Fredrick L. McKissack, who quit a career in construction to join his wife in writing more than 100 children's books about African-American history, a piece of which his family owned as distinguished builders and architects, died on April 28 in Chesterfield, Mo., a St. Louis suburb. He was 73.
The cause was congestive heart failure, his wife, Patricia C. McKissack, said.
The couple were a prolific, versatile and award-winning team. Mr. McKissack, who was trained as a civil engineer, did most of the research while his wife, a former teacher and editor of religious books, did most of the writing.
They began their collaboration in the early 1980s, frustrated in their own careers and hoping to make black children more aware of their history and culture.
"In those days there were so few books for and about the African-American child," Frederick McKissack said in 2006 in a joint interview with his wife. "Black kids needed to see themselves in books."
The McKissacks wrote biographies of W.E.B. Du Bois, Harriet Tubman and the black cowboy Nat Love. They wrote histories of the Pullman train porters, Negro leagues baseball and the civil rights movement. They examined the Underground Railroad, the role of black sailors in the 19th-century whaling industry and the Great Migration of blacks from the South.
Most of their books were published by Scholastic, and although Frederick McKissack was not always listed as an author, the couple always said that they were a team and accepted numerous awards jointly, including the Regina Medal from the Catholic Library Association. (Patricia McKissack has written many award-winning works of fiction for children under her own name, including "The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural.")
Among the couple's better-known titles are "Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters," which won the Coretta Scott King Author Award in 1995; "Sojourner Truth: Ain't I a Woman?"; "Black Hands, White Sails: The Story of African-American Whalers"; and "Days of Jubilee: The End of Slavery in the United States."
Fredrick Lemuel McKissack was born on Aug. 12, 1939, in Nashville, Tenn.
His father, Lewis, and his grandfather, Moses III, were both architects. A great-great-grandfather was a member of the Ashanti tribe of West Africa who was brought to North Carolina as a slave, took the name Moses McKissack and became a master builder early in the 19th century.
Moses III and his brother Calvin formed McKissack & McKissack, widely regarded as the oldest black-owned architectural and construction firm in the United States. The firm's New York office is involved in the Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, the transportation hub at the World Trade Center site and the expansion of Columbia University.
Fredrick McKissack joined the Marines after high school, then returned and graduated with a degree in civil engineering from Tennessee State University, where he participated in lunch-counter sit-ins to protest segregation.
He moved to St. Louis after receiving a job with the Army Corps of Engineers and later started his own construction company there. He lived in Chesterfield.