The best inspirational picture books on African American history

Who am I?

As a bestselling and award-winning KidLit author of more than 100 books, I’ve been blessed to specialize in writing for kids about the amazing and inspiring legacy of African Americans. From an alphabet book for even the youngest readers to biographies with hands-on activities for middle graders and up, both nonfiction and fiction as well, these stories are my passion because many of these individuals are my personal heroes as well. I want kids to love and honor these men and women who have made a difference in our world as much as I do!


I wrote...

D Is for Drinking Gourd: An African American Alphabet

By Nancy I. Sanders, E.B. Lewis (illustrator),

Book cover of D Is for Drinking Gourd: An African American Alphabet

What is my book about?

Inspirational. Motivational. Encouraging. Empowering. D is for Drinking Gourd: An African American Alphabet introduces young readers to the African American heroes and heroines, the inventors and explorers, and the leaders and influencers since our nation was born. With engaging and beautiful art by renowned children’s illustrator E.B. Lewis, this award-winning and bestselling picture book has garnered enthusiastic acclaim. Its rhyming and lyrical text are just right for even the youngest listener to learn about each topic from A-Z. Sidebars for every spread include university-level information for parents, grandparents, librarians, and educators to continue the discussion and share with older students as well. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Other Side

Nancy I. Sanders Why did I love this book?

I’m a big fan of the art of E. B. Lewis, especially his award-winning picture books. (He illustrated my book.) This book is one of my favorites that he’s illustrated. It’s a story about growing up. And friendship. And how kids know what’s right and wrong even if we as adults get it muddled at times.

By Jacqueline Woodson, E.B. Lewis (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Other Side as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

Jacqueline Woodson is the 2018-2019 National Ambassador for Young People's Literature

Clover's mom says it isn't safe to cross the fence that segregates their African-American side of town from the white side where Anna lives. But the two girls strike up a friendship, and get around the grown-ups' rules by sitting on top of the fence together.

With the addition of a brand-new author's note, this special edition celebrates the tenth anniversary of this classic book. As always, Woodson moves readers with her lyrical narrative, and E. B. Lewis's amazing talent shines in his gorgeous watercolor illustrations.


Book cover of Major Taylor, Champion Cyclist

Nancy I. Sanders Why did I love this book?

I love reading and learning about great achievements by amazing people. Major Taylor was one of these people whose life story is an inspiration to us all. Plus, this story about his achievement as a cyclist is exciting for kids (and adults!) to experience! You can hear the crowd roar as Major Taylor comes from behind to soar across the finish line and win!

By Lesa Cline-Ransome, James E. Ransome (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Major Taylor, Champion Cyclist as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 6, 7, 8, and 9.

What is this book about?

Discover the inspiring true story of extraordinary professional cyclist Major Taylor in this nonfiction picture book from Coretta Scott King Award winners Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome.

In 1891, Marshall Taylor could ride his bike forward, backward, even perched on the handlebars. When his stunts landed him a job at the famous Indiana bike shop Hay and Willits, folks were amazed that a thirteen-year-old black boy could be such a crackerjack cyclist.

Little Marshall Taylor would use his dedication, undeniable talent, and daring speed to transform himself into Major Taylor, turning pro at the age of eighteen, winning the…


Book cover of Love Twelve Miles Long

Nancy I. Sanders Why did I love this book?

The author and I live near each other and we got to know each other at local writer events. So when I heard that her book won Lee and Low’s New Voices Award, I just had to get Glenda’s book. And I did! She autographed a copy for me which I treasure. This is a tender, powerful, and inspiring picture book. It tells the true story of how Frederick Douglass’s mother would visit him. He was a young child working on a plantation. His mother lived and worked six miles away. At night, she would walk six miles through the dark woods to come to visit Frederick, then head back home before dawn. He knew his mother loved him—it was a love that stretched 12 miles long.

Book cover of Lincoln and Douglass: An American Friendship

Nancy I. Sanders Why did I love this book?

This is just a great book by a great author and great illustrator. It’s about the amazing and inspiring friendship of two of the most important men in the history of America. It compares and contrasts different stages of different ages of both these men and gives us a glimpse into the story behind the story of their deep friendship. Every child (and adult) should read this timeless story today.

By Nikki Giovanni, Bryan Collier (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lincoln and Douglass as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, 9, and 10.

What is this book about?

In celebration of Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday in February 2009, we present this story of the unusual friendship between two great American leaders. At a time when racial tensions were high and racial equality was not yet established, Lincoln and Douglass formed a strong bond over shared ideals.


Book cover of Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters

Nancy I. Sanders Why did I love this book?

I met the author Andrea Davis Pinkney and her husband at a conference. I’ve always admired the Pinkney family and their award-winning books for children, so when Andrea shared about her book, I wanted an autographed copy for my own home library. A book for older readers, it contains the biographies of 10 amazing women who took a stand and made a difference in our world. The art is beautiful, too!

By Andrea Davis Pinkney,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Let It Shine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 6, 7, 8, and 9.

What is this book about?

Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus and sparked a boycott that changed America.Harriet Tubman helped more than three hundred slaves escape the South on the Underground Railroad.Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman elected to the U.S.House of Representatives.
The lives these women led are part of an incredible story about courage in the face of oppression; about the challenges and triumphs of the battle for civil rights; and about speaking out for what you believe in--even when it feels like no one is listening.Andrea Davis Pinkney's moving text and Stephen Alcorn's glorious portraits celebrate…


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These Tangled Threads: A Novel of Biltmore

By Sarah Loudin Thomas,

Book cover of These Tangled Threads: A Novel of Biltmore

Sarah Loudin Thomas Author Of These Tangled Threads: A Novel of Biltmore

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Who am I?

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What is my book about?

Seven years ago, a hidden betrayal scattered three friends living in the shadow of Biltmore Estate. Now, when Biltmore Industries master weaver Lorna Blankenship is commissioned to create an original design for Cornelia Vanderbilt's 1924 wedding, she panics knowing she doesn't have the creativity needed. But there's an elusive artisan in the Blue Ridge Mountains who could save her--if only she can find her.

To track the mysterious weaver down, Lorna must seek out the relationships she abandoned in shame. As she pulls at each tangled thread from her old life, Lorna is forced to confront the wounds of long ago. She'll have to risk the job that shapes her identity as well as the hope of friendship--and love--restored.

These Tangled Threads: A Novel of Biltmore

By Sarah Loudin Thomas,

What is this book about?

Seven years ago, a hidden betrayal scattered three young friends living in the shadow of Biltmore Estate. Now, when Biltmore Industries master weaver Lorna Blankenship is commissioned to create an original design for Cornelia Vanderbilt's 1924 wedding, she panics knowing she doesn't have the creativity needed. But there's an elusive artisan in the Blue Ridge Mountains who could save her--if only she can find her.

To track the mysterious weaver down, Lorna sees no other way but to seek out the relationships she abandoned in shame. As she pulls at each tangled thread from her old life, Lorna is forced…


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