Known best for her contributions to the Dear America historical fiction series, she also penned an installment of Scholastic Press's Royal Diaries series. Between 1990 and 1995, she received three Coretta Scott King Awards and was a finalist for the prestigious Newbery Medal.
After attending Tennessee State University, she briefly worked as a high school teacher and went on to publish a 1984 biography of her favorite poet, Paul Lawrence Dunbar.
She penned several personal childhood memoirs, including The Dark Thirty and Someplace Special.
Her husband, United States Marine-turned-U.S. Army engineer Frederick McKissack, collaborated with her on a youth-geared series of biographies of prominent African-Americans.
In 2002, she published a biography of acclaimed Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes.