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18 MORE Picture Book Biographies that Celebrate Black Life Written by Black Authors

Updated: Feb 4


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Black History Month is a time to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions African Americans have made in society. Carter G. Woodson noticed a lack of information on the achievements of Black people and in response founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. In 1926, the group started Negro History Week, which was later adopted as Black History Month in the 70's.


Black History is American History is World History and that it should all be taught and studied all year long. Our first list of 28 picture book biographies for the 28 days in Black History Month was well received. This list is our response to multiple requests MORE picture books that celebrate Black life written by Black authors. These books are perfect for learning Black history during February or at anytime of year.



“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history." Carter G. Woodson


The true story of Black activist Opal Lee and her vision of Juneteenth as a holiday for everyone celebrates Black joy and inspires children to see their dreams blossom. Growing up in Texas, Opal knew the history of Juneteenth, but she soon discovered that many Americans had never heard of the holiday that represents the nation's creed of freedom for all.


Every year, Opal looked forward to the Juneteenth picnic--a drumming, dancing, delicious party. She knew from Granddaddy Zak's stories that Juneteenth celebrated the day the freedom news of President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation finally sailed into Texas in 1865--over two years after the president had declared it! But Opal didn't always see freedom in her Texas town. Then one Juneteenth day when Opal was twelve years old, an angry crowd burned down her brand-new home. This wasn't freedom at all. She had to do something! Opal Lee spent the rest of her life speaking up for equality and unity. She became a teacher, a charity worker, and a community leader. At the age of 89, she walked from Fort Worth, Texas to Washington, D.C., in an effort to gain national recognition for Juneteenth. Find it here





A brilliant picture book biography about Thurgood Marshall, who fought for equality during the Civil Rights Movement and served as the first Black justice on the Supreme Court, from Coretta Scott King Honor winners Kekla Magoon and Laura Freeman.


Growing up in Baltimore, Thurgood Marshall could see that things weren’t fair. The laws said that Black and white people couldn’t use the same schools, parks, or water fountains.

When Thurgood had to read the Constitution as punishment for a prank at school, his eyes were opened. It was clear to him that Jim Crow laws were wrong, and he was willing to do whatever it took to change them.

His determination to make sure all Americans were treated equally led him to law school and then the NAACP, where he argued cases like Brown v. Board of Education in front of the Supreme Court. But to become a Justice on the highest court in the land, Thurgood had to make space for himself every step of the way.. Find it HERE





Celebrate the life of Lena Horne, the pioneering African American actress and civil rights activist, with this inspiring and powerful picture book from award-winning author Carole Boston Weatherford.


You have to be taught to be second class; you’re not born that way.


Lena Horne was born into the freedom struggle, to a family of teachers and activists. Her mother dreamed of being an actress, so Lena followed in her footsteps as she chased small parts in vaudeville, living out of a suitcase until MGM offered Lena something more—the first ever studio contract for a black actress.


But the roles she was considered for were maids and mammies, stereotypes that Lena refused to play. Still, she never gave up. “Stormy Weather” became her theme song, and when she sang “This Little Light of Mine” at a civil rights rally, she found not only her voice, but her calling. Find it HERE





In luminous paintings and arresting poems, two of children’s literature’s top African-American scholars track Arturo Schomburg’s quest to correct history.


Where is our historian to give us our side? Arturo asked.


Amid the scholars, poets, authors, and artists of the Harlem Renaissance stood an Afro–Puerto Rican named Arturo Schomburg. This law clerk’s life’s passion was to collect books, letters, music, and art from Africa and the African diaspora and bring to light the achievements of people of African descent through the ages. When Schomburg’s collection became so big it began to overflow his house (and his wife threatened to mutiny), he turned to the New York Public Library, where he created and curated a collection that was the cornerstone of a new Negro Division. A century later, his groundbreaking collection, known as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, has become a beacon to scholars all over the world. Find it HERE





A young Aretha Franklin captivates her community with the song "Respect" during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, in this striking picture book biography that will embolden today's young readers to sing their own truth.


When Aretha Franklin sang, she didn't just sing...she sparked a movement. As a performer and a civil rights activist, the Queen of Soul used her voice to uplift freedom fighters and the Black community during the height of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. Her song "Respect" was an anthem of identity, survival, and joy. It gave hope to people trying to make change. And when Aretha sang, the world sang along.


With Hanif Abdurraqib's poetic voice and Ashley Evans's dynamic illustrations, Sing, Aretha, Sing! demonstrates how one brave voice can give new power to a nation, and how the legacy of Aretha Franklin lives on in a world still fighting for freedom. Find it HERE





From Karyn Parson's critically acclaimed Sweet Blackberry video series comes the little known story of Garrett Morgan, an African American inventor who created the traffic signal.


Before Garrett Morgan became a successful inventor and saved countless lives with his creations, he was a little boy with a head full of ideas on how to make life better for everyone.


At a tumultuous time filled with racism and discrimination, Garrett became a prominent business man and skilled inventor who produced the traffic signal, a gas mask, and others objects still used today.


This second book from the award-winning children's film series founded by Karyn Parsons, Sweet Blackberry, comes a little-known story about a man whose talent would be a gift to the world. Find it HERE






Discover the life of Ruby Bridges-a story about bravery and breaking down barriers for kids ages 6 to 9


Ruby Bridges was the first Black student to attend an all-white public school in the southern United States. Before she helped desegregate schools and change the course of history, Ruby had a simple childhood. She was a happy girl who helped take care of her younger siblings and loved to play outside. Her life changed when she was chosen to attend William Frantz Elementary, where she became a civil rights leader at a very young age. Explore how Ruby went from being a thoughtful girl growing up in Mississippi to a national leader in the fight for equality. Find it HERE












In this award-winning book, acclaimed author Carole Boston Weatherford and bestselling artist Kadir Nelson offer a resounding, reverent tribute to Harriet Tubman, the woman who earned the name Moses for her heroic role in the Underground Railroad.


I set the North Star in the heavens and I mean for you to be free...


Born into slavery, Harriet Tubman hears these words from God one summer night and decides to leave her husband and family behind and escape. Taking with her only her faith, she must creep through woods with hounds at her feet, sleep for days in a potato hole, and trust people who could have easily turned her in. But she was never alone.

In lyrical text, Carole Boston Weatherford describes Tubman's spiritual journey as she hears the voice of God guiding her north to freedom on that very first trip to escape the brutal practice of forced servitude. Tubman would make nineteen subsequent trips back south, never being caught, but none as profound as this first one. Courageous, compassionate, and deeply religious, Harriet Tubman, with her bravery and relentless pursuit of freedom, is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit. Find it HERE





This illuminating and defining picture book biography illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Christian Robinson, tells the story of little Eunice who grew up to become the acclaimed singer Nina Simone and her bold, defiant, and exultant legacy.


Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in small town North Carolina, Nina Simone was a musical child. She sang before she talked and learned to play piano at a very young age. With the support of her family and community, she received music lessons that introduced her to classical composers like Bach who remained with her and influenced her music throughout her life. She loved the way his music began softly and then tumbled to thunder, like her mother's preaching, and in much the same way as her career. During her first performances under the name of Nina Simone her voice was rich and sweet but as the Civil Rights Movement gained steam, Nina's voice soon became a thunderous roar as she raised her voice in powerful protest in the fight against racial inequality and discrimination. Find it HERE





Ida B. Wells, Voice of Truth is an inspiring picture book biography of the groundbreaking journalist and civil rights activist as told by her great-granddaughter Michelle Duster and illustrated by Coretta Scott King Award Honoree artist Laura Freeman.


Ida B. Wells was an educator, journalist, feminist, businesswoman, newspaper owner, public speaker, suffragist, civil rights activist, and women's club leader.

She was a founder of the NAACP, the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs, the Alpha Suffrage Club, and the Negro Fellowship League. She wrote, spoke, and traveled, challenging the racist and sexist norms of her time. Faced with criticism and threats to her life, she never gave up.


This is her extraordinary true story, as told by her great-granddaughter Michelle Duster and beautifully brought to life by Coretta Scott King Award Honoree artist Laura Freeman Find it HERE






Congressman and civil rights advocate Elijah Cummings dedicated his life to public service. This comprehensive and visually stunning biography details his humble beginnings and unwavering faith as he waged an endless battle for truth, justice, and equality.


We can do better.


When Elijah Cummings was a little boy, he struggled in school. His teachers thought he talked too much and asked too many questions. They said he'd never be able to read or write well.


Despite his difficulties, Elijah never gave up. He persevered, having faith that with hard work, he'd be able to achieve his goals. Best known as a voice for people of color and an advocate for equal opportunity, Elijah Cummings was a man of faith and dignity, a beacon of justice, and an unrelenting warrior for equality and change.


Carole Boston Weatherford and Laura Freeman marry words and images beautifully in this picture book biography of politician and civil rights champion Elijah Cummings, detailing his inspiring journey--from his humble beginnings as the son of former sharecroppers to his unwavering faith as he became a lawyer, state legislator, and leading congressman. Best known as a voice for people of color and an advocate for equal opportunity, Elijah Cummings was a man of faith and dignity, a beacon of justice, and an unrelenting warrior for equality and change. Find it HERE




In paperback for the first time, the compelling story of the famous Black Olympian who stood up to Hitler.


Jesse Owens grew up during the time of Jim Crow laws, but adversity didn't stop him. After setting world records for track in high school and college, he won a slot on the 1936 U.S. Olympic team. That year, the Olympics were held in Nazi Germany, where Adolf Hitler believes the Games would prove to the world that people like him were superior to all others. But Jesse, a sharecropper's son, would ultimately topple Hitler's hopes, winning four gold medals and the hearts of millions to become known as the fastest man alive.


The story of Jesse Owens comes alive for young readers with Carole Boston Weatherford's award-winning free verse poetry and Eric Velasquez's stunning art. Find it HERE





A lyrical picture book biography of Janet Collins, the first African American principal dancer at the Metropolitan Opera House.


Janet Collins wanted to be a ballerina in the 1930s and 40s, a time when racial segregation was widespread in the United States. Janet pursued dance with a passion, despite being rejected from discriminatory dance schools. When she was accepted into the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo as a teenager on the condition that she paint her skin white for performances, Janet refused. She continued to go after her dreams, never compromising her values along the way. From her early childhood lessons to the height of her success as the first African American prima ballerina in the Metropolitan Opera, Brave Ballerina is the story of a remarkable pioneer as told by Michelle Meadows, with fantastic illustrations from Ebony Glenn. Find it HERE





A lyrical picture book biography of Simone Biles, gymnastics champion and Olympic superstar.


Before she was a record-breaking gymnast competing on the world stage, Simone Biles spent time in foster care as a young child. Nimble and boundlessly energetic, she cherished every playground and each new backyard.


When she was six years old, Simone's family took shape in a different way. Her grandparents Ron and Nellie Biles adopted Simone and her sister Adria. Ron and Nellie became their parents. Simone was also introduced to gymnastics that same year, launching a lifelong passion fueled by remarkable talent, sacrifice, and the undying support of her family.


From her athletic early childhood to the height of her success as an Olympic champion, Flying High is the story of the world's greatest gymnast from author Michelle Meadows and illustrator Ebony Glenn. Find it HERE




With poetic text and dynamic art, award-winning creators Carole Boston Weatherford and James E. Ransome use key moments from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s life to inspire future generations to stand up for what's right, make the world a better place, and be a King. You can be a King. Stamp out hatred. Put your foot down and walk tall.

You can be a King. Beat the drum for justice. March to your own conscience.


Featuring a dual narrative of the key moments of Dr. King's life alongside a modern class as the students learn about him, this engaging story highlights principles that readers today can emulate in their own lives. As times change, Dr. King's example remains, encouraging a new generation of children to take charge and change the world . . . to be a King. Find it HERE






Based on Karyn Parson's critically acclaimed Sweet Blackberry video series comes the story of Bessie Coleman, the first African American female to earn her pilot's license.


Before Bessie Coleman blazed a high trail with her plane . . Before she performed in death-defying flying shows that would earn her fame as Queen Bess . . . Before she traveled the country speaking out against discrimination, Bessie was a little girl with a big imagination that took her to the sky, through the clouds, and past the birds.

Knocking down barriers one by one, Bessie endured racism and grueling training to become the first black female pilot and an inspiration to Mae Jemison, Josephine Baker, and many more influential people of color for years to come. Find it HERE




Winner of the Coretta Scott King Illustration Award! From a New York Times bestselling author and an acclaimed illustrator comes this vibrant portrait of Aretha Franklin that pays her the R-E-S-P-E-C-T this Queen of Soul deserves.


Aretha Franklin was born to sing. The daughter of a pastor and a gospel singer, her musical talent was clear from her earliest days in her father's Detroit church where her soaring voice spanned more than three octaves.


Her string of hit songs earned her the title "the Queen of Soul," multiple Grammy Awards, and a place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But Aretha didn't just raise her voice in song, she also spoke out against injustice and fought for civil rights.


This authoritative, rhythmic, Coretta Scott King Illustration Award-winning picture book biography will captivate young readers with Aretha's inspiring story. Find it HERE




Young John Coltrane was all ears. And there was a lot to hear growing up in the South in the 1930s: preachers praying, music on the radio, the bustling of the household. These vivid noises shaped John's own sound as a musician.


Carole Boston Weatherford and Sean Qualls have composed an amazingly rich hymn to the childhood of jazz legend John Coltrane.


Before John Was a Jazz Giant is a 2009 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book and a 2009 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year. Find it HERE












A stirring picture book biography from award-winning duo Carole Boston Weatherford and Bryan Collier, about gospel composer and preacher Charles Albert Tindley, best known for the gospel hymn "We'll Understand It Better By and By."


At a time when most African Americans were still enslaved, Charles Tindley was born free. His childhood was far from easy, with backbreaking hours in the fields, and no opportunity to go to school. But the spirituals he heard as he worked made him long to know how to read the Gospel for himself. Late at night, he taught himself to read from scraps of newspapers. From those small scraps, young Charles raised himself to become a founding father of American gospel music whose hymn was the basis for the Civil Rights anthem "We Shall Overcome."


Told in lilting verse with snippets of spirituals and Tindley's own hymns woven throughout, Carole Boston Weatherford's lyrical words and Bryan Collier's luminous pictures celebrate a man whose music and conviction has inspired countless lives. Find it HERE






You can find all of these books and more in our BOOKSHOP . Use our Bookshop lists as a guide for which books to request from your local library. All of these books can be found in our Bookshop. We earn a small fee for any purchases made through our shop at no additional cost to you.


Have you signed up for our Black History Reading Challenge? It's available all year, so download it and enjoy it anytime you like.



Black History Reading Challenge graphic for coloring #diversebooksforkids #diversechildrensbooks



 

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