The Journeys of 16 Extraordinary Black Souls
  • Imprint: Abrams Books for Young Readers
  • Publication Date: January 3, 2017
  • Price: $24.95
  • Trim Size: 8 12 x 10
  • ISBN: 978-1-4197-1455-9
  • EAN: 9781419714559
  • Page Count: 128
  • Illustrations: Archival images throughout
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Rights: World/All
  • Additional formats:

Over the centuries, untold numbers of black men and women in America have achieved great things against the odds. Pathfinders is a collective biography of sixteen diverse American men and women of African descent who made their mark on American history in the 18th to 20th centuries. People who dared to dream, take risks, and create goals not only for themselves, but for others and the betterment of their society, too. Award-winning author Tonya Bolden offers an insightful look at these figures, from Venture Smith, who bought his freedom; to Sadie Alexander, who contributed to the Civil Rights movement in the United States; to Katherine Johnson, who helped the United States land on the moon.

Among the incredible people in this nonfiction masterpiece are James Forten (1766–1842), a powder boy then prisoner of war during the Revolution, who grew up to be the captain of his own ship and one of Philadelphia’s leading abolitionists and wealthiest citizen; Richard Potter (1783-1835), an accomplished magician, ventriloquist, and hypnotist who paved the way for other well-known entertainers like Harry Houdini; Paul Revere Williams (1894–1980), born poor and an orphan by age four, who became known as the “Architect to the Stars” (among them Danny Thomas); Jackie Ormes (1911–1985), who first made her mark as a cartoonist in the 1930s; and Katherine Johnson (1918), a mathematician and physicist whose calculations were key to the successful missions of astronauts Alan Shepard, John Glenn, and Neil Armstrong. Each evocative profile includes an enlightening look at the historical build up and several images ranging from paintings and photographs to primary documents. The book ends with endnotes, a timeline, a bibliography, and an index. Ideal for Black History Month and common core usage, this book will also find wide appeal year-round for curious minds looking to discover fascinating pieces of American History, as well as interesting career possibilities.

The book examines the lives of:

Venture Smith, prince

James Forten, entrepreneur

Richard Potter, magician

James McCune Smith, physician

Mary Bowser, spy

Allen Allensworth, town founder

Clara Brown, pioneer

Sissieretta Jones, concert singer

Maggie Lena Walker, bank founder

Charlie Wiggins, race car driver

Eugene Bullard, combat pilot

Oscar Micheaux, filmmaker

Jackie Ormes, cartoonist

Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, economist and attorney

Paul R. Williams, architect

Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson, mathematician


"A lively volume and an excellent approach to U.S. history."
"The lives of 16 fascinating and innovative black men and women are given due recognition in this masterly work... Teachers and librarians seeking to further develop their history and biography collections will be thrilled with this fine offering."
School Library Journal
"Detailed descriptions and sidebars offer rich portraits of each person’s life and era, and period illustrations and photographs lend further depth to figures who will likely be unfamiliar to many readers."
Publishers Weekly
"A well-researched book introducing a varied group of African Americans who excelled in their own, individual ways."
"Bolden relates the tales of her subjects with a zest that will make for great classroom readalouds."
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
"This attractive book is well laid-out with pictures and text boxes that enhance the clearly written text...During Black History Month, it would be an outstanding resource to expand students’ knowledge beyond the typical subjects of study."
School Library Connection
"This book is a fascinating, well-written account of the lives of some obscure African-Americans. Organized in a rough chronological order...the book sheds light on their abilities to overcome racism through education and employment."
School Library Connection

About the author

Award-winning author Tonya Bolden’s books have garnered much praise and earned countless starred reviews. Her books have been won the James Madison Book Award and have been named the School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, YALSA Best Book of the Year, and CCBC Best Book of the Year. Bolden’s works were twice nominated for an NAACP award, for her books Searching for Sarah Rector and Beautiful Moon. She won a Coretta Scott King Honor Award for Maritcha: A Nineteenth Century American Girl. Bolden’s acclaimed works include Capital Days: Michael Shiners Journal and the Growth of Our Nations Capital; Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty; 12 Days of New York; George Washington Carver; M.L.K.: Journey Of A King; Tell All the Children Our Story: Memories and Mementos of Being Young and Black in America; and Wake Up Our Souls: A Celebration of Black American Artists.