Black History STEAM Book List for Kids, Teens & Adults

By Michelle Lee, Young Adult Librarian
February 1, 2021
Bronx Library Center

This blog post is part of the Woodson Project—a series of events, posts, and book lists on subjects including empowering Black families, amplifying Black voices, exploring Black identity and intersectionality, and discovering Black influencers in STEAM. The project was created by branch staff from across NYPL to honor Dr. Carter G. Woodson, who in 1926 created Negro History Week—the precursor to Black History Month.

STEM (which stands for science, technology, engineering and math) is an educational acronym coined in 2001 by the U.S. National Science Foundation, which encourages students to pursue these fields in school. The “A” for art is sometimes included by other educators.    

Why is STEAM important? 

All of these fields are important in our daily lives and impact the real world. To study the sciences, technology, engineering, art and math means gains in knowledge, in innovation, in the need to experiment. Thinking creatively and problem solving go hand in hand when students immerse themselves in open-ended subjects. In addition to the benefit of present day learning, many of these fields of study are interwoven into some of the fastest-growing industries, which will continue to grow in the future.

On a more important note, diverse representation within the STEAM professions is lacking, especially Black representation. More voices at the decision-making table are needed to bring new and inclusive ideas to the offices, laboratories, workshops, schools, studios, museums and company boardrooms; and to push back against medical, health, environmental and technological racism. 

We’ve compiled this list of 103 biographical and autobiographical books in English and Spanish, 14 film and television specials, databases, and other educational resource links for children, teens and adults about Black scientists, inventors, engineers, artists, mathematicians, environmentalists, doctors, and other health professionals to inspire and educate our patrons. Other adult nonfiction book titles and television specials on this list cover historic and current STEAM-related inequities and injustices faced by African Americans, including racism in medical research. 

This list is also intended to highlight and celebrate the many notable achievements accomplished by Black STEAM historical figures including the creation of the blood bank, heart surgery and the traffic light (among other innovations), the artists who made masterpieces, and the many scientists, mathematicians and astronauts who metaphorically and physically reached for the stars and beyond.   


 Jacob Lawrence, A Young Artist in Harlem

African American Scientists and Inventors by Tish Davidson (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math)

African American Women Scientists and Inventors by Otha Richard Sullivan, Ed.D., Jim Haskins, general editor (Science/Technology/Engineering /Medicine)                                                                                 

All Aboard! Elijah McCoy’s Steam Train by Monica Kulling, illustrated by Bill Slavin (Technology/Engineering)

Astronaut Mae Jemison by Allison Lassieur (Science/ Engineering/ Medicine)

Benjamin Banneker: Pioneering Scientist by Ginger Wadsworth, illustrations by Craig Orback (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math)   

Benjamin Banneker: Self-Educated Scientist by Lisa M. B. Simmons (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math)

Black Women in Science by Kimberly Brown Pellum (Science)

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (picture book and biography) by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, illustrations by Elizabeth Zunon and Anna Hymas (Technology/Engineering)

Changing the Equation: 50+ US Black Women in STEM by Tonya Bolden (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math)

Chasing Space by Leland Melvin (Science/Technology/Engineering)

A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon by Suzanne Slade (Science/Technology/Math)  

Counting the Stars: The Story of Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician by Lisa Cline-Ransom, illustrated by Raúl Colón (Science/Technology/Math)

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Brian Collier (Art)

Dear Benjamin Banneker by Andrea Davis Pinkney (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math)   

The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath by Julia Finley Mosca, illustrated by Daniel Rieley (Medicine)

Dr. Wangari Maathai Plants a Forest by Corinne Purtill, cover and illustrations by Eugenia Mello (Science)          

Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews by Kathleen Benson, illustrated with paintings by Benny Andrews (Art)

Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison (Science/Math)

Faith Ringgold by Mike Venezia (Art)

Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Eric-Shabazz Larkin, afterword by Will Allen (Science)

Five Brilliant Scientists by Lynda Jones (Science)

George Washington Carver by Tonya Bolden (Science)

George Washington Carver by Dana Meachen Rau (Science)

George Washington Carver (National Geographic series) by Kitson Jazynka (Science)

George Washington Carver for Kids: His Life and Discoveries with 21 Activities by Peggy Thomas (Science)

The Girl with a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague by Julia Finley Mosca (Math/Technology/Engineering)

Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Jamey Christop (Art)                                                                                    

Hidden Figures : The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, illustrated by Laura Freeman (Science/Technology/Math) 

Hidden Figures: The Untold True Story of Four African-American Women Who Helped Launch Our Nation Into Space by Margot Lee Shetterly (Science/Technology/Math) 

Horace Pippin by Mike Venezia (Art)

In Her Hands: The Story of Sculptor Augusta Savage by Alan Schroeder, illustrated by JaeMe Bereal (Art)

Jacob Lawrence by Mike Venezia (Art)

Jake Makes a World: Jacob Lawrence, a Young Artist in Harlem by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts; illustrated by Christopher Myers (Art)                                                                                                                           

Katherine Johnson (You Should Meet series) by Thea Feldman, illustrated by Alyssa Petersen (Science/Technology/Math) 

Katherine Johnson by Ebony Wilkins (Science/Technology/Math)

Lewis Latimer: Engineering Wizard by Denise Lewis Patrick (Technology/Engineering)      

Lewis Latimer: The Man Behind a Better Light Bulb by Nancy Dickmann  (Technology/Engineering)                                                                                  

Lonnie Johnson: NASA Scientist and Inventor of the Super Soaker by Lucia Raatma (Science/Technology/Engineering)

Madam C.J. Walker Builds a Business by Denene Miller (Science)

Mae Among the Stars by Rhoda Ahmed (Science/ Engineering/ Medicine)

Mae Jemison (You Should Know series) by Laurie Calkhoven, illustrated by Monique Dong (Science/ Engineering/ Medicine)

Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and The Trees of Kenya by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Kadir Nelson   

NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson by Heather E. Schwartz (Science/Technology/Math) 

One Step Further: My Story of Math, the Moon, and a Lifelong Mission by Katherine Johnson, Joylette Hylick and Katherine Moore, illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow (Science/Technology/Math)

Patricia's Vision: The Doctor Who Saved Sight by Michelle Lord (Medicine/Science)

Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai by Claire A. Nivola (Science)

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe (Art)

Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson by Katherine G. Johnson (Science/Technology/Math) 

A Splash of Red Paint: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Art)

Starstruck: The Cosmic Journey of Neil deGrasse Tyson by Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer, illustrated by Frank Morrison (Science)                                                                                    

The Story of Environmentalist Wangari Maathai by Jen Cullerton Johnson (Science)

Super Soaker Inventor Lonnie Johnson by Heather E. Schwartz (Science/Technology/Engineering)

Sweet Dreams Sarah by Vivian Kirkfeild (Technology/Engineering)

Tiny Stitches:The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas by Gwendoline Hooks, illustrated by Colin Bootman (Medicine/Science)

The Unstoppable Garret Morgan: Inventor, Entrepreneur, Hero by Joan DiCicco, illustrated by Ebony Glenn (Technology/Engineering)                                                                                                                           

The Vast Wonder of the World: Biologist Ernest Everett Just by Mélina Mangal, illustrated by Luisa Uribe (Science)

Wake Up Our Souls: A Celebration of Black American Artists by Tonya Bolden (Art)

Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees by Franck Prévot, illustrated by Aurélia Fronty (Science)    

What Color is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld, illustrated by Ben Boos and A.G. Ford (Science/Technology/Engineering/Medicine)

Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton (Science/Technology/Engineering)                                                            


 Edmonia Lewis; and African American Inventors.

African American Inventors: Overcoming Challenges to Change America by Sophie Washburne (Technology/Engineering)

African-American Scientists: Robert Jones, Reatha Clark King, Walter Massey, Franklyn G. Prendergast, Larry Shannon by Jetty St. John (Science)                                                                                    

Augusta Savage: Sculptor of the Harlem Renaissance by Samuel Willard Crompton and Charlotte Etinde-Crompton (Art)

Benjamin Banneker: American Scientific Pioneer by Myra Weatherly (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math)

Black Pioneers of Science and Invention by Louis Haber (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math)  

Black Scientist by Lisa Yount (Science)                                                                                                            Breakthrough!: How Three People Saved "Blue Babies" and Changed Medicine Forever by Jim Murphy (Medicine/Science)                                                                           

The Book of Awesome Black Americans: Scientific Pioneers, Trailblazing Entrepreneurs, Barrier-breaking Activists and Afro-Futurists by Monique L. Jones (Science/Technology/Engineering/Medicine)        

Hidden No More: African American Women in STEM Careers by Caroline Kennon (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math)                              

Lewis Latimer by Winifred Latimer Norman and Lily Patterson (Technology/Engineering)         

Mae Carol Jemison: Astronaut and Educator by Iemima Ploscariu (Science/ Engineering/ Medicine)                                                                                                                                     

Seen: Edmonia Lewis by Jasmine Walls, illustrated by Bex Glendining, colored by Kieran Quigley, lettered by DC Hopkins (Art)

Stone Mirrors: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis by Jeannine Atkins (Art)

This is What I Know About Art Kimberly Drew (Art)


 A New Republic; and Chasing Space.

Basquiat by Julian  Voloj, illustrated by Søren Mosdal (Art)

Beyond Banneker: Black Mathematicians and the Paths to Excellence by Erica N. Walker (Math)

Black Man in A White Coat: A Doctor's Reflections on Race and Medicine by Damon Tweedy (Medicine)

Brooklyn on My Mind: Black Visual Artists from the WPA to the Present by Myrah Brown Green (Art)

Chasing Space: An Astronaut's Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances by Leland Melvin (Science/Technology/Engineering)

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly (Science/Technology/Math) 

Hidden Women: The African-American Mathematicians of NASA Who Helped America win the Space Race by Rebecca Rissman (Science/Technology/Math) 

Faith Ringgold: A View from the Studio by Curlee Raven Holton, with Faith Ringgold (Art)

Horace Pippin: American Modern by Anne Monahan (Art)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (Science/ Medicine)

Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle edited by Elizabeth Hutton Turner and Austen Barron Bailly; with contributions by Derrick Adams, Sandy Alexandre, et all. (Art)

Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series by Leah Dickerman and Elsa Smithgall; with contributions by Elizabeth Alexander and eleven others (Art)

Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic edited by Eugenie Tsai, with an essay by Connie H. Choi (Art)

Kehinde Wiley: The World Stage: Haiti = Sèn mondyal la Ayiti essays by M. Cynthia Oliver, Ph.D, and Mike Rogge (Art)

Kerry James Marshall by Charles Gaines (Art)

Kerry James Marshall: History of Painting by Kerry James Marshall, Hal Foster and Teju Cole (Art)

Lucean Arthur Headen: The Making of a Black Inventor and Entrepreneur by Jill D. Snide (Technology/Engineering)

Making Black Scientists: A Call to Action by Marybeth Gasman and Thai-Huy Nguyen (Science)

Painting Harlem Modern: The Art of Jacob Lawrence by Patricia Hills (Art)

Partners of the Heart: Vivien Thomas and His Work with Alfred Blalock, An Autobiography by Dr. Vivien Thomas (Medicine/Science)

Quality Education as a Constitutional Right: Creating a Grassroots Movement to Transform Public Schools edited by Theresa Perry, Robert P. Moses, Joan T. Wynne, Ernesto Cortes Jr. and Lisa Delpit (Math)

Radical Equations: Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project by Robert P. Moses and Charles E. Cobb, Jr. (Math)

Radical Equations: Math Literacy and Civil Rights by Robert P. Moses and Charles E. Cobb, Jr. (Math)

Unbound: A Memoir by Wangari Muta Maathai (Science) 

We Could Not Fail: The First African Americans in the Space Program by Richard Paul and Steven Moss (Science)


The Woodson Project STEAM Books in Spanish/ en Espanol:  ¡Fushhh! : El chorro de inventos súper húmedos, de Lonnie Johnson; Plantando los árboles de Kenia: La Historia de Wangari Maathai; y Talentos Ocultos.

¡Fushhh! : El chorro de inventos súper húmedos, de Lonnie Johnson ilustrado por Don Tate, traducido por Carlos E. Calvo (Ciencia/ Tecnología / Ingenieria)

Plantando los árboles de Kenia: La Historia de Wangari Maathai de Claire A. Nivola, traducción de Teresa Farran (Ciencia)

Talentos Ocultos : El libro que inspiró la película de Twentieth Century Fox basada en la verdadera historia desconocida de Margot Lee Shetterly (Ciencia / Tecnología / Matemáticas)



 The Life and Works of Gordon Parks.


Basquiat (R, 1996)

Basquiat: Rage to Riches (Not Rated, 2017)

Downtown 81 (Not Rated, 2000)

Faith Ringgold Paints Crown Heights (Not Rated, 2006)

Half Past Autumn: The LIfe and Works of Gordon Parks (Not Rated, 2006)

Horace Pippin: There Will Be Peace (Not Rated, 2006)

Jacob Lawrence: The Glory of Expression (Not Rated, 2006)

Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (Not Rated, 2010)

Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People (Not Rated, 2014)

Science / Math / Medicine

Hidden Figures (PG, 2016)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (TV-MA, 2017)

In Medical Science: A Series on African American Achievers in Science and Medicine (Not Rated, 2009)

Miss Evers’ Boys (TV-PG, 1997)

Something the Lord Made (TV-PG, 2004)


For Kids and Teens

Biography in Context 

BrainPOP (available in Spanish, French and for English Language Learners/ en Español / en Français)

Explora Elementary

Explora Middle School 

Explora High School

Learning Express Library 

National Geographic Virtual Library

NYPL Prints and Photographs Collection

Science Flix

Scholastic GO!


For Adults 

Credo Reference

Explora for Educators

Flipster (Archeology, Discover, Popular Science, PC World and Wired magazines)





Multilingual Consumer Health Information

Oxford Art Online

Scholastic Teachables


NYPL LibGuide to the Jean Blackwell Hutson Research & Reference Division: Online Resources & Databases

NYPL LibGuide to Art Resources from Home (Art)

NYPL LibGuide on Augusta Savage (Art)

NYPL LibGuide: Binding Us Together: Quilts of the African Diaspora (Art)

NYPL LibGuide: Black Comics & Graphic Novels (Art)

NYPL LibGuide to Patients (Technology)

NYPL LibGuide on Tom Feelings (Art)

New York City Department of Education's Virtual Field Trips

Faith Ringgold (Art)

Nick Cave and Jordan Casteel Paints Her Community (Art)

Kerry James Marshall, Kehinde Wiley,  and The Elements of Hip-Hop (Art)

Food Justice; Greensboro, North Carolina Student Sit-Ins at Woolworth's Lunch Counters; The March on Washington DC; Tulsa Race Massacre; Women's Suffrage Movement (Civil Rights, Science)

This book and resource list is part of The Woodson Project, an initiative produced by NYPL library workers to dedicate programs, services, and information to the Black community during Black History Month. To find more information about this initiative, please visit 


Written in collaboration with children's librarians Lisa Bova, Bronx Library Center; Aimé Casillas, 67th Street Library; and Mariel Matthews, Grand Concourse Library; children's information assistant Cristal Pickett, Hamilton Grange Library; and young adult librarian Sarah Sculnick, Kips Bay Library.