“Coretta’s mother, Bernice, believed that education was the key to a better life. She encouraged her children to work hard in school.” page 11
History Maker Bios: Coretta Scott King by Laura Hamilton Waxman, illustrations by Tad Butler.
Originally published by Lerner Publishing Group, Minneapolis, Minnesota, my edition Barnes & Noble, New York, 2008.
Biography, 48 pages including extras and index.
Lexile: 720L .
AR Level: 4.5 (worth 1.0 points) .
A biography of Coretta Scott King, best known as the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., although she was a civil rights activist herself as well.
Not long ago, I came across a Barnes and Noble that had all these little History Maker Bios and quite a lot of Sterling Biographies on clearance for a dollar each! I spent a happy hour picking out all the African American ones.
Here are five books for the youngest readers that focus on different African Americans. Some you may have heard of before, others may be new to you!
(Perhaps these will help you go beyond the big five.)
Dave must have been very strong, as he was able to create pottery that not many could. He knew how to read and write, because he wrote poems on the side of some of his pottery. This book shares the beauty and artistry of his life without ever ignoring the harsh reality that he was a slave.
This picture book does a great job of presenting the life story of Ida B. Wells, including difficult topics such as lynching. Because of the subject matter, I’d recommend this for older picture book readers, or as a family read so parents can address any questions children might have.
Did you know that Major Taylor was the first black world champion bicyclist? He used hard work and athleticism to prove that race did not determine ability at a time when the world was determined to prove him otherwise. This would be a great book to read before or after a bike ride, or when the weather keeps you indoors!
This nonfiction early reader is actually written by Ruby Bridges herself, and includes photos of her historic integration of a New Orleans elementary school. This is one of my earliest reviews for this blog, so I was hesitant to link it, but there aren’t enough diverse early readers and this book should be better known.
I’m not much of a music person, so it’s surprising how much this book delighted me. The story of DJ Kool Herc is fascinating and covers topics like immigration, community, and of course music! The illustrations never fail to delight new readers and this remains a favorite in our house.
(Note: technically Kool Herc is a Jamaican-American, but he’s seen as part of the African-American community, which is why I included him on this list.)
A simple challenge to take this year’s Black History Month beyond the basics.
So let’s talk about something. America has a month devoted to African-American history (February). Most teachers and school districts these days fall in line with this and do at least a few activities relating to the theme.
The problem? Teachers, and schools, tend to focus on the Big Five:
(Paraphrases of inaccurate comments I’ve heard from schoolchildren in parenthesis.)
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
(that guy who dreamed the Civil Rights Movement. Oh and they shot him. That’s sad.)
(King’s wife who sat down on the bus. She was so tired she just couldn’t get up again!)
(they let him play baseball with the white guys, and he was good at it.)
(she freed all the slaves, so Lincoln almost had nothing left to do later.)
And of course, Abraham Lincoln
(he’s white, but he helped the slaves so much. Oh and they shot him. That’s sad.)
Sometimes Nelson Mandela is thrown in, even though he is African, not African-American!
There are a few reasons for this. African-American history and culture is so ignored by the mainstream culture, I’ve actually encountered people who don’t know that there were other notable blacks. Not to mention, Husband (who doesn’t study this, but has been around when the kids and I read) got more questions right on a Black History Month quiz even compared to his African-American co-workers. I would say that this blog helped educate him, but this was before blogging, when we were just starting to study Black History!
“Another world’s accomplishment was done and finished, and as in the past, from the beginning of history, wherever the world’s work was done by a white man, he had been accompanied by a colored man.” page 136
A Negro Explorer at the North Pole by Matthew Henson, forward by Matthew E. Peary and introduction by Booker T. Washington.
Frederick A. Stokes Company, New York, 1912.
Available online at www.gutenberg.org/files/20923/20923-h/20923-h.htm
Accessed in September 2017.
Nonfiction, 200 pages.
Matthew Henson was the black man who accompanied Peary on most of his expeditions, including to the North Pole. He received scant notice from the white people of the time, but his life story was very much in demand among African-Americans. Eventually he used his journals from the trip to write this book.
The book is a curious mix of direct entries from Henson’s journals, summations of journal entries, and his direct writing covering periods of time when he couldn’t write or adding information he felt was helpful.
Racism is very present in this book. For the most part, this is overt, although it does come out more blatantly. There are two main forms of racism present – against African-Americans, and against Native Americans.
“All those laws against segregation have been passed, and all that progress has been made. But a whole lot of white people’s hearts have not been changed.” page 187
Rosa Parks: My Story by Rosa Parks, with Jim Haskins.
Puffin, Penguin Group, New York, 1992 (my edition 1999).
Middle grade autobiography, 192 pages including index and timeline.
Lexile: 970L .
AR Level: 6.2 (worth 6.0 points) .
This is Rosa Parks’ own telling of her story – the story of her life, and the story of that fateful day when she became the icon of a movement.
Some books are ubiquitous – this is one of those books. As far as I can recall, every school library I’ve been in has this book, though I haven’t checked them all. However, I’d never read it before, so when we saw a cheap copy at the used bookstore, we bought it.
I have no regrets about adding this to our collection. While the book is accessible to children, it works as a quick adult read too!
“In the years following her husband’s death, Coretta committed herself to fulfilling Martin’s dreams and a few of her own.” page 65
Coretta Scott King: Dare to Dream by Angela Shelf Medearis, illustrated by Anna Rich.
Puffin, Penguin Group, New York, 1994.
Biography, 81 pages including index.
Lexile: 790L .
AR Level: 6.4 (worth 1.0 points) .
NOTE: Part of the Women of Our Time Series.
A middle-grade biography of Coretta Scott King, widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a civil rights activist herself.
“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.