Biographies of African American Men and Women


Biographies of African American Men and Women


February is Black History Month. To get ready for it, here are some books about important African American men and women who helped influence American history.


Our Children Can Soar: A Celebration of Rosa, Barack, and the Pioneers of Change

by Michelle Cook

Starting with Our ancestors fought…so George [George Washington Carver] could invent. George invented…so Jesse [Jesse Owen] could sprint, this book soars like its title suggests. Ten African American men and women are featured in simple text and the outstanding illustrations of different illustrators. Each person is discussed again in the final pages.


Great Black Heroes: Five Bold Freedom Fighters

by Wade Hudson, illustrated by Ron Garnett

The lives of Richard Allen, Harriet Tubman, Mary Church Terrell, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Medgar Wiley Evers are covered in this Hello Reader! level 3 book. Each chapter is told with interesting details and is illustrated with photos of the time.


With Books and Bricks: How Booker T. Washington Built a School

by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Nicole Tadgell

Booker T. Washington was a slave until he was nine, when slavery was ended. This picture book tells about his early life and then his becoming a teacher. He had students but no school. Through amazing perseverance, he and his students built the Tuskegee Institute by hand, brick by brick. This would make a great read aloud. The last pages give more detail about Washington’s life and his struggle to bring education to all.


W.E.B. DuBois

by Don Troy

E. B. Du Bois was born a few years after the end of the Civil War. He worked throughout his life for racial equality. He was highly educated, and used his knowledge to speak out against segregation and other forms of injustice. This book is part of the Journey to Freedom series, which includes 24 biographies of important African American men and women.



by Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by Bryan Collier

This beautiful picture book tells Rosa Park’s story of refusing to give up her bus seat to a white passenger, which led to the famous bus boycott. It also tells of other events in the Civil Rights Movement, such as the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education and the role of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Movement.


Heroes for Civil Rights

by David A. Adler, illustrated by Bill Farnsworth

This book gives short biographies of several persons who were important in the Civil Rights Movement. The people are listed chronologically, starting with Ralph Abernathy and the Baton Rouge bus boycott. It ends with assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The painted illustrations are really nice.


Coretta Scott King

by Laura Hamilton Waxman

Coretta Scott King married Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1953. Together they fought many of the important battles of the Civil Rights Movement. After his death, she continued to fight. This book covers her life well with clear text and lots of photos. It is part of the History Maker Bios series.


Mary McLeod Bethune: Woman of Courage

by Patricia and Fredrick McKissack

Mary McLeod Bethune was born in 1875. As a young girl, she was determined to learn to read. She did learn and went on to become a teacher. She started a school for African American girls in Florida. She went on to become an important speaker and later headed the National Youth Administration for President Franklin Roosevelt. Ths book is part of the Famous African Americans series.


Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America

by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney

The men included are Benjamin Banneker, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, A. Philip Randolph, Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Barack Obama. Each man’s biography is several pages long and includes a poem, a painted portrait, and two or three other illustrations. For middle grade students and up.


Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters

by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Stephen Alcorn

There is a lot to like about this book. It includes 10 women, both famous and not-as-famous. The text, written for upper elementary, is full of interesting details. The painted illustrations are wonderfully full of life. The women included are Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Mary McLeod Bethune, Rosa Parks, Biddy Mason, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Ella Josephine Baker, Dorothy Irene Height, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Shirley Chisholm.


Yours for Justice, Ida B. Wells: The Daring Life of a Crusading Journalist

by Philip Dray, illustrated by Stephen Alcorn (sorry, no link)

Ida B. Wells was indeed daring and did a great deal to fight for civil rights throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s. This excellent picture book is suitable for mid to upper elementary. It is beautifully written and illustrated (by same illustrator as Let It Shine).


For books about the Civil Rights Movement, click here.

Do you know other good books about African American men and women who helped influence American history? Write them in the Comments Box!



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