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Portraits of African-American Heroes

Portraits of African-American Heroes

5.0 1
by Ansel Pitcairn

Here, ideal for African-American History Month, is a stunningly beautiful book consisting of portraits-in pictures and words-of twenty outstanding African-Americans. The individuals range from historical to contemporary figures, such as the dancer Judith Jamison, and represent diverse fields of endeavor, from the law (Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall) to


Here, ideal for African-American History Month, is a stunningly beautiful book consisting of portraits-in pictures and words-of twenty outstanding African-Americans. The individuals range from historical to contemporary figures, such as the dancer Judith Jamison, and represent diverse fields of endeavor, from the law (Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall) to athletics, science, and more. For each individual, there is a three-page biography by the noted author Tonya Bolden and a striking black-and-white portrait that captures not only the subject's likeness but is a work of art in itself. A book to inspire, to teach, or to display, with its large trim size and striking design, it is as handsome as it is important.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A number of nonfiction texts give voice to important historical events and figures. Visually captivating and rich in detail, Portraits of African-American Heroes by Tonya Bolden, illus. by Ansel Pitcairn, traces the lives and achievements of 10 iconic African-Americans. Bolden selects men and women from periods throughout American history, from Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Du Bois to Malcolm X and Ruth Simmons. Pitcairn captures the heroic personages of Bolden's subjects, activists and artists, intellectuals and explorers in b&w paintings (a portrait of Matthew Henson depicts him, fittingly, with a parka, as he accompanied Admiral Peary; they were the first two explorers to set foot on the North Pole). Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
This collective biography profiles twenty outstanding African Americans from the sciences, the arts, politics, literature, sports, education, and adventure. Beginning with Frederick Douglass and carrying through more than 150 years to Dr. Ben Carson, each profile consists of three pages of text and sepia-toned paintings. Along with the familiar, there are also lesser-known names such as Pauli Murray, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, and Ruth Simmons. Each narrative recounts the high points in the person's life, emphasizing what makes him or her stand out as a hero, as seen in Matthew Henson's quote-"The path is not easy, the climbing is rugged and hard, but the glory at the end is worthwhile"-or the discussion of Shirley Chisholm-"What a terror she might have grown up to be. But she channeled her intensity into positive things." The selection is an admirable cross section of careers and aspirations that will appeal to young people. Many subjects came from circumstances that did not bode well for success, yet their steady determination clearly led them to achieve their ambitions. These brief profiles will appeal to many, including reluctant readers, and could be quite useful for history projects as well as for examples of writing short biographies. Although the portraits are quite nice, and in fact some are lovely, young readers might have preferred to see actual images of these people involved in what made them heroes. But if the reader considers the text "portraits," then it all fits together. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2003, Dutton, 96p.;Illus. Source Notes. Further Reading., Ages 11 to 15.
—Patricia Morrow
Children's Literature
This handsome and well-designed collection of biographical sketches features portraits in words and sepia-toned paintings of twenty African Americans beginning with Frederick Douglass, Matthew Henson, Mary McLeod Bethund and W.E.B. Du Bois and ending with Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Judith Jamison, Ruth Simmons and Ben Carson. While encapsulating the contributions of these "hero" to humanity at large, each biography also gives readers a fair summary of the treatment of African Americans in the United States at that particular time and of the contributions each person made to full citizenship for black people. Bolden's lively prose, full of quotes whose sources are cited in back notes, reads smoothly and also reads well aloud. Each three-page biography features two portraits, a full-page one, and a smaller one showing the person in another pose or setting. Birth and death dates, where appropriate, also give the place and potent short quotes appear in sidebars. Valuable as an informational resource, the book also would make an excellent secondary source in elementary and middle school classrooms to read alongside textbook accounts. Many of the subjects cite their gratitude to specific people who have gone before, thus forming an interlinking set of biographical stories that also carry the subtle message that whoever you are, you stand tall because of the achievements of others—and all extol the value of hard work, being prepared, and having dreams to act on when the time comes. A well-chosen list of suggested readings draws on resources published with the last ten years which will guide teachers and students to other good books. 2003, Dutton, Ages 10 to 14.
—Susan Hepler, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-While there is a wealth of information currently available to children about African-American historical figures, there is still a great deal of room for more biographies of contemporary African-American achievers. Bolden profiles 20 people, ranging from Matthew Henson, Thurgood Marshall, and Martin Luther King, Jr., to Paul Robeson, Ruth Simmons, Judith Jamison, and Charlayne Hunter-Gault. The sketches, as the author states in the introduction, are intended to capture something of the essence of these people. She succeeds by using lively language, anecdotal information, and quotations from the subjects themselves. The book is arranged chronologically, beginning with Frederick Douglass, born around 1818, and ending with Ben Carson, born in 1951. Each entry is accompanied by a striking, if somewhat glamorized, full-page portrait done in deep, rich shades of brown. A smaller painting of the subject appears on the final page of the profile. A lengthy list of suggested reading is appended. A fine addition to any library.-Mary N. Oluonye, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In an informative introduction, the editor, artist, and author discuss the process used to select the inspirational African-Americans for these "studies in true grit." There are 20 entries that "capture something of the essence" of the likes of Judith Jamison, Pauli Murray, Ruth Simmons, Ben Carson, and Charlayne Hunter-Gault along with the more familiar Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, and Thurgood Marshall. Bolden's essays focus on those elements of their characters that enabled them to make full use of their particular talents and to persevere in spite of everything that was stacked against them. Each essay includes a highlighted quotation to further illuminate each person's particular philosophy. A compelling full-page sepia portrait of each subject, as well as a smaller illustration that depicts a detail or another mood accompanies each entry. Pitcairn seems unerringly to have captured the souls of these remarkable people. A fascinating and unique collection. (Collected biography. 7+)

Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
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Product dimensions:
7.90(w) x 9.70(h) x 0.30(d)
1140L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Tonya Bolden is the author of more than thirty books.  She lives in New York City.

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