February is Black History Month, a period set aside to focus on the many "achievements of African Americans in every field from science and the arts to politics and religion." (Presidential Proclamation 5443) And what better way to get inside the inspiring stories of African Americans who overcame adversity to become world leaders than books and movies. Here is our curated list of eight children's books and films to celebrate Black History Month. All books can be found on Amazon.com or check your local library.

Children's Books

  1. Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad, by Ellen Levine
  2. This book tells the story of Henry Brown, who escaped slavery by hiding in a wooden crate and shipping himself to the north. Later, as an adult factory worker, Henry Brown continues his journey and ships himself inside a box to a place where he can have a birthday. As a slave child, he never had a birthday and has no idea how old he is.

  3. Follow the Drinking Gourd, by Jeanette Winter
  4. A white sailor named Peg Leg Joe teaches a song, "Follow the Drinking Gourd," to a group of slaves. This rhythmic folktale is presented in a beautiful book filled with colorful paintings. Children will learn about the Underground Railroad's important role in helping thousands of African-Americans escape slavery.

  5. Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by Doreen Rappaport
  6. The story of Martin Luther King, Jr. may be too big for kids to digest, but this book is suitable for children as young as five. The author weaves a tapestry of quotes from Martin Luther King Jr's speeches to bring his story alive for young readers. Stunning multimedia illustrations carry you from his beginnings when first noticing "Whites Only" signs to becoming the US Civil Rights Movement leader.

  7. What Color is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld
  8. These two authors have put together an eye-opening look into the exceptional contributions African Americans have made to scientific and medical discovery, inventions, and product improvements. Readers may be surprised to learn that African Americans were leading innovators, including the ice-cream scoop, cortisone cream, and open-heart surgery.


  1. Hidden Figures
  2. Your children aged ten and older will enjoy this historical drama about three genius African American women who worked at NASA during the 1950s and 60s. The movie teaches about the power of perseverance, teamwork, and constructive communication, lessons that can be carried forth in their lives during these turbulent times.

  3. The Great Debaters
  4. Denzel Washington stars in this drama based on the true story of a debate team's confrontation with severe prejudice as it progresses toward a national championship. The movie, suitable for teens and older, presents a candid picture of 1930s bigotry, including one scene of a lynching.

  5. Ruby Bridges
  6. This Disney movie is suitable for all ages. It tells the story of the first African-American child to attend an all-white elementary school. Ruby Bridges was selected because of her academic accomplishments. She suddenly found herself facing New Orleans' hostile racism for the first time in her life. With her parents' support, she perseveres and becomes a role model for the nation.

  7. Akeelah and the Bee
  8. Akeelah wins her local Los Angeles spelling bee, making her eligible to enter the national Scripps Spelling Bee. Her English professor, Dr. Larabee, played by Laurence Fishburne, helps her develop the grit and dedication she needs to pursue her dream. Ultimately, Akeelah brings inspiration to her family, friends, and her entire neighborhood.

Closing Thoughts

Think about some questions to ask before and after reading these books or watching the movies. It will make the stories more real to your children's lives. You'll open the door to an honest conversation about challenges they or their friends might be facing today.

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