35+ Books for Black Children by Black Authors ~ #BlackBooksMatter

After I wrote my post on books celebrating African-American children many years ago, I wanted to follow up with a second. With the Black Lives Moment gaining momentum, and systemic racism being brought to the forefront, there is no time like the present to highlight black authors taking the time to write books celebrating our kings and queens, princes and princesses.

35+ Books for Black Children by Black Authors
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Having and raising my kids in Brooklyn, NY, I never had to worry about my kids having an identity issue. After all, the kids they went to school with, played together on the playground, rode the bus, the train, mostly looked like they did. When we moved to Colorado, it was an entirely different ballgame. I knew that I wanted something different for Madison, my youngest, born, and was about to grow up in Colorado.

While it's been relatively easygoing, and I've purchased books for Madison in the past featuring children who looked like her, I also noticed that the books she read and brought home from school, all featured Caucasian families. For example, the Junnie B. Jones, Babysitters Club, and the Magic Treehouse are all series that she brings home from the school library. Her class is predominantly caucasian, with there being only two brown children in the classroom, Madison being one of them.

It wasn't until Madison came home one day and said that she wanted straight brown hair that I realized that something needed to change. She thought that her hair wasn't pretty and that for it to be beautiful, it had to be straight and "brown," possibly blonde. I then purchased her the book I AM ENOUGH by Grace Byers and began acquiring more and more black books for her. I wanted her to see that she was beautiful because she was represented in a book, sometimes as the heroine. That there were books that featured beautiful black girls like herself. 

35+ Books for Black Children by Black Authors

I began to actively seek out black authors who wrote such books. I would pick them up at Target (although Target needs a better selection) and Barnes&Noble, two of my favorite stores in Colorado Springs. I would also snag them whenever I happened to be doing my Amazon shopping, and a particular one would catch my eye.

And that's how this post began. It's been a long time in the making, and Madison is currently the proud owner of over 100 books by black authors. Although many of them were books I bought for myself because I wanted to read them. She owns so many that there will be a part deux to this. I promise there won't be a repeat book based on our other book recommendations such as:


35+ Books for Black Children by Black Authors

We've also mentioned books in our post on how you can celebrate black history all year long and the many ways you can introduce black history month to kids. As you can see, we've been putting our money where our mouth is for many years, and it's not about to stop now. However, the one thing we won't do is to mention books we don't own or haven't read. After all, how can you recommend something that you've never laid your hands on?

So, let's get into these fantastic books for black children written by black authors without further ado. Books that not only celebrate their blackness but teach them about their history as well.

35+ Books for Black Children by Black Authors

1. JOURNEY TO JO'BURG: A SOUTH AFRICAN STORY by Beverley Naidoo
Age Range: 8 - 12 years

When their baby sister becomes dangerously ill, thirteen-year-old Naledi and her younger brother make a journey of over 300 kilometers from their village to Johannesburg, where their mother works as a maid for a white family. It isn't until they reach the city that they come to understand the dangers of their country and the painful struggle for freedom and dignity taking place all around them.

2. SULWE by Lupita Nyong'o
Age Range: 4 - 8 years

Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything.


3. THE NIGHT IS YOURS by Abdul-Razak Zachariah
Age Range: 3 - 7 years

Little one, so calm and so happy, the darkness of the night is yours like the darkness of your skin.

This lyrical text, narrated to a young girl named Amani by her father, follows her as she plays an evening game of hide-and-seek with friends at her apartment complex. The moon's glow helps Amani find the last hidden child, and seems almost like a partner to her in her game, as well as a spotlight pointing out her beauty and strength.

This is a gorgeous bedtime read-aloud about joy and family love and community, and most of all about feeling great in your own skin.

35+ Books for Black Children by Black Authors

4. MAMA'S NIGHTINGALE: A STORY OF IMMIGRATION AND SEPARATION by Edwidge Danticat
Age Range: 5 - 8 years

A touching tale of parent-child separation and immigration, from a National Book Award finalist

After Saya's mother is sent to an immigration detention center, Saya finds comfort in listening to her mother's warm greeting on their answering machine. To ease the distance between them while she's in jail, Mama begins sending Saya bedtime stories inspired by Haitian folklore on cassette tape. Moved by her mother's tales and her father's attempts to reunite their family, Saya writes a story of her own--one that just might bring her mother home for good.

With stirring illustrations, this tender tale shows the human side of immigration and imprisonment--and shows how every child has the power to make a difference.

5. BEAT THE STORY-DRUM, PUM-PUM by Ashley Bryan
Age Range: 8 - 12 years

Here are five Nigerian folktales, retold in language as rhythmic as the beat of the story-drum, and illustrated with vibrant, evocative woodcuts.

6. FREEDOM CHILD OF THE SEA by Richardo Keens-Douglas
Age Range: 6 - 9 years

A young man, swimming off the shore of a Caribbean island, is saved from drowning by a mysterious boy who appears from the depths. His body is scarred, yet his face is beautiful, and he leaps and swims as joyously as the dolphins. When the young man tells this to a passing stranger, he, in turn, is told a story of the days of slave trading.

When one of his ancestors came to these islands aboard a slave ship, a pregnant woman was thrown off because it was thought she wouldn't survive the journey. It is said that she and her son live in the ocean to this day, and he is called Freedom Child of the Sea. Only when there is harmony among all people will he and his mother be able to live on land as others do. Reassuring the young man that there is hope for all humanity, the stranger goes on his way.

35+ Books for Black Children by Black Authors

7. THE MISS MEOW PAGEANT by Richardo Keens-Douglas
Age Range: 4 - 7 years

Sparrow is a stray until Henrietta adopts him. He has a face only a mother could love, but Henrietta's friend Len coaxes her to enter her furry housemate in a feline beauty contest. Sparrow needs to train, of course. They are sure that his looks--not to mention gender--are no barrier, and they all prepare for the great day.

8. THE NUTMEG PRINCESS by Richardo Keens-Douglas
Age Range: 6 - 7 years

A compelling modern fable about friendship, faith, and the nature of beauty. Best friends Aglo and Petal live on a small island in the Caribbean called the Isle of Spice (based on Grenada). When Petite Mama tells them the story of a mysterious nutmeg princess whom only she has seen, Aglo and Petal decide they must find the elusive princess themselves. The beautiful princess appears, but Aglo is the only one who can see her. As the rest of the village rushes up the mountain in the hopes of acquiring the princess's riches, Aglo and Petal learn that greed and selfishness aren't rewarded, and they receive an unexpected reward of their own—the knowledge that true riches come from experiencing beauty and selflessness.

9. THE SEASON OF STYX MALONE by Kekla Magoon
Age Range: 8 - 12 years

Caleb Franklin and his big brother Bobby Gene are excited to have adventures in the woods behind their house. But Caleb dreams of venturing beyond their ordinary small town.

Then Caleb and Bobby Gene meet new neighbor Styx Malone. Styx is sixteen and oozes cool. Styx promises the brothers that together, the three of them can pull off the Great Escalator Trade--exchanging one small thing for something better until they achieve their wildest dream. But as the trades get bigger, the brothers soon find themselves in over their heads. Styx has secrets--secrets so big they could ruin everything.

35+ Books for Black Children by Black Authors

10. CROWN: AN ODE TO THE FRESH CUT by Derrick Barnes
Age Range: 3 - 8 years

The barbershop is where the magic happens. Boys go in as lumps of clay and, with princely robes draped around their shoulders, a dab of cool shaving cream on their foreheads, and a slow, steady cut, they become royalty. That crisp yet subtle line makes boys sharper, more visible, more aware of every great thing that could happen to them when they look good: lesser grades turn into As; girls take notice; even a mother's hug gets a little tighter. Everyone notices.

A fresh cut makes boys fly.

11. I AM HER: THE ABC's OF BLACK WOMEN IN HISTORY by Kalisa Sampson

"I Am Her: The ABC's of Black Women in History" is a book that was creatively written so that children can learn about black women pioneers in history. It is essential that children gain as much knowledge about historical figures. The idea is that youth will be inspired by people who have broken many barriers to succeed in different careers. This book highlights women from the past and present, who have helped shape society by beating the odds.

12. M IS FOR MELANIN: A CELEBRATION OF THE BLACK CHILD by Tiffany Rose
Age Range: 3 - 6 years

Each letter of the alphabet contains affirming, Black-positive messages, from A is for Afro, to F is for Fresh, to W is for Worthy. This book teaches children their ABCs while encouraging them to love the skin that they're in.

Be bold. Be fearless. BE YOU.

35+ Books for Black Children by Black Authors

13. YOUNG GIFTED AND BLACK: MEET 52 BLACK HEROES FROM PAST AND PRESENT by Jamia Wilson
Age Range: 7 - 10 years

Meet 52 icons of color from the past and present in this celebration of inspirational achievement—a collection of stories about changemakers to encourage, inspire, and empower the next generation of changemakers.

14. BEAUTIFUL, WONDERFUL, STRONG LITTLE ME!  by Hannah Carmona Dias
Age Range: 3 - 10 years

Dark skin, curly hair, freckles, and full lips. Smart, strong, funny, and friendly. Lilly knows that she does not look like her friends, and others have noticed. Through playful, lyrical lines, Lilly speaks up for every child who has been asked, "What are you?" in this celebration of self-love and acceptance.

15. BROWN SUGAR BABE by Charlotte Watson Sherman
Age Range: 4 - 8 years

When a little girl has doubts about her skin color, her mother shows her all the wonderful, beautiful things brown can be! This message of self-love and acceptance uses rich, dreamy illustrations to celebrate the color using all the senses: sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. "I don't want to be brown!" says a little girl about her skin. But so many beautiful things in the world are brown -- calming beaches, cute animals, elegant violins, and more. Brown is musical. Brown is athletic. Brown is poetic. Brown is powerful! Through lyrical words and stunning illustrations, it soon becomes clear that this brown sugar babe should be proud of the skin she's in.

35+ Books for Black Children by Black Authors

16. 28 DAYS: MOMENTS IN BLACK HISTORY THAT CHANGED THE WORLD by Charles R. Smith Jr.
Age Range: 6 - 10 years

Each day features a different influential figure in African-American history, from Crispus Attucks, the first man shot in the Boston Massacre, sparking the Revolutionary War, to Madame C. J. Walker, who after years of adversity became the wealthiest black woman in the country, as well as one of the wealthiest black Americans, to Barack Obama, the country's first African-American president.

17. ISLANDBORN by Junot Díaz
Age Range: 5 - 8 years

Every kid in Lola's school was from somewhere else.
Hers was a school of faraway places.

So when Lola's teacher asks the students to draw a picture of where their families immigrated from, all the kids are excited. Except for Lola. She can't remember The Island—she left when she was just a baby. But with the help of her family and friends, and their memories—joyous, fantastical, heartbreaking, and frightening—Lola's imagination takes her on an extraordinary journey back to The Island.  As she draws closer to the heart of her family's story, Lola comes to understand the truth of her abuela's words: “Just because you don't remember a place doesn't mean it's not in you.”

18. DON'T TOUCH MY HAIR! by Sharee Miller
Age Range: 4 - 8 years

An entertaining picture book that teaches the importance of asking for permission first as a young girl attempts to escape the curious hands that want to touch her hair.

It seems that wherever Aria goes, someone wants to touch her hair. In the street, strangers reach for her fluffy curls; and even under the sea, in the jungle, and in space, she's chased by a mermaid, monkeys, and poked by aliens...until, finally, Aria has had enough!

35+ Books for Black Children by Black Authors

19. WHEN THE BEAT WAS BORN: DJ KOOL HERC AND THE CREATION OF HIP HOP by Laban Carrick Hil
Age Range: 6 - 10 years

Before there was hip hop, there was DJ Kool Herc.

On a hot day at the end of summer in 1973, Cindy Campbell threw a back-to-school party at a park in the South Bronx. Her brother, Clive Campbell, spun the records. He had a new way of playing the music to make the breaks―the musical interludes between verses―longer for dancing. He called himself DJ Kool Herc and this is When the Beat Was Born. From his childhood in Jamaica to his youth in the Bronx, Laban Carrick Hill's book tells how Kool Herc came to be a DJ, how kids in gangs stopped fighting in order to breakdance, and how the music he invented went on to define a culture and transform the world.

20. JAZZ by Walter Dean Myers
Age Range: 8 - 12 years

Fifteen poems, infused with the rhythm and wordplay of jazz music, are paired with bold, stylized illustrations of performers and dancers to convey the history and breadth of this unique musical style. From bebop to New Orleans, from ragtime to boogie, and every style in between, Jazz takes readers on a musical journey from jazz's beginnings to the present day.

21. JUST US WOMEN by Jeannette Caines
Age Range: 5 - 8 years

"No boys and no men-just us women," Aunt Martha tells her niece. And together, they plan their trip to North Carolina in Aunt Martha's brand-new car. This is to be a very special outing-with no one to hurry them along; the two travelers can do exactly as they please.

35+ Books for Black Children by Black Authors

22. HAIR LOVE by Matthew A. Cherry
Age Range: 4 - 8 years

Zuri's hair has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way. Zuri knows it's beautiful. When Daddy steps in to style it for an extra special occasion, he has a lot to learn. But he LOVES his Zuri, and he'll do anything to make her -- and her hair -- happy.

Tender and empowering, Hair Love is an ode to loving your natural hair -- and a celebration of daddies and daughters everywhere.

23. TURNING 15 ON THE ROAD TO FREEDOM: MY STORY OF THE 1965 SELMA VOTING RIGHTS MARCH by Lynda Blackmon Lowery
Age Range: 12+ years

As the youngest marcher in the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, Lynda Blackmon Lowery proved that young adults could be heroes. Jailed nine times before her fifteenth birthday, Lowery fought alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. for African-Americans' rights. In this memoir, she shows today's young readers what it means to fight nonviolently (even when the police are using violence, as in the Bloody Sunday protest) and how it felt to be part of changing American history.

24. THE BOY WHO HARNESSED THE WIND by William Kamkwamba
Age Range: 10+ years

When a terrible drought struck William Kamkwamba's tiny village in Malawi, his family lost all of the season's crops, leaving them with nothing to eat and nothing to sell. William began to explore science books in his village library, looking for a solution. There, he came up with the idea that would change his family's life forever: he could build a windmill. Made out of scrap metal and old bicycle parts, William's windmill brought electricity to his home and helped his family pump the water they needed to farm the land.

35+ Books for Black Children by Black Authors

25. THROUGH MY EYES by Ruby Bridges
Age Range: 8 - 12 years

In November 1960, all of America watched as a tiny six-year-old black girl, surrounded by federal marshals, walked through a mob of screaming segregationists and into her school. An icon of the civil rights movement, Ruby Bridges chronicles each dramatic step of this pivotal event in history through her own words.

26. FIREBIRD by Misty Copeland
Age Range: 5 - 8 years

Misty Copeland tells the story of a young girl--an every girl--whose confidence is fragile and who is questioning her own ability to reach the heights that Misty has reached. Misty encourages this young girl's faith in herself and shows her exactly how, through hard work and dedication, she too can become Firebird.

27. IT'S TREVOR NOAH: BORN A CRIME: STORIES FROM A SOUTH AFRICAN CHILDHOOD (adapted for young readers) by Trevor Noah
Age Range: 10+ years

Trevor Noah shares his remarkable story of growing up in South Africa with a black South African mother and a white European father at a time when it was against the law for a mixed-race child to exist. But he did exist--and from the beginning, the often-misbehaved Trevor used his keen smarts and humor to navigate a harsh life under a racist government.

35+ Books for Black Children by Black Authors

28. THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT A BLACK BOY by Tony Medina
Age Range: 6 - 11 years

These short, vibrant tanka poems about Black boys and young men depict thirteen views of everyday life: dressed in Sunday best, running to catch a bus, growing up to be teachers, and much more.

29. WHITE WATER by Michael S. Bandy
Age Range: 5 - 8 years

After a long bus ride into town with his grandmother on a scorching hot day, Michael runs to the water fountain to quench his thirst. But instead of refreshing him, the water tastes gritty and dirty. Dismayed, Michael begins to imagine that the water from the nearby "white" fountain is precisely the kind of water he would like to taste. . . . Set in 1962 in the segregation-era South at the dawn of the civil rights movement, this moving and inspirational story, based on a real-life childhood experience of author Michael S. Bandy, shows how one epiphany opens up a whole world of possibilities.

30. GRANDDADDY'S TURN: A JOURNEY TO THE BALLOT BOX by Michael S. Bandy
Age Range: 6 - 9 years

Life on the farm with Granddaddy is full of hard work, but despite all the chores, Granddaddy always makes time for play, especially fishing trips. Even when there isn't a bite to catch, he reminds young Michael that it takes patience to get what's coming to you. One morning, when Granddaddy heads into town in his fancy suit, Michael knows that something extraordinary must be happening—and sure enough, everyone is lined up at the town hall! For the very first time, Granddaddy is allowed to vote, and he couldn't be more proud. But can Michael be patient when it seems that justice just can't come soon enough? This powerful and touching true-life story shares one boy's perspective of growing up in the segregated South, while beautiful illustrations depict the rural setting in tender detail.

35+ Books for Black Children by Black Authors

31. BRICK BY BRICK by Charles R. Smith Jr.
Age Range: 4 - 8 years

The compelling true story behind the building of the White House, a powerful part of history rarely taught. 

The home of the United States president was built by many hands, including those of slaves, who undertook this incredible achievement long before there were machines to do those same jobs.

Stirring and emotional, Floyd Cooper's stunning illustrations bring to life the faces of those who endured hard, brutal work when the profit of their labor was paid to the master, not the slave. The fact that many were able to purchase their freedom after earning money from learning a trade speaks to the strength of those individuals. They created this iconic emblem of America, brick by brick.

32. FREEDOM ON THE MENU: THE GREENSBORO SIT-INS by Carole Boston Weatherford
Age Range: 4 - 8 years

There were signs all throughout town telling eight-year-old Connie where she could and could not go. But when Connie sees four young men take a stand for equal rights at a Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, she realizes that things may soon change. This event sparks a movement throughout her town and region. And while Connie is too young to march or give a speech, she helps her brother and sister make signs for the cause. Changes are coming to Connie's town, but Connie just wants to sit at the lunch counter and eat a banana split like everyone else.

33. FREEDOM IN CONGO SQUARE by Carole Boston Weatherford
Age Range: 4 - 8 years

As slaves relentlessly toiled in an unjust system in 19th century Louisiana, they all counted down the days until Sunday, when at least for half a day, they were briefly able to congregate in Congo Square in New Orleans. Here they were free to set up an open market, sing, dance, and play music. They were free to forget their cares, their struggles, and their oppression. This story chronicles slaves' duties each day, from chopping logs on Mondays to baking bread on Wednesdays to plucking hens on Saturday, and builds to the freedom of Sundays and the special experience of an afternoon spent in Congo Square.

35+ Books for Black Children by Black Authors

34. JUST LIKE ME by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Age Range: 4 - 8 years

A collection of poetry filled with engaging mini-stories about girls of all kinds: girls who feel happy, sad, scared, powerful; girls who love their bodies and girls who don't; country girls, city girls; girls who love their mother and girls who wish they had a father. With bright portraits in Vanessa's signature style of vibrant colors and unique patterns and fabrics, this book invites readers to find themselves and each other within its pages.

35. RADIANT CHILD: THE STORY OF YOUNG ARTIST JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT by Javaka Steptoe
Age Range: 4 - 8 years

Jean-Michel Basquiat and his unique, collage-style paintings rocketed to fame in the 1980s as a cultural phenomenon, unlike anything the art world had ever seen. But before that, he was a little boy who saw art everywhere: in poetry books and museums, in games and in the words that we speak, and in the pulsing energy of New York City. Now, award-winning illustrator Javaka Steptoe's vivid text and bold artwork echoing Basquiat's own 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.

36. TAR BEACH by Faith Ringgold
Age Range: 5 - 8 years

Cassie Louise Lightfoot has a dream: to be free to go wherever she wants for the rest of her life. One night, up on "Tar Beach" — the rooftop of her family's Harlem apartment building — her dream comes true. The stars lift her up, and Cassie Louise Lightfoot is flying over the city, claiming everything she sees as her own.

35+ Books for Black Children by Black Authors

37. THE POWER OF HER PEN: THE STORY OF GROUNDBREAKING JOURNALIST ETHEL L. PAYNE by Lesa Cline-Ransome
Age Range: 4 - 8 years

Ethel Payne always had an ear for stories. Seeking truth, justice, and equality, Ethel followed stories from her school newspaper in Chicago to Japan during World War II. It even led her to the White House briefing room, where she broke barriers as the only black female journalist. Ethel wasn't afraid to ask the tough questions of presidents, elected officials, or anyone else in charge, earning her the title, "First Lady of the Black Press."

Fearless and determined, Ethel Payne shined a light on the darkest moments in history, and her ear for stories sought answers to the questions that mattered most in the fight for Civil Rights.

38. MALCOLM LITTLE: THE BOY WHO GREW UP TO BE MALCOLM X by Ilyasah Shabazz
Age Range: 6 - 10 years

Malcolm X grew to be one of America's most influential figures. But first, he was a boy named Malcolm Little. Written by his daughter, this inspiring picture book biography celebrates a vision of freedom and justice.

Bolstered by the love and wisdom of his large, warm family, young Malcolm Little was a natural-born leader. But when confronted with intolerance and a series of tragedies, Malcolm's optimism and faith were threatened. He had to learn how to be strong and how to hold on to his individuality. He had to learn self-reliance.

39. BETTY BEFORE X by Ilyasah Shabazz
Age Range: 10 - 14 years

In Detroit, 1945, eleven-year-old Betty's house doesn't quite feel like home. She believes her mother loves her, but she can't shake the feeling that her mother doesn't want her. Church helps those worries fade, if only for a little while. The singing, the preaching, the speeches from guest activists like Paul Robeson and Thurgood Marshall stir African Americans in her community to stand up for their rights. Betty quickly finds confidence and purpose in volunteering for the Housewives League, an organization that supports black-owned businesses. Soon, the American civil rights icon we now know as Dr. Betty Shabazz is born.

35+ Books for Black Children by Black Authors

40. MOSES: WHEN HARRIET TUBMAN LED HER PEOPLE TO FREEDOM by Carole Boston Weatherford
Age Range: 6 - 8 years

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.

41. THE OLDEST STUDENT: HOW MARY WALKER LEARNED TO READ by Rita Lorraine Hubbard
Age Range: 4 - 8 years

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, Mary 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.

42. BLACK IS A RAINBOW COLOR by Angela Joy
Age Range: 4 - 8 years

A child reflects on the meaning of being Black in this moving and powerful anthem about a people, a culture, a history, and a legacy that lives on.

Red is a rainbow color.
Green sits next to blue.
Yellow, orange, violet, indigo,
They are rainbow colors, too, but

My color is black . . .
And there's no BLACK in rainbows.

From the wheels of a bicycle to the robe on Thurgood Marshall's back, Black surrounds our lives. It is a color to simply describe some of our favorite things. Still, it also evokes a more profound sentiment about the incredible people who helped change the world and a community that continues to grow and thrive.

35+ Books for Black Children by Black Authors

There are so many more books out there, and I promise that I'll be back next week with part two and may also have part three. You can check out my Amazon Storefront for a more extensive list; however, I will be adding more once I share part two of this list. Now is the time to get your children's book collection started. Teach them their history and let them see themselves represented in books. There is no better time than the present.


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35+ Books for Black Children by Black Authors

35+ Books for Black Children by Black Authors

35+ Books for Black Children by Black Authors