Andrea Davis Pinkney Biography


by Wendy Bell


“Black empowerment” was more than a slogan in our home. It was a deeply held belief that my parents, through their example instilled in their three children. To brand myself a product of the civil rights movement is no overstatement.

–Let it Shine: Black Women Freedom Fighters



Born September 25th, 1963 in Washington, D.C.

Grew up in Connecticut.

Child of the civil rights era/both parents actively involved in the social movement.

Remembers that she wrote her first official story in second grade.


Hobbies: Singing and dancing.

Lives in Brooklyn New York with her husband and two children.

Husband, Caledcott Award-Winning illustrator Brian Pinkney.

“She met her husband, Brian Pinkney, when she was working one of her first editing jobs after finishing her degree in journalism at Syracuse. The two went on to collaborate on many fine books. Their love for their family and music combined to produce the series, Family Celebration Board Books. Shake Shake Shake, Watch Me Dance, I Smell Honey, and Pretty Brown Face are perfect for toddlers.”



Went to Syracuse University in the 80’s with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism.


Editor at Scholastic, Inc., New York, NY; Essence Magazine, New York, NY, senior editor; Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, New York, NY, children’s book editor; Hyperion Books for Children, New York, NY, senior editor and head of Jump at the Sun imprint, 1997-99, executive editor, 1999-2002; Houghton Mifflin, New York, NY, vice president and publisher of juvenile division, 2002; Scholastic in 2005.

“For her first job she worked as editor of a home-decorating magazine. From there she moved to Essence, a publication geared toward African-American women, where Pinkney headed the modern living section and wrote feature articles on family life, travel, and history. A move to book publishing found Pinkney working first at Simon & Schuster and Scholastic before signing on with Hyperion Books for Children. At Hyperion, Pinkney promoted the works of African-American authors, gaining praise within the publishing industry and providing young black readers with books that promote and extol the many positive aspects of their heritage.”


“Pinkney is widely known for her biographies about extraordinary African Americans. Her first published book, Alvin Ailey, outlines the life of the dancer and choreographer who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, an internationally renowned dance troupe. Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra, winner of the Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Awards, is about the life of the famous jazz musician.

In Dear Benjamin Banneker, Pinkney describes the accomplishments of Banneker, a self-taught African-American scientist and mathematician. Pinkney is very detailed when she is researching her subject matter. Many trips to the library, museums, and interviews with the person (if he or she is still alive), close family members, or friends help her paint the most realistic picture of a person’s life. For the book Alvin Ailey, she interviewed Alvin Ailey’s mother and many of his childhood friends. She traveled to West Africa to research her book Seven Candles for Kwanzaa. And during a trip to the Benjamin Banneker Museum in Oella, Maryland, she ran into a descendent of Banneker and was able to interview her for the book Dear Benjamin Banneker.

Some of her other books for middle-school readers include Abraham Lincoln: Letters From a Slave Girl; Silent Thunder: A Civil War Story; and Solo Girl. She’s also written books for young adults, Hold Fast to Dreams and Raven in a Dove House – which are both based on her own personal experiences.

Most recently Pinkney won the Carter G. Woodson Award for her book Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters. This award was established by the National Council for the Social Studies and is given to the most distinguished social science books appropriate for young readers that depict ethnicity in the United States. Her many awards attest to Pinkney’s dedication to her profession. It is obvious that she adores being an author and confirmed her devotion during a recent interview when she said: ‘It’s so much fun! I can’t believe people call it work. . . . I write every single day because I love it so much.’


Best Arts Feature award, Highlights for Children Foundation, 1992; Parenting Publication award, 1993; Pick of the List designation, American Booksellers, 1993, for Seven Candles for Kwanzaa; Notable Children’s Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, National Council for the Social Studies/Children’s Book Council, 1994, for Dear Benjamin Banneker; Notable Book citations, Society of School Librarians International, and American Library Association, both 1996, both for Bill Picket: Rodeo Ridin’ Cowboy; Coretta Scott King award, 1999, and Caldecott Honor citation, both for Duke Ellington.



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