Black History in YA Fiction: A Time Line

Kelly Jensen


Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She's the editor/author of (DON'T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen.

It’s black history month, and rather than offer up a straightforward book list of young adult titles that highlight aspects of black history in the United States, I wanted to do something different — and something that would be much more visually arresting.

I pooled together as many YA books that were historical fiction (meaning no magical/fantastical elements) and featured black main characters or stories. The pickings were so meager, I also looked at middle grade novels which could appeal to young adult readers. But even with those titles included, I hope that this time line is not only illuminating in terms of what is out there, but I hope it’s even more illuminated about what books are not out there. It should be noted, too, many of these titles are older, and some may no longer be available to purchase.

Since the image below is long and narrow, feel free to click it below to make it bigger, or you can download a .pdf copy of the time line by clicking here. If you would like a copy of the titles and authors of the books without the visual aspect, I’ve included a list beneath it, as well.



Titles included:

  • Copper Sun by Sharon Draper
  • Taking Liberty by Ann Rinaldi
  • Hang A Thousand Trees with Ribbons  by Ann Rinaldi
  • Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
  • 47 by Walter Mosley
  • Good Fortuneby Noni Carter
  • Willow by Tonya Cherie Hegamin
  • Day of Tears by Julius Lester
  • Josephine by Beverly Jenkins
  • Come Juneteenth by Ann Rinaldi
  • Riot by Walter Dean Myers
  • Storm Warriors by Emma Carbone
  • Cy in Chains by David L. Dudley
  • Becoming Billie Holiday by Carole Boston Weatherford
  • White Lilacs by Carolyn Meyer
  • Witness by Karen Hesse
  • Harlem Summer by Walter Dean Myers
  • Leaving Gee’s Bend by Irene Latham
  • Daddy was a Number Runner by Louise Merriwether
  • Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis
  • Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith
  • Invasion by Walter Dean Myers
  • Jump Into the Sky  by Shelley Pearsall
  • Mississippi Trial 1955 by Chris Crowe
  • Jazmin’s Notebook by Nikki Grimes
  • No Crystal Stair by Vaunda Nelson
  • March: Book One by John Lewis
  • A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson
  • Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
  • Fire From the Rock  by Sharon Draper
  • The Watsons go to Birmingham — 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon
  • One Crazy Summer  by Rita Williams-Garcia
  • Finding My Place by Traci L. Jones
  • After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson
  • The Good Braider by Terry Farrish
  • Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes
  • Hurricane Song  by Paul Volponi
  • Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers


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