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The Slave Trade

books about the slave trade

Recommended Children’s Books About The Slave Trade

Our list of the best children’s books about the slave trade is an essential guide to educating children about slavery in history in an age-appropriate way.

Children can discover stories of how Harriet Tubman helped to free hundreds of slaves in Trailblazers: Harriet Tubman, or how Mary Prince escaped slavery to become a key figure in the abolitionist movement in Mary Prince. Younger readers can join Paloma as she discovers her family’s history in Our Story Starts in Africa.

Rich with memoirs and tales of bravery and extraordinary journeys as well as exploring the wider themes of racism and exploitation, this varied selection of titles aims to illuminate the important topic of slavery in a way that children can engage and relate with.


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Chapter Books about the Slave Trade

Catherine Johnson
Chapter book

Catherine Johnson scooped the Little Rebels Award in 2019 with this short, middle-grade chapter book about the historical horrors of slavery.

The story follows a young boy called Nat, who is enslaved on a Jamaican plantation. When Nat is brought to England in the 1700s, he hopes to finally find freedom from bondage. Instead, Nat discovers the disappointing truth that slavery is still very much alive in England – and he witnesses the heavy role that Britain plays in operating the slave trade.

Little Rebels Judge Darren Chetty comments that the story “explores the humanity of those whose humanity was denied through chattel slavery. It subtly examines the similarities and the differences between class oppression and a system of slavery rooted in racism. It tells a story of Britain that continues to be neglected.”

While the main character is fictional, the details of the story are very much rooted in historical events and features real-life people and places. We recommend this book as a go-to for upper KS2 classes learning about Britain’s role in the slave trade. Teachers are likely to find very helpful the informative historical notes at the end of the book.

Catherine Johnson
 & Katie Hickey
Chapter book Dyslexia-friendly

Olaudah Equiano was cruelly snatched from his home in Essaka, Africa, aged only 11, in 1756. Initially taken with his older sister, Ifeoma, they soon became separated. Olaudah never heard from her again. From there he was taken to England, first enduring a long voyage where he was treated horribly, along with the other slaves. He was sold several times before being taken to America to be a house slave. The master was cruel and the slaves were too scared to even speak to each other. Next he was bought by an English naval officer and taken to sea. Here he finally made friends and began to learn to read and write, as well as experiencing many adventures and great peril.

Olaudah’s story does not end there. He is bought and sold a couple more times before he is taken to the West Indies. Here he sees a chance of freedom. It turns out he has a flair for business and becomes his master’s trusted slave. Working hard, he finally earns enough money to buy his freedom and returns to England as a free man. Here he wrote a book about his experiences and worked hard in the campaign against slavery.

This is an incredible true story, vividly brought to life by Catherine Johnson. It would be a brilliant addition to any UKS2 or KS3 classroom, especially if studying slavery. A difficult subject matter sensitively brought to life for children.

E. L. Norry
Chapter book Non-fiction
My Story: Mary Prince – the thrilling story of the former slave and abolitionist.Born in enslavement in Bermuda, Mary Prince travelled to England, escaped slavery and became a prominent abolitionist whose life story was the first of a Black woman's to be published in Britain.Explore Mary's incredible life with My Story.Perfect for any child wanting to learn more about history’s untold storiesGreat background reading for Key Stage 2 & 3My Story: exciting stories with reliable and accurate historical detailExperience history first-hand with My Story.
Iszi Lawrence
Chapter book
A riveting pirate tale set in the eighteenth century during the golden age of piracy in the Caribbean, perfect for fans of Emma Carroll and Jacqueline Wilson.It’s 1718: pirate ships sail the oceans and brutal slave masters control the plantations.Eleven-year-old Abigail Buckler lives with her father in the Caribbean. Her clothes are made of finest muslin so she can’t play in them, not that there’s anyone to play with anyway. She isn’t even allowed to go out alone. But when pirates attack Abigail’s life will change forever. Suddenly her old certainties about right and wrong, good and bad start to unravel.Maybe Abigail doesn’t have to be so ladylike after all…Packed with historical detail about the Atlantic slave trade, the ravages of empire and human cost of providing luxuries like sugar, cotton and tobacco to Europe, Blackbeard’s Treasure is a page-turning, swashbuckling adventure which takes a look at the real pirates of the Caribbean.

Children's Books about Slavery and Freedom

Catherine Johnson
1720. Blue Mountains, windward Jamaica. In the sweltering heat Captain Shettlewood leads a troop of British soldiers through the thick trees towards the river. They are hunting slaves who have escaped from the brutal plantations. Their mission: to find them, and kill them.But up ahead, hidden among the rocks above the water, a group of men with cutlasses and muskets wait patiently for the instructions of their leader. Queen Nanny is a 'wise woman' with a reputation for ancient obeah magic, and a guerilla fighter with a genius for organisation. So the battle for Jamaica begins, the First Maroon War, in which the maroons - escaped slaves - will make a final, do-or-die stand against the slavers and soldiers of Empire.
Patricia C McKissack
Chapter book

‘A Picture of Freedom’ is one of the ‘My Story’ series. It takes the form of diary entries, inspired by the true life-story of Clotee Henley, an enslaved girl on the Belmont Plantation, Virginia, in the mid-1800s.

Clotee works in the ‘Big House’ of the plantation, serving Mas’ Henley, Miz Lilly and their son William. As a witness to William’s education, Clotee learns to read and write – a skill that could have severe consequences if it was discovered. Despite this, Clotee endeavours to learn what she can. As her mind broadens, Clotee begins to wonder about the true meaning of the word, ‘freedom’. Becoming involved in the Underground Railroad and helping over 150 people escape slavery, Clotee comes to understand what a true picture of freedom looks like.

‘A Picture of Freedom’ tells a complex, emotional and heart-warming story in a child-friendly way, by describing some of the horrors of slavery through a child’s point of view. The author uses Clotee’s voice, including misunderstood spellings and words, immersing the reader in her Virginian drawl.
Many people will have heard of Harriet Tubman or Sojourner Truth but not heard of Clotee Henley or many others who also risked their lives during this turbulent time. This brave young woman not only risked her life to save over a hundred people but later dedicated her life to education, equal rights and women’s suffrage – a true inspiration.

This would be a brilliant book to share with children to understand some of the history around slavery in America. Many would be shocked to hear about the treatment of slaves but be inspired by the courage of people like Clotee and other abolitionists. I am sure it would lead to some very interesting discussions and debates, as well as providing a focus text for a biography unit in English.

Patrice Lawrence
 & Jeanetta Gonzales
When Paloma goes to visit her family in Trinidad, she doesn’t feel that she fits in. But Tante Janet has a story to tell her: An ancient story of warrior queens and talking drums, of treasures and tales that span thousands of years… a story that Paloma shares in, because her story starts in Africa, too.. Join Tante and her inquisitive niece as they share the story of how her family came to the Caribbean, through the dark days of colonization and slavery, to the emergence of a thriving, contemporary community of many faces, places and successes.
Kereen Getten
Chapter book
In this heart-stopping adventure based on real historical events, Kereen Getten takes readers on a journey of sisterhood, struggle and survival from Jamaica to Britain. 'She was rarely afraid, and even if she was … she still stood her ground, because Ruth never faltered in what she believed in.'Ruth and Anna are inseparable.Ruth has always known her half-sister isn't like her – her almost-white skin means she is allowed certain things that Ruth can only dream of.Anna wishes she could be braver, like her sister, Ruth. But she has had to live with the fact that the smallest mistake would land not only her in danger, but Ruth and their mother, too.When Ruth and Anna are shipped off to Master John's home in London for their safety, it isn't the haven they imagined. Their differences force them apart – Anna is allowed to stay upstairs while Ruth is banished to the servants' quarters and is forced to work.With whispers of freedom on the city's streets, will Anna find the courage to stand up for Ruth before it's too late?

Children's Non-Fiction about the History of Slavery

Sarah Courtauld
A compelling account of the story of slavery - from ancient times, through the plantations of the Caribbean and America, to the official abolition of the slave trade more than 200 years ago. Recounts the stories of people who were enslaved, including their daring tales of resistance and escape. Highlights the continued existence of slavery today and what you can do to help stop it.
Sandra A. Agard
How did Harriet Tubman help hundreds of enslaved people reach freedom? Born into slavery on a Maryland plantation, Harriet's life was full of hardship. In 1849, she made the brave decision to run away, journeying north on the Underground Railroad. Despite the dangers, she returned to the South again and again, leading many others to safety. Discover the story of this amazing abolitionist and find out how she overcame every obstacle in the fight for freedom.
Jonathan Weil
 & John Aggs
Meet ABRAHAM LINCOLN, the power-speaking president of the USA. He helped free millions of people from slavery, and his rags to riches tale is legendary. Find out: How he came up with one of the best speeches ever given; How he got the nickname 'Spotty Lincoln; And how wrestling and crowd-surfing helped him win votes. Get to know ABRAHAM on first name terms.
David Olusoga & Jake Alexander
 & Melleny Taylor

This new illustrated children’s edition of David Olusoga’s account of Black British history is an essential book for schools – not only as an accessible and informative non-fiction read for KS2, but also as a book that I would thoroughly recommend for improving primary teachers’ own historical subject knowledge and especially those with input into their school’s curriculum design. As expressed perfectly by Lavinya Stennett (CEO of the Black Curriculum) in the Afterword, ‘This book is a testimony to the rich experiences of Black people of Britain in different periods of our history, and a reminder of the dearth of Black history in our curriculums.’

In the book, Olusoga explains the overlooked history of Black people in Britain from Roman times to the present day. Readers may be surprised to imagine the multiculturally diverse make-up of Roman Britain – and indeed to question why sources of history in primary schools may paint a historically misrepresentative picture of Roman society. Equally interesting is the development of notions of race throughout the periods of history, as the book walks chronologically through key eras. Did you know that it was only during the time of James I that the term ‘white’ was used as a description of racial identity, or that long after the abolition of slavery, the Victorians were propagating their own racist theories to justify profiting from slave-powered commerce?

The new illustrated version adds an impressive visual element with full-colour illustrations, maps, portrait galleries, timelines, and photographs. This edition makes the history behind the book accessible to a younger audience still and makes for a highly recommendable and informative non-fiction read.

Isabel Sanchez Vegara
 & Pili Aguado
Part of the critically acclaimed Little People, BIG DREAMS series, discover the incredible life of Harriet Tubman, the Underground Railroad conductor who 'never lost a single passenger.'Little Harriet was born into slavery on a plantation in Maryland. Though life was hard, Harriet persisted. She used all of her strength and bravery to escape slavery and journey north on the Underground Railroad. Harriet made the dangerous mission back to the South many times, fighting her whole life to bring others with her to freedom. This moving book features stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back , including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the abolitionist's life.

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