Five must-read children's books on Black British History

Five must-read children's books on Black British History

5 minute read

I spend a lot of time reading and researching books both for The Cornrow and for my two girls so I feel ready to share my  “Five must-read children’s books on Black British history”. Black British History Books are a key part of our edit on The Cornrow and we are so excited by the new books coming out all the time on the topic - we actually do a happy dance when we get to send one onto it’s new home! 

Diversity in children’s publishing still has a long way to go (there are still more books published with animals as central characters than children of colour), however – things are so much better than "back in our day”. But there is still one big issue - most of the Black history books out there are focussed on Black American history and  heroes. Although we love a Rosa Parks and a Martin Luther King story as much as anyone out there …… there is a danger ….. as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie warns, of a single story.  There is of course so much more to the Black experience than just North America. There are Black South American heroes, that we don’t even know about, let alone Black British ones. And these more local heroes are so relevant to our kids. Surely our UK children should know about the Bristol bus strikes as well as Rosa Park’s American bus strike?  Or be inspired by Mary Seacole at the same time they learn about Florence Nightingale?


So, in response, we have curated a short list of wonderful children’s non-fiction books whose themes are Africa or the Black British experience.  We present them to you in age order – as we know from experience how helpful that is. We have set a lower age recommendation but purposely not set an older age recommendation as we think these books will be loved by all ages, even by us adults catching up on stuff we were never taught at school!

Happy reading and do share your faves in the comments. 


Age: Birth and upwards

Coming To England

Coming To England


A picture book story about the triumph of hope, love, and determination, Coming to England is the inspiring true story of Baroness Floella Benjamin: from Trinidad, to London as part of the Windrush generation, to the House of Lords. When… Read More

A great place to start for babies is this lovely picture book by Floella Benjamin (those of a certain age will remember her from the BBC children’s program Play School!). She tells the moving story of how she came to England from Trinidad with her family as a young child. The illustrations of her happy family life are incredibly sweet and touching. Really, no child is ever too young to learn about the courage and determination of the Windrush parents who chose to leave everything they knew behind to seek better lives for their children , this is a warm and inspiring place to start.



Age: Four and upwards

Title: “Africa, Amazing Africa” by Atinuke. 



This book is both lavishly illustrated and wonderfully researched. It devotes at least a page to every country in Africa, full of interesting facts tailored to pique the interest of young children. It is a powerful antidote to the “Africa is not a country” response we so often have to dish out in the playground, as it celebrates the diversity, beauty and inspiration pouring out of this beautiful continent. 



Age: Seven and upwards

Title: The Story of Windrush by K. N. Chimbiri


This is a beautifully and carefully put together book telling the story of Windrush using illustrations, photographs, text and timelines. The text is written in an accessible way so young readers will be able to read it themselves. I really adore this book, it reminds me of the Ladybird books of my childhood, the illustrations are superb and it tells the powerful history in an engaging way that is sure to interest young readers.



Age: Nine and upwards

Title:  Timelines from Black History, Mireille Harper

Timelines from Black History

Timelines from Black History


Timelines from Black History, by DK, Foreward Mirelle Harper "This book is utterly brilliant. I wish I had something like this when I was a child"  The Cornrow. Erased. Ignored. Hidden. Lost. Underappreciated. No longer.Delve into the unique, inspiring, and world-changing history of… Read More


Wow this book is just magic. Imagine a beautifully illustrated, wonderfully researched and incredibly detailed timeline for just about any topic you can think of in Black History. Well this is it! 


I simply don’t know how they managed to pack such a wealth of information in this book! It has a timeline for everything Mansa Musa to Stomzy. From the colonialization in Africa to Lebron James. It’s utterly amazing and I couldn’t recommend it high enough. 


The best thing with these timelines it is that they whet the appetite so when a child finds a timeline particularly inspiring....... it then becomes a porthole to dive in and research a whole lot more about the topic and isn’t that what it is all about!



Age Ten and upwards

Title: Black and British by David Olusoga

Black and British: A short, essential history

Black and British: A short, essential history


Black and British: A short, Essential History A short, essential introduction to Black British history for readers of 12+ by award-winning historian and broadcaster David Olusoga. When did Africans first come to Britain? Who are the well-dressed black children in… Read More

David Olusoga is one of the undisputed champions of Black British history in the United Kingdom and it turns out he is also a superb children’s author too. He says in the introduction that this is the book he wishes he had as a child growing up, curious about the the Black presence in world. Our children are privileged to have access to this book which sets out such a broad scope of fascinating Black British history, from the Roman times right up to the present day in such a scholarly but engaging way.

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