9 Best Children’s Books About Slavery Update 05/2022

Children's Books About Slavery

When the Emancipation Proclamation came into effect in 1863, many slave owners in Galveston, Texas, did not follow it for more than two years. On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger delivered the following message:

People in Texas have been told that all slaves are now free because of a Proclamation from the President of the United States. This means that former masters and slaves now have the same rights and rights to property, and the relationship between them is now that of an employer and a hired worker.

This is how Juneteenth, which is a mix of “June” and “nineteenth,” came to be celebrated. It marks the end of slavery in Texas and the whole United States. To mark Freedom Day, we’re recommending books that look at the painful history of slavery in the United States, as well as those who risked their lives for equality and the fugitives from slavery who made the long and dangerous journey to freedom.

Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky

by Faith Ringgold

Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky

Cassie Lightfoot was first shown in the award-winning movie Tar Beach. She has the ability to soar through the sky. During one of these late-night flights, Cassie and her brother see Harriet Tubman. Tubman shows them the Underground Railroad route that slaves used to get out of their own homes. Harriet Tubman and other abolitionists are featured in this beautiful picture book, which is based on history but also has a lot of fun.

(Ages 3 – 7)

Many Thousand Gone

by Virginia Hamilton, illustrated by Leo Dillon and Diane Dillon, Ph.D.

In Virginia Hamilton’s book, Many Thousand Gone, the people who lived through slavery are shown to show how slavery changed over time in the United States. Hamilton tells the history of slavery in the U.S. in three parts: “Slavery in America,” “Running-Aways,” and “Exodus to Freedom.” He starts with slavery in the colony of Virginia in 1619. It comes with beautiful black-and-white illustrations that make it a great resource for young readers.

Ages 3 to 7:

Before She Was Harriet

by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome

Before She Was Harriet is a book that tells the story of the well-known abolitionist in verse and with beautiful watercolor illustrations. It shows the many names and roles that the woman we know as Harriet Tubman had at different times in her life. In this order: Spy; suffragist; slave; daughter; General Tubman; Moses; Minty. If you’re a learner of any age, you should read this book. It’s a modern classic and a must-read for everyone.

Ages 4 to 8:

Show Way

by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Hudson Talbott

Show Way

Jacqueline Woodson, a favorite author, talks about a tradition that has been passed down from mother to daughter, even in Woodson’s own family. To the untrained eye, Show Ways are just quilts. To the people who made them and the people they were meant to help, the quilts had hidden messages that helped slaves find their way to freedom. As soon as she is born, Soonie learns to make quilts like the women before her.

Ages 4 to 8:

Overground Railroad

by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome

At that time, Ruth Ellen and her parents board the Silver Meteor train bound for New York. They join a group of millions of African Americans, some of whom were enslaved and others who were born free, who left the South in the hope of a better life. In the book Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Ruth Ellen read about Douglass’s journey and found a lot of similarities between her own journey and Douglass’s.

Ages 4 to 8:

The Patchwork Path

by Bettye Stroud, illustrated by Erin Susanne Bennett

The Patchwork Path is a great match for Jacqueline Woodson’s Show Way, which has secretly coded quilts. This time, the young girl at the center is following the secrets to get out. Hannah and her Papa work together to decipher the gift from Mama and make the dangerous trip north from Georgia. People who were slaves risked everything to become free. Hannah and her father are like those people.

Ages 5 to 8:

From Slave Ship to Freedom Road

by Julius Lester, illustrated by Rod Brown

My ancestors have names I don’t know or will never know, and I think about them all the time. They saw promises made casually and easily broken, and they saw people get thrown into the sea. Julius Lester’s history of slavery in the United States for older people starts with the terrible conditions of the slave ships that traveled the Middle Passage. Finally, the slaves were freed.

Ages 8 to 12:

Trailblazers: Harriet Tubman

by Sandra A. Agard

Trailblazers Harriet Tubman

An exciting biography of Harriet Tubman comes from the Trailblazers series, and it’s a great choice for middle-grade readers. Tubman didn’t rest until she led as many people to freedom as she could. She crossed the Mason-Dixon line after a dangerous, nearly 100-mile journey. Readers will learn about Tubman’s life, but they will also learn about important historical events, like the conditions of slavery and the divide between the North and the South.

Ages 8 to 12:

Harriet Tubman (Little People, Big Dreams)

By Isabel Sanchez Vegara, illustrated by Pili Aguado

This is how Harriet Tubman was born: in the 1800s, she was forced to work on a plantation in Maryland, USA. She helped her family get to the north of the country, even though it was hard. Even though she was safe, she kept going back to the south many, many times in order to help other people get free. Since she was strong and brave, many slaves were able to get away through a secret group called the Underground Railroad.

The book is written and presented in a way that is appropriate for young children. It also has real historical photos at the back. YouTube has a lot of short documentaries about Harriet Tubman. You can also watch the 2009 movie, Harriet, which is about her.

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