Book List: 7 Activist Athletes in Children’s Books

Given the current conversation surrounding the role of athletes in regards to politics, some people question whether athletes should be able to voice their opinions on certain matters. But what many people don’t know is that athletes have always been prominent activists whether on the field or off. From Louis Sockalexis to Jim Thorpe, we’re highlighting seven activist athletes who stood up for what they believed in to make the world a better place.

Paul Robeson

Paul Robeson by Eloise Greenfield, illus. by George Ford

Here is an award-winning biography of Paul Robeson, who overcame racial discrimination to become an international entertainer and civil rights activist. With dignity and a dynamic spirit, Paul Robeson—athlete, actor, singer, and civil rights activist—stayed true to himself and took a stand for his beliefs.

Purchase a copy of the book here.

Game, Set, Match, Champion Arthur Ashe

Game, Set, Match, Champion Arthur Ashe by Crystal Hubbard, illus. by Kevin Belford

Game, Set, Match, Champion Arthur Ashe is a picture book biography of Arthur Ashe, who began playing tennis as a child on the segregated courts in Virginia and went on to become the top tennis player in the world. An example of quiet grace and dignity on and off the tennis court, Arthur Ashe set a shining example for us all.

Purchase a copy of the book here.

Jim Thorpe's Great Path

Jim Thorpe’s Great Path by Joseph Bruchac, Illus. by S. D. Nelson

From the award-winning team of Joseph Bruchac and S. D. Nelson comes an inspiring biography of the young person behind the world-renowned athlete. Jim Thorpe’s story of determination and perseverance will resonate with every child who dreams of finding his or her own bright path.

Purchase a copy of the book here.

Louis Sockalexis

Louis Sockalexis: Native American Baseball Pioneer by Bill Wise, illus. by Bill Farnsworth

Here is a biography of Louis Sockalexis, Penobscot Indian and the first Native American to play professional baseball. With determination, courage, and quiet dignity, Louis Sockalexis smashed racial barriers and home runs, leaving an indelible mark on America’s favorite sport.

Purchase a copy of the book here.

The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby

The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby by Crystal Hubbard, illus. by Robert McGuire

This is the story of Jimmy “Wink” Winkfield, one of horse racing’s all-time great jockeys, who carved out a lasting legacy as one of history’s finest horsemen and the last African American ever to win the Kentucky Derby.

Purchase a copy of the book here.

Surfer of the Century

Surfer of the Century: The Life of Duke Kahanamoku by Ellie Crowe, illus. by Richard Waldrep

Throughout his life, six-time Olympic swimming champion and legendary surfer, Duke Kahanamoku was beloved for his modesty, sportsmanship, and amazing skill in the water. Today he remains a renowned waterman and an inspiration to all to live life with aloha.

Purchase a copy of the book here.

Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds

Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story by Paula Yoo, illus. by Dom Lee

The first Asian American to win an Olympic gold medal, Sammy Lee’s story of determination and triumph sets an extraordinary example for anyone striving to fulfill a dream.

Purchase a copy of the book here.

Check out some of our other collections featuring sports and athletes:
Athletes and Sports
Summer Olympics Collection
Baseball Collection

2 thoughts on “Book List: 7 Activist Athletes in Children’s Books”

    1. We do too, Mollie! We have a softball book for girls coming out next year, but that’s definitely a gap on our list right now and something we are actively searching for.

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