Black History Month Recommended Books and Movies

Black History Month recommended reading list with books for children, teens, and adults.

Updated: Friday, February 23, 2024

We asked for your help in updating our list of recommended Black History Month books and movies—and you sprung into action! Thank you to everyone who contributed suggestions and for sharing why these literary pieces and films are so important in building understanding and facilitating discussion.

For Part I of our Black History Month: Meaningful Books & Movies blog series, we are updating our recommended book lists below and sharing some of the comments we received about why particular publications and films are so poignant. 

Reflections on 2024 Recommendations:

Movie Recommendation: "Amistad"

  • Recommended by: Hannah Wadhwania, Adult Learner, Chestnut Hill College
  • Reason for Recommendation: “This movie helped me understand how much my generational history differed from those of other races and how important educating children on race/culture can be to a developing mind that may be exposed to racism at home. Children of all races need to see themselves positively represented in the classroom in order to build respect for personal identity and cultures.”

Book Recommendation: I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont (2016)

  • Recommended by: Alicha Pantoja, Adult Learner, Chestnut Hill College
  • Reason for Recommendation: “This book helped me to realize early on how important positive self-talk is.”

Book Recommendation: Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum (1997)

  • Recommended by: Alexandra Whittington, Assistant Toddler Teacher, Clementine Montessori School
  • Reason for Recommendation: “This book opened my eyes to the unique experiences of BIPOC students in the American education system, and helped me recognize the ways that culture and identity can influence my relationships with my students.”

Book Recommendation: How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith (2021)

  • Recommended by: Maria-Veronica Barnes, Assistant Head for Program and DEI, Barnes Lexington Montessori
  • Reason for Recommendation: “The words we use matter and the stories we tell form the schemas that allow the thinking of our students to take place. Perpetuating oppression is possible because of the narratives that we share and accept as collective truths. There is precisely where our power of action to take down systems of oppression stands. We can change the course of collective knowledge by examining and challenging that narrative. We get to choose what narratives we teach and, to be able to do that, we have a lot to unlearn.”

Movie Recommendation: “13th” by Ava Duvernay

  • Recommended by: Maria-Veronica Barnes, Assistant Head for Program and DEI, Barnes Lexington Montessori
  • Reason for Recommendation: “This movie unveiled the intention behind oppression. It shows that there are people who benefited and continue to benefit from the injustices perpetrated to Black and Brown people. There is a purpose to the madness. Knowing that in a matter of fact way is liberating and gives hope. If we can make these systems exist, we can also make them go away. We have to be invested in asking the right questions.”

About the Recommended Reading List

The books that we use in Montessori classrooms matter. We must center books featuring diverse characters and counternarratives for all children from Infant & Toddler classrooms through Secondary programs.

To help parents and educators choose age-appropriate books with Black history and Black futures in mind for themselves and students, here are a few title suggestions organized by audience.

The list below samples the many books available at local libraries and bookstores. For more title suggestions to share with your child, check booklists from The Chicago Public Library and the Coretta Scott King Book Awards. And when looking for book titles, consider purchasing from Black-owned bookstores. Look here for a directory with stores listed by state.

Infant & Toddler

(ages birth – 18 months)

Children at this age are beginning to explore the world through their senses. They are learning how to interact with their environment. Long biographies about famous Black Americans or topics surrounding social justice will not be understood. Look for books that explore diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Board Books for Infants

Picture Books for Toddlers

Early Childhood

(ages 3 – 6)

More context can be understood by preschool-aged children. Look for stories that your child can relate to somehow. For instance, if your child is drawn to music, share a book featuring a famous Black musician.

Picture Books

Lower Elementary

(ages 6 – 9)

There is a wide range of reading ability in this age group. Most of the picture books listed are best for shared reading which can lead to discussion.

Note: if your child enjoys biographies look for titles in these series:

  • A Biography for New Readers
  • Ordinary People Change the World
  • Who Was?
  • She Persisted

Picture Books (with advanced text and story content)


Upper Elementary and Secondary

(ages 9 – 12 and 12 – 18)

Again, there is a wide range of reading ability as children move into their tween and teen years. They also might have strong opinions about what they will or will not read.



For Parents

Note: For more titles check the Chicago Public Library’s list here.

About the Author

V.Kulikow Montessori Life Blog Author

V. Kulikow is a former Montessori teacher and youth services librarian. She currently works as a UX designer and enjoys content creation both with words and images.

Interested in writing a guest post for our blog? Let us know!

The opinions expressed in Montessori Life are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of AMS.

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