African American Children’s Writers

In honor of Black History Month, the S-Collection presents selected books by notable African American authors. In the U.S., early children’s literature often presented stereotypes of African Americans in books written by white authors. By the mid-20th century, a growing number of African American writers sought to present positive images of Black life and culture. African American authors can offer insight into the Black experience in ways writers of other races can not, as African American author Jacqueline Woodson writes, “I realized that no one but me can tell my story.”*

*Woodson, J. (1998). Who Can Tell My Story [white authors writing about people of color]. The Horn Book Magazine, 74, 34-38.

African American Authors and Selected Works
Curtis, Christopher Paul

Bud, Not Buddy. 1999.
Ten-year-old Bud, a motherless boy living in Flint, Michigan, during the Great Depression, escapes a bad foster home and sets out in search of the man he believes to be his father–the renowned bandleader, H.E. Calloway of Grand Rapids. A Newberry Medal Winner.
[Education S Collection: S.C941b]

The Watsons Go to Birmingham. 1995.
The ordinary interactions and everyday routines of the Watsons, an African American family living in Flint, Michigan, are drastically changed after they go to visit Grandma in Alabama in the summer of 1963.
[Education S Collection: S. C941W]

Visit the publisher’s website for Christopher Paul Curtis.
Hamilton, Virginia (1936-2002)

Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush. 1982.
Fourteen-year-old Tree, resentful of her working mother who leaves her in charge of a retarded younger brother, encounters the ghost of her dead uncle and comes to a deeper understanding of her family’s problems. This book won numerous awards including a Newbery Honor Medal.
[Education S Collection: S. H18S]

Zeely. 1967.
Geeder’s summer at her uncle’s farm is made special because of her friendship with a very tall, composed woman who raises hogs and who closely resembles the magazine photograph of a Watutsi queen.
[Education Storage: S. H18Z1986]

Visit Virginia Hamilton’s Website (This site is not actively updated).
Lester, Julius

Ackamarackus: Julius Lester’s Sumptuously Silly Fantastically Funny Fables. 2001.
A collection of six original fables with morals both silly and serious.
[Education S Collection: Q.S.398.2 L567a]

Black Cowboy, Wild Horses: a True Story. 1998.
A black cowboy is so in tune with wild mustangs that they accept him into the herd, thus enabling him singlehandedly to take them to the corral.
[Education Storage: Q. SE. L5674b]

Sam and the Tigers: a New Telling of Little Black Sambo. 1996.
Follows the adventures of a little boy named Sam when he matches wits with several tigers that want to eat him.
[Education Storage: SE. L5674S]

Visit Julius Lester’s Website
McKissack, Patricia

Black Hands, White Sails: the Story of African-American Whalers.1999.
A history of African-American whalers between 1730 and 1880, describing their contributions to the whaling industry and their role in the abolitionist movement.
[Education Storage: S.639.28 M217b]

The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural. 1992.
A collection of ghost stories with African American themes, designed to be told during the Dark Thirty–the half hour before sunset–when ghosts seem all too believable.
[Education S Collection: S. M217D]

Mirandy and Brother Wind. 1988.
To win first prize in the Junior Cakewalk, Mirandy tries to capture the wind for her partner. Caldecott honor book.
[Education Storage: Q.SE. M217M]

Learn more about Patricia McKissack
Myers, Walter Dean

Shooter. 2004.
Written in the form of interviews, reports, and journal entries, the story of three troubled teenagers ends in a tragic school shooting.
[Education S Collection: S.M992s]

145th Street : Short Stories. 2000.
Ten stories portray life on a block in Harlem.
[Education S Collection: S.M992o]

Visit Walter Dean Myers’s Website
Ringgold, Faith

Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad In The Sky. 1992.
With Harriet Tubman as her guide, Cassie retraces the steps escaping slaves took on the Underground Railroad in order to reunite with her younger brother.
[Education S Collection: Q.SE. R473A]

Dinner at Aunt Connies’s House. 1993.
Dinner at Aunt Connie’s is even more special than usual when Melody meets not only her new adopted cousin but twelve inspiring African-American women, who step out of their portraits and join the family for dinner.
[Education S Collection: SE. R473D]

Tar Beach. 1991.
A young girl dreams of flying above her Harlem home, claiming all she sees for herself and her family. Based on the author’s quilt painting of the same name, this is a Caldecott Honor Book.
[Education S Collection: Q.SE. R473T)

Visit Faith Ringgold’s Website
Taylor, Mildred D.

The Road to Memphis. 1990.
Sadistically teased by two white boys in 1940s rural Mississippi, a black youth severely injures one of the boys with a tire iron and enlists Cassie’s help in trying to flee the state. This is part 3 of the Logan Family series.
[Education Storage: S. T216RO]

The Well: David’s Story. 1995.
In Mississippi in the early 1900s ten-year-old David Logan’s family generously shares their well water with both white and black neighbors in an atmosphere of potential racial violence.
[Education S Collection: S.T216w 1998]

Visit Penguin Publisher’s website on Mildred Taylor.
Looking for more information on African-American authors and their books? Try these sources:

Many Peoples, One Land: a Guide to New Multicultural Literature for Children and Young Adults. 2001.
[Education Juvenile Reference [non-circulating]: S.016.8108H366m]

Black Authors and Illustrators of Books for Children and Young Adults. (4th ed.), 2007.
[Education Juvenile Reference [non-circulating]: S.011.62R658b2007]

The All-White World of Children’s Books and African American Children’s Literature. 1995.
[Main Stacks: 810.9 AL58]

The Coretta Scott King Awards, 1970-2004. (3rd ed.), 2004.
[Education Juvenile Reference [non-circulating]: S.016.8108 C812]