“In all of the subject states, we observed that there is an astonishing absence of any effort to acknowledge, discuss, or address lynching.” Introduction, key point 5.
Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror, a report of the Equal Justice Initiative.
Published online at lynchinginamerica.eji.org/report/, Montgomery, Alabama.
Accessed in July 2017.
This report walks the reader through the events surrounding racial terror lynchings in America, including case studies of individual lynchings and photographs, illustrations, legal reactions, and original source quotations.
I don’t recall how this crossed my path. Normally I prefer to read books in person, whether I purchase, checkout from the library, or borrow from a friend. However, some popular books are easier to get from the library as ebooks and older books that are out of print can often be found online for free.
This book doesn’t fit either of those categories. Instead, this is a report from a team led by Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy. His book’s been on my TBR for a while now (I even had it checked out, but had to return it as there was a hold). After reading this report, Just Mercy got bumped up on my must-reads.
As a side note, I would like to mention that lately it seems my timed posts are off and not all of my “likes” are sticking. I have still been reading but just noticed these issues today (when there were ten extra scheduled posts in my queue) and am busy, so it may take some time to correct them. My apologies.
If nothing else, click to this article to see where your hometown (or a major city you’ve visited) falls in private racist opinions. I also found the methodology of how they decided to measure for racism fascinating.
This one is not an article, just a series of maps using tweets to determine relative hate speech in different counties over the US. I found this interesting as well, although it seems more easily skewed by individual users, and not all tweets are geotagged (probably accounting for the lack of hate speech in some cities).
I feel like the most important part of this is the racism scale, but the whole article is interesting. Personally I feel that our education system should be a primary method of confronting racism (see the previous article about social networks) but any method would work.
This image has been circulating widely on social media once again the past week. It’s had a long life because this accidental image says so much about our nation. There’s even a reflection sheet for teachers to use (PDF). This article gives a detailed history on the photo and includes reflections from the photographer.
“On the few occasions when someone did challenge the study directly, a defender invariably pointed out how long it had been going on, how much work the PHS had invested, and how science would benefit if the study continued.” page 173
Bad Blood: The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment (New and Expanded Edition) by James H. Jones.
The Free Press, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1981, my edition 1993 expanded reprint.
Adult non-fiction, 297 pages including notes and index.
The true story of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment reads like a work of fiction.
Normally I don’t read horror, but I’ll make an exception for non-fiction. This was a chilling read, made all the more horrific by the fact that it occurred in my own country in the fairly recent past. Sadly, some accounts of the racism and prejudice present in this study read like they could be happening today.
“To us / it is just dirt, / the ground we walk on. / Scoop up a handful. / The gritty grains slip / between your fingers.” page 3
Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier.
Little, Brown, and Company Hachette Book Group, New York, 2010.
Picture book biography, 40 pages including end notes.
Winner of the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, 2011.
2011 Caldecott Honor recipient.
Lexile: AD1100L (What does AD mean in Lexile?)
AR Level: 6.0 (worth 0.5 points) .
Dave the Potter was a real-life African-American slave and artist. He must have been incredibly strong, because he was able to successfully make pots as large as forty gallons. He knew how to read and write, because he marked poems into the sides of some of his pots. Beyond that we may never know many of the details of his life.
This book came up several times before I bought it. The first time, it was mistakenly labeled as fiction. Later I realized it was non-fiction and added it to the bottom of my TBR. After reading When the Beat Was Born by the same author, I decided to purchase this book, knowing that the writing would be excellent. And I loved it!
Since so little is definitively known about Dave, this book focuses on the process of making his pottery that Dave would likely have gone through, using sparse poetry, detailed and realistic images of the process, and collage backgrounds imagining the world he inhabited.
“Yet here she was, three months later, with a full-fledged tumor. Either her doctors had missed it during her last exams – which seemed impossible – or it had grown at a terrifying rate.” page 17
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.
Broadway Books, Crown Publishing Group, Penguin Random House, New York, 2010.
My edition 2011, some portions published as early as 2000.
Nonfiction, 381 pages including notes, index, and reading group guide.
Lexile: 1140L .
AR Level: 8.0 (worth 18.0 points) .
Henrietta Lacks had an usual type of cancer. Cells from this cancer were able to become the first immortal cell line and have been invaluable to many scientific discoveries and advancements in the past century. But Henrietta was also a working-class black woman whose family was not informed of the existence of this cell line, and who died misdiagnosed. This book manages to tell three stories: the story of Henrietta and the Lacks family, the story of her famous and scientifically important cells, and the story of the reporter’s own experiences interacting with the family.
The movie tie-in cover tricked me. I needed to grab a Target pick quickly, so I grabbed this book without realizing it was one I had flagged as do not purchase/obtain from friend or library. As you can tell, reading this book was something I was conflicted about, and after finishing it, I remain deeply conflicted and uncertain if I can recommend it (though I know a great deal more about the HeLa controversies than I did before reading this).
“I felt differently. I wanted to go to college. I wanted to grow up and greet the world, and so did my best friends.” p. 27
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose.
Square Fish Imprint, Macmillan, New York, 2009.
Age 10 + nonfiction, 150 pages including extras, notes, and index.
Winner of the National Book Award and a Newberry Honor Book.
Various other awards and best of lists.
AR Level: 6.8 (worth 5.0 points)
Before Rosa Parks was a household name, there was Claudette Colvin. The first black woman (really a girl) to refuse to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus and be arrested for doing so, she knew and inspired Rosa Parks, but was not considered suitable to be the face of the movement. Her story is now coming to light for a new generation.
This is “The acclaimed true story of the girl who changed history” according to the front cover. What it is inside was a little different than I’d expected. Most books by white men about black history tend to assume an authoritative, know-it-all position that often leaves out details important to the people who were living that history.
Significant portions of this book are told in the first person, taken directly from extensive interviews with Ms. Colvin herself. Yet he is credited as the sole author. I’m torn. Hoose clearly made the best choice by letting Colvin’s voice shine and allowing her to narrate as much as possible of her book. On the other hand, he is receiving all the credit.
This picture book biography of Ida B. Wells gives a lovely overview of her life.
Ida B. Wells: Let the Truth Be Told by Walter Dean Meyers, illustrated by Bonnie Christensen.
Amistad Imprint, HarperCollins, New York, 2008.
Picture book biography, 37 pages including timeline and quotes.
Lexile: AD900L (What does AD mean in Lexile?)
AR Level: 5.4 (worth 0.5 points)
Ida B. Wells stood up for truth and justice with her words and actions, and foreshadowed the civil rights movement in many of her actions. With an illustration at least every other page, and excellent explanations of difficult topics such as lynchings, this book makes Wells’ life accessible to middle grade readers, and could even be read to some younger children with a parent.