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Slavery: Books For Kids

Looking for a list of the best children's books about slavery?

Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to slavery. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about slavery.

Our list includes picture books and chapter books. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid.

We hope this list of kids books about slavery can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book!

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Ashes
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-13

Return to the American Revolution in this blistering conclusion to the Seeds of America trilogy that began with the bestselling National Book Award Finalist Chains and continued with Forge, which Kirkus Reviews called “the best book you’ll ever read.” As the Revolutionary War rages on, Isabel and Curzon have narrowly escaped Valley Forge–but their relief is short-lived. Before long they are reported as runaways, and the awful Bellingham is determined to track them down. With purpose and faith, Isabel and Curzon march on, fiercely determined to find Isabel’s little sister Ruth, who is enslaved in a Southern state–where bounty hunters are thick as flies. Heroism and heartbreak pave their path, but Isabel and Curzon won’t stop until they reach Ruth, and then freedom, in this grand finale to the acclaimed New York Times bestselling trilogy from Laurie Halse Anderson.

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An Ember in the Ashes
Written by Sabaa Tahir
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 12-18

BOOK ONE IN THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING SERIESOne of Time Magazine’s 100 Best Fantasy Books of All TimeOne of Time Magazine’s 100 Best YA Books of All Time Instant New York Times bestsellerFrom #1 New York Times bestselling author Sabaa TahirAmazon’s Best Young Adult Book of 2015People’s Choice Award winner - Favorite FantasyBustle’s Best Young Adult Book of 2015 “This novel is a harrowing, haunting reminder of what it means to be human – and how hope might be kindled in the midst of oppression and fear.” – The Washington Post “An Ember in the Ashes could launch Sabaa Tahir into JK Rowling territory…It has the addictive quality of The Hunger Games combined with the fantasy of Harry Potter and the brutality of Game of Thrones.”–Public Radio International An Ember in the Ashes glows, burns, and smolders–as beautiful and radiant as it is searing.–Huffington Post “A worthy novel - and one as brave as its characters.” –The New York Times Book Review Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free. Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear. It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do. But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy. There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier–and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined–and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

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Roots: The Saga of an American Family
Written by Alex Haley
chapter book
Recommend Ages: -
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Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life
Written & illustrated by Ashley Bryan
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-10

Using original slave auction and plantation estate documents, Ashley Bryan offers a moving and powerful picture book that contrasts the monetary value of a slave with the priceless value of life experiences and dreams that a slave owner could never take away. Imagine being looked up and down and being valued as less than chair. Less than an ox. Less than a dress. Maybe about the same as…a lantern. You, an object. An object to sell. In his gentle yet deeply powerful way, Ashley Bryan goes to the heart of how a slave is given a monetary value by the slave owner, tempering this with the one thing that CAN’T be bought or sold—dreams. Inspired by the actual will of a plantation owner that lists the worth of each and every one of his “workers”, Bryan has created collages around that document, and others like it. Through fierce paintings and expansive poetry he imagines and interprets each person’s life on the plantation, as well as the life their owner knew nothing about—their dreams and pride in knowing that they were worth far more than an Overseer or Madam ever would guess. Visually epic, and never before done, this stunning picture book is unlike anything you’ve seen.

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12 Years a Slave
Written by Solomon Northup
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 18-

The official movie tie-in edition to the winner of the 2014 Academy Award for Best Picture, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, and Lupita Nyong’o, and directed by Steve McQueen New York Times bestseller “I could not believe that I had never heard of this book. It felt as important as Anne Frank’s Diary, only published nearly a hundred years before. . . . The book blew [my] mind: the epic range, the details, the adventure, the horror, and the humanity. . . . I hope my film can play a part in drawing attention to this important book of courage. Solomon’s bravery and life deserve nothing less.” –Steve McQueen, director of 12 Years a Slave, from the Foreword Perhaps the best written of all the slave narratives, Twelve Years a Slave is a harrowing memoir about one of the darkest periods in American history. It recounts how Solomon Northup, born a free man in New York, was lured to Washington, D.C., in 1841 with the promise of fast money, then drugged and beaten and sold into slavery. He spent the next twelve years of his life in captivity on a Louisiana cotton plantation. After his rescue, Northup published this exceptionally vivid and detailed account of slave life. It became an immediate bestseller and today is recognized for its unusual insight and eloquence as one of the very few portraits of American slavery produced by someone as educated as Solomon Northup, or by someone with the dual perspective of having been both a free man and a slave.

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  • Forge - For many readers, Forge “will be one of the best novels they have ever read” (starred review from Kirkus Reviews) Blistering winds. Bitter cold. And the hope of a new future. In this compelling sequel to Chains, a National Bo

  • Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave - A Caldecott HonorA Coretta Scott King Award WinnerAn award-winning celebration of an American heroDave was an extraordinary artist, poet, and potter living in South Carolina in the 1800s. He combined his superb artistry with deeply observant poetry, carved onto his pots, transcending the limitations he faced as a slave. In this inspiring and lyrical portrayal, National Book Award nominee Laban Carrick Hill’s elegantly simple text and award-winning artist Bryan Collier’s resplendent, earth-toned illustrations tell Dave’s story, a story rich in history, hope, and long-lasting beauty.

  • Chains - If an entire nation could seek its freedom, why not a girl? As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight…for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom. From acclaimed author Laurie Halse Anderson comes this compelling, impeccably researched novel that shows the lengths we can go to cast off our chains, both physical and spiritual.

  • Elijah of Buxton - Newbery Medalist and CSK Award winner Christopher Paul Curtis’s debut middle-grade/young-YA novel for Scholastic features his trademark humor, compelling storytelling, and unique narrative voice.Eleven-year-old Elijah is the first child born into freedom in Buxton, Canada, a settlement of runaway slaves just over the border from Detroit. He’s best known in his hometown as the boy who made a memorable impression on Frederick Douglass. But things change when a former slave steals money from Elijah’s friend, who has been saving to buy his family out of captivity in the South. Elijah embarks on a dangerous journey to America in pursuit of the thief, and he discovers firsthand the unimaginable horrors of the life his parents fled – a life from which he’ll always be free, if he can find the courage to get back home.

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Beloved
Written by Toni Morrison
chapter book
Recommend Ages: -

PULITZER PRIZE WINNER - NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - An unflinchingly look into the abyss of slavery, from the acclaimed Nobel Prize winner. This spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe’s new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement.

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The Bell Rang
Written & illustrated by James E. Ransome
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A Kirkus Reviews Best Picture Book of 2019

A young slave girl witnesses the heartbreak and hopefulness of her family and their plantation community when her brother escapes for freedom in this brilliantly conceived picture book by Coretta Scott King Award winner James E. Ransome.

Every single morning, the overseer of the plantation rings the bell. Daddy gathers wood. Mama cooks. Ben and the other slaves go out to work. Each day is the same. Full of grueling work and sweltering heat. Every day, except one, when the bell rings and Ben is nowhere to be found. Because Ben ran. Yet, despite their fear and sadness, his family remains hopeful that maybe, just maybe, he made it North. That he is free.

An ode to hope and a powerful tribute to the courage of those who ran for freedom, The Bell Rang is a stunning reminder that our past can never be forgotten.

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Ann Fights for Freedom: An Underground Railroad Survival Story
Written by Nikki Shannon Smith & illustrated by Alessia Trunfio
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Twelve-year-old Ann understands there is only one thing to be grateful for as a slave: having her family together. But when the master falls into debt, he plans to sell both Ann and her younger brother to two different owners. Ann is convinced her family must run away on the Underground Railroad. Will Ann’s family survive the dangerous trip to their freedom in the North ? This Girls Survive story is supported by a glossary, discussion questions, and nonfiction material on the Underground Railroad, making it a valuable resource for young readers.

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Harriet Tubman: Freedom Fighter
Written by Nadia L. Hohn & illustrated by Gustavo Mazali
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Learn about the inspiring life of Harriet Tubman in this early reader biography. Harriet Tubman was a brave woman who was born enslaved in Maryland in the 1800s. After risking everything to escape from her slave master and be free, Harriet went on to lead many people to freedom on a journey known today as the Underground Railroad. This book covers some of the amazing aspects of Tubman’s life: She led 13 escapes—all successful and at great personal risk—between 1850 and 1860. This book also covers some of the lesser-known amazing aspects of her life: During the Civil War, Harriet Tubman enlisted African American men to be soldiers. She served as a spy. AND she led a battle under the command of a Union Army colonel! Beginning readers will learn about the milestones in Harriet Tubman’s life in this Level Two I Can Read biography. This biography includes a timeline and historical illustrations all about the life of this inspiring figure, as well as a rare historical photograph of her. Much mythology and conflicting lore exists about Harriet Tubman. This book was carefully vetted by noted Harriet Tubman expert Dr. Kate Larson. Harriet Tubman: Freedom Fighter is a Level Two I Can Read, geared for kids who read on their own but still need a little help.

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Abe's Honest Words
Written by Doreen Rappaport & illustrated by Kadir Nelson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-8

From the time he was a young boy roaming the forests of the unsettled Midwest, Abraham Lincoln knew in his heart that slavery was deeply wrong. A voracious reader, Lincoln spent every spare moment of his days filling his mind with knowledge, from history to literature to mathematics, preparing himself to one day lead the country he loved toward greater equality and prosperity. Despite the obstacles he faced as a self-educated man from the back woods, Lincoln persevered in his political career, and his compassion and honesty gradually earned him the trust of many Americans. As president, he guided the nation through a long and bitter civil war and penned the document that would lead to the end of slavery in the United States. The passion for humanity that defined Lincoln’s life shines through in this momentous follow-up to Martin’s Big Words and John’s Secret Dreams. Told in Doreen Rappaport’s accessible, absorbing prose, and brought to life in powerful illustrations by Kadir Nelson, Abe’s Honest Words is an epic portrait of a truly great American president.

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  • All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom - Experience the joy of Juneteenth in this celebration of freedom from the award-winning team of Angela Johnson and E.B. Lewis. Through the eyes of one little girl, All Different Now tells the story of the first Juneteenth, the day freedom finally came to the last of the slaves in the South. Since then, the observance of June 19 as African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond. This stunning picture book includes notes from the author and illustrator, a timeline of important dates, and a glossary of relevant terms. Told in Angela Johnson’s signature melodic style and brought to life by E.B. Lewis’s striking paintings, All Different Now is a joyous portrait of the dawn breaking on the darkest time in our nation’s history.

  • Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom - In a moving, lyrical tale about the cost and fragility of freedom, a New York Times best-selling author and an acclaimed artist follow the life of a man who courageously shipped himself out of slavery. What have I to fear?
    My master broke every promise to me.
    I lost my beloved wife and our dear children.
    All, sold South. Neither my time nor my body is mine.
    The breath of life is all I have to lose.
    And bondage is suffocating me.
    Henry Brown wrote that long before he came to be known as Box, he “entered the world a slave.” He was put to work as a child and passed down from one generation to the next – as property. When he was an adult, his wife and children were sold away from him out of spite. Henry Brown watched as his family left bound in chains, headed to the deeper South. What more could be taken from him? But then hope – and help – came in the form of the Underground Railroad. Escape! In stanzas of six lines each, each line representing one side of a box, celebrated poet Carole Boston Weatherford powerfully narrates Henry Brown’s story of how he came to send himself in a box from slavery to freedom. Strikingly illustrated in rich hues and patterns by artist Michele Wood, Box is augmented with historical records and an introductory excerpt from Henry’s own writing as well as a time line, notes from the author and illustrator, and a bibliography.

  • Before She Was Harriet - A lush and lyrical biography of Harriet Tubman, written in verse. An evocative poem and opulent watercolors come together to honor a woman of humble origins whose courage and compassion make her larger than life.

  • Juneteenth for Mazie - Mazie is ready to celebrate liberty. She is ready to celebrate freedom. She is ready to celebrate a great day in American history – the day her ancestors were no longer slaves. Mazie remembers the struggles and the triumph, as she gets ready to celebrate Juneteenth. This beautiful story by award-winning author and illustrator Floyd Cooper will captivate both children and adults.

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Freedom Bird: A Tale of Hope and Courage
Written by Jerdine Nolen & illustrated by James E. Ransome
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-9

In this inspiring story in the tradition of American black folktales, an enslaved brother and sister are inspired by a majestic and mysterious bird to escape to freedom in this dramatic and unforgettable picture book.

There was nothing civil about that war. They should have called it what it was: a big, bad war.

Brother and sister Millicent and John are slaves on Simon Plenty’s plantation and have suffered one hurt and heartbreak after another. Their parents had told them old tales of how their ancestors had flown away to freedom just as free and easy as a bird. Millicent and John hold these stories in their hearts long after their parents are gone. “Maybe such a time will come for you,” their parents said. Then one day a mysterious bird appears in their lives. The bird transforms them and gives them the courage to set their plan into motion and escape to freedom.

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Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom
Written by Carole Boston Weatherford & illustrated by Kadir Nelson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

This poetic book is a resounding tribute to Tubman’s strength, humility, and devotion. With proper reverence, Weatherford and Nelson do justice to the woman who, long ago, earned over and over the name Moses.

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Who Was Harriet Tubman?
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Born a slave in Maryland, Harriet Tubman knew first-hand what it meant to be someone’s property; she was whipped by owners and almost killed by an overseer. It was from other field hands that she first heard about the Underground Railroad which she travelled by herself north to Philadelphia. Throughout her long life (she died at the age of ninety-two) and long after the Civil War brought an end to slavery, this amazing woman was proof of what just one person can do.

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Show Way
Written by Jacqueline Woodson & illustrated by Hudson Talbott
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Soonie’s great-grandma was just seven years old when she was sold to a big plantation without her ma and pa, and with only some fabric and needles to call her own. She pieced together bright patches with names like North Star and Crossroads, patches with secret meanings made into quilts called Show Ways – maps for slaves to follow to freedom. When she grew up and had a little girl, she passed on this knowledge. And generations later, Soonie – who was born free – taught her own daughter how to sew beautiful quilts to be sold at market and how to read.

From slavery to freedom, through segregation, freedom marches and the fight for literacy, the tradition they called Show Way has been passed down by the women in Jacqueline Woodson’s family as a way to remember the past and celebrate the possibilities of the future. Beautifully rendered in Hudson Talbott’s luminous art, this moving, lyrical account pays tribute to women whose strength and knowledge illuminate their daughters’ lives.

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Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad
Written by Ellen Levine & illustrated by Kadir Nelson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A stirring, dramatic story of a slave who mails himself to freedom by a Jane Addams Peace Award-winning author and a Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist. Henry Brown doesn’t know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves’ birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: He will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday – his first day of freedom.

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  • Return of the Dragon Slayers - The magical world teeters on the brink of collapse. The Dragon King, Celebrant, has united the dragons into a vengeful army, and only a final artifact stands in the way of them unleashing their fury against humankind. With established allegiances shifting under the strain, Seth and Kendra find themselves in desperate need of new allies. Seth must face his most dangerous quest–the fulfillment of his pledge to the Singing Sisters. With only Calvin the Tiny Hero at his side, Seth needs to collect the pieces of the Ethergem, including the stones from the crowns of the Dragon King, the Giant Queen, and the Demon King. Halfway across the world, Kendra finds herself torn between her duty to Dragonwatch and her desire to rescue Bracken. Can she challenge Ronodin’s control of the fairy realm without leaving the five legendary dragon slayers to be hunted by Celebrant and his sons? Left behind at Titan Valley, Knox and Tess must survive the aftermath of the Giant Queen’s fall. Will the secret crown in Knox’s possession prove too much for him to handle? In this fifth and final volume of Dragonwatch, our heroes make their last stand at the hidden Kingdom of Selona. For the defenders of light to stand a chance, the legendary dragon slayers must arise, lost secrets must be uncovered, and ancient powers must awaken. Get ready for the gripping, revelatory, and unforeseen conclusion to the epic ten-volume New York Times best-selling Fablehaven and Dragonwatch series.

  • Harriet Tubman - Part of the critically acclaimed Little People, BIG DREAMS series, discover the incredible life of Harriet Tubman, the Underground Railroad conductor who “never lost a single passenger.” Little Harriet was born into slavery on a plantation in Maryland. Though life was hard, Harriet persisted. She used all of her strength and bravery to escape slavery and journey north on the Underground Railroad. Harriet made the dangerous mission back to the South many times, fighting her whole life to bring others with her to freedom. This moving book features stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the abolitionist’s life. Little People, BIG DREAMS is a best-selling series of books and educational games that explore the lives of outstanding people, from designers and artists to scientists and activists. All of them achieved incredible things, yet each began life as a child with a dream. This empowering series offers inspiring messages to children of all ages, in a range of formats. The board books are told in simple sentences, perfect for reading aloud to babies and toddlers. The hardcover versions present expanded stories for beginning readers. Boxed gift sets allow you to collect a selection of the books by theme. Paper dolls, learning cards, matching games, and other fun learning tools provide even more ways to make the lives of these role models accessible to children. Inspire the next generation of outstanding people who will change the world with Little People, BIG DREAMS!

  • Tennessee Rose - Alabama, 1856. Tennessee Rose is a dark bay Tennessee Walking Horse with a rose-shaped marking on her forehead. She loves dashing around the plantation in the running walk that her breed is famous for, then coming back to her comfortable stall and her friend Levi, the slave boy who is her groom. But as the Civil War approaches, Rosie begins to question plantation life. Is slavery fair? Could Levi be free? Like Black Beauty, this moving novel is told in first person from the horse’s point of view and includes an appendix full of photos and facts about Tennessee Walking Horses and the Civil War.

  • Who Was Frederick Douglass? - Born into slavery in Maryland in 1818, Frederick Douglass was determined to gain freedom–and once he realized that knowledge was power, he secretly learned to read and write to give himself an advantage. After escaping to the North in 1838, as a free man he gave powerful speeches about his experience as a slave. He was so impressive that he became a friend of President Abraham Lincoln, as well as one of the most famous abolitionists of the nineteenth century.

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The People Could Fly: The Picture Book
Written by Virginia Hamilton & illustrated by Leo Dillon and Diane Dillon Ph.D.
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

“THE PEOPLE COULD FLY,” the title story in Virginia Hamilton’s prize-winning American Black folktale collection, is a fantasy tale of the slaves who possessed the ancient magic words that enabled them to literally fly away to freedom. And it is a moving tale of those who did not have the opportunity to “fly” away, who remained slaves with only their imaginations to set them free as they told and retold this tale.

Leo and Diane Dillon have created powerful new illustrations in full color for every page of this picture book presentation of Virginia Hamilton’s most beloved tale. The author’s original historical note as well as her previously unpublished notes are included.

Awards for The People Could Fly collection: A Coretta Scott King Award A Booklist Children’s Editors’ Choice A School Library Journal Best Books of the Year A Horn Book Fanfare An ALA Notable Book An NCTE Teachers’ Choice A New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books of the Year

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Most Loved in All the World
Written by & illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

An authentic and powerful account of slavery and how a handmade quilt helps a little girl leave home for freedom.

With a poet’s keen ear, Tonya Hegamin tells the account of a little girl whose mother is a secret agent on the Underground Railroad. Before sending her daughter north to freedom, the mother sews a quilt for her daughter, not only to guide her with its symbols of moss and the north star, but also to remind her always that the smiling girl in the center of the quilt is “most loved in all the world.” Strikingly illustrated in unique textile collaging and expressive acrylic paintings.

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Harriet Tubman
Written by Andrea Davis Pinkney & illustrated by Gillian Flint
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

Inspired by the #1 New York Times bestseller She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger comes a chapter book series about women who stood up, spoke up and rose up against the odds! Born enslaved, Harriet Tubman rose up to become one of the most successful, determined and well-known conductors of the Underground Railroad. With her family’s love planted firmly in her heart, Harriet looked to the North Star for guidance–and its light helped guide her way out of slavery. Her courage made it possible for her to help others reach freedom too. In this chapter book biography by bestselling and award-winning author Andrea Davis Pinkney, readers learn about the amazing life of Harriet Tubman–and how she persisted. Complete with an introduction from Chelsea Clinton! Praise for She Persisted: Harriet Tubman This chapter-book biography humanizes [Tubman] and brings her to life . . . Pinkney and Flint have created a standout series opener. –Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW* The story-like text moves along at a brisk pace, relating anecdotes that will appeal to young readers . . . and the simple line drawings that appear every few pages add nuance. –Booklist This engaging biography is a quick but informative read and well-matched for the intended audience. –School Library Journal

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Long Road to Freedom
Written by Kate Messner
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 7-10

Ranger, the time-traveling golden retriever, is back for the third book in Kate Messner’s new chapter book series. This time, he helps two kids navigate the Underground Railroad!Ranger is a time-traveling golden retriever with search-and-rescue training. In this adventure, he goes to a Maryland plantation during the days of American slavery, where he meets a young girl named Sarah. When she learns that the owner has plans to sell her little brother, Jesse, to a plantation in the Deep South, it means they could be separated forever. Sarah takes their future into her own hands and decides there’s only one way to run – north.

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Lift Your Light a Little Higher
Written & illustrated by Heather Henson
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

The story of Stephen Bishop, a slave and early explorer and guide at Mammoth Cave, Kentucky.

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  • Night Boat to Freedom - What scares the head is best done with the heart. When Granny Judith asks twelve-year-old Christmas John to row Molly across the river from Kentucky to the Free State of Ohio, he’s terrified. But Granny Judith reassures him. So Christmas John begins the first of many dangerous journeys. And each passing day brings hope that Granny and John can find their own freedom, just across the river. Night Boat to Freedom is a 2007 Bank Street - Best Children’s Book of the Year.

  • Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship & Freedom - When it was first published, Crossing Bok Chitto took readers by surprise. This moving and original story about the intersection of Native and African Americans received starred reviews and many awards, including being named an ALA Notable Children’s Book and a Jane Addams Honor Book. Jeanne Rorex Bridges’ illustrations mesmerized readers–Publishers Weekly noted that her “strong, solid figures gaze squarely out of the frame, beseeching readers to listen, empathize and wonder.”Choctaw storyteller Tim Tingle blends songs, flute, and drum to bring the lore of the Choctaw Nation to life in lively historical, personal, and traditional stories.Artist Jeanne Rorex Bridges traces her heritage back to her Cherokee ancestors.

  • Sold - The powerful, poignant, bestselling National Book Award Finalist gives voice to a young girl robbed of her childhood yet determined to find the strength to triumph Lakshmi is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her family in a small hut on a mountain in Nepal. Though she is desperately poor, her life is full of simple pleasures, like playing hopscotch with her best friend from school, and having her mother brush her hair by the light of an oil lamp. But when the harsh Himalayan monsoons wash away all that remains of the family’s crops, Lakshmi’s stepfather says she must leave home and take a job to support her family. He introduces her to a glamorous stranger who tells her she will find her a job as a maid in the city. Glad to be able to help, Lakshmi journeys to India and arrives at “Happiness House” full of hope. But she soon learns the unthinkable truth: she has been sold into prostitution. An old woman named Mumtaz rules the brothel with cruelty and cunning. She tells Lakshmi that she is trapped there until she can pay off her family’s debt-then cheats Lakshmi of her meager earnings so that she can never leave. Lakshmi’s life becomes a nightmare from which she cannot escape. Still, she lives by her mother’s words-Simply to endure is to triumph-and gradually, she forms friendships with the other girls that enable her to survive in this terrifying new world. Then the day comes when she must make a decision-will she risk everything for a chance to reclaim her life? Written in spare and evocative vignettes by the co-author of I Am Malala (Young Readers Edition), this powerful novel renders a world that is as unimaginable as it is real, and a girl who not only survives but triumphs.

  • My Name Is James Madison Hemings - A New York Times Notable Book A powerful historical picture book about the child of founding father Thomas Jefferson and the enslaved Sally Hemings. In an evocative first-person account accompanied by exquisite artwork, Winter and Widener tell the story of James Madison Hemings’s childhood at Monticello, and, in doing so, illuminate the many contradictions in Jefferson’s life and legacy. Though Jefferson lived in a mansion, Hemings and his siblings lived in a single room. While Jefferson doted on his white grandchildren, he never showed affection to his enslaved children. Though he kept the Hemings boys from hard field labor–instead sending them to work in the carpentry shop–Jefferson nevertheless listed the children in his “Farm Book” along with the sheep, hogs, and other property. Here is a profound and moving account of one family’s history, which is also America’s history. An author’s note includes more information about Hemings, Jefferson, and the author’s research. This gentle, emotional book is a reminder that many presidents’ biographies have distressing aspects. . . . A simple but historically solid introduction to some of the moral crises slavery presented for our nation. –The New York Times Through a poignant first-person monologue, Winter imagines the peculiar upbring- ing of Virginia slave James Madison Hemings, son of Thomas Jefferson and his enslaved mistress, Sally Hemings.”–Bulletin, starred review

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Never Forgotten
Written & illustrated by Patricia C. McKissack
picture book
Recommend Ages: 9-12

A 2012 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book. This gorgeous picture book by Newbery Honor winner Patricia C. McKissack and two-time Caldecott Medal-winning husband-and-wife team Leo and Diane Dillon is sure to become a treasured keepsake for African American families. Set in West Africa, this a lyrical story-in-verse is about a young black boy who is kidnapped and sold into slavery, and his father who is left behind to mourn the loss of his son. Here’s a beautiful, powerful, truly unforgettable story about family, memory, and freedom.

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Under the Quilt of Night
Written by Deborah Hopkinson & illustrated by James E. Ransome
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 6-9

Award-winning duo Deborah Hopkinson and James E. Ransome combine their talents once more for this sequel to the best-selling Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt. Traveling late one night, a runaway slave girl spies a quilt hanging outside a house. The quilt’s center is a striking deep blue – a sign that the people inside are willing to help her escape. Can she bravely navaigate the complex world of the Underground Railroad and lead her family to freedom?

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Horse Diaries: Bell's Star
Written by & illustrated by Ruth Sanderson
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-11

Vermont, 1850s Bell’s Star is a brown Morgan colt with a white star and two white stockings. He was bred for hard work, yet he longs to run free with his human friend, Katie, on his back. But when Star helps rescue a runaway slave girl, his ideas about freedom may change forever. Here is Star’s story . . . in his own words. With exciting and knowledgeable text and lovely black-and-white art throughout–both by real horse owners–Horse Diaries are the perfect fit for all lovers of horses and history!

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Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt
Written by Deborah Hopkinson & illustrated by James Ransome
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Illus. in full color. As a seamstress in the Big House, Clara dreams of areunion with her Momma, who lives on another plantation–and even of runningaway to freedom. Then she overhears two slaves talking about the UndergroundRailroad. In a flash of inspiration, Clara sees how she can use the cloth inher scrap bag to make a map of the land–a freedom quilt–that no master willever suspect. “A particularly effective way to introduce the subject to youngerchildren, adding a trenchant immediacy to their understanding of a difficultbut important chapter in the country’s past.”–(starred) “Horn Book.” “This first-rate book is a triumph of the heart.”–(starred) “PublishersWeekly. “

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I am Harriet Tubman
Written by Brad Meltzer & illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

“A biography of Harriet Tubman, the abolitionist leader who played a key role in helping enslaved people escape via the Underground Railroad.”

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  • Words Set Me Free: The Story of Young Frederick Douglass - “Words Set Me Free is the inspiring story of young Frederick Douglass’s path to freedom through reading”–

  • What Was the Underground Railroad? - No one knows where the term Underground Railroad came from–there were no trains or tracks, only conductors who helped escaping slaves to freedom. Including real stories about passengers on the Railroad, this book chronicles slaves’ close calls with bounty hunters, exhausting struggles on the road, and what they sacrificed for freedom. With 80 black-and-white illustrations throughout and a sixteen-page black-and-white photo insert, the Underground Railroad comes alive!

  • The Escape of Robert Smalls - The mist in Charleston Inner Harbor was heavy, but not heavy enough to disguise the stolen Confederate steamship, the Planter, from Confederate soldiers. In the early hours of May 13, 1862, in the midst of the deadly U.S. Civil War, an enslaved man named Robert Smalls was about to carry out a perilous plan of escape. Standing at the helm of the ship, Smalls impersonated the captain as he and his crew passed heavily armed Confederate forts to enter Union territory, where escaped slaves were given shelter. The suspenseful escape of the determined crew is celebrated with beautiful artwork and insightful prose, detailing the true account of an unsung American hero.

  • The Underground Abductor: An Abolitionist Tale - Meet Underground Railroad abductor Harriet Tubman in this installment of the New York Times bestselling graphic novel series! Araminta Ross was an enslaved woman born in Delaware. After years of backbreaking labor and the constant threat of being sold and separated from her family, she escaped and traveled north to freedom. Once there, she changed her name to Harriet Tubman. As an “abductor” on the Underground Railroad, she risked her life helping countless enslaved people escape to freedom. Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales are graphic novels that tell the thrilling, shocking, gruesome, and TRUE stories of American history. Read them all–if you dare! Get The Underground Abductor and two other Hazardous Tales in the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales 3-Book Boxed Set, available now!

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January's Sparrow
Written & illustrated by Patricia Polacco
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 6-12

Patricia Polacco’s most powerful book since Pink and Say. In the middle of the night, The Crosswhites?including young Sadie?must flee the Kentucky plantation they work on. Dear January has been beaten and killed by the plantation master, and they fear who may be next. But Sadie must leave behind her most valuable possession, the wooden sparrow carved for her by January. Through the Underground Railroad, the Crosswhites make the slow and arduous journey to Marshall, Michigan, where they finally live in freedom. And there they stay, happily, until the day a mysterious package shows up on their doorsteps. It is January’s sparrow, with a note that reads, ?I found you.? How the Crosswhites, and the whole town of Marshall, face this threat will leave readers empowered and enthralled. This is a Polacco adventure that will live in the minds of children for years.

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Juneteenth
Written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and Drew Nelson & illustrated by Mark Schroder
picture book
Recommend Ages: 7-9
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The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read
Written by Rita Lorraine Hubbard & illustrated by Oge Mora
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Imagine learning to read at the age of 116! Discover the true story of Mary Walker, the nation’s oldest student who did just that, in this picture book from a Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator and a rising star author.

In 1848, Mary Walker was born into slavery. At age 15, she was freed, and by age 20, she was married and had her first child. By age 68, she had worked numerous jobs, including cooking, cleaning, babysitting, and selling sandwiches to raise money for her church. At 114, she was the last remaining member of her family. And at 116, she learned to read. From Rita Lorraine Hubbard and rising star Oge More comes the inspirational story of Mary Walker, a woman whose long life spanned from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, and who–with perseverance and dedication–proved that you’re never too old to learn.

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Annie, Between the States
Written by L. M. Elliott
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 12-15

Annie’s home and heart are divided by the Civil War.Annie Sinclair’s Virginia home is in the battle path of the Civil War. Her brothers, Laurence and Jamie, fight to defend the South, while Annie and her mother tend to wounded soldiers. When she develops a romantic connection with a Union Army lieutenant, Annie’s view of the war broadens. Then an accusation calls her loyalty into question. A nation and a heart divided force Annie to choose her own course.

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Jefferson's Sons
Written & illustrated by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

A fictionalized look at the last twenty years of Thomas Jefferson’s life at Monticello through the eyes of three of his slaves, two of whom were his sons by his slave, Sally Hemings.

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