Classical Childrens Books

African American Literature

The list of African American Literature presents stories of Black Americans for kids. These classic stories have all been in print for at least 50 years, or are noted otherwise.

Tales Of Uncle Remus

By Julius Lester

Julius Lester has rewoven the old stories of Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox for a younger generation of students. The crafty rabbit continues to outsmart the old fox with tales reminescent of slave life on the plantation.

George Washington Carver: An American Biography

By Rackham Holt

Reading Level: 7th grade and above
George Washington Carver was a brilliant scientist, teacher, and humanitarian who inspired many during his lifetime; as well as the generations that followed.

The Legend of Bass Reeves

By Gary Paulsen

Fictionalized but True Account
Reading Level: 6th grade and above
Bass Reeves was one of the heroes of the Wild West: an honest and successful lawman in a lawless land. Paulsen creates some of his own details about Bass's childhood that formed the character and integrity of the man who was born a slave, became a fugitive from the law, then a highly respected deputy. This book was written in 2006 (not a classic), is an ALA notable book, and probably the only book for kids on this gentleman who rightly has earned a reputation as a classic hero.

Bright April

By Marguerite de Angeli

True Story
Reading Level: 3rd grade and under
A ten year black girl living in Philadelphia after World War II experiences racial prejudice. Published in 1946, this book was ground breaking in sharing the story of the struggle of African American children with other children.

Amos Fortune, Free Man

By Elizabeth Yates

Beautifully written, this true story is about an African man who was captured, sold into slavery, bought his freedom, and became a widely respected citizen in his New England community. Amos lived in the 1700's in Africa and New England. For three centuries people have told the story of his hard work, compassion, and love of freedom.

The Story of the Amistad

By Emma Gelders Sterne

True Story - 1839
Africans aboard the slave ship revolt to try and earn their freedom.
Other editions of the same book have been titled "The Slave Ship," and "The Black Schooner."

Elijah of Buxton

By Christopher Paul Curtis

While this book is too new to be classical literature, it is a Newbery Medal Winner.
Elijah is a fictitious character who lived in Buxton, a real settlement of former slaves in Canada. Elijah is a sensitive boy with a reputation for being weak. He is unable to understand what the lives of his parents and other former slaves was like before they escaped to freedom. Then he sees runaway slaves who have been apprehended. Now Elijah and others will find out how strong he really is.

Bud, Not Buddy

By Christopher Paul Curtis

Ten year old Bud escapes from an orphanage and foster home and takes to the road to find the musician he believes to be his father. With only a few items in his worn suitcase and the memory of his mother's words to guide him, he finds himself in the company of a jazz band from Michigan. Based on a true story of the author's own grandfather.

Uncle Tom's Cabin

Harriet Beecher Stowe

One of the best known books on African American literature, this was the best selling book of the 19th century. Written by an abolitionist, the novel had a large effect on turning the public's opinion against slavery and countering the apathy of people in the north. It tells the story of Uncle Tom, a loyal slave who patiently suffers at the hands of his masters. In more recent years, the book has been criticized for its stereotype of a number of characters - both white and black.


William Armstrong

An African American boy in a sharecropping family has a dog named Sounder. A tragic story of a boy searching for his father and his dog; both who are injured and die. Portrays the brutal poverty of sharecroppers.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

By Mildred Taylor

Cassie Logan's family is one of the few families in their Mississippi community that own land during the Depression. But times are difficult and both parents have to work to hold on to their farm. But with racial trouble brewing in the neighborhood, things are not looking good. Cassie and her brothers learn about racism and how it overshadows their future. The book was published 36 years ago and is highly likely to make it into the lists of classics. A prequel and sequel to the book have been published.

Keats Neighborhood

Ezra Jack Keats

A collection of nine of Keat's picture books. Keat's stories show children in urban US neighborhoods and are loved for their colorful pictures. This set includes the stories Apt 3, Whistle for Willie, Pet Show, A Letter to Amy and more. All of his books are a great edition to any child's library.

Yolanda's Genius

Carol Fenner
4th-6th Grade

A modern story of an African American family and the issues they face as their mother choses to move to a small town away from Chicago to get away from violence. Eleven year old Yolanda sees the genius in her six year old brother that no one else notices. Issues of drugs, violence, friendship, lying, enterpreneurship are covered.

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