Meet important, interesting people throughout history in the pages of books about black pioneers, photographers, artists, musicians, magicians, inventors, innovators and more influential figures.

  • Bad News for Outlaws: the Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal

    Sitting tall in the saddle, with a wide-brimmed black hat and twin Colt pistols on his belt, Bass Reeves seemed bigger than life. As a U.S. Marshal - and former slave who escaped to freedom in the Indian Territories - Bass was cunning and fearless.

  • Little Melba and her Big Tromobe

    Overcoming obstacles of race and gender, Melba became a famed trombone player and arranger, spinning rhythms, harmonies, and melodies into gorgeous songs for all the jazz greats of the twentieth century.

  • A Spy Called James: The True Story of James Lafayette, Revolutionary War Double Agent

    The true story of James Lafayette, a slave who spied for George Washington's army during the American Revolution. But while America celebrated its newfound freedom, James returned to slavery. For James the fight wasn't over; he'd already helped his country gain its freedom, now it was time to win his own.

  • The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist

    Meet the youngest known child to be arrested for a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963, in this moving picture book that proves you’re never too little to make a difference.

  • When the Beat was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop

    Before there was hip hop, there was DJ Kool Herc. From his childhood in Jamaica to his youth in the Bronx, Laban Carrick Hill's book tells how Kool Herc came to be a DJ, how kids in gangs stopped fighting in order to breakdance, and how the music he invented went on to define a culture and transform the world.

  • Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah

    Born in Ghana, West Africa, with one deformed leg, he was dismissed by most people--but not by his mother, who taught him to reach for his dreams. As a boy, Emmanuel hopped to school more than two miles each way, learned to play soccer, left home at age thirteen to provide for his family, and, eventually, became a cyclist.

  • Trombone Shorty

    Hailing from the Tremâe neighborhood in New Orleans, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews got his nickname by wielding a trombone twice as long as he was high. A prodigy, he was leading his own band by age six. This Grammy-nominated artist headlines the legendary New Orleans Jazz Fest.

  • Philip Reid Saves the Statue of Freedom

    Born into slavery, Philip Reid was sold to a man named Clark Mills, who was opening a foundry in Washington, D.C. Mr. Mills’s foundry is contracted to cast the Freedom statue but the project is jeopardized when a seemingly unsolvable puzzle arises nobody can detect the plaster’s seams and, therefore, can’t dismantle the gigantic statue to move it. And it is Philip Reid, an American-born slave, who steps in. Includes fascinating endpapers, which are Reid’s purchase papers, and an epilogue featuring Reid’s pay stub from the foundry ($1.25 per day).

  • Harlem's Little Blackbird

    Born to parents who were both former slaves, Florence Mills knew at an early age that she loved to sing, and that her sweet, bird-like voice, resonated with those who heard her. Performing catapulted her all the way to the stages of 1920s Broadway where she inspired everyone from songwriters to playwrights. Yet with all her success, she knew firsthand how prejudice shaped her world and the world of those around her. As a result, Florence chose to support and promote works by her fellow black performers while heralding a call for their civil rights.

  • Talkin' about Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman

    Soar along with Bessie Coleman in this inspirational tale of a woman whose determination reached new heights. Elizabeth "Bessie" Coleman was always being told what she could & couldn't do. In an era when Jim Crow laws and segregation were a way of life, it was not easy to survive. Bessie didn't let that stop her. Although she was only 11 when the Wright brothers took their historic flight, she vowed to become the first African-American female pilot. Her sturdy faith and determination helped her overcome obstacles of poverty, racism, and gender discrimination.

  • Ballerina Dreams: From Orphan to Ballerina

    At the age of three, Michaela DePrince found a photo of a ballerina that changed her life. She was living in an orphanage in Sierra Leone at the time, but was soon adopted by a family and brought to America. Michaela never forgot the photo of the dancer she once saw, and quickly decided to make her dream of becoming a ballerina come true. She has been dancing ever since and is now a principal dancer in New York City and has been featured in the ballet documentary First Position, as well as Dancing with the Stars, Good Morning America, and Oprah magazine.

  • The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

    John Roy Lynch spent most of his childhood as a slave in Mississippi, but all of that changed with the Emancipation Proclamation. Suddenly people like John Roy could have paying jobs and attend school. While many people in the South were unhappy with the social change, John Roy thrived in the new era. He was appointed to serve as justice of the peace and was eventually elected into the United States Congress.

  • Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America

    This picture book biography of Gordon Parks highlights the growth of his career as a photographer. Despite receiving little encouragement at school, Parks not only excelled at photography but also wrote novels, penned poetry, and composed music.

  • Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

    Jean-Michael Basquiat and his unique, collage-style paintings rocketed to fame in the 1980s as a cultural phenomenon unlike anything the art world had ever seen. But before that, he was a little boy who saw art everywhere: in poetry books and museums, in games and in the words that we speak, and in the pulsing energy of New York City.

  • Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, spirit of the civil rights movement

    Stirring poems and stunning collage illustrations combine to celebrate the life of Fannie Lou Hamer. Despite fierce prejudice and abuse, even being beaten to within an inch of her life, Fannie Lou Hamer was a champion of civil rights from the 1950s until her death in 1977.

  • Black Pioneers: An Untold Story

    Out of a past little noted in history texts comes this tale of African American pioneers in the Ohio and Mississippi valleys. These pathfinders were slaves, poets, runaways, missionaries, farmers, teachers, and soldiers. Historian William Loren Katz reveals a frontier saga that has often been buried, glossed over, or lost.

  • 28 Days: Moments in Black history that Changed the World

    Each day features a different influential figure in African-American history, from Crispus Attucks, the first man shot in the Boston Massacre, sparking the Revolutionary War, to Madame C. J. Walker, who after years of adversity became the wealthiest black woman in the country, as well as one of the wealthiest black Americans, to Barack Obama, the country's first African-American president.

  • Conjure Times: Black Magicians in America

    A lively, interesting, carefully researched look at a unique aspect of African-American history and culture that introduces the lives of black magicians, beginning with Richard Potter, "America's First Negro Magician," son of a plantation owner and a slave

  • Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees

    Wangari Maathai received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her efforts to lead women in a nonviolent struggle to bring peace and democracy to Africa through its reforestation. Her organization planted over thirty million trees in thirty years.

  • Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World about Kindness

    A picture book biography of Dr. William Key, a former slave and self-trained veterinarian who taught his horse, Jim, to read and write and who together with Jim became one of the most famous traveling performance acts around the turn of the twentieth century.

  • Ira's Shakespeare Dream

    Ira Aldridge dreamed of being on stage one day performing the great works of William Shakespeare. But in the early 1800s, only white actors were allowed to perform Shakespeare. Through perseverance and determination, Ira became one of the most celebrated Shakespearean actors throughout Europe.

  • Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century

    Born in a small town in Mississippi in 1927, the daughter of a midwife and a sawmill worker, Leontyne Price might have grown up singing the blues. But Leontyne had big dreams—and plenty to be thankful for—as she surrounded herself with church hymns and hallelujahs, soaked up opera arias on the radio, and watched the great Marian Anderson grace the stage. While racism made it unlikely that a poor black girl from the South would pursue an opera career, Leontyne’s wondrous voice and unconquerable spirit prevailed. Bursting through the door Marian had cracked open, Leontyne was soon recognized and celebrated for her leading roles at the Metropolitan Opera and around the world—most notably as the majestic Ethiopian princess in Aida, the part she felt she was born to sing.

  • Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews

    Benny Andrews loved to draw. He drew his nine brothers and sisters, and his parents. He drew the red earth of the fields where they all worked, the hot sun that beat down, and the rows and rows of crops. As Benny hauled buckets of water, he made pictures in his head. And he dreamed of a better life—something beyond the segregation, the backbreaking labor, and the limited opportunities of his world. Benny’s dreams took him far from the rural Georgia of his childhood. He became one of the most important African American painters of the twentieth century, and he opened doors for other artists of color. His story will inspire budding young artists to work hard and follow their dreams.

  • Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

    A portrait of the passionate performer and civil rights advocate Josephine Baker, the woman who worked her way from the slums of St. Louis to the grandest stages in the world. Meticulously researched by both author and artist, Josephine's powerful story of struggle and triumph is an inspiration and a spectacle, just like the legend herself.