Langston Hughes, poet
Feb. 1, 1902-May 22, 1967
Langston’s Train Ride by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Leonard Jenkins (Orchard, 2004)
When Hughes was eighteen, he took a train from Ohio to Mexico. During his journey he wrote one of his most famous poems, The Negro Speaks of Rivers. This is the story of that ride and creation of that poem.
PoetryFoundation.org hosts several of Hughes’ poems.
Bessie Coleman, aviator
Jan. 26, 1892-Apr. 30, 1926
Talkin’ About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by E. B. Lewis (Orchard, 2002)
The first African-American woman airplane pilot’s story is told in approximately two-dozen fictionalized poems a.k.a. eulogies about her life.
PBS features a bio and photo of Coleman on their Fly Girls page.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights advocate
Jan. 15, 1929-Apr. 4, 1968
Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier (Jump at the Sun, 2001)
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words live on. His most famous speech, “I Have a Dream,” stirs hearts today. The youngest man to win the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr. King, Jr., a gifted African-American political leader, minister and peacemaker is honored by a U.S. Federal holiday on his birthday.
Check out The Seattle Times for a photo gallery, timeline, quotes, and a biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a great American hero.
W.W. Law, civil rights leader
Jan. 1, 1923-July 29, 2002
Delivering Justice: W. W. Law and the Fight for Civil Rights by Jim Haskins, illustrated by Benny Andrews (Candlewick, 2005)
Westley Wallace Law made a difference. Born in Georgia, amidst poverty and segregation, this African American, who grew up to be a mail carrier, joined the NAACP as a young man, helped blacks register to vote and was instrumental in leading the Great Savannah Boycott.
This Far by Faith, a PBS program, describes W. W. Law’s life of dedication and service.