to use with children either during Black History month or anytime of the year. I hope it gets kids excited to read and learn about Black History year round.
2) To uplift a young and talented illustrator such as Chasity. Let’s face it, this resource would not be possible without her. SHE did this work, not me. I just had the vision and SHE brought it to life.
This is the type of resource I wish I had when I was younger. So now as a parent, I get to live vicariously through my children and through the lives of children across the country and across the world who choose to use and share this resource.
To use this resource, simply follow the suggested list of things to do each day (or make up your own) and color in the corresponding numbers on the paper as you complete them. At the end of the 28 or 29 days you should end up with a fully colored in poster.
If you decide to download or share this resource, please tag me on Instagram @hereweeread so I can see it and share! Also, please tag Chasity too on Instagram @whimsicaldesigns_bycj. You can use the hashtag #hwrblackhistory if you’d like to share your kids or students using this resource. That would be my heart so happy!
If you want to print it on 8.5 x 11 paper, you certainly can. However, the list of things to do each day will be harder to read in smaller font. Whichever size you choose to print this resource is up to you. For a better experience, I’d recommend either the 11 x 17 size or the 18 x 24 if you want a larger poster size. You can also choose the 24 x 36 size if you want a bigger poster, but it will cost more to print. Again, totally your call on the size you choose.
I look forward to seeing images of kids enjoying this resource. Let me know in the comments what you think and if you choose to use it!
Happy Reading, friends!
Download the 29 Days of Black History Month resource here (Use this version during Leap Years. Note: 2020 IS a leap year so use this version for 2020.)
Download the 28 Days of Black History Month resource here (Use this version during non-Leap years)
P.S. If you enjoy this resource, I’d appreciate it if you subscribed to my email list HERE. I promise, I don’t send spam! One of my social media goals this year is to build up my e-mail list so subscribing would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!
If you need book suggestions, you may want to browse some of my previous blog posts linked below:
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Simon Kids in exchange for an honest review. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.
I’m in full 2020 review mode pouring over all of the beautiful books I’ve received from publishers and authors so far. Freedom Bird is an absolute gem that left me in happy tears with a full heart.
In the beginning, readers are introduced to an enslaved family of four: Samuel, Maggie, Millicent and John Wheeler who live on Simon Plenty’s plantation. Very early on, John and Millicent’s parents are sold away leaving them behind. Although the children were left alone on the plantation, their parents had already sown the seeds of freedom in their children’s minds and hearts. They told them stories of how people could fly away to freedom as free as a bird and they believed it.
Photo courtesy of Simon Kids
One day while working out in the field, a huge bird is flying overhead all of the enslaved people. Annoyed of the bird, the white overseer grabs his leather whip and yanks the bird right out of the sky injuring it. Late in the evening, Millicent and John sneak out in the field and bring the injured into a shed to begin bringing it back to health. They are able to keep the bird hidden for four months until it was discovered.
Upon discovery from the overseer, Millicent tells the bird to fly away and it does. In a daring escape to freedom Millicent and John follow the bird which leads them West. In the author’s note you find out this book is a combination of three stories from history meant to all sit alongside each other: Big Jabe, Freedom Bird, and Thunder Rose. Millicent in this book is Millicent MacGruder, mother of Thunder Rose who escaped to freedom and went West.
Photo courtesy of Simon Kids
The thing I love most about this story is it filled me with so much comfort and peace knowing enslaved people desired and longed for freedom. Some history books describe enslaved people as being “happy” which just isn’t true. The fact that Samuel and Maggie sowed the seeds of freedom in their children’s minds and hearts fills me with so much joy. I cannot begin to fathom what it must have been like to be enslaved living on a plantation especially as a child without your parents. Humans are truly resilient beings.
Freedom Bird is a beautifully written, compelling, (sometimes heartbreaking) yet inspiring story about enslaved Americans of African descent and their desire to be as free as a bird. Due to a few pages of lengthy text, I’d recommend this one for slightly older readers ages 8 – 9 and up. Although it can be read aloud with people of all ages. A great book to add to your home, school or public library for reading during Black History Month or anytime of the year. Publishes January 14, 2020 from Simon Kids. Ages 5-9 and up.
Disclaimer: I received complimentary copies of these awesome books to enjoy and share in partnership with A Kids Book About. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.
In response to the extraordinary spread of COVID-19, A Kids Book About created a completely FREE resource to help kids and grownups everywhere learn more about COVID-19. Click here to download. Note: Be sure to choose the PDF version of the file to download.
Talking to children about “tough” topics doesn’t have to be difficult. Especially when you have helpful books like these published from A Kids Book About. Have you seen these books yet?
A Kids Book About publishes hardcover, high-quality books that cover a range of challenging, empowering and important topics for kids ages 5-9. They have an impressive growing collection of books about: money, creativity, feminism, body image, depression, cancer, racism and more.
A Kids Book About all started with A Kids Book About Racism, a book written by co-founder and CEO, Jelani Memory. As a black father with a blended family (4 white kids and two brown kids), racism was an inevitable topic of conversation. He thought he’d only print one copy, but it turned out other grownups thought their kids could use an honest kids book on the topic. That one book turned into more by new authors on topics like belonging, feminism, gratitude, cancer, and so many more.
Each book has an easy to follow text-only format with no illustrations. Essentially, these books are meant to be conversation starters and are best read with a grown up to answer any discussion questions children may have. I really enjoyed the books we received about racism, money and creativity.
The book about racism really hit home for me because racial prejudice and structural racism is still very present in today’s society. This book made it very easy for me to explain to my children what racism is and they understood it.
As we embark upon Black History Month a month and a half from now, it is my hope many educators and parents use A Kids Book About Racism to help navigate their discussions around race and racism.
One of the biggest paradoxes with Black History Month is many view it as a “teachable moment” to help children learn about the same old topics like slavery and the Civil Rights Movement, but then abandon the topics again for a whole year. I believe it’s equally as important to educate ALL children on the ongoing presence of racism and not just during Black History Month.
Check out A Kids Book About Racism to get a jumpstart on having the important conversation about race and racism. Be sure to also check out their other amazing books too. This series empowers adults to have straightforward and honest conversations with children in an engaging and relatable way. Recommended for ages 5-9 and up.
Your turn: Have you checked out these books yet? Feel free to share in the comments.
I am SO excited to share these Black History Picture Book Bingo cards with you! When I came across author Kathy Ellen Davis’s Picture Book Bingo on Instagram, I immediately shared it with my Instagram audience. I then reached out to Kathy and asked if she would create a Black History themed bingo card for me and she kindly said YES!
If you’ve never played book bingo before, it’s pretty easy and straightforward. Just read books to correspond with the categories on the card. I’d recommend it for anyone who:
- Enjoys reading
- Likes reading new types of books they wouldn’t normally read
- Likes to be challenged
- Is a consistent and dedicated enough reader to complete the challenge
Most of all, book bingo is about having FUN – even if you don’t complete the entire bingo card due to that thing called “life” we all live. Really, though, if you enjoy books, I highly recommend giving this a shot at least one time through. You can do it on your own, with your own children/grandchildren, other family members, friends or with your students.
To create these bingo cards, I came up with different categories of books and Kathy was generous enough to hand letter them on her own! I have a huge list of other categories that are not included on these cards so expect to see other versions of these bingo cards on occasion throughout the year.
I think book bingo is a wonderful opportunity for kids (and adults) to have fun while reading, along with adding an extra incentive to complete the BINGO card. Have you played book bingo before?
Why two different versions?
Use the Black History Month Picture Book Bingo card if you want to use it ONLY during the month of February which is Black History Month.
Use the Black History Picture Book Bingo card if you want to use it any time during the year.
If you need book suggestions, you may want to browse some of my previous blog posts linked below:
Your turn: Do you find these Bingo cards to be helpful? Will you participate and try it? Feel free to share in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts and perhaps see photos of your completed Bingo cards! If you share about this, use the hashtag #bhpbingo so I’ll see your posts.
This round-up of picture books highlights prominent and a few lesser-known male leaders of African descent. Each male featured has a distinct story and legacy, but they all share some commonalities: poise and confidence that no doubt added to their iconic statuses. I hope you’ll enjoy this list and explore each story to witness their perseverance through oppression and their determination through struggle. These books are great to read during Black History Month or anytime of the year.
Art Tatum, an African American pianist, and one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time, was born in 1909, in Toledo, Ohio. Did you know he was blind in one eye and visually impaired in the other? He was an amazing child prodigy with perfect pitch who learned to play the piano by ear.
Arthur Schomburg was a Puerto Rican historian, writer, and activist in the United States who researched and raised awareness of the great contributions that Afro-Latin Americans and African-Americans have made to society.
Barack Hussein Obama is an American attorney and politician who served as the 44th president of the United States from 2009 to 2017.
Bass Reeves was the first Black deputy U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi River. He worked mostly in Arkansas and the Oklahoma Territory. During his long career, he was credited with arresting more than 3,000 felons. He shot and killed 14 outlaws in self-defense.
Bob Marley was a powerful musician and messenger; a poet and prophet of reggae culture. His music echoed from Jamaica all the way across the globe, spreading his heartfelt message of peace, love, and equality to everyone who heard his songs.
Carter G. Woodson
Carter G. Woodson is known as The “Father” of Black History. He dedicated his life to educating African Americans about the achievements and contributions of their ancestors.
Charles Albert Tindley
Known as The Founding Father of American Gospel music, Charles Albert Tindley was born in 1851 in Berlin, Maryland. His father was enslaved, but his mother was born free. Tindley wrote over 40 hymns in his lifetime. His “I’ll Overcome Some Day” was the basis for the American Civil Rights anthem “We Shall Overcome,” popularized in the 1960’s. Other songs he wrote include: “Stand By Me”, “I Know the Lord Will Make a Way”, and “The Storm Is Passing Over” among others.
Born in Chicago in 1918, Charles W. White was one of America’s most renowned and recognized African-American & Social Realist artists.
Charles Luther Sifford was a professional golfer who was the first African American to play on the PGA Tour.
Claude Mason Steele
Claude Mason Steele is an American social psychologist. He is best known for his work on stereotype threat and its application to minority student academic performance.
Born in 1955 in Kingston, Jamaica, Clive Campbell is known as “The Father of Hip Hop”.
Cornelius Washington was a veteran French Quarter sanitation worker who became famous following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Louisiana.
David Drake, also known as Dave the Potter, was an American potter who lived in Edgefield, South Carolina. Dave produced over 100 alkaline-glazed stoneware jugs between the 1820s and the 1860s.
Dizzy Gillespie (John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie)
John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie was an American jazz trumpeter, bandleader, composer, and singer. Some call him one of the greatest jazz trumpeters of all times.
Ernie Barnes was an African-American painter, well known for his unique style of elongation and movement. He was also a professional football player, actor and author. Did you know his popular paintings were featured in the sitcom Good Times?
Famed 19th-century author and orator Frederick Douglass was an eminent human rights leader in the anti-slavery movement and the first African-American citizen to hold a high U.S. government rank.
Meet George Crum, inventor of potato chips!
George Fletcher was the first African American to compete for a world championship in bronco riding at the 1911 Pendleton Roundup.
George Moses Horton
George Moses Horton was an African-American poet from North Carolina, the first to be published in the Southern United States. His book The Hope of Liberty was published in 1829 while he was still enslaved.
A man of many talents, Gordon Parks is most famous for being the first Black director in Hollywood.
Henry “Box” Brown was an enslaved man who shipped himself to freedom in a wooden box.
Horace Pippin was a self-taught African-American painter.
Howard Washington Thurman was a Black author, philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader.
Jacob Lawrence was one of the most important artists of the 20th century, widely renowned for his modernist depictions of everyday life as well as epic narratives of African American history and historical figures.
Jackie Robinson broke boundaries as the first African American player in Major League Baseball. But long before Jackie changed the world in a Dodger uniform, he did it in an army uniform.
James Madison Hemings
Madison Hemings, born James Madison Hemings, was the son of the mixed-race enslaved Sally Hemings. He was the third of her four children— fathered by her master, President Thomas Jefferson.
James Van Der Zee
James Van Der Zee was an African-American photographer known for his distinctive portraits from the Harlem Renaissance.
Jean-Michel Basquiat and his unique, collage-style paintings rocketed to fame in the 1980s as a cultural phenomenon unlike anything the art world had ever seen.
Jimmy “Wink” Winkfield
Born into an African American sharecropping family in 1880s Kentucky, Jimmy Winkfield grew up loving horses. He later went on to become the last Black jockey to win the Kentucky Derby.
John William Coltrane was an American jazz saxophonist and composer.
John Roy Lynch
John Roy Lynch was the first African American Speaker of the House in Mississippi. He was also one of the first African American members of the U.S House of Representatives during Reconstruction, the period in United States history after the Civil War.
James Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri.
Meet the inventor of the Super Soaker Water Gun!
Malcolm X was an American Muslim minister and human rights activist.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an American Baptist minister and activist during the Civil Rights Movement.
Regarded by most as the NBA’s greatest all-time player, Michael Jordan won six titles with the Chicago Bulls.
Muhammad Ali was an American professional boxer, activist, and philanthropist. Nicknamed “The Greatest”, he is widely regarded as one of the most significant and celebrated sports figures of the 20th century and one of the greatest boxers of all time.
Neil deGrasse Tyson
Neil deGrasse Tyson, is an American astrophysicist whose work has inspired a generation of young scientists and astronomers to reach for the stars!
Born on July 18, 1918 Nelson Mandela is best known for promoting messages of forgiveness, peace and equality.
Paul Laurence Dunbar
Born on June 27, 1872, Paul Laurence Dunbar was one of the first African American poets to gain national recognition.
Paul Leroy Robeson was an American bass baritone concert artist and stage and film actor who became famous both for his cultural accomplishments and for his political activism.
Ray Charles Robinson, known professionally as Ray Charles, was an American singer, songwriter, musician, and composer.
Pioneering African-American writer Richard Wright is best known for the classic texts Black Boy and Native Son.
Romare Bearden was a visual artist who utilized painting, cartoons, and collage to depict African-American life.
Thurgood Marshall was an American lawyer, serving as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from October 1967 until October 1991. He was the Court’s 96th justice and its first African-American justice.
Overcoming racism and resistance from his colleagues, Vivien ushered in a new era of medicine—children’s heart surgery. This book is the compelling story of this incredible pioneer in medicine.
Wendell O. Scott
Wendell Oliver Scott was the first African American race car driver to win a race in what would now be considered part of the Sprint Cup Series.
William “Doc” Key
William “Doc” Key, a formerly enslaved man and self-taught veterinarian believed in treating animals with kindness, patience, and his own homemade remedies.
William “Bill” Lewis was an enslaved man who earned enough money being a blacksmith and set a daring plan in motion: to free his family.
William J. Powell
William J. Powell was an American businessman, entrepreneur, and pioneering golf course owner who designed the Clearview Golf Club, the first integrated golf course, as well as the first to cater to African-American golfers.
Your turn: Did you learn about someone or something new after reading this post? What other books would you add to this list? Feel free to share in the comments.
Waiting for Pumpsie is based on a fictional character named Bernard and his family, but based on true events from Pumpsie Green’s life.
All Pumpsie Green wanted to do was play baseball. He didn’t aspire to play for the major leagues initially, but he eventually went on to become the first Black baseball player to integrate the Boston Red Sox. Although Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball in 1947, it took the Red Sox another twelve years to integrate their team. They were the last team in Major League Baseball to have a Black player.
This is an inspiring and feel good story about equality and change. Pumpsie Green is currently still alive today and is sometimes invited back to Fenway Park to throw out a ceremonial first pitch at Red Sox games.
Click here to see a list of the first Black players for each Major League Baseball team.
About the Author
Barry has been a bartender, taxi driver, song writer, substitute teacher and writer for the Major League Baseball. He grew up as a Mets fan and was eight years old when he first heard the name Pumpsie Green. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and son. Visit his website: onedogwoof.com.
About the Illustrator
London Ladd currently lives in Syracuse, New York. He’s a graduate of Syracuse University with a BFA in Illustration. He has illustrated numerous critically acclaimed children’s books including March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World (Scholastic), written by Christine King Farris, the older sister of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Frederick’s Journey: The Life of Frederick Douglass (Disney/Jump at the Sun), written by Doreen Rappaport, and Midnight Teacher: Lilly Ann Granderson and her Secret School (Lee & Low Books), written by Janet Halfmann. His goal is to open an art center in Syracuse so that young people and families can create their own art. Visit his website: londonladd.com.
One (1) winner will receive a copy of Waiting for Pumpsie courtesy of Charlesbridge Publishing. Open to all US based residents age 18 and over. Good Luck!
We have all heard of Alexander Graham Bell, Charles Goodyear, Thomas Edison and other famous American inventors. Right? But you may not know that throughout American history, hundreds of Black inventors have also made significant contributions to almost every facet of life through their creations. Many of the inventions we still use today!
While researching different inventions for this blog post, I was shocked to discover some of the many incredible things that African Americans have invented, including the ice cream scoop, the ironing board, the lawn mower, and the mailbox! Who knew?
That’s right, for more than three centuries, Black inventors have been coming up with ingenious ideas that have changed the world for the better. I hope this blog post helps brings their stories to life and shines a light on these courageous inventors and discoverers.
Black shampoos and other hair care products (including the Straightening Comb)
Inventor: Sarah Breedlove Walker a.k.a. Madam CJ Walker
Picture Book Recommendation: Vision Of Beauty : The Story Of Sarah Breedlove Walker (Ages 8 – 12)
Madam C.J. Walker was one of the first Black millionaires in the United States. She is commonly known for her Black beauty and Hair-care Empire and invention.
Inventor: Benjamin Banneker
Picture Book Recommendation: Ticktock Banneker’s Clock (Ages 6-9)
Did you know Benjamin Banneker a mathematician, and astronomer, taught himself mathematics through textbooks he borrowed? As an adult, Benjamin used mathematics and astronomy to predict the weather and write his own almanac, which was used by farmers. He also invented America’s first clock made of wood in 1753.
Laserphaco Probe (for cataract treatment)
Inventor: Dr. Patricia A. Bath
Picture Book Recommendation: The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath (Ages 5 – 10)
Did you know Dr. Patricia E. Bath, an Black doctor and inventor, invented the Laserphaco Probe that helps treat cataracts, a common cause of blindness?
Inventor: John Albert Burr
Picture Book Recommendation: The Man Who Invented the Lawn Mower
On May 9, 1899, John Albert Burr patented an improved rotary blade lawn mower. Burr designed a lawn mower with traction wheels and a rotary blade that was designed to not easily get plugged up from lawn clippings. John Albert Burr also improved the design of lawn mowers by making it possible to mow closer to building and wall edges.
Helped to Popularize Peanut Butter
(also developed hundreds of products using the peanut, sweet potatoes and soybeans. )
Inventor: George Washington Carver
Picture Book Recommendation: Who Was George Washington Carver? (Ages 8 – 12)
George Washington Carver was an American agricultural chemist, agronomist and botanist who developed various products from peanuts, sweet potatoes and soy-beans that radically changed the agricultural economy of the United States. George Washington Carver did not invent peanut butter, but he made it more popular. The Aztec were known to have made peanut butter from ground peanuts as early as the 15th century. Canadian pharmacist Marcellus Gilmore Edson was awarded U.S. Patent 306,727 (for its manufacture) in 1884, 12 years before Carver began his work at Tuskegee.
Inventor: George Crum
Picture Book Recommendation: George Crum and the Saratoga Chip (Ages 6 – 10)
The son of an African-American father and a Native American mother, George Crum was working as the chef in the summer of 1853 when he incidentally invented the chip. It all began when a patron who ordered a plate of French-fried potatoes sent them back to Crum’s kitchen because he felt they were too thick and soft.
Pull Out Bed/Convertible Bed/Folding Cabinet Bed
Inventor: Sarah E. Goode
Picture Book Recommendation: Sweet Dreams, Sarah: From Slavery to Inventor (Ages 5 – 9)
Born into slavery in 1850, inventor and entrepreneur Sarah E. Goode was the first African-American woman to be granted a patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, for her invention of a folding cabinet bed in 1885. She died in 1905.
Super Soaker Water Gun
Inventor: Lonnie G. Johnson
Picture Book Recommendation: Whoosh: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions (Ages 7-10)
Lonnie Johnson is an American inventor and engineer who holds more than 120 patents. He is the inventor of the Super Soaker water gun, which has been among the world’s bestselling toys every year since its release in 1982.
Gas Mask, Traffic Light
Inventor: Garrett A. Morgan
Picture Book Recommendation: To the Rescue! Garret Morgan Underground (Ages 5-8)
Garrett Morgan was an inventor and businessman from Cleveland who is best known for inventing a device called the Morgan safety hood which is now called a gas mask. He also invented the 3 light traffic signal which is still used today. After receiving a patent in 1923, the rights to the invention were eventually purchased by General Electric.
Your turn: Check out this list of other items invented by Black inventors. Which ones did you know about and which ones are you surprised to learn? What Black inventors/inventions would you add to this list? Feel free to share in the comments.
3-DVG Glasses – Kenneth J. Dunkley
Farmer’s Almanac – Benjamin Banneker
Automatic Elevator Doors – Alexander Miles
Blood Bank – Dr. Charles Richard Drew
Clothes Dryer – George T. Sampson
CompuRest Keyboard Stand – Joanna Hardin (1993)
Disposable Underwear – Tanya Allen (1994)
Door Knob & Door Stop – Osbourn Dorsey (1878)
Dry Cleaning Process – Thomas L. Jennings (He was also the first Black person to hold a U.S. patent)
Dust Pan (improved version) – Lloyd P. Ray
Egg Beater – Willis Johnson (1884)
Fitted Bedsheets – Bertha Berman (1959)
Folding Chair – John Purdy
Gas Heating Furnace – Alice Parker
Golf Tee – Dr. George Grant
Guitar (modern) – Robert Fleming
Hairbrush – Lyda A. Newman
Home Security System – Marie Van Brittan Brown
IBM Computer – Mark E. Dean (He was a co-creator)
Ice Cream Scoop – Alfred L. Cralle (1897)
Ironing Board – Sarah Boone
Lawn Sprinkler – Joseph A. Smith
Light Bulb (Improved version) – Lewis Latimer
Mail Box – Phillip A. Downing (1891)
“Monkey” Wrench – Jack Johnson (1922) (Nicknamed a “monkey” wrench because it was invented by a Black man)
Mop – Thomas W. Stewart (1893)
Pacemaker (improved version) – Otis Boykin
Pastry Fork – Anna M. Mangin (1892)
Portable Pencil Sharpener – John Lee Love
Rain Hat – Maxine Snowden (1983)
Refrigerating Apparatus – Thomas Elkins
Reversible Baby Stroller – William H. Richardson
Sanitary Belt – Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner
Street Sweeper – Charles B. Brooks
Suitcase with wheels and transporting hook – Debrilla Ratchford (1978)
Thermostat and Temperature Control – Frederick Jones
Toaster (with a digital timer)– Ruane Jeter
Touch Tone Telephone (improved) – Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson (Dr. Jackson conducted breakthrough basic scientific research that enabled others to invent the portable fax, touch tone telephone, solar cells, fiber optic cables, and the technology behind caller ID and call waiting.)
Toilet Tissue Holder (improved version) – Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner
Video Game Console/Cartridge – Gerald “Jerry” Lawson
Windshield Wipers – Mary Anderson (1903)
Hammering for Freedom by Rita Lorraine Hubbard, illustrated by John Holyfield
Publisher: Lee and Low Books
Age Range: 7-10
Grade Level: 1-2
Born into slavery in Tennessee, William Lewis learned the blacksmith trade as soon as he was old enough to grip a hammer. He proved to be an exceptional blacksmith and earned so much money fixing old tools and creating new ones that he was allowed to keep a little money for himself. With just a few coins in his pocket, Bill set a daring plan in motion: he was determined to free his family.
Winner of Lee & Low s New Voices Award and a Junior Library Guild selection, Hammering for Freedom tells the true story of one man s skill, hard work, and resolve to keep his family together.
Hammering for Freedom introduces readers to William “Bill” Lewis, born into slavery in Tennessee. Bill learned the blacksmith trade as soon as he was old enough to grip a hammer.
Once he mastered the blacksmith trade, Bill set a goal to save his money and buy his entire family’s freedom at the age of 26. He knew the slave owners rented to enslaved men and women to make extra money, so Bill asked the slave owner to let him rent himself. Bill paid $350 per year to rent his freedom. After he paid the rent from his savings, Bill still had money leftover to open his own blacksmith shop. He became the first African American blacksmith in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
When Bill paid for his freedom he began saving again to buy his wife’s freedom, his son’s freedom, his mother, aunt, siblings, the whole dang family!
This is a feel good story. It made me cry happy tears to see this Black man overcome the odds, work hard, set an elaborate goal and achieve it all to keep his family together. It took him 26 years to buy freedom for his entire family, but he got it done…like a boss! And then what does Bill do after all that? He pays $2,000 cash for a two-story home for his family to live in. Back in those days most White people couldn’t afford to do that. Bill Lewis is my new hero!
Check this one out if you get a chance. I’m so in love with it and I’m thrilled to now know about William “Bill” Lewis and introduce this story to my kids. Recommended for ages 7-10 and up.
Your turn: Have you ever heard of William “Bill” Lewis before? Did you read this story yet? Feel free to share in the comments.