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8 Heroines of Black History & American History

Celebrate Black achievement, innovation, and history during Black History Month! Our collection of picture books bring alive the stories of little-known Black heroes who have fought for justice, made new scientific discoveries, created great art and music, and made this world a better place to live.

Meet Stagecoach Mary:

Black Heroes of the Wild West: Featuring Stagecoach Mary, Bass Reeves, and Bob Lemmons by James Otis Smith

Black Heroes of the Wild West

Exploring American history and finding diversity at its roots!

This graphic novel by JAMES OTIS SMITH celebrates the extraordinary true tales of three black heroes who took control of their destinies and stood up for their communities in the Old West. Born into slavery in Tennessee, Mary Fields became famous as “Stagecoach Mary,” a cigar-chomping, cardplaying coach driver who never missed a delivery. Bass Reeves, the first black Deputy US Marshal west of the Mississippi, was one of the wiliest lawmen in the territories, bringing thousands of outlaws to justice with his smarts. Bob Lemmons lived to be 99 years old and was so good with horses that the wild mustangs on the plains of Texas took him for one of their own.

Hum along with Billie Holiday:

Becoming Billie Holiday by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

This biography in verse was awarded a Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Author Honor award. George Washington Carver is associated with the creation of peanut butter, yet his true motivations and achievements are often left unsaid. Carver was driven by scientific curiosity, devotion to the betterment of Black Americans, and his Christian faith to discover better ways to farm. Beautiful prose and photographs throughout give readers a detailed look at Carver as a scientist, as well as the tools he used and the world he lived in.

Swing with Lil Hardin Armstrong:

Born to Swing: Lil Hardin Armstrong’s Life in Jazz by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Michele Wood

Award-winning author Mara Rockliff and acclaimed illustrator Michele Wood brilliantly capture the rhythms and passions of “Hot Miss Lil” Hardin Armstrong, legendary jazz pianist, composer, and bandleader—and a female pioneer on the music stage.

Stand up for Equal Rights with Lizzie Jennings:

Lizzie Demands a Seat!: Elizabeth Jennings Fights for Streetcar Rights by Beth Anderson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis

This book focuses on the bravery and integrity of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Jennings, a Black schoolteacher, who in 1854 fought back when she was unjustly denied entry to a New York City streetcar, sparking the beginnings of the long struggle to gain equal rights on public transportation.

Go for Gold with Alice Coachman:

Queen of the Track: Alice Coachman, Olympic High-Jump Champion: The story of Alice Coachman, the first African-American woman to win an Olympic gold medal.

When Alice Coachman was a girl, most White people wouldn’t even shake her hand. Yet when the King of England placed an Olympic medal around her neck in 1948, he extended his hand to Alice in congratulations. Standing on a podium in London’s Wembley Stadium, Alice was a long way from the fields of Georgia where she ran barefoot as a child. With a record-breaking leap, she had become the first African-American woman to win an Olympic gold medal. This inspirational picture book is perfect to celebrate Women’s History Month or to share any day of the year.

Save the Day with Molly Williams:

Molly, by Golly!: The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighter by Dianne Ochiltree, illustrated by Kathleen Kemly

This legendary tale introduces young readers to Molly Williams, an African American cook for New York City’s Fire Company 11, who is considered to be the first known female firefighter in U.S. history. One winter day in 1818, when many of the firefighting volunteers are sick with influenza and a small wooden house is ablaze, Molly jumps into action and helps stop the blaze, proudly earning the nickname Volunteer Number 11.

Never Give Up with Coretta Scott King:

Coming Soon! Coretta’s Journey: The Life and Times of Coretta Scott King by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Who was Coretta Scott King? Her black-veiled image at the funeral of her husband Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was moving and iconic. This book introduces readers to the woman behind the veil—a girl full of spunk and pluck, bravery and grit.

Travel through Time with Ona Judge, Harriet Tubman, and Ida B. Wells:

Coming Soon! A Long Time Coming: A Lyrical Biography of Race in America from Ona Judge to Barack Obama by Ray Anthony Shepard, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

This collective biography-in-verse of six important Black Americans from different eras, including Ona Judge, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barack Obama, chronicles the diverse ways each fought racism and shows how much—and how little—has changed for Black Americans since our country’s founding.