African Americans You Should Know: Picture Book Biographies

As we celebrate African American History Month each February, we often highlight well-known heroes of black history like Sojourner Truth, Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman or Barack Obama. However, celebrating African American History Month is an excellent opportunity to dig deeper to learn about others who made a big impact, but whose stories were previously untold.

Try one of these picture book biographies to get to know these lesser-known leaders in African American history.

The Girl With A Mind for Math introduces Raye Montague, who was determined to become an engineer after touring a submarine as a young girl. Despite the many challenges for a black woman in the 1960s and 1970s, Montague persevered and taught herself computer programming and ship design while working for the Navy.

Hard work, patience and determination fueled William Lewis to keep Hammering for Freedom. Lewis was born into slavery and apprenticed as a blacksmith at a young age. He had a natural talent for his trade and eventually was able to purchase the freedom of his entire family. Vibrant oil painting illustrations clearly depict Lewis' efforts and the injustices he overcame.

Libba brings the story of folk musician Elizabeth Cotten, who taught herself to play guitar left-handed and upside down. She was a songwriter and singer from an early age, but didn't record her music until she was well into her 60s. Her most famous song, "Freight Train," was discovered by the Seeger family, of folk music fame, when she worked for them as a housekeeper.

It's no small feat to become the "Potato King of the World," which is exactly what Junius G. Groves did in No Small Potatoes. Settling in Kansas during Reconstruction, Groves learned about farming and grew his farm, family and fortune.

Want to meet even more heroes of black history? Check out Young, Gifted and Black for 52 very brief biographies of black activists, politicians, artists, writers, scientists and entertainers from around the world. That's one for every week of the year! This title is a great starting point for further discovery about these important figures.

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