One thing I love about music is it is reflective of whatever is going on in the world. Some of these musicians used their art as a way to express their feelings about their environment. Some made music to escape their reality. Others on this list made music from pure love. As a former musician (elementary school counts, right? lol), I can appreciate all their contributions to their passion for music.
I will update this list as I find more books! Follow me on Instagram to get updates and ideas for other picture books! If there’s a book you think I should add, comment below!
If you’re looking for diverse picture books to add to your classroom or home library, check out The Ultimate List of Diverse Picture Books.
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This is an amazing book about the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin (1942-2018). You’ll learn all about her childhood and how it influenced to become a superstar!
Jelly Roll Morton (1890-1941) was an early jazz musician who is known by some as the creator of jazz. This book introduces you to Jelly Roll Morton’s recipe for jazz.
Miles Davis (1926-1991) was a jazz musician who played the trumpet and was a composer. In Birth of Cool, we learn how Miles turns his love of music into a successful career.
Clive “DJ Kool Herc” Campbell (1955-) was born in Jamaica but moved to New York City when he was 13. He brought to the United States his passion for music and his longing to become a DJ. Playing around at home, he creates something that will change the sound of music forever.
Since DJ Kool Herc was born in Jamaica, he is technically not African American, but I thought it was essential to include him on this list.
Melba Liston (1926-1999) was a self-taught trombone player from Kansas City, Missouri. In Little Melba and Her Big Trombone, we follow Melba’s journey to becoming a renowned jazz musician.
Before the guitarist James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix (1942-1970) became a superstar he was just a kid that loved music. In this book, we learn how he was determined to become a star.
This book is based on a real event that happened to the musician Bessie Smith (1894-1937) . One night while performing, Bessie gets some unexpected and unwanted visitors. After this night, her fans learn that Bessie’s voice isn’t the only thing powerful about her.
Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews (1986-) is a New Orleans musician, known for playing the trombone and trumpet. As a child, he wanted to be in a band so bad he started one with his neighborhood friends. In this book, we learn how he got his big break!
The Roots of Rap is not about one musician; it is about all of the artists that built the foundation of the genre. In this book, you will find credits to poets like Langston Hughes and Paul Laurence Dunbar to musicians like James Brown. Of course, the original O.G.’s like DJ Kool Herc, The Sugarhill, Gang, and Kurtis Blow get their recognition too.
Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996) did not have any easy childhood, but she didn’t let it stop her. Find out how she finally got a chance to make it big.
Billie Holiday (1915-1959) knew she wanted to be somebody at a young age. At 15 years old she began performing in Harlem. Eventually Billie got tired of the discrimination she and others faced and agreed to sing a song that would express the pain of racism.
When Dizzy Gillespie (1917-1993) was a kid he got in trouble for breaking all the rules. As he got older, he learned how breaking music rules could help him become known around the world.
John Coltrane (1926-1967) learned to play the saxophone in the basement of a church. Spirit Seeker takes us through the ups and downs of this talented musician’s career.
Although it is tastefully done, this book does mention his drug and alcohol abuse.
When Marian (1897-1993) Sang gives you a glimpse into the life of Marian Anderson. Since I didn’t know much about her before reading the book, I like that the book started with her life as a child and ended when she became a professional singer.
Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington’s (1899-1974) parents made the decision to enroll him in piano lessons. At the time, Duke was not pleased, he wanted to play baseball. Eventually Duke learned to love the piano and would go on to become a critically acclaimed jazz composer.
Do you know who Satchmo is? It’s Louis Armstrong (1901-1971)! In Satchmo’s Blues, we learn how he gets his first trumpet and we can infer on how it would change his life forever.
If you liked this list, check out the Ultimate Diverse Picture Book List! The books on this list are perfect for school or home!