For Kids

20 Stunning Biographies for Kids that Showcase Black Musicians and Singers


The Sweethearts of Rhythm is the story of a real all girl band that traveled around the country in the 1930s and 1940s. The band was unusual because it was all girls and because it was integrated. One reason the girls got this chance is World War II. A lot of men were fighting in the war so it was easier for a girl band to get gigs. Sometimes the band had trouble performing because the band was integrated. When the band played in the South they had to sleep on their tour bus because it was illegal there for black and white people to be in the same restaurant or hotel. Sometimes the girls had to wear disguises to hide the fact that their skin color was not all the same.

The author tells the story of the Sweethearts in poems. She uses the rhythms of jazz music in her poetry. Read the poems, look at the great pictures and then don't forget to read the author's note in the back. This one is illustrated by the legendary Jerry Pinkney, 19 more just as beautiful as the last are listed below.

Websites, Activities & Printables:


Biography in Context is a database you can use in any IndyPL Library Branch or at home. Biography in Context will show you biographies, magazines, videos and more about African American Musicians.

20 Stunning Biographies for Kids that Showcase Black Musicians & Singers

It's hard to say which one of these is the most beautiful. The artists who illustrated these books are a who's who list for illustration, and surprisingly, all 20 have a different illustrator. Art and music paired up in the very best way. #indyplkids

The 5 O'clock Band

Andrews, Troy

Troy Andrews, also known as Trombone Shorty, tells the story of his own childhood band and the lessons he learned about leadership, dedication, and tradition while being the leader of the band. His story includes a loyal nod to the important mentors in his life who were there with encouragement and good advice. Illustrated by Bryan Collier.

When Marian Sang

The True Recital of Marian Anderson, the Voice of A Century

Ryan, Pam Muñoz

The story of the life of singer and civil rights activist Marian Anderson who was the first African American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera. Illustrated by Brian Selznick.

Hey, Charleston!

The True Story of the Jenkins Orphanage Band

Rockwell, Anne F.

The story of a band started in an orphanage in Charleston, South Carolina in the 1890s. People donated band instruments and also taught the children how to play. The children eventually performed all over the world! Illustrated by Colin Bootman.

To learn even more about fascinating and inspiring black history makers, visit the Center for Black Literature & Culture at Central Library. The Center is dedicated to celebrating the vibrant and resilient heritage and triumphs of those born of African roots.


WeNeedDiverseBooks Logo"To get young people engaged, one of the things they need is to see themselves in books. It is important for all of us to see ourselves in books, because that encourages us to read in a different way and encourages us to write more." ~ Dr. Jerrie Cobb Scott Founder of the African American Read-in #weneeddiversebooks

~ IndyPL_CarrieW