Think back to the black history you learned about in school. What’s the common theme?
We learn about the history of the oppression of black people, from slavery to the civil rights movement. And learning this history is extremely important. The problem is, this is often the only black history we learn.
We don’t always hear the stories of the black world-changers who have made our lives what they are today. Celebrating the achievements of the black community is just as important as highlighting the oppression it has faced. That’s why we put together this list of books about black scientists.
These books about black scientists highlight the achievements of black women and men that have been ignored in the past. They help us challenge the idea that scientists are white men in lab coats. They show that anyone who loves science can become a scientist, and they empower all of us to purse the things that we love.
17 Children’s Books About Black Scientists
This book is an early reader book, but we used it as a read-aloud over several nights! It dives into the lives of five influential black scientists that changed our world for the better. Young readers will learn about George Washington Carver, Shirley Jackson, Ernest Just, Percy Julian, and Susan McKinney Steward. Each chapter is full of photos, facts, and a high-level overview of each scientists’ accomplishments.
This level four reader is great for independent readers ages 8 and up, or as a read-aloud for kids ages 4 and up.
This gorgeously illustrated book highlights the achievements of 15 black women who made huge advances in science, medicine, and engineering. There are some familiar faces found in this collection, but many lesser-known scientists as well. I learned about several women that I had never heard of before! There’s also lots of great resources for further study listed in the back of the book.
I recommend this book for independent readers ages 9 and up, or as a read-aloud for ages 6 and up.
This rhyming book tells the story of a young girl who toured a submarine and from there dreamed of being an engineer. She faced many challenges over the course of her career, because she was a black woman trying to make her mark in a field dominated by black men. Through it all, Raye didn’t give up, and she changed the world of naval design forever.
This engaging picture is great for kids ages 5 and up.
Dr. Patricia Bath grew up in the age of the Civil Rights Movement,and fought racism, sexism, and economic hardship to become a renowned doctor. This book explores her life and how she went from a girl with a dream to a celebrated medical trailblazer. There’s even a note from Dr. Bath at the end of the book!
I recommend this rhyming biography for readers ages 5 and up.
I absolutely adore the Picture Book Biography series by David A. Adler! This volume tells about Carver’s early life, his scientific achievements, and his additional amazing accomplishments, like his artistic talents and his invention of peanut butter. Adler’s writing is warm and engaging, and young readers will find themselves drawn in to the life of his hero.
This picture book is great for kids ages 6 and up, and I highly recommend the whole series!
Aliki is another excellent author of children’s non-fiction, and this book has become a classic. It starts with the dramatic events of Carver’s early life as a slave, and follows him through his childhood love of plants and how that grew into a career as a scientists, at a time when black men were not normally accepted in such roles. It also clearly communicates Carver’s love for his community and his desire to make discoveries that would improve agriculture in the South, which would particularly benefit other African-Americans.
I recommend sharing this book with children ages 5 and up.
Growing food was hard in the southern United States in the early 20th century. Cotton crops had depleted the soil of the nutrients needed to grow grain and vegetables. Thankfully, George Washington Carver had figured out a way to help.
This historical fiction picture book follows a young girl named Sally as Dr. Carver helps the children at her school with their garden, and the adults in the community with their farms. Dr. Carver teaches everyone about planting, composting, and how to respect and nourish the soil so it will give back for years to come.
This lovely picture book is a great choice for sharing with kids ages 5 and up.
We absolutely LOVED this book and still read it together regularly! It’s a picture book adaptation of the Hidden Figures story, and invites readers into the lives and struggles of Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Christine Darden as they worked to help NASA accomplish some amazing firsts. This book inspired my kids to do a lot of additional research on these women, and we gifted copies to their teachers this year.
This book should be in every child’s library and is perfect for kids ages 4 and up.
Katherine Johnson always loved numbers and math. When she was a girl, she would count everything, and she was such a good student that she skipped three whole grades! Despite many challenges, she never stopped pursuing her love of math and science, and she was able to use that passion to help save the Apollo 13 after its historic moon landing.
This book will inspire children to follow their dreams, and it’s great for kids ages 3 and up.
From a young age, Mae Jemison was a dreamer. She dreamed of seeing the earth from space one day, so her family encouraged her to follow her passion and become an astronaut. That encouragement and her love of learning led Mae to become the first black woman to travel in space.
This gorgeous picture book is perfect for sharing with little dreamers ages 4 and up.
This is another inspiring picture book about how a love of math and numbers led to an amazing career in science! Dorothy Vaughn loved the way numbers made sense. She could solve number problems quickly and easily, and she wanted to make working with numbers her career. Dorothy went from math teacher to human computer to becoming the first black supervisor in her company’s history. Her intelligence and persistence helped her to keep going and overcome when challenges came her way.
This bright and bold picture book is recommended for kids ages 5 and up.
Benjamin Banneker was a self-taught astronomer and mathematician. He was also an activist. He detested the institution of slavery, and he wrote to Thomas Jefferson in 1791 to call him out on his hypocrisy — how could the author of the Declaration of Independence own slaves? Banneker had been born into freedom, but it bothered him greatly that not all black people were free.
This fascinating book shows how we can pursue or passions and still work to make the world a better place. I recommend sharing it with children ages 6 and up.
This is another excellent biography of Banneker, focused on one of his greatest achievements as an inventor. At age 22 Banneker was inspired by a pocket watch a friend had lent him. He envisions creating a larger vision of this watch that chimes. This pocket watch led Banneker to invent the first strike clock. Despite the fact that Banneker only attended school for a short time, he was able to invent something that we still use today.
This book is ideal for sharing with with readers ages 5 and up.
Ernest Just’s life was far from easy; he experienced typhoid fever when he was young that took his ability to read from him. He struggled to re-learn what he had lost, and having to support his family while attending school made life hard for him. A biology class at Dartmouth College changed his life and connected him to his passion. This story takes readers through Just’s struggles in his young life, and his later achievements as a biologist who made an impact at a time when Jim Crow laws worked to hold him back.
This book is a fascinating profile with gorgeous illustrations, and I recommend sharing it with readers ages 6 and up.
As a child, Lonnie Johnson was always tinkering and building. This love for building and creating eventually led him to a job at NASA, where he worked on the spacecraft Gallileo. But Johnson is best known for an invention that most kids know and love — the Super Soaker! This book shows that you’re never too old to have fun, or to use your imagination to create something new.
This exciting story of discovery is great for kids ages 7 and up.
A drought has hit William’s village in Malawi. That means his family can’t eat or make any money. Their crops are their livelihood, and it seems that their livelihood will be destroyed.
Young William is determined to find a solution. He begins reading science books in the local library, and he learns more about wind energy. He decides to build a windmill that will pump water to the crops. His innovation and resourcefulness ends up saving the day.
This story of creativity and innovation is excellent for kids ages 6 and up. The middle grade version of this book is on our list of Chapter Books About Black Boys.
This book follows a young boy as he uses several regular, commonplace items throughout his day. What do all of these items have in common? They were all created by black inventors! This story introduces us to the inventor of the potato chip, the ironing board, and other amazing items we use all the time. It also features ideas for learning more and considering what inventions the reader could contribute to the world
This book is an excellent choice for sharing with readers ages 5 and up.
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