To get us ready for our next LC Kids Storytime at the Atrium on January 20, author/illustrator Vashti Harrison shares some of her favorite songs by the artists featured in her book, Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History. 


Vashti Harrison: My debut book, Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, is a celebration of the contributions black women have made to American history. In it, I've collected the biographies of 40 women from diverse backgrounds and fields of study. In the short bios, I couldn’t cover every part of these amazing women's stories, so instead I tried to tap into some of the most magical moments of their lives—the beauty and the love behind their passions and the lasting impact of their actions.

Below is a song by each of the six singers included among the 40 women. I tried to choose a song by each of them that embodies the magic of their individual stories: the sweet youthfulness of Ella Fitzgerald's unique voice, Josephine Baker's cool and carefree vibe, Mahalia Jackson's smash hit that broke racial barriers, the elegance and poise Nichelle Nichols brought to her Star Trek role, the power and grace of Marian Anderson, and Nina Simone's empowering ode to black children everywhere.

Each of these women brought a unique voice and sound to the world, and some of them changed music forever. It's hard to know what jazz would be without Ella, or gospel without Mahalia. Nina Simone taught us what an artist and activist could be and what a protest song could sound like. In this playlist, I've also included some of the amazing powerhouses I couldn't fit into Little Leaders. All of them together showcase the incredible contributions bold black women have made to music history.


"To Be Young, Gifted and Black"—Nina Simone

Playlist: Bold Women in Black History
Illustration by Vashti Harrison


"La conga blicoti"—Josephine Baker

Playlist: Bold Women in Black History
Illustration by Vashti Harrison


"Ave Maria"—Marian Anderson

Playlist: Bold Women in Black History
Illustration by Vashti Harrison


"Move On Up a Little Higher"—Mahalia Jackson

Playlist: Bold Women in Black History
Illustration by Vashti Harrison


"Theme from Star Trek"—Nichelle Nichols

Playlist: Bold Women in Black History
Illustration by Vashti Harrison


"A-Tisket, A-Tasket"—Ella Fitzgerald

Playlist: Bold Women in Black History
Illustration by Vashti Harrison


About the Curator

Author, illustrator, and filmmaker Vashti Harrison is an artist originally from Onley, Virginia. She has a background in cinematography and screenwriting and a love for storytelling. Her experimental films and videos focus on her Caribbean Heritage and folklore. They have shown around the world at film festivals and venues including the New York Film Festival, Rotterdam International Film Festival and Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Follow her on Vimeo, Twitter, and Instagram.

Vashti Harrison