Browse Tag

literature

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Inauguration Poet Amanda Gorman Partners With Estée Lauder on a New Literacy Initiative

Amanda Gorman, activist, award-winning writer, and the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history has partnered with Estée Lauder to acknowledge and celebrate a new generation of leaders inspiring change.

As part of this partnership, The Estée Lauder Companies will contribute $3M over three years to support “Writing Change”, a special initiative to advance literacy as a pathway to equality, access, and social change.

amanda gorman
Amanda Gorman via Estée Lauder

In addition, Amanda will bring her voice of change to the Estée Lauder brand through campaigns debuting in Spring 2022.

“I am honored to partner with The Estée Lauder Companies to activate change through literacy, and to represent a brand founded by such an inspiring and daring woman,” said Amanda Gorman. “I am delighted that our partnership will help inspire women, girls, and all people around the world to do great things, to disrupt, to be confident, and to be future leaders in whatever path they take.”

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Why Octavia Butler’s Novels Are So Relevant Today

It’s campaign season in the US, and a charismatic dark horse is running with the slogan ‘make America great again’. According to his opponent, he’s a demagogue; a rabble-rouser; a hypocrite. When his supporters form mobs and burn people to death, he condemns their violence “in such mild language that his people are free to hear what they want to hear”.

He accuses, without grounds, whole groups of people of being rapists and drug dealers. How much of this rhetoric he actually believes and how much he spouts “just because he knows the value of dividing in order to conquer and to rule” is at once debatable, and increasingly beside the point, as he strives to return the country to a “simpler” bygone era that never actually existed.

octavia butler
Art by Makeba Rainey (@justkeebs)

You might think he sounds familiar – but the character in question is Texas Senator Andrew Steele Jarret, the fictional presidential candidate who storms to victory in a dystopian science-fiction novel titled Parable of the Talents. Written by Octavia E Butler, it was published in 1998, two decades before the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States.

Like much of her writing, Butler’s book was a warning about where the US and humanity in general might be heading. In some respects, we’ve beaten her to it: a sequel to 1993’s Parable of the Sower, Parable of the Talents is set in what is still the future, 2032. While its vision is extreme, there is plenty that feels within the bounds of possibility: resources are increasingly scarce, the planet is boiling, religious fundamentalism is rife, the middle classes live in walled-off enclaves. The novel’s protagonist, a black woman like the author herself, fears that Jarret’s authoritarianism will only worsen matters.
octavia butler

Fourteen years after her early death, Butler’s reputation is soaring. Her predictions about the direction that US politics would take, and the slogan that would help speed it there, are certainly uncanny. But that wasn’t all she foresaw. She challenged traditional gender identity, telling a story about a pregnant man in Bloodchild and envisaging shape-shifting, sex-changing characters in Wild Seed. Her interest in hybridity and the adaptation of the human race, which she explored in her Xenogenesis trilogy, anticipated non-fiction works by the likes of Yuval Noah Harari. Concerns about topics including climate change and the pharmaceutical industry resonate even more powerfully now than when she wove them into her work.

octavia butler

And of course, by virtue of her gender and ethnicity, she was striving to smash genre assumptions about writers – and readers – so ingrained that in 1987, her publisher still insisted on putting two white women on the jacket of her novel Dawn, whose main character is black. She also helped reshape fantasy and sci-fi, bringing to them naturalism as well as characters like herself. And when she won the prestigious MacArthur ‘genius’ grant in 1995, it was a first for any science-fiction writer.

Octavia Estelle Butler was born on 22 June 1947. Her father, a shoeshiner, died when she was very young, and she was raised by her mother, a maid, in Pasadena, California. As an only child, Butler began entertaining herself by telling stories when she was just four. Later, tall for her age and painfully shy, growing up in an era of segregation and conformity, that same storytelling urge became an escape route. She read, too, hungrily and in spite of her dyslexia. Her mother – who herself had been allowed only a scant few years of schooling – took her to get a library card, and would bring back cast-off books from the homes she cleaned.

An alternate future

Through fiction, Butler learnt to imagine an alternate future to the drab-seeming life that was envisioned for her: wife, mother, secretary. “I fantasised living impossible, but interesting lives – magical lives in which I could fly like Superman, communicate with animals, control people’s minds”, she wrote in 1999. She was 12 when she discovered science fiction, the genre that would draw her most powerfully as a writer. “It appealed to me more, even, than fantasy because it required more thought, more research into things that fascinated me,” she explained. Even as a young girl, those sources of fascination ranged from botany and palaeontology to astronomy. She wasn’t a particularly good student, she said, but she was “an avid one”.

After high school, Butler went on to graduate from Pasadena City College with an Associates of Arts degree in 1968. Throughout the 1970s, she honed her craft as a writer, finding, through a class with the Screen Writers’ Guild Open Door Program, a mentor in sci-fi veteran Harlan Ellison, and then selling her first story while attending the Clarion Science Fiction Writer’s Workshop. Supporting herself variously as a dishwasher, telemarketer and inspector at a crisp factory, she would wake at 2am to write. After five years of rejection slips, she sold her first novel, Patternmasterin 1975, and when it was published the following year, critics praised its well-built plot and refreshingly progressive heroine. It imagines a distant future in which humanity has evolved into three distinct genetic groups, the dominant one telepathic, and introduces themes of hierarchy and community that would come to define her work. It also spawned a series, with two more books, Mind of My Mind and Survivor, following before the decade’s end.

With the $1,750 advance that Survivor earnt her, Butler took a trip east to Maryland, the setting for a novel she wanted to write about a young black woman who travels back in time to the Deep South of 19th-Century America. Having lived her entire life on the West Coast, she travelled by cross-country bus, and it was during a three-hour wait at a bus station that she wrote the first and last chapters of what would become Kindred. It was published in 1979 and remains her best-known book.

The 1980s would bring a string of awards, including two Hugos, the science-fiction awards first established in 1953. They also saw the publication of her Xenogenesis trilogy, which was spurred by talk of ‘winnable nuclear war’ during the arms race, and probes the idea that humanity’s hierarchical nature is a fatal flaw.The books also respond to debates about human genetic engineering and captive breeding programs for endangered species.

 

Read the rest at BBC Culture

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10 Toni Morrison Quotes That Show Why She Was A Literary Genius

Toni Morrison, the literary GIANT, who manipulated the English language to illustrate and punctuate our humanity as Black people, children of the Sun, has joined our ancestors.

She was a force to reckon with on this side, she will be indomitable in the other. Thank you for Sula, for Milkman, for Pecola, for Baby Suggs, for Beloved. May we never let your work be in vain. Walk in light.

Here are just a few of our favorite Toni Morrison quotes:

Toni Morrison Quotes

“If there is a book that you want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.”

“Now he knew why he loved her so. Without ever leaving the ground, she could fly.”

“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”

Credit: Jack Mitchell/Getty Images

“All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.”

“Love is or it ain’t. Thin love ain’t love at all.”

toni morrison quotes
Credit: The Guardian

“The function of freedom is to free someone else.”

“I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.’”

toni morrison quotes
Credit: Glamour

“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”

“Perhaps that’s what all human relationships boil down to: Would you save my life? or would you take it?”

“if you can only be tall because somebody’s on their knees, you have a serious problem.”

Photo illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker. Photo by Bettman/Corbis

 

 

-Tony O. Lawson (IG @thebusyafrican)

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(Re)presenting the Color Line as Told By Du Bois’s Data Portraits

Much has been written on W. E. B. Du Bois and the 1900 Paris Exposition, much of it repetitive, lacking new or innovative considerations of what can be explored and how to critically engage further the work of Du Bois and his team.

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W. E. B. Du Bois on an identification card for the 1900 Exposition Universelle (via Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries)

The editors – Whitney Battle-Baptiste and Britt Rusert, both scholars at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst – of this present volume W. E. B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America, The Color Line at the Turn of the Twentieth Century – on the 150th anniversary year of the scholar’s birth – collects and publishes in a single volume, Du Bois’s attempt at voicing the progress and conditions blacks in the United States at the turn of the century through the charts and graphs of the American Negro Exhibit.

“Assessed value of household and kitchen furniture owned by Georgia Negroes,” from W. E. B. Du Bois’s ‘The Georgia Negro: A Study’ (1900) (via Library of Congress)

They give renewed attention to the possible impacts this (re)production might have on knowledge production and transformation in social science discourse. As they note in the introduction, “this is the first time that the data visualizations are collected together in book form and reproduced in full color” (p. 12). Thus, the volume is an offering and a celebration of the work to remind us of the continued necessity to give voice to the progress and struggle for place in the larger narrative of world history.

“City and rural population. 1890,” from W. E. B. Du Bois’s ‘The Georgia Negro: A Study’ (1900) (via Library of Congress)

 

Before we are allowed to encounter or examine the infographics, there are two short essays by Aldon Morris, the Leon Forrest Professor of Sociology and African American Studies at Northwestern University, and Mabel O. Wilson, Professor of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and Senior Fellow in the Institute for Research and African American Studies at Columbia University, offering, in part, a history of the 1900 exposition in Paris.

However, considerable departures suggesting other motives, strategies and techniques Du Bois used to complete the exhibit and engage his audience. Moreover, the essays speak to the meaning of his work to the academy and the culture.

Morris suggests that Du Bois’s innovations might inspire an upscaling of research and theorization in contemporary visual sociology, as Wilson focuses primarily on the history and geographic thinking that Du Bois and his team dared to proffer about African Americans on the world stage.

As Morris writes, “The exhibit violated white thoughts about black people, especially Americans only three decades removed from slavery” (p. 24).

Diagram of routes of the African slave trade with the state of Georgia starred, from W. E. B. Du Bois’s ‘The Georgia Negro: A Study’ (1900) (via Library of Congress)

The display in and of itself was a challenge to white supremacy and calls for continued growth and uplift of African people. Wilson discusses Du Bois’s use cartography (“Western methods”) as a way of “inscribing the black world back into history and geography.” The display of the infographics in such a manner, tackling such subjects with such a radicalized visual voice, is consequential of Du Bois having been among the top social scientists of the day, as Morris asserts.

“Occupations of negroes and whites in Georgia,” from W. E. B. Du Bois’s ‘The Georgia Negro: A Study’ (1900) (via Library of Congress)

The essays sufficiently guide, or better, give us a proper footing with which to examine the diagrams and charts introduced by Silas Munro, Assistant Professor at the Otis College of Art and Design. Munro, as did Morris and Wilson, discusses Du Bois’s innovations with using the “visual form to make arguments for the equality and sophistication of black Americans living under Jim Crow and the shadow of enslavement” (p. 46), and his place in the overall history of data visualization techniques.

It is noted that although the exhibit was award winning, it was not successful in impacting the audience in attendance, given the lack of discussion of the African American exhibit in the newspapers, at home and abroad.

“The rise of the negroes from slavery to freedom in one generation,” from W. E. B. Du Bois’s ‘The Georgia Negro: A Study’ (1900) (via Library of Congress)

However, we find here in Munro’s introduction that Du Bois and his students’ graphics might have influenced the rise of artistic movements and the use of data visualizations in Europe and Russia. Munro noted, “The colors, shapes, and typography of the charts also foreshadow critical developments in the history of data visualization, including simplified pictographic form defined in the Isotype picture language, minimal typographic palettes used by the International Typographic Style, and visual narratives in chart form explained in the research of Edward Tufte” (p. 47 & 49).

A series of statistical charts illustrating the condition of the descendants of former African slaves now in residence in the United States of America. Drawing, ca. 1900.

As such, the (re)presentation of the The Georgia Negro: A Social Study by W. E. B. Du Bois follows with a descriptive blurb for each graphic also by Munro. Munro’s descriptions are sufficient; however, of those that he cannot describe and struggle to find meaning is more indicative of the need for a return to Du Bois’s infographics. Inquiries are needed to decipher, explain, and, perhaps, replicate these findings in scientific investigations.

“Slaves and free negroes,” graphed between 1790 and 1870, from W. E. B. Du Bois’s ‘The Georgia Negro: A Study’ (1900) (via Library of Congress)

Battle-Baptiste and Rusert conclude their introductory chapter discussing the intellectual impacts of the graphics used for the American Negro exhibit, writing “While we can’t know what future plans Du Bois had for the infographics, we do know that they might take on a new life today, from inspiring forms of design and art-making connected to social justice work to their traction within digital projects and other initiatives that are, like Du Bois and his collaborators, envisioning how data might be re-imagined as a form of accountability and even protest in the age of Black Lives Matter” (p. 22).

Then, this offering of the data portraits at this time is a call to contemporary scholars in the academy to study and engage Du Bois’s methods deeply for improved analyses, meaning making, and social action toward the improvement of the lives of people of African descent as Du Bois intended.

 

Contributed by Weckea Dejura Lilly

Mr. Lilly is a Research Archivist at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. In his free time, he experiments with writing short stories and (auto)biographical essays.

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The Brownies’ Book is a Black Children’s Magazine from almost 100 years ago

Every revolutionary magazine needs a striking cover, and in January 1920, one appeared. It was a photograph of an African-American girl donning a fairy costume and crown. The title page of that issue contained an even bolder statement: “This is The Brownies’ Book,” it proclaimed in large font, “A Monthly Magazine For the Children of the Sun. Designed for All Children, But Especially For Ours.”

When The Brownies’ Book first hit presses in 1920, stories for or about Black children were largely missing from the landscape of children’s literature. And what did exist, from The Story of Little Black Sambo to poems like Ten Little Niggers that could be found in popular children’s magazines like St. Nicholas, was riddled with grotesque caricatures and stereotypes. As the creators of The Brownies’ Book, including the scholar and visionary W.E.B. Du Bois, put it: “All of the Negro child’s idealism, all his sense of the good, the great and the beautiful is associated with White people … He unconsciously gets the impression that the Negro has little chance to be great, heroic or beautiful.”

The Brownies’ Book, which cost 15 cents per copy, set out to do just that: to give the “Children of the Sun” the chance to see positive, heroic and beautiful impressions of themselves — and to help build up an armor of pride to protect them from the racism they were sure to encounter in their lives. And in doing that, the magazine not only helped alter the perspectives of its young readers but also lay the foundation for a century of Black children’s literature to follow.

Du Bois and author Jessie Redmon Fauset, who served as the magazine’s literary editor, were the driving forces behind the project, which was a spinoff of The Crisis, the official magazine of the NAACP. They wanted to promote self-esteem, racial identity and leadership skills in Black children. It was part of the broader flowering of the Harlem RenaissanceBlack culture and DuBois’ own efforts to cultivate the “Talented Tenth” — those who he felt were destined to be exceptional leaders — in the African-American community.

The magazine featured stories, fairy tales, poems, games, songs, African folktales, and illustrated images of all types of Black girls and boys. It featured letters from the young readers themselves and a section entitled “As the Crow Flies,” which reported significant news and events from all over the world. The features were both entertaining and instructive. In “Dolly’s Dream,” for example, a 6-year-old girl wishes to have blonde curls just like her favorite doll, and she is given them by a fairy godmother in a dream, only to realize that nobody recognizes her as a result. When she awakens, she is happy to discover that she still has her black curls.

The Brownies’ Book also provided a forum for showcasing the art of aspiring Black writers and illustrators, including works from a 19-year-old Langston Hughes. Message books that are not also good literature do not work nearly as well, argues Dianne Johnson-Feelings, a professor of African-American literature at the University of South Carolina and editor of The Best of The Brownies’ Book. “It did start focusing people at creating literature aimed primarily at a Black audience,” says Johnson-Feelings, “but it was not only for Black readers. Good literature is for everybody.”

The Brownies’ Book

The Brownies’ Book ran from just January 1920 to December 1921 before encountering financial difficulties and ceasing to publish, but it helped foster a much longer lasting sense of pride and self-identity in its young readers and played a key part in sparking the development of African-American children’s literature. Du Bois claimed in his autobiography that The Brownies’ Book was one of the most satisfying efforts of his life.

The magazine was in many ways ahead of its time — and even our own, in which stories for Black children and by Black authors and illustrators continue to be underrepresented in children’s literature. But it was nonetheless an important and impactful effort. “If you wait until you think society is ready, then strides would never be taken,” says Johnson-Feelings. “If you wait for everyone’s hearts to change, then nothing ever changes on a big scale. So big thinkers do their thing and hope that everyone else catches up.”

 

Source: OZY

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28 Black Owned Bookstores You Should Know

The number of Black owned bookstores has declined significantly since 1999. That year, there were reportedly more than 325. But, by 2012 had dropped to about 50.  In 2017, the number rose to about 70. We’d like to acknowledge some of the stores that are still going strong.

Black Owned Bookstores

Hakim’s Bookstore (Philadelphia, PA)

Everyone’s Place (Baltimore, MD)

Eso Won (Los Angeles, CA)

Mahogany Books (Washington, DC)

mahogany books

Sankofa (Washington, DC)

Pyramid Art, Books and Custom Framing (Little Rock, AR)

Dare Books (Longwood, FL)

Pyramid Books  (Boynton Beach, FL)

Nubian Bookstore ( Morrow, GA)

Source Booksellers (Detroit, MI)

source booksellers

Nandi’s Knowledge Cafe’ (Highland Park, MI)

Eyeseeme (University City, MO)

eyeseemee

La Unique African American Books & Cultural Center(Camden, NJ)

The Community Book Center (New Orleans, LA)

Cafe con Libros (Brooklyn, NY)

cafe con libros
sisters uptown bookstore

Sisters Uptown Bookstore (New York, NY)

Grandma’s Place (Harlem, NY)

Black Art Plus (Columbus, OH)

Black and Nobel (Philadelphia, PA)

black and nobel

Uncle Bobbies Coffee & Books (Philadelphia, PA)

black owned bookstores
uncle bobbies

Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse (Philadelphia, PA)

black owned bookstores
amalgam comics

Color Book Gallery (Philadelphia, PA)

The Pan African Connection (Dallas, TX)

The Dock Bookshop (Fort Worth, TX)

Black W0rld Books (Kileen, TX)

Harambee Books and Artworks (Alexandria, VA)

 


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This Black Owned Bookstore is Tapping Into An Unmet Need

EyeSeeMe is a Black owned bookstore that specializes in promoting positive African American Images, Academic Excellence, and Cultural Pride.

At this University City, MO based bookstore, young people of color can crack open a book and see themselves as doctors, superheroes, historical figures and even princesses.

Jeffrey and Pamela Blair are the co-owners. Jeffrey said he knew there was a need for the store long before they opened their doors in 2015.

Black owned bookstore
Pamela and Jeffrey Blair, co-owners of EyeSeeMe African American Children’s Bookstore

As they were homeschooling their children, Jeffrey said it was a challenge to find books and educational resources that were reflective of their children and their own experiences.

“It was really difficult to find materials that had positive black images,” Jeffrey Blair said. “And that’s whether you’re talking about history, whether you’re talking about science, you’re talking Bible, or any topic that we would get into.”

So the Blairs decided to create their own. Pamela wrote a couple biblical books, and Jeffrey created a historical timeline game. Jeffrey said not long after, they noticed a difference in their kids and how they were learning.

“That foundation we saw actually translated into giving them a real positive self-esteem, a clarity about a lot of even current events that are taking place, and a real excitement about learning,” Jeffrey said. “And to translate that into them doing very well in school. Eventually they transferred from homeschooling to the public school system and did exceptionally well.”

Brandon Wooten, 11, picks out books for summer reading at EyeSee Me. CREDIT CAROLINA HIDALGO | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO
Because the Blairs believe that education starts with self, they decided to expand their mission to help other parents who wanted the same thing for their kids. Pamela said since opening EyeSeeMe she’s seen firsthand how the reflective images in a book can resonate with kids, especially when little black girls see characters with natural hair.

“The hair is a big thing for young girls going to school,” Pamela said. “Not having hair like maybe their classmate, and they may think themselves as being ugly or not having the right hair. So we have a lot of books on hair and feeling comfortable in the hair that you have. So for our children it means a lot.”

And when “Black Panther” hit the big screen, Pamela noticed more kids flocking to their graphic-novel section to pick up a copy of the graphic-novel series. She said the strong response is in part because they could identify with the characters.

“They go in straight to that book or that book, because it makes them feel good,” Pamela said. “Not just because it’s a superhero, because for the first time there’s someone that is doing like magical things, and I can relate to him and he looks like me, and he’s in charge of his own life.”

Kiera Cross has come to the bookstore several times with her 1-year-old daughter, Skylar. She said as a teacher and a parent, it’s important that her daughter can have a place to see others who look like her at a young age.

“I remember growing up I didn’t have a store like this where I got to see myself, and I want her to see herself all of the time,” Cross said.

In recent years, the store has garnered national attention thanks to Sidney Keys III, who heads Books n Bros Reading Club. The club got its start because of a viral video of Keys getting lost in the book “Danny Dollar Millionaire Extraordinary” while at the store. The club, now based in Ferguson, started with seven boys and has since grown to more than 100. Pamela said that was a big deal.

“There’s some connection with our children and them seeing themselves and them loving who they’re seeing, what they’re seeing,” Pamela said. “The stories are positive. They are the hero of the story. They are the main character of the story. He enjoyed it so much, and it resonated with a lot of parents and other children.”

While the store is geared towards children, it also carries a few books and posters for adults. The Blairs say often adults are just as excited to see themselves in books as the kids. With such high demand, the Blairs say they’re planning to move the store to a larger location in August.

When they do, they will expand the young-adult and adult sections.

Visit Eyeseeme at their website.

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Black Books Matter: Children’s Books Celebrating Black Boys

Each year, there are more children’s books published about animals than Black people. Black people have historically been, and continue to be, underrepresented, misrepresented, or invisible in children’s literature. Black male characters are even less visible, and even fewer still, are books reflecting positive and empowered depictions of Black boys.

The Conscious Kid Library curated this list of 25 children’s books celebrating Black boys, in partnership with Moms of Black Boys United. These books center, reflect, and affirm Black boys, and were written and illustrated by Black authors and artists.

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Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James: The barbershop is where the magic happens. Boys go in as lumps of clay and, with princely robes draped around their shoulders, a dab of cool shaving cream on their foreheads, and a slow, steady cut, they become royalty.

That crisp yet subtle line makes boys sharper, more visible, more aware of every great thing that could happen to them when they look good: lesser grades turn into As; girls take notice; even a mother’s hug gets a little tighter. Everyone notices. A fresh cut makes boys fly.

This rhythmic, read-aloud title is an unbridled celebration of the self-esteem, confidence, and swagger boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair — a tradition that places on their heads a figurative crown, beaming with jewels, that confirms their brilliance and worth and helps them not only love and accept themselves but also take a giant step toward caring how they present themselves to the world.

The fresh cuts. That’s where it all begins. Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut is a high-spirited, engaging salute to the beautiful, raw, assured humanity of Black boys and how they see themselves when they approve of their reflections in the mirror. Ages 3–10.

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Malcolm X: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz, illustrated by AG Ford: Malcolm X grew to be one of America’s most influential figures. But first, he was a boy named Malcolm Little. Written by his daughter, this inspiring picture book biography celebrates a vision of freedom and justice.

Bolstered by the love and wisdom of his large, warm family, young Malcolm Little was a natural born leader. But when confronted with intolerance and a series of tragedies, Malcolm’s optimism and faith were threatened. He had to learn how to be strong and how to hold on to his individuality.

He had to learn self-reliance. Together with acclaimed illustrator AG Ford, Ilyasah Shabazz gives us a unique glimpse into the childhood of her father, Malcolm X, with a lyrical story that carries a message that resonates still today — that we must all strive to live to our highest potential. Ages 6–10.

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Trombone Shorty by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, illustrated by Bryan CollierHailing from the Tremé neighborhood in New Orleans, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews got his nickname by wielding a trombone twice as long as he was high.

A prodigy, he was leading his own band by age six, and today this Grammy-nominated artist headlines the legendary New Orleans Jazz Fest. Along with esteemed illustrator Bryan Collier, Andrews has created a lively picture book autobiography about how he followed his dream of becoming a musician, despite the odds, until he reached international stardom. Trombone Shorty is a celebration of the rich cultural history of New Orleans and the power of music. Ages 4–8.

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Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe: Jean-Michel Basquiat and his unique, collage-style paintings rocketed to fame in the 1980s as a cultural phenomenon unlike anything the art world had ever seen.

But before that, he was a little boy who saw art everywhere: in poetry books and museums, in games and in the words that we speak, and in the pulsing energy of New York City.

Now, award-winning illustrator Javaka Steptoe’s vivid text and bold artwork echoing Basquiat’s own introduce young readers to the powerful message that art doesn’t always have to be neat or clean — and definitely not inside the lines — to be beautiful. Ages 6–12.

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Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream For Me by Daniel Beaty, illustrated by Bryan Collier:

Every morning, I play a game with my father. He goes knock knock on my door and I pretend to be asleep till he gets right next to the bed. And my papa, he tells me, “I love you.”

But what happens when, one day, that “knock knock” doesn’t come? This powerful and inspiring book shows the love that an absent parent can leave behind, and the strength that children find in themselves as they grow up and follow their dreams. Ages 4–7.

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The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory ChristieIn the 1930s, Lewis’s dad, Lewis Michaux Sr., had an itch he needed to scratch a book itch. How to scratch it?

He started a bookstore in Harlem and named it the National Memorial African Bookstore. And as far as Lewis Michaux Jr. could tell, his father’s bookstore was one of a kind. People from all over came to visit the store, even famous people Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X, to name a few.

In his father’s bookstore people bought and read books, and they also learned from each other. People swapped and traded ideas and talked about how things could change.

They came together here all because of his father’s book itch. Read the story of how Lewis Michaux Sr. and his bookstore fostered new ideas and helped people stand up for what they believed in. Ages 7–10.

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Before John Was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Sean QuallsYoung John Coltrane was all ears. And there was a lot to hear growing up in the South in the 1930s: preachers praying, music on the radio, the bustling of the household.

These vivid noises shaped John’s own sound as a musician. Carole Boston Weatherford and Sean Qualls have composed an amazingly rich hymn to the childhood of jazz legend John Coltrane. Ages 4–8.

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Hey Black Child by Useni Eugene Perkins, illustrated by Bryan Collier:

Hey Black child,
Do you know who you are?
Who really are?
Do you know you can be
What you want to be
If you try to be
What you can be?

This lyrical, empowering poem celebrates Black children and seeks to inspire all young people to dream big and achieve their goals. Ages 3–10.

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Welcome, Precious by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Bryan CollierLiterary award winners Nikki Grimes and Bryan Collier celebrate life, love, and family with this gorgeous new picture book. Lulling, poetic text and captivating illustrations welcome a new baby to the wonders of the world, from peanut butter to moonlight. Ages 0–3.

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Lullaby (For a Black Mother) by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Sean QuallsWith a few simple words as smooth as a song, the poet Langston Hughes celebrates the love between a Black mother and her baby.

The award-winning illustrator Sean Qualls’s painted and collaged artwork captures universally powerful maternal moments with tenderness and whimsy.

In the end, readers will find a rare photo of baby Hughes and his mother, a biographical note, further reading, and the complete lullaby. Ages 0–4.

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Baby Blessings: A Prayer For the Day You Are Born by Deloris Jordan, illustrated by James E. RansomeThis touching story from bestselling author Doloris Jordan celebrates the blessings new parents wish for their babies all through their lives.

With a strong emphasis on the bonds families share, the inspirational text is accompanied by exquisite art from renowned illustrator James E. Ransome. Ages 0–4.

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He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands by Kadir NelsonWhat began as a spiritual has developed into one of America’s best-known songs, and now for the first time it appears as a picture book, masterfully created by award-winning artist Kadir Nelson.

Through sublime landscapes and warm images of a boy and his family, Kadir has created a dazzling, intimate interpretation, one that rejoices in the connectedness of people and nature.

Inspired by the song’s simple message, Kadir sought to capture the joy of living in and engaging with the world. Most importantly, he wished to portray the world as a child might see it — vast and beautiful. Ages 4–8.

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I, Too, Am America by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Bryan Collier: I, Too, Am America blends the poetic wisdom of Langston Hughes with visionary illustrations from Bryan Collier in this inspirational picture book that carries the promise of equality.

I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Langston Hughes was a courageous voice of his time, and his authentic call for equality still rings true today. Beautiful paintings from illustrator Bryan Collier accompany and reinvent the celebrated lines of the poem “I, Too,” creating a breathtaking reminder to all Americans that we are united despite our differences. Ages 4–8.

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12 Rounds to Glory: The Story of Muhammad Ali by Charles R. Smith, illustrated by Bryan Collier: From the moment a fired-up teenager won 1960 Olympic gold to the day when a retired legend, hands shaking from Parkinson’s, returned to raise the Olympic torch, the boxer known as “The Greatest” waged many a fight.

Some were in the ring, against opponents like Sonny Liston and Joe Frazier; others were against societal prejudice and a war he refused to support because of his Islamic faith.

The rap-inspired verse weaves and bobs and jabs, while bold collage artwork matches every move, capturing the “Louisville loudmouth with the great gift of rhyme” who shed the name Cassius Clay to take on the world as Muhammad Ali. Ages 10 and up.

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Dear Martin by Nic Stone: Raw, captivating, and undeniably real, Nic Stone joins industry giants Jason Reynolds and Walter Dean Myers as she boldly tackles American race relations in this stunning debut.

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League — but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore?

He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out. Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up — way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack. Ages 14–18.

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X, A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon: Co-written by Malcolm X’s daughter, this riveting and revealing novel follows the formative years of the man whose words and actions shook the world.

Malcolm Little’s parents have always told him that he can achieve anything, but from what he can tell, that’s a pack of lies — after all, his father’s been murdered, his mother’s been taken away, and his dreams of becoming a lawyer have gotten him laughed out of school.

There’s no point in trying, he figures, and lured by the nightlife of Boston and New York, he escapes into a world of fancy suits, jazz, girls, and reefer. But Malcolm’s efforts to leave the past behind lead him into increasingly dangerous territory.

Deep down, he knows that the freedom he’s found is only an illusion — and that he can’t run forever. follows Malcolm from his childhood to his imprisonment for theft at age twenty, when he found the faith that would lead him to forge a new path and command a voice that still resonates today. Ages 14–18.

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Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court by Kareem Abdul-JabbarAt one time, Lew Alcindor was just another kid from New York City with all the usual problems: He struggled with fitting in, with pleasing a strict father, and with overcoming shyness that made him feel socially awkward.

But with a talent for basketball, and an unmatched team of supporters, Lew Alcindor was able to transform and to become Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. From a childhood made difficult by racism and prejudice to a record-smashing career on the basketball court as an adult, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s life was packed with “coaches” who taught him right from wrong and led him on the path to greatness.

His parents, coaches Jack Donahue and John Wooden, Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee, and many others played important roles in Abdul-Jabbar’s life and sparked him to become an activist for social change and advancement.

The inspiration from those around him, and his drive to find his own path in life, are highlighted in this personal and awe-inspiriting journey. Written especially for young readers, Becoming Kareem chronicles how Kareem Abdul-Jabbar become the icon and legend he is today, both on and off the court. Ages 8–12.

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Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia: From beloved Newbery Honor winner and three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner Rita Williams-Garcia comes a powerful and heartfelt novel about loss, family, and love.

Clayton feels most alive when he’s with his grandfather, Cool Papa Byrd, and the band of Bluesmen — he can’t wait to join them, just as soon as he has a blues song of his own. But then the unthinkable happens. Cool Papa Byrd dies, and Clayton’s mother forbids Clayton from playing the blues.

And Clayton knows that’s no way to live. Armed with his grandfather’s brown porkpie hat and his harmonica, he runs away from home in search of the Bluesmen, hoping he can join them on the road. But on the journey that takes him through the New York City subways and to Washington Square Park, Clayton learns some things that surprise him. Ages 8–12.

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The Hate U Give by Angie ThomasSixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends.

The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family.

What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does — or does not — say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life. Ages 14–18.

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The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay MooreA boy tries to steer a safe path through the projects in Harlem in the wake of his brother’s death in this outstanding debut novel that celebrates community and creativity. It’s Christmas Eve in Harlem, but twelve-year-old Lolly Rachpaul and his mom aren’t celebrating. They’re still reeling from his older brother’s death.

Then Lolly’s mother’s girlfriend brings him a gift that will change everything: two enormous bags filled with Legos. Now, faced with a pile of building blocks and no instructions, Lolly must find his own way forward.

Building a fantastical Lego city at the community center provides Lolly with an escape — and an unexpected bridge back to the world. David Barclay Moore paints a powerful portrait of a boy teetering on the edge — of adolescence, of grief, of violence — and shows how Lolly’s inventive spirit helps him build a life with firm foundations and open doors. Ages 10–14.

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March (Trilogy) by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell: Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first Black president.

March is the first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation.

Rooted in Lewis’ personal story (including his childhood), it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

Many years ago, John Lewis and other student activists drew inspiration from the 1958 comic book “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story.” Now, his own graphic novel bring those days to life for a new audience, testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations. Ages 11–15.

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Ghost by Jason ReynoldsRunning. That’s all that Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But never for a track team. Nope, his game has always been ball.

But when Ghost impulsively challenges an elite sprinter to a race — and wins — the Olympic medalist track coach sees he has something: crazy natural talent.

Thing is, Ghost has something else: a lot of anger, and a past that he is trying to outrun. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed and meld with the team, or will his past finally catch up to him? Ages 10–14.

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The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind (Young Readers Edition) by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer: When a terrible drought struck William Kamkwamba’s tiny village in Malawi, his family lost all of the season’s crops, leaving them with nothing to eat and nothing to sell. William began to explore science books in his village library, looking for a solution. T

here, he came up with the idea that would change his family’s life forever: he could build a windmill. Made out of scrap metal and old bicycle parts, William’s windmill brought electricity to his home and helped his family pump the water they needed to farm the land.

Retold for a younger audience, this exciting memoir shows how, even in a desperate situation, one boy’s brilliant idea can light up the world. Complete with photographs, illustrations, and an epilogue that will bring readers up to date on William’s story, this is the perfect edition to read and share with the whole family. Ages 11–16.

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The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life by Kwame AlexanderYou gotta know the rules to play the game. Ball is life. Take it to the hoop. Soar. What can we imagine for our lives? What if we were the star players, moving and grooving through the game of life?

What if we had our own rules of the game to help us get what we want, what we aspire to, what will enrich our lives? The Playbook is intended to provide inspiration on the court of life.

Each rule contains wisdom from inspiring athletes and role models such as Nelson Mandela, Serena Williams, LeBron James, Carli Lloyd, Steph Curry and Michelle Obama.

Kwame Alexander also provides his own poetic and uplifting words, as he shares stories of overcoming obstacles and winning games in this motivational and inspirational book just right for graduates of any age and anyone needing a little encouragement. Ages 10–12.

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The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfill a Dream by Sampson DavisGeorge JenkinsRamek Hunt, and Lisa Frazier Page: A remarkable story about the power of friendship.

Chosen by Essence to be among the forty most influential African Americans, the three doctors grew up in the streets of Newark, facing city life’s temptations, pitfalls, even jail. But one day these three young men made a pact.

They promised each other they would all become doctors, and stick it out together through the long, difficult journey to attaining that dream. Sampson Davis, George Jenkins, and Rameck Hunt are not only friends to this day—they are all doctors. This is a story about joining forces and beating the odds. A story about changing your life, and the lives of those you love most… together.


The Conscious Kid Library is an education, research, and policy organization dedicated to reducing bias and promoting positive identity development in young children. The library works to counter anti-Black bias by promoting narratives and images that affirm and celebrate Blackness. They conduct research on racism in children’s literature and work with organizations and families nationally and internationally to promote access to anti-racist children’s books that center underrepresented and oppressed groups. www.theconsciouskid.org

Moms of Black Boys United provides information and support for moms of Black sons and promotes positive images of Black boys and men. The organization is dedicated to changing perceptions, encouraging self-care, and fostering understanding of the plight of Black boys and men in America by telling their stories, celebrating their accomplishments, and connecting them to opportunities. The group supports moms by encouraging strong family and community connections and sharing information that empowers them to navigate all of the institutions that interact with, influence, and impact our sons. https://www.mobbunited.org/

 

Source: the conscious kid