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African History Makers: Biographies of Legends for Children

African History Makers: Biographies of Legends for Children

African history is full of legends and heroes whose stories continue to inspire and shape the future of the continent. These individuals, through their bravery, intelligence, and leadership, have left a lasting impact on African society and culture. The purpose of this blog, "African History Makers: Biographies of Legends for Children," is to introduce young readers to the lives and legacies of these great figures, and to encourage a deeper appreciation and understanding of African history. Join us as we explore the rich and diverse history of Africa, and discover the legends that helped shape it.

Amina of Nigeria

Amina of Zaria: The Warrior Queen

When Amina was a little girl, she didn't dream of being queen―she dreamed of being a fierce warrior. The only problem was that everyone overlooked her. Despite the doubt of the people around her, she mastered every weapon in the armory, like bows and arrows, spears, and swords. Her skills on the battlefield made her native Zaria prosperous, and in the mid-sixteenth century, she became a queen.

Through Amina's retelling of her life, Amina of Zaria: The Warrior Queen inspires li'l queens everywhere, especially Black and Brown girls, to believe that when they fight for what they believe in, they can uplift a nation.

Recommended Age: 5 - 8 years 

Queen Amina of Zaria: Queens of Africa

In this story Wuraola, Nneka and Azeezah learn how sixteen year old Queen Amina protected her land from jealous neighbours by building walls around it and riding around them on her horse, called Demon, shooting the enemy with her bow and arrow. You can still see evidence of Amina's walls today if you look very carefully in the sand.

Recommended Age: All ages


Desmond Tutu of South Africa

Desmond and the Very Mean Word

Desmond and the Very Mean Word is based on a true story from Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s childhood in South Africa, Desmond and the Very Mean Wordreveals the power of words and the secret of forgiveness.

When Desmond takes his new bicycle out for a ride through his neighborhood, his pride and joy turn to hurt and anger when a group of boys shout a very mean word at him. He first responds by shouting an insult, but soon discovers that fighting back with mean words doesn’t make him feel any better. With the help of kindly Father Trevor, Desmond comes to understand his conflicted feelings and see that all people deserve compassion, whether or not they say they are sorry. Brought to vivid life in A. G. Ford’s energetic illustrations, this heartfelt, relatable story conveys timeless wisdom about how to handle bullying and angry feelings, while seeing the good in everyone.

 Recommended Age: 6 - 9 years


Idia of Nigeria

Idia of the Benin Kingdom 

Idia of the Benin Kingdom is an African folklore about Queen Idia of the ancient Kingdom of Benin. The young heroine sees her future in a dream and works her way to becoming one of the most loved, praised, and successful queens of the African Kingdom of Benin.

The book is beautifully illustrated to keep the kids engrossed. This story will teach your children about obedience, practicing one's art, and believing dreams can come true.

Recommended Ages: 4 - 12 years


Imhotep of Egypt

Imhotep of Ancient Kemet

Over 4,000 years ago, in ancient Egypt, a young boy named Imhotep was born.From a  young age, he excelled and quickly became known as a genius. 

Imhotep had the ability to see through difficult problems and was often trying new techniques and experiments. He had many talents, and as an architect, Imhotep designed the step pyramid at Sakkara—one of the most incredible structures in ancient history. The step pyramid still stands strong today. 

In the pages of this book, you'll discover the Egypt known to Imhotep, as he grows from a curious young man into one of the most successful, intelligent, and well-known men in ancient Egypt.

Recommended Age: 4 - 12 years


Kitami of Uganda


Queen Kitami Makes Friends

This book is about Queen Kitami, the playful leader of Mpororo. She’s faced with having to make new friends, a process which hasn’t been easy, but she has a plan! This is a fictional story based on a real-life warrior Queen Kitami-kya-Nyawera, leader of the Mpororo Kingdom, now part of modern-day Uganda, East Africa. 


Recommended Age: 3 - 8 years


Makeda of Ethiopia 

Makeda: The Queen of Sheba

Princess Makeda was born into a loving royal family but when her father, King Agabos, unexpectedly dies, the lives of Makeda and her mother, Queen Ismenie, are turned upside-down. Grief-stricken, yet angry for vengeance, Makeda must use her intelligence and resiliency to navigate a toxic, male-dominated hierarchy. With the odds stacked against her and her back against the wall, Makeda embarks on the deadliest mission of her life to restore honor and safety to the Kingdom of Sheba.

Recommended Age: 5 - 10 years


Mansa Musa of Mali

Mansa Musa

Mansa Musa is a biography of Mansa Musa reads like an exotic tale of gold, glory, and adventure. During his long reign as Mali's emperor, Mansa Musa led his empire into its Golden Age; presided over a spectacular, 60,000 person, 9,000 mile pilgrimage; founded a university in Timbuktu; and helped revolutionize architecture across the Sudan. 

This book is enhanced by a liberal sprinkling of enjoyable drawings, clear and helpful maps, and interesting photos. Not only are Mansa Musa's triumphs and dilemmas clearly portrayed, but so are the lives of the people of medieval Mali.

Recommended Ages: All Ages 

Mansa Musa Builds a School

Kids enjoy this fun and inspirational story based on Mansa Musa, the loved leader of the Mali Empire. A kind king who wants to help people but doesn’t know how to. That’s until a fruit-seller gives him a bright idea!

An important book for all children with a real-life leader for them to look up to! 

Recommended Ages: 3 - 8 years


Nelson Mandela of South Africa

Who Was Nelson Mandela?

Who Was Nelson Mandela? As a child he dreamt of changing South Africa; as a man he changed the world.  Nelson Mandela spent his life battling apartheid and championing a peaceful revolution.  He spent twenty-seven years in prison and emerged as the inspiring leader of the new South Africa.

He became the country’s first black president and went on to live his dream of change. 

Recommended Ages: 8 - 12 years 

The Extraordinary Life of Nelson Mandela 

The Extraordinary Life of Nelson Mandela focuses on his upbringing. He is known for dedicating his life to fighting for equality in South Africa and overthrowing racial segregation. He grew up hearing the elders' stories of his ancestors' fighting in the wars of resistance, and he dreamed of fighting for the freedom of his people.

His childhood wish was granted when he became the first black president of South Africa, and an icon for hope, change and equality.

Recommended Ages: 7 - 12 years 


Njinga of Angola

Njinga of Ndongo and Matamba

Njinga of Ndongo and Matamba is a great African folklore based on the story of Queen Njinga, a renowned African legend. Queen Anna Njinga (circa 1581-1663) of Angola bravely fought against slave trade and European influence in the seventeenth century.

The book teaches the historical truth behind Queen Njinga's story of bravery in a simple and relatable manner to today's kids.

Recommended Age: 4 - 12 years


Shaka Zulu of South Africa

Shaka Zulu: He Who United the Tribes

Shaka Zulu: He Who United the Tribes focuses on the legendary leader from South Africa. South Africa is known to have many tribes, and each has its own belief system. Shaka Zulu was a leader who united South African tribes. How did he do it?

Reading his life story will help young readers understand the traits of a true leader.

Recommended Age: 9 - 12 years  

Shaka Zulu Learns to Dance

Kids enjoy this fun and inspirational story based on Shaka Zulu, the strong leader of the Zulu Empire. A great king who wants to learn how to dance and embrace his unique style. 

An important book for all children with a real-life leader for them to look up to! 

Recommended Age: 3 - 8 years  


Sunjata of Mali

Sunjata of the Mande Empire

Sunjata of the Mande Empire - It had been foretold that Sunjata would become king. However, many doubted he had the skills to fulfill the prophecy.

This story is an adaptation of an epic poem that has been told by jali poets since the 13th century. It tells of a young boy overcoming self-doubt and becoming the founder of the Mandé Empire, one of the richest empires in African and Malian history.

Sunjata's story is one of perseverance, resilience, and a commitment to the rights of people.

Recommended Age: 4 - 12 years 


Tut of Egypt

Who Was King Tut?

Who Was King Tut? The young pharaoh has become a symbol of the wealth and mystery of ancient Egypt. Now, a two-and-a-half-year-long museum exhibit of Tut’s treasures is touring major cities in the U.S., drawing record crowds.

This book explains the life and times of this ancient Egyptian ruler, covering the story of the tomb’s discovery, as well as myths and so-called mummy curses

Recommended Ages: 7 - 10 years


Wangari Maathai of Kenya


Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya

Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya through artful prose and beautiful illustrations, tells the true story of Wangari Muta Maathai, known as “Mama Miti,” who in 1977 founded the Green Belt Movement, an African grassroots organization that has empowered many people to mobilize and combat deforestation, soil erosion, and environmental degradation.

Today, more than 30 million trees have been planted throughout Mama Miti’s native Kenya, and in 2004 she became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Wangari Muta Maathai has changed Kenya tree by tree—and with each page turned, children will realize their own ability to positively impact the future.

Recommended Age: 4 - 8 years

Wangari's Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa

Wangari's Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa as a young girl growing up in Kenya, Wangari was surrounded by trees. But years later when she returns home, she is shocked to see whole forests being cut down, and she knows that soon all the trees will be destroyed.

So Wangari decides to do something—and starts by planting nine seedlings in her own backyard. And as they grow, so do her plans. 

Recommended Age: 4 - 7 years


Yaa Asantewaa of Ghana

Queen Yaa Saves the Golden Stool

Kids enjoy this fun and inspirational story based on Queen Yaa Asantewaa, the responsible leader of the Ashanti Kingdom. A brave queen who goes the extra mile to protect her people and culture. 

Recommended Age: 3 - 8 years


In conclusion, the legends of African history serve as a reminder of the strength, resilience, and contributions of African people throughout the centuries. Through their biographies, we can learn about the challenges and triumphs that shaped the continent and gain insight into the lives of the individuals who helped shape it. By exploring the lives of these legends, we can also gain a deeper appreciation for the rich cultural heritage of Africa, and pass this knowledge on to future generations. The biographies in this blog are just a small sampling of the many fascinating stories and legends that are part of African history. We hope that you have enjoyed learning about these remarkable individuals and that you will be inspired to seek out more information and stories about African legends.

If you enjoyed this blog post, be sure to check out our other blog posts on children's books on African history and culture, children's books written by African authors, and pictures books from all over Africa.

African History Workbook


Idia of the Benin Kingdom


Imhotep of Ancient Kemet


Njinga of Ndongo and Matamba


Our Ancestories - Edo Culture - Free Worksheet


Sunjata of the Mande Empire


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