Skip to main content

Tonya Bolden

Children's Author

Tonya Bolden is a researcher, writer, editor, and publisher, with a deep passion for history and historymakers. Bolden has written more than 20 books for children and young adults, including biographies of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and George Washington Carver, Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl (winner of a Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award), and How to Build a Museum — the story behind the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Bolden’s thorough research enriches all of her books. She transforms facts into compelling stories that inspire and challenge her readers to learn more. As a child, Bolden thought that one day she would be a teacher, and now she is — teaching young people through her many books.


Author and publisher Tonya Bolden was born in 1959 in New York City to Georgia Bolden, a homemaker, and Willie Bolden, a garment center shipping manager. She grew up in Harlem in a musical family and always loved to read.

“I loved the journeys they allowed, what they taught me about the world, how they gave my imagination a workout. The physicality of the book, I loved that too.”

Bolden graduated from Princeton University in 1981, with a B.A. degree in Slavic languages and literature with a Russian focus. She was named a University Scholar and received the Nicholas Bachko, Jr. Scholarship Prize. In 1985, Bolden earned a Master’s degree in Slavic languages and literature, as well as a Certificate for Advanced Study of the Soviet Union from the Harriman Institute.

After graduating, Bolden worked for Raoulfilm, assisting in the research and development of various film and literary products. She also worked as an English instructor at Malcolm-King College and New Rochelle School of New Resources.

In 1990, Bolden wrote her first book, The Family Heirloom Cookbook. In 1992, Bolden co-authored a children’s book entitled Mama, I Want to Sing with author, playwright, radio and TV personality Vy Higginsen, based on Higginsen’s musical.

Bolden became editor of the Quarterly Black Review of Books in 1994, and served as an editor for 33 Things Every Girl Should Know, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. During the 1990s, Bolden was very prolific. A partial list of titles includes: The Book of African-American Women: 150 Crusaders, Creators, and Uplifters; And Not Afraid to Dare: The Stories of Ten African-American Women; American Patriots: The Story of Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm; Our Souls: A Celebration of Black American Artists; Maritcha: A Nineteenth Century American Girl; MLK: Journey of a King; Take-Off: American All-Girl Bands During World War II; and George Washington Carver, a book she authored in conjunction with an exhibit about the famous African American inventor created by The Field Museum in Chicago.

“I hope my readers leave my books with a greater love for reading and knowledge-seeking, and also as stronger thinkers, with a more vigorous curiosity.”

To learn more, visit the official Tonya Bolden website.

Books by this author

Find this author’s books on these booklists