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Good books for African American teenagers


African American teenagers, families and educators often struggle to find reading materials that highlight the many accomplishments, experiences and interests of Black people. Quality and appropriate books about Black Americans and people of color other than Martin Luther King are not easy to find.

In addition to the literature about Africans brought to American as slaves and the institution of slavery, Civil War, segregation and Jim Crow laws, African American families want their teens to read about reconstruction, the Harlem Renaissance, the work of the NAACP, the first African Americans to achieve greatness in their field and the rich history of the Africana American community.

Discussions about the many contributions Black men and women have made to American history are often limited to Black History Month, but the quest to learn more about African American history has become more relative with the emergence of the Black Lives Matter and social justice movement in the United States and globally.

These movements have heightened the awareness of Black power, disparities, equality, racial prejudice, systematic racism, and racial oppression and led to much confusion in many societal areas and within the Black community. To help people of color navigate this current reality, Dr. Eric R. Jackson, Professor of African American Studies at Northern Kentucky University, has identified 15 must-read books for Black children in 7th to 12th grade.


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Good books for African American teenagers:


Kimberly Brown Pellum’s Black Women in Science. Throughout history, women of color have blazed trails across science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. In this volume, the author created a book for kids to celebrate incredible African American women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) who have used their brains, bravery, and ambition to beat the odds.


Grace Byers’ I am Enough. This illustrated volume examines the ways in which African American girls can empower themselves despite hostile environments.


Sharon Draper’s Copper Sun. This book displays the epic story of a young girl of African descent torn from her village, sold into enslavement, and stripped of everything she has ever known except hope.


Cheryl Willis Hudson’s We Rise We Resist We Raise Our Voices. In this captivating volume, the author collects the writings and views of fifty of the foremost diverse children’s authors and illustrators to answer the question: What shall we tell our children in this divisive, segregated and sometimes racist world?


Varian Johnson’s What were the Negro Leagues. This outstanding book chronicles the history of the Negro Baseball Leagues.



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Kathleen Krull’s What was the March on Washington? This powerful book examines the origins and impact of the 1963 March on Washington, where Blacks and whites advocated for change together.


Carole Marsh’s Out of the Mouths of Slaves: African American Oral History. This unique volume shows the power and impact of oral histories through enslaved African Americans’ voices and livens.


Kwame Mbalia’s Black Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black Boyhood. This powerful book celebrates the lives and the joy of young African American boys through seventeen unique stories.


Jelani Memory’s A Kids Book about Racism. In this book, you will find a clear description of what racism is, how it makes people feel when they experience it, and how to spot it when it happens.


Ruby Bridges’ Ruby Bridges Goes to School. This classic book chronicles the powerful and important life of actress and activist Ruby Bridges.



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Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures. This book tells the phenomenal true story of the Black American female mathematicians at NASA. These mathematicians’ calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space.


Sherri L. Smith’s What is the Civil Rights Movement? This book examines the origins and impact of the Modern Civil Rights movement on Black people.


Megan Stine’s Who is Michelle Obama? This book chronicles the life story of First Lady Michelle Obama.


Kathy Trusty’s Black Inventors. This path-breaking volume discusses the impact of various African American inventors.


Rita Williams-Garcia’s One Crazy Summer. This inspiring book tells the story of three sisters who travel to Oakland, California, in 1968. They travelled to meet the mother who abandoned them.


Good books for African American teenagers photo provided by Adobe Stock

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