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Artists, inventors, activists… so many African Americans have shaped our nation’s culture and spirit forever. Help your child learn about these amazing Americans and talk about ways that we can all use our individual talents to change the world.  

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

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

by Javaka Steptoe

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. Winner of the 2017 Randolph Caldecott Medal; Winner of the 2017 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award


It Jes Happened

It Jes Happened

by Don Tate, illus by R. Gregory Christie

Growing up as an enslaved boy on an Alabama cotton farm, Bill Traylor worked all day in the hot fields. When slavery ended, Bill’s family stayed on the farm as sharecroppers. There Bill grew to manhood, raised his own family, and cared for the land and his animals. By 1935 Bill was eighty-one and all alone on his farm. So he packed his bag and moved to Montgomery, the capital of Alabama. Lonely and poor, he wandered the busy downtown streets. But deep within himself Bill had a reservoir of memories of working and living on the land, and soon those memories blossomed into pictures. Bill began to draw people, places, and animals from his earlier life, as well as scenes of the city around him. Today Bill Traylor is considered to be one of the most important self-taught American folk artists. Winner of Lee & Low’s New Voices Award Honor, It Jes Happened is a lively tribute to this man who has enriched the world with more than twelve hundred warm, energetic, and often humorous pictures.


Freedom in Congo Square

Freedom in Congo Square

by Carole Boston Weatherford, illus by R. Gregory Christie

Winner of a Caldecott Honor, a Coretta Scott King Honor for illustration, and chosen as a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of 2016, this poetic, nonfiction story about a little-known piece of African American history captures a human’s capacity to find hope and joy in difficult circumstances and demonstrates how New Orleans' Congo Square was truly freedom’s heart.


Love to Langston

Love to Langston

by Tony Medina, illus by R. Gregory Christie

Fourteen poems offer young readers an exciting glimpse into the life of Langston Hughes, one of America’s most beloved poets. Each poem explores important themes in Hughes’s life — his lonely childhood, his love of language and travel, and his dream of writing poetry. Color illustrations throughout and extensive notes at the back of the book expand upon the poems, giving a broader picture of Hughes’s life and the time in which he lived.


Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

by Chris Barton, illus by Don Tate

You know the Super Soaker. It’s one of top twenty toys of all time. And it was invented entirely by accident. Trying to create a new cooling system for refrigerators and air conditioners, impressive inventor Lonnie Johnson instead created the mechanics for the iconic toy.


George Crum and the Saratoga Chip

George Crum and the Saratoga Chip

by Gaylia Taylor, illus by Frank Morrison

An account of the life and career of George Crum, a biracial chef who is credited with the invention of the potato chip at a Saratoga Springs, New York, restaurant in 1853. Based on historical records.


What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors

What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors

by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld, illus by Ben Boos and A.G. Ford

Did you know that James West invented the microphone in your cell phone? That Fred Jones invented the refrigerated truck that makes supermarkets possible? Or that Dr. Percy Julian synthesized cortisone from soy, easing untold people's pain? These are just some of the black inventors and innovators scoring big points in this dynamic look at several unsung heroes who shared a desire to improve people's lives. Offering profiles with fast facts on flaps and framed by a funny contemporary story featuring two feisty twins, here is a nod to the minds behind the gamma electric cell and the ice-cream scoop, improvements to traffic lights, open-heart surgery, and more - inventors whose ingenuity and perseverance against great odds made our world safer, better, and brighter.


Martin’s Dream Day

Martin’s Dream Day

by Kitty Kelley

This day—August 28, 1963—was a momentous day in the Civil Rights Movement. It was the culmination of years spent leading marches, sit-ins, and boycotts across the South to bring attention to the plight of African Americans. Years spent demanding equality for all. Years spent dreaming of the day that black people would have the same rights as white people, and would be treated with the same dignity and respect. It was time for Martin to share his dream. Bestselling author and journalist Kitty Kelley combines her elegant storytelling with Stanley Tretick’s iconic photographs to transport readers to the 1963 March on Washington.


Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe

Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe

by Deborah Blumenthal, illus by Laura Freeman

A beautiful picture book about Ann Cole Lowe, a little-known African-American fashion designer who battled personal and social adversity in order to pursue her passion of making beautiful gowns and went on to become one of society’s top designers.


Through My Eyes

Through My Eyes

by Ruby Bridges

In November 1960, all of America watched as a tiny six-year-old black girl, surrounded by federal marshals, walked through a mob of screaming segregationists and into her school. An icon of the civil rights movement, Ruby Bridges chronicles each dramatic step of this pivotal event in history through her own words.