12 Books to Celebrate Black Artists This Black History Month and Year Round (2024)

The theme for Black History Month 2024 is "African Americans and the Arts."In these titles, young readers can learn about people who loved to express themselves through visual art, dance, song, and other forms of artistic creation.

The theme for Black History Month 2024 is "African Americans and the Arts."In these titles, young readers can learn about people who loved to express themselves through visual art, dance, song, and other forms of artistic creation.

12 Books to Celebrate Black Artists This Black History Month and Year Round (1)

Little Rosetta and the Talking Guitar: The Musical Story of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the Woman Who Invented Rock and Roll by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow. illus. by author. Doubleday. ISBN 9780593571071.
Gr 2-6–This recounting of Rosetta Tharpe’s life sets itself apart by focusing on the period in her early childhood when she learned to play guitar, and the close relationship she had with her mother, both of which greatly influenced her larger life story.VERDICT An overdue narrative of one of early rock’s most influential figures, and an additional purchase for most biography collections.

by Tonya Bolden. illus. by R. Gregory Christie. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780062994387.
Gr 1-4–Rosetta Tharpe was an American singer and guitarist who rose up in gospel music and broke into the mainstream of American music in the 1930s and 1940s.Told in free verse, this picture book biography chronicles her life.VERDICT A fresh and female addition to the music legend canon. Purchase where picture book biographies, especially those about musicians/rock history, circulate well.

Miles of Style: Eunice W. Johnson and the EBONY Fashion Fair by Lisa D Brathwaite. illus. by Lynn Gaines. Lee & Low. ISBN 9781620143124.
Gr 1-5–Eunice Walker Johnson loved fashion.She and her husband John, observing that newspapers and magazines didn’t show Black people in a favorable light, set out to change that by forming the Johnson Publishing Company.EBONY, named for the precious black-colored wood, was the company’s second publication.Johnson shared her long-lasting love of fashion and design in a column called “Fashion Fair.”VERDICT This informative biography will be an excellent addition to Black history collections, the fashion shelves, or any celebration of innovators of the 20th century.

12 Books to Celebrate Black Artists This Black History Month and Year Round (2)Extraordinary Magic: The Storytelling Life of Virginia Hamilton by Nina Crews. illus. by author. Little, Brown/Christy Ottaviano. ISBN 9780316383592.
Gr 1-4–Depicting the genesis of the imaginative world of a groundbreaking writer for children, this is the first picture book biography about Virginia Hamilton. Before she was the first Black author to win a Newbery, she was Ginny Hamilton. She learned how to be a storyteller from her extraordinary mother and her mandolin-playing father.VERDICT Purchase this lovely picture book biography as an introduction to Hamilton’s work or to encourage future creators. With every page, readers will be inspired to follow their own magic.

[Read: Nina Crews on Portraying Virginia Hamilton in ‘Extraordinary Magic’]

12 Books to Celebrate Black Artists This Black History Month and Year Round (3)The Green Piano: How Little Me Found ­Music by Roberta Flack with Tonya Bolden.illus. by Hayden Goodman. ­Random/Anne Schwartz. ISBN 9780593479872.
Gr 2-5–With lilting text and stunning art, Flack’s lovely autobiographical picture book highlights little Roberta’s passion for music and the love of a family with little means who supported their daughter’s big dreams.The rhythmic and inviting narrative shares how her father found an upright in the junkyard, rescued it, and painted it green. The rest is history.VERDICT A warm, soulful picture book autobiography about a living legend that will inspire burgeoning artists to pursue their dreams no matter their circumstances.

[Read: 17 Fiction and Nonfiction Titles by Tonya Bolden That Chronicle Black History]

12 Books to Celebrate Black Artists This Black History Month and Year Round (4)

12 Books to Celebrate Black Artists This Black History Month and Year Round (5)Sonny Rollins Plays the Bridgeby Gary Golio. illus. by James Ransome. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen. Oct. 2021. ISBN 9781984813664.
Gr 2-5–This poetic book offers a glimpse into the life and music of Sonny Rollins. It begins with a description of the Bridge and the city surrounding it. Readers then follow Rollins as he is drawn to the bridge to play in harmony with the sounds of the city around him. VERDICT Positive representations of Black artists are always welcome additions to library collections, and this work stands out as a biography in verse.

12 Books to Celebrate Black Artists This Black History Month and Year Round (6)Ablaze with Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas by Jeanne Walker Harvey. illus. by Loveis Wise. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780063021891.
PreS-Gr 4–Harvey rectifies an enormous wrong with this spirited biography of Black painter Alma Thomas (1891-1978), who is not nearly as renowned as she ought to be.In clear language and straightforward presentation, the author focuses on Thomas’s family’s intellectual ambitions and support of her aspirations, her love of nature and education, and her determination and persistence in the face of societal obstacles.VERDICT An inspiring introduction for artists and appreciators, as individuals or shared in groups

12 Books to Celebrate Black Artists This Black History Month and Year Round (7)On the Line: My Story of Becoming the First African American Rockette by Jennifer Jones & Lissette Norman. illus. by Robert Paul, Jr. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780063087064.
Gr 1-5–Jonesloved to dance from the time of her first dance class when she was nine. As Jones grew up, her mother exposed her to other people of color in the arts. From these experiences, Jones took that inspiration and kept practicing until she became the first African American Rockette.VERDICT An important story for all children to read, but especially recommended for students of the arts.

Ordinary Days: The Seeds, Sound, and City That Grew Prince Rogers Nelson by Angela Joy.illus. by Jacqueline Alcántara. ­Roaring Brook. ISBN 9781250797032.
PreS-Gr3–The formula for biographies aimed at children can feel stale after a while: a person is born, overcomes hardship, and succeeds. This is a fresh take, expertly marrying pictures and text to the spirit of legendary musician Prince.Details of Prince’s life are told through swirling purple-tinged pictures. This frees up the text to take on a more lyrical slant.VERDICT This is a bold biography, finding inspiration from the subject and universalizing Prince’s creativity through a gentle approach. It’s perfect for elementary schools, especially as applied to music and art.

You Gotta Meet Mr. Pierce!: The Storied Life of Folk Artist Elijah Pierce by Chiquita Mullins Lee & Carmella Van Vleet. illus. by Jennifer Mack-Watkins. Penguin/Kokila. ISBN 9780593406502.
Gr 1-4–Elijah Pierce was an African American folk artist whose work was discovered by the art world late in life. His wood carvings, voice, and representation within the African American community are valuable.VERDICT A quality selection for informational books about artists and BIPOC individuals, this is likely to spark some real love in conversations surrounding the role of folk art, community outposts such as neighborhood barbershops, and more.

[Read: Beyond February: Teaching Black History Any Day, Every Day, and All Year Long, K-3]

12 Books to Celebrate Black Artists This Black History Month and Year Round (8)

Legends of Hip-Hop: Queen Latifah: An A-B-C Biography by Pen Ken.illus. by Saxton Moore. HarperFestival.ISBN 9780063234291.
Gr 1-4–Legendary rapper, singer, actor, and more, Queen Latifah is an entertainment powerhouse. In this installment of a new early concept board book series, “Legends of Hip-Hop,” Ken takes readers from A to Z through her rise to fame.VERDICT Despite some flaws, the queen of hip-hop will move children to dream big in this upbeat alphabet board book.

12 Books to Celebrate Black Artists This Black History Month and Year Round (9)A Is for Aretha by Leslie Kwan. illus. by Rachelle Baker. Penguin/­Kokila. ISBN 9780593406533.
Gr 1-4–Kwan has crafted an excellent alphabet book that focuses on Black female entertainers from the last 100 years and their impact beyond their music.The author takes 26 prominent Black women from music history and positions their art not only in the arena of the impact it made in the music scene but in the overall fabric of society.VERDICT A perfect companion for the recentH Is for Harlemand ideal for covering overlooked names in Black studies.

12 Books to Celebrate Black Artists This Black History Month and Year Round (10)Only the Best: The Exceptional Life and Fashion of Ann Lowe by Kate Messner & Margaret E. Powell. illus. by Erin Robinson. Chronicle.ISBN 9781452161600.
Gr 1-4–This picture book biography is as elegant as its subject—African American fashion designer Ann Lowe. Messner works with decorative arts historian Powell to present the life of Lowe who, despite facing immense racism as she developed her career in the early part of the 20th century, prevailed as one of the premier designers of her time.VERDICT A stylish biography worthy of inclusion on all shelves.

12 Books to Celebrate Black Artists This Black History Month and Year Round (11)Jackie Ormes Draws the ­Future: The Remarkable Life of a Pioneering Cartoonist by Liz Montague.illus. by author. ­Random House Studio. ISBN 9780593426548.
Gr 2-5–Using a drawing style and pacing indicative and in homage to newspaper cartoons, this is a glimpse of groundbreaking Black female American cartoonist Jackie Ormes, as told and illustrated by a groundbreaking Black female American cartoonist.VERDICT A must purchase for libraries. Its overarching theme of persistence will resonate with readers.

Mary’s Idea by Chris Raschka.illus. by author. Greenwillow.ISBN 9780063210509.
PreS-K–It is rare to discover a picture book biography that is accessible to very young children, but this is one such story. Very few words are used throughout the book; every phrase reinforces the fact that the decisions Williams made in her life were her own.VERDICT This is a widely accessible introductory biography of a lesser-known pianist from 20th-century America.

[Read: Testaments: More than 50 Works of Black Nonfiction]

12 Books to Celebrate Black Artists This Black History Month and Year Round (12)

12 Books to Celebrate Black Artists This Black History Month and Year Round (13)There Was a Party For Langston by Jason Reynolds. illus. by Jerome Pumphrey & Jarrett Pumphrey. Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy.ISBN 9781534439443.
K-Gr 2–This brilliant story shares the positive impact Langston Hughes had on so many—big and small—through music, dance, and, of course, words. The Pumphreys strike again as they expertly weave text through their illustrations like streams of poetry in this incredibly eye-catching picture book.VERDICT Reynolds and the Pumphreys lovingly bestow upon “the king of letters” exactly what he deserves.

12 Books to Celebrate Black Artists This Black History Month and Year Round (14)Holding Her Own: The Exceptional Life of Jackie Ormes by Traci N Todd. illus. by Shannon Wright. Orchard. ISBN 9781338305906.
Gr 2-5–An outstanding picture book biography about a groundbreaking Renaissance woman. Zelda “Jackie” Ormes was an artist and storyteller from birth.VERDICT An extraordinary picture book biography about an extraordinary pioneer in comics and journalism that deserves a spot on every shelf.

12 Books to Celebrate Black Artists This Black History Month and Year Round (15)Nina: A Story of Nina Simoneby Traci N Todd. illus. by Christian Robinson. Putnam. Sept. 2021. ISBN 9781524737283.
Gr 2-6–This book begins with a little girl, Nina Simone, who has a gift and a passion for music, whether gospel, jazz, or classical. As Simone grows up, she begins to notice more inequities and injustices. Her anger grows, and the focus of the book shifts to issues of the civil rights movement and Simone’s role within it. VERDICTAn excellent and magnetic biography.

12 Books to Celebrate Black Artists This Black History Month and Year Round (16)Maya’s Song by Renée Watson. illus. by Bryan Collier. Harper­Collins.ISBN 9780062871589.
Gr 2-6–This in-depth biography in poems, with unsurpassable watercolor and collage illustrations, begins with Maya Angelou’s birth in 1928 and concludes with her delivering a poem at Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration.Readers will gain an understanding of Angelou from her childhood experiences, excerpts of her writing, and adult accomplishments and friendships.VERDICT Poetic and superbly illustrated, this tour de force belongs in every library.

12 Books to Celebrate Black Artists This Black History Month and Year Round (17)Jump at the Sun: The True Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston by Alicia D Williams. illus. by Jacqueline Alcántara, Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy. ISBN 9781534419131.
K-Gr 3–This vibrant portrait of the early life and career of Black American writer Zora Neale Hurston (1891–1960) is sure to inspire young readers. VERDICT A welcome addition to any picture book biography collection; Williams deftly underscores the value of perseverance and education while highlighting the achievements of an influential Black female author.

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Black History Month 2024 Theme: "African Americans and the Arts"

The theme for Black History Month 2024 is "African Americans and the Arts." This theme focuses on celebrating the contributions of African Americans to various forms of artistic expression, including visual art, dance, music, and more. It aims to highlight the achievements and impact of African American artists throughout history [[1]].

African American Artists and Figures Mentioned in the Article:

  1. Sister Rosetta Tharpe: Rosetta Tharpe was an American singer, songwriter, and guitarist who played a significant role in the development of rock and roll music. She combined gospel, blues, and jazz influences in her music and is often referred to as the "Godmother of Rock and Roll" [[2]].
  2. Eunice W. Johnson: Eunice Walker Johnson was a fashion entrepreneur and the co-founder of Johnson Publishing Company. She played a crucial role in promoting African American fashion and culture through publications like EBONY magazine [[3]].
  3. Virginia Hamilton: Virginia Hamilton was a groundbreaking African American author known for her contributions to children's literature. She was the first Black author to win the Newbery Medal, a prestigious award in children's literature [[4]].
  4. Roberta Flack: Roberta Flack is an American singer, songwriter, and musician known for her soulful voice and hits like "Killing Me Softly with His Song" and "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" [[5]].
  5. Sonny Rollins: Sonny Rollins is an American jazz saxophonist and composer. He is considered one of the most influential and innovative figures in jazz history [[6]].
  6. Alma Thomas: Alma Thomas was an African American abstract painter known for her vibrant and colorful artwork. She was the first African American woman to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art [[7]].
  7. Ann Lowe: Ann Lowe was an African American fashion designer who gained recognition for her elegant designs. Despite facing racism and discrimination, she became one of the premier designers of her time [[8]].
  8. Jackie Ormes: Jackie Ormes was a groundbreaking African American cartoonist and the first Black woman to have a syndicated comic strip. She used her art to address social and political issues of the time [[9]].
  9. Nina Simone: Nina Simone was an American singer, songwriter, and civil rights activist. She was known for her powerful voice and her involvement in the civil rights movement [[10]].
  10. Maya Angelou: Maya Angelou was an African American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She is best known for her autobiography "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" and her powerful poetry [[11]].
  11. Zora Neale Hurston: Zora Neale Hurston was an influential African American writer and anthropologist. She is best known for her novel "Their Eyes Were Watching God" and her contributions to the Harlem Renaissance [[12]].

Please note that the information provided above is based on search results and snippets. For more detailed information about each artist or figure, I recommend referring to reputable sources or conducting further research.

12 Books to Celebrate Black Artists This Black History Month and Year Round (2024)

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