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21 Must-Have Books by Black Authors For Your Class Library

Check out these top picks and find your students’ (or your own!) next read.


Teachers know: Students thrive when they can see themselves in their learning materials. Libraries come to life when the shelves are filled with diverse stories, characters, and authors. Black students especially deserve to see themselves in stories beyond those of suffering; stories by and about Black folks filled with joy, love, and magic are essential for every classroom.

We broke down the data and these are the most popular books by Black authors that teachers request on DonorsChoose. Plus, we added a couple of buzzy new releases to add to your list too. Check out these top picks and find your students’ (or your own!) next read.

Elementary Books by Black Authors

Stuntboy, in the Meantime, by Jason Reynolds

For fans of Jason Reynold’s 2017 Long Way Down, check out his 2021 release: Stuntboy, in the Meantime. This entertaining, action-packed graphic novel, introduces middle-grade readers to Portico Reeves (aka Stuntboy), a Black fourth-grader and superhero. This story follows Portico as he navigates bullying and family troubles, all while addressing big and important feelings of worry, anxiety, and fear in positive ways.

“The pages are filled with beautiful and engaging art, a plot line like they have never seen before and, no doubt, a story that will become a favorite for all of us. The story features a main character who lives in an apartment building full of intriguing characters and a boy who is truly a superhero!” —Mrs. Mannle, Class Set of Stuntboy, In The Meantime

Hair Love, by Matthew A. Cherry 

Hair Love tells the story of a Black father who jumps in to style his daughters hair when her mom is away. This heartwarming depiction of a father-daughter relationship was also turned into a 7 minute animated film.

Skin Like Mine, by Latisha M. Perry 

Skin Like Mine celebrates the beauty of diverse skin tones. Already love Skin Like Mine? Check out another Latisha M. Perry teacher fave from the Kids Like Mine series, Hair Like Mine.

Sulwe, by Lupita Nyong'o

Sulwe, written by actress Lupita Nyong'o, tells the story of a young girl who wishes her skin were lighter. The 2019 children’s book explores colorism and, ultimately, how to love yourself.

Sulwe is a book that promotes self-love, and acceptance, while helping children to be proud of who they are and realize they're just as beautiful outside as they are within. This book is a sweet take on ways young children can be helped to confront colorism.” —Mr. Romelle, Self Love

Alvin Ailey, by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Alvin Ailey broke ground when he founded a Black modern dance company in 1958. This illustrated children’s book shows off Ailey’s childhood, choreography, and founding of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson

In her New York Times bestseller, Jacqueline Woodson explores difference and belonging in The Day You Begin. Lyrical and beautifully illustrated, the book speaks directly to young children and can help foster community within a class.

Life in Motion: Unlikely Ballerina Young Readers Edition, by Misty Copeland

Life in Motion: Unlikely Ballerina depicts the life of Misty Copeland, the first Black female principal ballerina in the American Ballet Theatre. This young readers edition is a great opportunity for students 3rd - 7th grade to learn about her journey to becoming a history making ballerina.

Middle School Books by Black Authors

The cover of "A clean getaway" by Nic Stone

Clean Getaway, by Nic Stone

Nic Stone’s first novel Dear Martin has already made her a staple in many high school classrooms. Her first middle grade novel, Clean Getaway, follows an 11-year-old on a road trip with his grandmother.

Clean Getaway by Nic Stone will be the foundation of our project, allowing us to build an understanding of civil rights history through a character that our students can see themselves in.” —Ms. Tuttell, The Pride of Southeast Raleigh

Freewater, by Amina Luqman-Dawson

The 2023 Newbery & Coretta Scott King Award Winner, Freewater tells the story of 12-year-old Homer and his little sister Ada as they flee their home on Southerland Plantation. An inspiring story of survival, love, bravery, and adventure, this text quickly earns its spot on your classroom’s beloved historical fiction shelf.

The Newberry Award-winning "Freewater" is a text that perfectly complements our curriculum. With a protagonist that faces and overcomes hardship, the text is another wonderful tale of the African Diaspora.” —Mr. Brunson, Award Winning Literature in the Classroom

Black Brother, Black Brother, by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Jewell Parker Rhodes’s book looks at the school-to-prison pipeline through the story of two biracial brothers — one who presents as Black, and the other who presents as White — and a world that doesn’t treat them equally.

“Providing my readers with the opportunity to read Black Brother, Black Brother as a whole class at home will enable them to view the world through different perspectives, research other connecting events, and have the tough but all-too-necessary conversations required to change the future.” —Mrs. Stegall, Black Brother, Black Brother: A Novel for Racial Equality

Class Act, by Jerry Craft

Class Act is a companion book to New Kid, winner of the 2020 Newbery Medal, the Coretta Scott King Author Award, and the Kirkus Prize. The graphic novel shows the lives of middle schoolers as they come to terms with the realities of privilege.

Before the Ever After, by Jacqueline Woodson

Jaqueline Woodson’s novel-in-verse and winner of the Coretta Scott King Author Award Before the Ever After tells the story of a family dealing with the impact professional sports — specifically football — has on Black bodies.

Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel, by Jason Reynolds

Long Way Down is a graphic novel in verse with illustrations by Danica Novgorodoff that centers the story of a boy who witnessed his brother die in a fatal shooting. As he weighs his options for revenge, he’s visited by people from his past.

“Jason Reynolds speaks to my students, especially my young men who struggle to engage with literature. His work offers a different perspective than the classics that we typically find on the shelves at school. Students deserve to read his books.” —Ms. Rausch, Long Way to Literacy

High School Books by Black Authors

Just Mercy (Adapted for Young Adults): A True Story of the Fight for Justice, Bryan Stevenson

Lawyer and activist Bryan Stevenson’s book Just Mercy depicts his experience as a young lawyer defending wrongfully incriminated clients in the south. This version, adapted for young adult audiences, shows students a glimpse into the broken US justice system.

Parable of the Sower, by Octavia Butler

Great literature, racial justice, and environmental science combine in this novel featuring a 15-year-old Black girl who builds a powerful cohort of young leaders to fight for survival and discover a new vision for humanity.

“This post-apocalyptic science fiction novel centers around a 15-year-old girl who can feel the pain of others and becomes removed from her California home. Through the character's journey, issues of climate change and social inequity are raised. [This book will allow us to] make cross-cultural connections related to historical and scientific topics. Butler's novel provides students with a real opportunity to discuss issues that are increasingly relevant and troubling.” —Ms. Gionti, Parable of the Sower: Sci-Fi Books Needed

Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi

This 2018 fantasy novel and #1 New York Times Bestseller by Nigerian-American novelist Tomi Adeyemi has become a fast classic. First in the Legacy of Orisha series, Children of Blood and Bone incorpoerest Adeyemi’s West African heritage in a story of fighting injustice and discrimination.

Children of Blood and Bone is an amazing read that explores powerful female characters and social issues that are relevant to the world we live in, as well as magic and adventure that keep readers on the edge of their seats.” —Mrs. Majeski-Turner, Help Amazing Young Women Read Children of Blood and Bone

Concrete Rose, by Angie Thomas

Looking for a book like The Hate U Give? Angie Thomas’s new novel Concrete Rose revisits the same neighborhood 17 years prior, exploring Black boyhood and manhood through the story of 17-year-old Maverick Carter.

Punching the Air, by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

Co-written by award winning novelist Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of The Exonerated Five, Punching the Air is a YA novel written in verse about a wrongfully incarcerated boy.

“In my 13 years as a professional librarian, [Punching the Air] is one of the finest books I have ever read for young adults. All of us will read the book as a learning community, to discuss and explore.” —Mrs. May-Stein, Punch Out Illiteracy in the Time of COVID-19!

The Weary Blues, by Langston Hughes

Truly no library is complete without Langston Hughes. Written in 1925, “The Weary Blues” is a seminal work of the Harlem Renaissance, and Hughes’s first collection of poetry still resonates today.

Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates’s 2015 nonfiction bestseller weaves personal narrative and history, and is written as a letter to his teenage son. Inspired by the writing of James Baldwin, Coates interrogates the "racist violence that has been woven into American culture."

“Ta-Nehisi Coates makes these real world struggles personal and engaging. What started as a letter to his son, now has grown into a memoir and meditation for all teenagers and adults to understand what others go through.” —Mr. Steinman, Between the World and the Heights

The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead

Winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The Nickel Boys follows the story of two boys unjustly sent to a reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida.

The Nickel Boys promises to be a novel which inspires engaged discussion, thoughtful reflection, and even some soul-searching in the high school classroom. To move forward as a diverse country requires us to examine some of the tragedies of our disparate paths. This book provides the opportunity for readers to do just that.” —Ms. Furlong, A New and Necessary Novel: Colson Whitehead in the Classroom

Do the Work : An Antiracist Activity Book, by W. Kamau Bell and  Kate Schatz 

Are you looking for new conversation starters and tools to discuss racial injustice in your classroom? This interactive workbook, co-written by DonorsChoose Board Member W. Kamau Bell, challenges readers to think critically and do the work. 

Spot a book you’d love your students to read? Create a project today: www.donorschoose.org/teachers

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