The helplessness and friendships of childhood are topics that many writers have tackled. Fewer have written about African-American girlhood, as Woodson does here. The book centers on August, the intelligent young girl who leaves the lush south for the vibrant and dangerous streets of Bushwick, Brooklyn.
“For a long time my mother wasn’t dead yet.” This sentence opens the novel, which doesn’t proceed chronologically, but follows an inner lyric pulse. Throughout, the whereabouts of August’s missing mother haunt the story.
August’s family lived in Tennessee on a farm called SweetGrove land. It was inherited from her grandparents. After their uncle, Clyde, a Vietnam soldier dies, her mother begins to unravel. Soon, her father rushes north with August and her little brother to Brooklyn, his home town.
It’s summer--so for safety, August’s father locks her and her little brother, who is only five, inside their third-story apartment. They spend long summer days watching children play on the street: double-Dutch, stick ball games and splashing under open fire hydrants. A colorful parade of adults wearing dashikis and other colorful outfits weave past. Read more about Another Brooklyn
For a powerful and poetic glimpse into the life of a real-life American civil rights hero, look no further than Voice of Freedom, a 2016 Caldecott Honor book written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated in beautiful collages by Ekua Holmes. Each haunting poem includes Fannie Lou Hamer's own words, and each tells of a formative experience in her eventful life. She was at the forefront of many important events in civil rights history, and sadly, like many black citizens of the U.S. both past and present, experienced brutality at the hands of cruel white people so severe that she was left with permanent injuries. Her ability to rise above incredible injustices and to be a leader for her people was second to none. Highly recommended for grades 4 and up.
Since 1976, four hundred and ninety four blacks have been executed in our country. This is more than half the amount of executions of whites, although Caucasians make up a much greater percentage of our population.
This powerful short novel tells the story of Jefferson, a young black man, who was sentenced to execution in the Jim Crow days of the 1940s in Cajun Louisiana. Grant Wiggins, one of the few college-educated blacks in the area, narrates the story.
It opens with a liquor store robbery where Jefferson unfortunately happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Soon an all-white jury convicts the young man, and he is sentenced to the electric chair. Attending the trial are his godmother, Miss Emma, who raised him, and Tante Louise, who brought up Grant and with whom he still lives. Read more about A Lesson Before Dying
Civil War Colonel Robert Gould Shaw of the Union Army is not a man most of us would think of as having an important role in the history of African Americans in the United States, but he did. Col. Shaw was chosen to lead the Massachusetts 54th Regiment of the Union Army. With the exception of himself and his second in command this regiment was made up entirely of African Americans and was one of the first to actually be allowed to carry arms into battle. Read more about Glory
Although migration is obviously a hot topic in the news these days, this beautiful MoMA art book is about an earlier internal movement that began during World War 1 when many blacks left the south for the industrial north of our country to find work and better living conditions. In the end, over six decades, more than six million African Americans left the South for northern cities and towns.
When he was only twenty-one years old, Jacob Lawrence completed a series of striking tempera paintings. Lawrence himself knew many of these migrants, having moved to Harlem with his parents when he was a young teenager from Atlantic City, New Jersey.
In a radio broadcast this year, President Obama said this about racism in America. “We are not cured… Societies don't overnight completely erase everything that happened 200-300 years prior.” That’s the premise of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ new nonfiction book, a moving personal letter to his son.
Coates begins by sharing his own difficult childhood on the streets of Baltimore where his only goal was to survive. He describes learning another language “of head nods and handshakes.” He learned “a list of prohibited blocks” and even learned the “smell and feel of fighting weather.”