February marks Black History Month—a time to celebrate the experiences and accomplishments of Black Americans. And while this should be a focus of education year round, learning resources highlighting Black history are often missing from schools. In fact, that’s a big part of why Black History Month came to fruition in the first place. In the 1920s, Carter G. Woodson—the second Black American to receive a Ph.D. in history from Harvard—created “Negro History Week” as a way to provide schools with resources that would teach children about Black history. Over the past century, the week-long movement evolved into a month-long celebration of Black experiences and accomplishments.
At KiwiCo, we’re on a mission to inspire kids to become the next generation of STEAM leaders and innovators. So during Black History Month, and throughout the year, we look to the trailblazers who laid a path for kids to follow. With help from our friends at The Conscious Kid, we collected a list of some of our favorite books about Black scientists, artists, and innovators who changed the world for the better.
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison
Featuring forty trailblazing Black women in American history, Little Leaders educates and inspires as it relates true stories of breaking boundaries and achieving beyond expectations.
Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed
A beautiful picture book for sharing and marking special occasions such as graduation, inspired by the life of the first African American woman to travel in space, Mae Jemison.
Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe
Jean-Michel Basquiat and his unique, collage-style paintings rocketed to fame in the 1980s, but before that, he was a little boy who saw art everywhere. Now, award-winning illustrator Javaka Steptoe’s vivid text and bold artwork introduce young readers to the powerful message that art doesn’t always have to be neat or clean–and definitely not inside the lines–to be beautiful.
Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas by Gwendolyn Hooks
The life story of Vivien Thomas, an African American surgical technician who developed the first procedure used to perform open-heart surgery on children.
The Vast Wonder of the World: Biologist Ernest Everett Just by Melina Mangal
Ernest was not like other scientists. He saw the whole, where others saw only parts. And he noticed details others failed to see. Through stunning illustrations and lyrical prose, this picture book presents the life and accomplishments of Ernest Everett Just, an African American biologist who made important discoveries about the cell in the 1930s.
Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
Based on the New York Times bestselling book and the Academy Award-nominated movie, author Margot Lee Shetterly and illustrator Laura Freeman bring the incredibly inspiring true story of four Black women who helped NASA launch men into space to picture book readers!
This book is a journey across borders, through time and even through space to meet 52 icons of color from the past and present in a celebration of achievement.
Dream Builder: The Story of Architect Philip Freelon by Kelly Starling Lyons
Dream Builder: The Story of Architect Philip Freelon celebrates a contemporary black STEAM role model, a man whose quiet work enabled the creation of an iconic building reflecting America’s past and future. With a stirring text by Kelly Starling Lyons, vibrant pictures by Laura Freeman, and an afterword from Philip Freelon himself, it is sure to inspire the next generation of dreamers and builders.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba
When fourteen-year-old William Kamkwamba’s Malawi village was hit by a drought, everyone’s crops began to fail. Without enough money for food, let alone school, William spent his days in the library and figured out how to bring electricity to his village. Persevering against the odds, William built a functioning windmill out of junkyard scraps, and thus became the local hero who harnessed the wind.
Buzzing With Questions: The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner by Janice N. Harrington
Can spiders learn? How do ants find their way home? Can bugs see color? All of these questions buzzed endlessly in Charles Henry Turner’s mind. As the first Black entomologist, he was fascinated by plants and animals and bugs. And even when he faced racial prejudice, Turner did not stop wondering. He constantly read, researched, and experimented. Author Janice Harrington and artist Theodore Taylor III capture the life of this scientist and educator in this nonfiction picture book, highlighting Turner’s unstoppable curiosity and his passion for science.
Want more books like these? Check out this list: 30 Children’s Books That Inspire Creativity, Inclusion & Resilience