Black History Month Artful Biographies

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This booklist celebrates the lives of African-American poets, artists, dancers and musicians. With each of these pictures books, children and their caregivers are given a glimpse into the lives and works of great African-Americans.

Art From Her Heart: Folk Artist Clementine Hunter

Clementine Hunter’s paintings went from hanging on her clothesline to hanging in museums, yet because of the color of her skin, a friend had to sneak her in when the gallery was closed.

Firebird: Ballerina Misty Copeland Shows a Young Girl How to Dance Like the Firebird

American Ballet Theater soloist Misty Copeland encourages a young ballet student, with brown skin like her own, by telling her that she, too, had to learn basic steps and how to be graceful when she was starting out, and that some day, with practice and dedication, the little girl will become a firebird as well. Includes author’s note about dancers who led her to find her voice.

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

In exuberant verse and stirring pictures, Patricia Hruby Powell and Christian Robinson create an extraordinary 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.

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

A biography of African American musician Melba Doretta Liston, a virtuoso musician who played the trombone and composed and arranged music for many of the great jazz musicians of the twentieth century.

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

Jean-Michel Basquiat and his unique, collage-style paintings rocked to fame in the 1980s as a cultural phenomenon unlike anything the art work 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.

Trombone Shorty

Hailing from the Tremé 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, and today this Grammy-nominated artist headlines the legendary New Orleans Jazz Fest.

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

In 1973 Cindy Campbell threw a back-to-school party at a park in the South Bronx. Her brother, Clive, spun the records. He had a new way of playing the music to make the breaks longer for dancing. Hill chronicles how he became DJ Kool Herc, how kids in gangs stopped fighting in order to breakdance, and how the music he invented went on to define a culture.