The Fierce 44: Black Americans Who Shook Up the World

Book review by
Barbara Saunders, Common Sense Media
The Fierce 44: Black Americans Who Shook Up the World Book Poster Image
Inspiring profiles of black Americans in history and today.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

This collection of one-page biographies teaches readers about the lives and times of influential African Americans.

Positive Messages

Be faithful and determined. It gets better.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The black Americans selected for this collection include artists, politicians, athletes, entrepreneurs, and more. Men and women are evenly represented. LGBTQ people are also well represented. 


Death by assassination is mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Death by overdose is mentioned.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Fierce 44: Black Americans Who Shook Up the World, by the staff of the ESPN website The Undefeated, is a collection of short essays profiling 44 prominent African Americans of our day and though history, both famous and less well known. The number was chosen in honor of Barack Obama, the 44th U.S. president and the first African American to hold the office. The biographies are uplifting and help readers understand the time when each person made their mark and the context for the achievements. Each biography is accompanied by a color illustration by Robert Ball. Where the cause of death was drug overdose or assassination, that's mentioned. is a website owned by ESPN that's focused on the intersection of sports, race, and culture.

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What's the story?

Written in honor of Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States and first black president, THE FIERCE 44 profiles 44 African Americans who made a difference. Some are well-known historical figures (Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman), some are famous contemporary leaders and stars (Aretha Franklin, Barrack Obama, Serena Williams), and some may be unfamiliar to most, such as Robert Abbott, a lawyer, editor and publisher who founded The Chicago Defender newspaper in 1905, and Dr. Charles Drew, a surgeon and medical researcher who developed large-scale blood banks in the early part of World War II. Each biography is accompanied by an illustrated portrait and a statement about why the person was chosen.

Is it any good?

This is a fun and encouraging book, great for book reports. The staff of the Undefeated provide concise biographies of The Fierce 44 that deliver rich information about both the person and what needed shaking up in their world. Robert Ball's warm illustrations add to the appeal. Even reluctant readers may enjoy this book enough to read all the way through. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the people profiled in The Fierce 44: Black Americans Who Shook Up the World. What other prominent people would you add to your own list of important black Americans. 

  • Which of the fierce 44 individuals you read about here inspire you most, and why?

  • What does it mean to shake up the world? 

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love stories of civil rights

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