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Portraits of African-American Heroes

Profiles of 20 Remarkable Men and Women

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating


Portaits of African-American Heroes
Portraits of African-American Heroes combines the striking sepia-toned paintings of Ansel Pitcairn with three-page text profiles by Tonya Bolden of 20 African-American men and women. While there are similar children's books that focus on the nineteenth century, this children's book is unusual in that it includes the nineteenth through the twenty-first centuries in its profiles of remarkable men and women.
Unlike many brief biographies that are long on facts and short on the details that help the reader understand why a person was able to succeed against the odds, Portraits of African-American Heroes focuses on each person’s struggles and successes in terms of their motivation and beliefs. Each profile also highlights a direct quotation that sheds light on the individual, such as this one from performer Paul Robeson, who suffered terribly for standing up for his beliefs at a time of rampart racism:
    ”No one can leave a permanent mark on the world till he learns to be true to himself.”
Both historical and contemporary figures are included in this fascinating book. Some of the names you will immediately recognize. Others may be new to you. Many of those featured overcame great odds and persevered despite racism and injustice to reach their goals. Bolden’s biographies help the reader understand what it was (and is) about these heroes that enabled them to overcome adversity and make a significant contribution to society.
They include a college president, several visual and performing artists, sports figures, authors, politicians, and civil rights activists, among others. They are -
  • Frederick Douglass
  • Matthew Henson
  • W.E.B. Du Bois
  • Mary McLeod Bethune
  • Bessie Coleman
  • Paul Robeson
  • Satchel Paige
  • Thurgood Marshall
  • Pauli Murray
  • Joe Louis
  • Gwendolyn Brooks
  • Jacob Lawrence
  • Dizzy Gillespie
  • Shirley Chisholm
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Charlayne Hunter-Gault
  • Judith Jamison
  • Ruth Simmons
  • Ben Carson
The author, Tonya Bolden, has written a number of nonfiction books for children, including Tell All the Children Our Story and "Wake Up Our Souls. Portraits of African-American Heroes is artist Ansel Pitcairn’s first picture book. I recommend it for mature seven years olds through high school age. (Puffin, A division of Penguin Young Reader’s Group, 2005 Paperback. ISBN: 9780142404737)

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