This Black History Month, we wanted to recognize some modern-day Black history makers. Children should absolutely learn about figures like Dr. King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Harriet Tubman. But Black history is not monolithic. Black history is world history. The contributions of Black people have and continue to shape pop culture, food, music, fashion, and so much more, all around the world. Here are just a few books that dive deeper into the contributions of trailblazing, contemporary Black figures.
Flying High: The Story of Gymnastics Champion Simone Biles (2020)
From her time as a foster care youth to her record-breaking athletic career, Flying High tells the incredible life story of gymnast Simone Biles. She is one of the most decorated gymnasts in history, and she is first female gymnast ever to win three World all-around titles consecutively-in 2013, 2014, and 2015.
Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams (2018)
Game Changers is a gorgeously illustrated biography of Venus and Serena Williams, tennis superstars and two of the greatest athletes of all time. In addition to the focus on their athletic paths, it’s also a celebration of sisterhood and their determined, loving father.
When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop (2013)
The perfect book for any hip hop fan! When The Beat Was Born tells the story of Jamaican immigrant, Clive Campbell, better known by his stage name DJ Kool Herc. Often referred to as “The Father of Hip Hop,” Herc is credited with originating the familiar sounds of hip hop.
Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa (2005)
This is a beautiful tribute to one of the most legendary entertainers of all time, Celia Cruz! As an Afro-Latina, Celia revolutionized the Latin music industry with her unique look and talent, and flamboyant flair. During her 55-year career, she recorded more than 70 albums (many of which went gold or platinum), and won two Grammy and three Latin Grammy awards.
The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath (2017)
This is the true story about a trailblazing, Black, female doctor, Patricia Bath! Dr. Bath was the first African American female doctor to receive a medical patent for her invention, the Laserphaco Probe, which improved treatments for cataract patients. But her amazing story doesn’t start or end there!
Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions (2016)
Whoosh! is a picture book biography of Lonnie Johnson, the Black American engineer and inventor behind the best-selling Super Soaker water gun and holder of over 100 patents. The story chronicles his journey from his childhood to his work with NASA to today, having created a leading scientific research facility after captilizing on his success from the Super-Soaker. Spanish edition also available!
Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (2016)
Radiant Child is a stunning picture-book-biography of the iconic artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat. Basquiat’s art was raw, messy, abstract, weird, and sometimes ugly. But it conveyed a message. His art was an outward expression of his inner demons and pain and suffering, in addition to being an outlet to speak about the complex social issues that troubled him. Some people hated his work but, for many others, it spoke to them, and they paid thousands and eventually millions of dollars for his pieces. Author Steptoe created this book in hopes that it would inspire other young artists to keep on creating.
Dream Builder: The Story of Architect Philip Freelon (2020)
Intended to inspire the next generation of dreamers and builders, Dream Builder tells the true story of contemporary architect Philip Freelon. He and his team won the commission to build the breathtaking and extraordinary Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. His story is a great resource for STEAM eduation.
Superheroes Are Everywhere (2019)
Vice President Kamala Harris brings us a unique children’s book that can only be described as an “interactive memoir.” She shares with us the plethora of childhood figures that inspired her to want to make the world a better place. From her activist grandparents to her kind and loving neighbor, Harris describes the qualities that made these people superheroes in her eyes. Spanish edition also available!
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History (2017) & Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History (2019)
This series from author-illustrator Vashti Harrison is a hands-down, must-have for any children’s library. The aim of these adorable books is to educate and inspire children with the stories of exceptional black men and women in history. They are expertly researched and crafted into concise biographies of dozens of Black and female trail blazers throughout history.