Children’s Picture Books About Slavery

This is a collection of excellent read-aloud stories for young and old. Most of them are true stories and give a lot of insight into the lives of enslaved people in America.

Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter

I love this story! Tells the legend of Peg Leg Joe who helped lead slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad. Be sure to listen to the song after you read the book!

Hammering for Freedom by Rita Lorraine Hubbard

The true story of William Lewis and how he worked day and night for over 20 years to earn the money to free his family from slavery. Beautiful and inspiring. Highly recommend!!

Almost to Freedom by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

The tale of a young slave girl who escapes to freedom via the underground railroad narrated by her rag doll. Does a great job of telling the story of slavery from a child’s perspective. 

Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Beautiful story about Harriet Tubman and the many heroic ways she served others throughout her life. Touches on her work as a nurse, a spy, a general, and a suffragette, which is not mentioned in many books. Highly recommend! 

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Caroline Boston Weatherford

Beautiful illustrations and rich poetic text. The author imagines what Harriet’s spiritual journey may have been like, as well as her physical journey to freedom. This story really helps you imagine what it may have been like to make the escape from slavery. Great factual information about Harriet Tubman at the end of the book. Highly recommend! 

The Bell Rang by James E. Ransome

About daily life for a slave girl and the heartache she endures when her older brother runs away.

So Tall Within: Sojourner Truth’s Long Walk Toward Freedom by Gary D. Schmidt

Tells the incredible and inspiring story of Sojourner Truth, how she escaped from slavery, became an abolitionist, and later a voice for civil rights and suffrage. This book is stirring and impactful. Highly recommend! 

Beacon to Freedom: The Story of a Conductor on the Underground Railroad by Jenna Glatzer

The story of John Rankin and his work in helping nearly 2,000 people escape slavery. This story is so moving and inspiring. It really brings to life the experiences of those who were traveling and assisting on the Underground Railroad.  Highly, highly recommend! 

Steamboat School by Deborah Hopkinson

Inspired by the true story of Reverend John Berry Meachum and his incredible “Floating Freedom School.” The school floated on a steamboat in the Mississippi River, and was Meachum’s solution to a law passed in Missouri in 1847 banning the education of all black people, slave or free. Really inspiring story and great read!

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Kadir Nelson

This story is heart-wrenching and triumphant all at once. Tells the true story of Henry “Box” Brown, a slave who mailed himself to freedom. Highly recommend! 

Freedom River by Doreen Rapport

This is an incredible true story about John Parker, an ex-slave who risked his life many times to bring other slaves to freedom. The story is based on John Parker’s autobiography. Highly recommend! 

Frederick Douglas: The Lion Who Wrote History by Walter Dean Myers

I love this book so much! Tells the amazing story of Frederick Douglas, how he overcame tremendous opposition to escape slavery, and became a leader in the abolitionist movement. 

Frederick Douglas for Kids: His Life and Times with 21 Activities by Nancy I. Sanders

This book is packed with great information about Frederick Douglas and slavery in general. It is very text-heavy, so more suitable for upper-elementary and middle-school students. The activity suggestions are also great.

If You Traveled on the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine

This book covers a lot of information, and gives a lot of great details on what it was like to try to escape slavery. This is more of an informational type book, not a story. While very interesting, it might be best in smaller bites for a child with a short attention span.

If You Lived When There Was Slavery in America by Anne Kamma

From the same series as the title above, which I really recommend for elementary age history study! This is a very informative and interesting read, but like all of the books in this series, children with shorter attention spans might need to read it over a few days.

William Still and His Freedom Stories: The Father of the Underground Railroad by Don Tate

Excellent read about a lesser-known, yet important participant in the underground railroad.

Light in the Darkness: A Story About How Slaves Learned in Secret by Lesa Cline-Ransome

This is a fictional story about the factual “pit schools” where slaves would hide and learn to read and write from a literate slave. Very interesting read with information that you don’t come across very often!

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