Frederick L. McKissack was born on August 12, 1939, in Nashville, Tennessee. He received a degree in civil engineering from Tennessee State University. He was a civil engineer and a construction worker before he and his wife decided to become full-time writers. Since the 1980's, he and his wife Patricia C. McKissack have written over 100 books together. Most of their titles are biographies with a strong focus on African-American themes for young readers. Their early 1990s biography series, Great African Americans, included volumes on Frederick Douglass, Marian Anderson, and Paul Robeson. Over their 30 years of writing together, the couple won many awards including the C.S. Lewis Silver Medal, the Coretta Scott King Award for Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters, the Jane Addams Peace Award, and the 1998 Virginia Hamilton Award for making a contribution to the field of multicultural literature for children and adolescents, as well as the NAACP Image Award for Sojourner Truth: Ain't I a Woman?. He died of congestive heart failure on April 28, 2013 at the age of 73.