Press Release: Great Picture Books on Black History

Recommended Reading

Posted 2/11/2013

Sheree Wichard, 718-788-9585,
Donel Young, 732-295-2406,

Ezra Jack Keats Foundation Pays Tribute To Black History Month With Select List of Recommended Picture Books That Celebrate African-Americans

NEW YORK—February 12, 2013—In honor of Black History Month (February), the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation has selected a list of illustrated books that highlight the contributions of African-Americans. This list of more than a dozen recommended books appears on the Foundation’s website,

“Ezra Jack Keats was committed to celebrating diversity through writing and art—specifically through the power of picture books,” says Deborah Pope, Executive Director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation. In honor of Black History Month, we’ve handpicked books that tell compelling stories, both fictional and historical, about African-Americans. Through gorgeous art and powerful storytelling, these books will engage people of all ages, colors and ethnicities.”

Among the Foundation’s recommendations are:

  • Freedom Summer, by Deborah Wiles, illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue (Atheneum, 2001)
    A touching story of two boys—one white, one black—who make sense of the hatred stirred up in the South in the 1960s by staying true to their friendship.
  • Black-History-Month-3Most Loved in All the World, by Tonya Cherie Hegamin, illustrated by Cozbi Cabrera (Houghton Mifflin, 2009)
  • A daughter remembers the beloved mother who sends her to freedom via the Underground Railroad with a handmade quilt to remind her that she is the “most loved in all the world.”
  • John Henry: An American Legend, by Ezra Jack Keats (Pantheon, 1965)
    The mythic figure of John Henry is believed by many to have actually lived. In Keats’ powerfully illustrated rendition, the famed “steel-drivin’ man” pits himself against the machine that is threatening the jobs of his fellow railroad men.
  • Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans, by Kadir Nelson (Balzer + Bray, 2011)
    A beautifully illustrated recounting of history by an African-American matriarch, which encompasses the life of her African-born grandfather and her own vote for the first black President.
  • Queen of the Track: Alice Coachman, Olympic High-Jump Champion, by Heather Lang, illustrated by Floyd Cooper (Boyds Mills Press, 2012)
    The inspiring journey of this natural athlete from the rural South who, in 1948, became the first African-American to win gold at the Olympics.
  • Going North, by Janice Harrington, illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004)
    A poetic and stunningly illustrated story of a family leaving the Jim Crow South of the 1960s and travelling toward the hope of better jobs and a better life in Chicago.

Added Pope, “Children’s illustrated literature is a pathway to understanding, showing young readers relatable stories about people from different walks of life. The books we are recommending for Black History Month celebrate friendship, determination, courage against all odds and other universal qualities that transcend age, race and ethnic background.”

About the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation

The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation supports arts and literacy programs in public schools and libraries across the country that bring the joy of reading to children while highlighting the importance of diversity in children’s books. Among the Foundation’s programs are the annual Ezra Jack Keats Book Award, presented to an outstanding new writer and new illustrator of children’s picture books; the Ezra Jack Keats Bookmaking Competition for New York City public school students, grades 3-12; and the Ezra Jack Keats Minigrant program, which has put more than three-quarters of a million dollars in funding directly into the hands of teachers and librarians across the United States whose programs reach beyond the basic curriculum to inspire. For information about the Foundation, please visit