Biographies: Black Women

Cleopatra Serpent of the Nile by Mary Fisk Pack and Peter Malone; Goose Bottom Books, 2011.
It does young girls good to know that women rulers have always existed and that’s why the title’s in Goose Bottom Books on Dastardly Dames is so necessary. While this book is rich is photographs from artifacts
of the time, it is void of any bibliographic information, making it impossible for readers to know how the author gathered textual evidence of Cleopatra’s life. Still, to know that this woman who set the stage for Rome to overtake Egypt was a brilliant leader who charmed with her thinking skills rather than her beauty gives young readers an important way to consider her contribution to history. This short volume uses engaging language to bring ancient history to life.
“True to her ruthless roots, Cleopatra immediately tried to take charge of the throne.”

Michelle by Deborah Hopkinson and A. G. Ford; Katherine Tegen Books/Harper Collins, 2009.
Hopkinson’s picture books provides a narrative of Michelle Robinson’s life from her early days with her family on the South Side of Chicago, through her years in school up through her early career. Readers learn of the principles she learned along the way and how they’ve continued to shape her life as a lawyer, mother and First Lady of the United States.
“From the time she was little, Michelle worked hard at school, even skipping second grade. In sixth grade, she entered a special class for gifted students. She graduated from eighth grade as salutatorian-second in her class.”

Vision of Beauty: The Story of Sarah Breedlove Walker by Kathryn Lasky and Nneka Bennett; Candlewick Press, 2012
This chapter book biography begins with Sarah’s early life picking cotton shortly after legalized enslavement ended and continues through her life as an activist who worked both for equal rights for Blacks in general and more specifically for Black women to maintain their dignity. She understood the personal politics of hair and rose to be become the first female millionaire in the US through the products and services she developed for black women’s hair care. The Walker Building, the physical presence of her empire, still stands in Indianapolis.
“She was not stuck in the cotton fields; she was not stuck at a laundry tub. Through tenacity and faith, Sarah Breedlove Walker had come into her own, bringing thousands of colored women with her and showing countless others the way.”

Touch the Sky: Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jumper by Ann Malaspina and Eric Velasquez; Albert Whitman & Co., 2012
In 1948 at the Olympics in London, Alice Coachman became the first African American woman to win Olympic gold. She’d over come both economic oppression and discrimination based on her gender and her race through sheer determination.
“Fields shut.
Tracks shut.
Doors shut
to girls like Alice.
No place to practice.
No crossbar to raise.”