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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: black history month, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Five Biblical remixes from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Civil Rights icon Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was also a theologian and pastor, who used biblical texts and imagery extensively in his speeches and sermons. Here is a selection of five biblical quotations and allusions that you may not have noticed in his work (in chronological order). 1. “And there is still a […]

The post Five Biblical remixes from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. appeared first on OUPblog.

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2. Four remarkable figures in Black History

Given the scope and the length of time I’ve been working on the African American National Biography (over 13 years and counting), selecting just a few biographies that were somehow “representative” of the overall project would have been an impossible task. Instead, working with The Root’s managing editor, Lyne Pitts, I chose four entries that showcased some of the diversity of the collection, but focused on hidden or barely remembered figures in black history.

The post Four remarkable figures in Black History appeared first on OUPblog.

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3. Harlem Hellfighters by J. Patrick Lewis and Gary Kelly

February is Black History Month and this year's theme is A Century of Black Life, History, and Culture.  It is a good time to look back and reflect on the changes and contributions of African Americans to the fabric of American life in the last century.  

For example, more and more we are learning about the achievements of African American soldiers in World War II.  Books like The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin,  Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles by Tanya Lee Stone, Double Victory: How African American Women Broke the Race and Gender Barriers to Help Win World War II by Cheryl Mullenbach, and The Double V Campaign: African Americans and World War II by Michael L. Cooper all highlight the contributions these courageous Americans made in the fight for democracy even as they were being denied their basic civil rights.

Now, J. Patrick Lewis and Gary Kelly, the same duo who produced the lovely book And the Soldiers Sang, about the Christmas Truce in 1914 during World War I, have written a book introducing us to the brave and talented unsung heroes of the 15thNew York National Guard, which was later federalized as the 369th Infantry Regiment, soldier that the Germans dubbed the Harlem Hellfighters. "because of their tenacity."

In beautifully lyrical prose, Lewis tells how bandleader James "Big Jim" Reese Europe was recruited to organize a new black regiment in New York.  Traveling around in an open air double-decker bus, his band played on the upper level, while the new recruits lined up below.  Willing to fight like any American, enthusiastic patriotism may have motivated these young men, but racism at home, and in the army resulted in segregation while training and doing the kind of grunt work not given to white soldiers in Europe, even as they entertained tired soldiers with [Jim] Europe's big band jazz sounds.

Each page tells small stories of the 369th: their heroics, homesickness, the bitter cold, the lynchings back home, the fighting on the French front lines.  Extending the narrative are Gary Kelly's dark pastel illustrations.  Kelly's visual representations of the men of the 369th Infantry are both haunting and beautiful.   He has used a palette of earth tones and grays, so appropriate for the battlefields and uniforms of war, but with color in the images of patriotism, such as flags and recruiting posters, and highlighting the reasons we go to war.   Some of Kelly's image may take your breath away with their stark depiction of, for example, the hanging figures, victims of a lynching, or the irony of the shadowy faces of people in a slave ship hull, shackles around their necks, on their voyage to America and slavery next to a soldier heading to Europe to fight for freedom and democracy.

Harlem Hellfighters is an exquisitely rendered labor of love, but readers may find it a little disjointed in places.  Lewis's fact are right, though, and he also includes a Bibliography for readers who might want to know more or those who just want more straightforward nonfiction books about the 369th Regiment.

As a picture book for older readers, Harlem Hellfighters would pair very nicely with Walter Dean Myer's impeccable researched and detailed book The Harlem Hellfighters: When Pride Met Courage written with Bill Miles.  Myer's gives a broader, more historical view of these valiant men.  These would extend and compliment each other adding to our understanding and appreciation of what life was like for African American soldiers in World War I.

Both books is recommended for readers age 10+
Harlem Hellfighters was bought for my personal library


February is Black History Month

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4. African-American Experience Children’s Literary Reference Guide (2010-2015)

We’re in the thick of the month of February now and recently I ran into an interesting problem.  It being Black History Month and all I was looking to create a list of Black Experience children’s books for my librarians to pull from for displays and purchasing and such.  So I trolled about online looking for a recent list of titles.  Don’t get me wrong – I love books like Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, but in spite of the relatively small publishing numbers we really have had some wonderful books come out in the last few years.  So I looked about and looked about and found almost nothing.  If it’s not an award winner or 20+ years old, it’s hard to find lists of recent books.

So I created my own.  I wanted a list of titles from the last five years.  Moreover, I didn’t want to limit it to just historical books.  So in the end what I came up with was an African-American Experience Literary Reference Guide.  This is by NO MEANS an all-encompassing list.  It’s just some of the recent things I’ve liked and enjoyed and that we all have a need for. Please note that all listed titles are currently in print. Also, they are organized by where they are cataloged in the New York Public Library system.

Enjoy and feel free to add your own in-print titles out in the last five years in the comments.

Picture Books

Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty, illustrated by Bryan Collier, ISBN: 9780316209175

Lucky Beans by Becky Birtha, illustrated Nicole Tadgell, ISBN: 9780807547823

Beautiful Moon: A Child’s Prayer by Tonya Bolden illustrated by Eric Velasquez, ISBN: 9781419707926

My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood by Tameka Fryer Brown, illustrated by Shane W. Evans, ISBN: 9780670012855

Can’t Scare Me! by Ashley Bryan, ISBN: 9781442476578

Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite by Anna Harwell Celenza, illustrated by Don Tate, ISBN: 9781570917004

Max and the Tag-Along Moon by Floyd Cooper, ISBN: 9780399233425

Firebird by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christopher Myers, ISBN: 9780399166150

A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream by Kristy Dempsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, ISBN: 9780399252846

Chocolate Me! by Taye Diggs, illustrated by Shane W. Evans, ISBN: 9780312603267

Underground by Shane W. Evans, ISBN: 9781250056757

We March by Shane W. Evans, ISBN: 9781596435391

The Hula Hoopin’ Queen by Thelma Lynne Godin, illustrated Vanessa Brantley-Newton, ISBN: 9781600608469

My Hands Sing the Blues: Romare Bearden’s Childhood Journey by Jeanne Walker Harvey, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon, ISBN: 9780761458104

My Friend Maya Loves to Dance by Cheryl Willis Hudson, illustrated by Eric Velasquez, ISBN: 9780810983281

Lullaby (For a Black Mother) by Langston Hughes, illustrated Sean Qualls, ISBN: 9780547362656

Goal! by Mina Javaherbin, illustrated by A.G. Ford, ISBN: 9780763658229

All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis, ISBN: 9780689873768

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon, ISBN: 9780803735118

We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, ISBN: 9781423119548

Hope’s Gift by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated Don Tate, ISBN: 9780399160011

Tea Cakes for Tosh by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by E.B. Lewis, ISBN: 9780399252136

Ellen’s Broom by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Daniel Minter, ISBN: 9780399250033

Every Little Thing: Based on the Song ‘Three Little Birds’ by Bob Marley and Cedella Marley, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, ISBN: 9781452106977

One Love by Cedella Marley, Vanessa Brantley-Newton, ISBN: 9781452102245

These Hands by Margaret H. Mason, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, ISBN: 9780547215662

Busing Brewster by Richard Michelson, illustrated by R.G. Roth, ISBN: 9780375833342

H.O.R.S.E.: A Game of Basketball and Imagination by Christopher Myers, ISBN: 9781606842188

My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete & Ryan Elizabeth Peete, illustrated by Shane W. Evans, ISBN: 9780545094665

Belle, the Last Mule at Gee’s Bend: A Civil Rights Story by Calvin Alexander Ramsey, Bettye Stroud, Bettye, and John Holyfield, ISBN: 9780763640583

Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, ISBN: 9780761352556

Under the Same Sun by Sharon Robinson, illustrated by A.G. Ford, ISBN: 9780545166720

Me and Momma and Big John by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by William Low, ISBN: 9780763643591

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illustrated by Frank Morrison, ISBN: 9781600608988

I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison, illustrated by Frank Morrison, ISBN: 9781619631786

In the Land of Milk and Honey by Joyce Carol Thomas, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, ISBN: 9780060253837

As Fast As Words Could Fly by Pamela M. Tuck, illustrated by Eric Velasquez, ISBN: 9781600603488

Grandma’s Gift by Eric Velasquez, ISBN: 9780802720825

Freedom Song: The Story of Henry “Box” Brown by Sally M. Walker, illustrated by Sean Qualls, ISBN: 9780060583101

Sugar Hill: Harlem’s Historic Neighborhood by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, ISBN: 9780807576502

A Beach Tail by Karen Lynn Williams, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, ISBN: 9781590787120

Jazz Age Josephine by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman, ISBN: 9781416961239

This Is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration by Jacqueline Woodson, Jacqueline, illustrated by James Ransome, ISBN: 9780399239861

Pecan Pie Baby by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Sophie Blackall, ISBN: 9780399239878

Early Chapter Books

Dog Days by Karen English, illustrated by Laura Freeman, ISBN: 9780547970448

Election Madness by Karen English, illustrated by Laura Freeman, ISBN: 9780547850719

Skateboard Party by Karen English, illustrated by Laura Freeman, ISBN: 9780544283060

Birthday Blues by Karen English, illustrated by Laura Freeman, ISBN: 9780547248936

Nikki and Deja by Karen English, illustrated by Laura Freeman, ISBN: 9780547133621

Substitute Trouble by Karen English, illustrated by Laura Freeman, ISBN: 9780544223882

Keena Ford and the Secret Journal Mix-Up by Melissa Thomson, illustrated by Frank Morrison, ISBN: 9780142419373

Keena Ford and the Field Trip Mix-Up by Melissa Thomson, illustrated by Frank Morrison, ISBN: 9780142415726

EllRay Jakes and the Beanstalk by Sally Warner, illustrated by Brian Biggs, ISBN: 9780670784998

EllRay Jakes the Dragon Slayer! by Sally Warner, illustrated by Brian Biggs, ISBN: 9780670784974

EllRay Jakes Walks the Plank! by Sally Warner, illustrated by Jamie Harper, ISBN: 9780670063062

EllRay Jakes Is a Rock Star by Sally Warner, illustrated by Jamie Harper, ISBN: 9780670011582

EllRay Jakes is Not a Chicken! by Sally Warner, illustrated by Jamie Harper, ISBN: 9780670062430

Ellray Jakes Rocks the Holidays! by Sally Warner, illustrated by Brian Biggs, ISBN: 9780451469090

Ellray Jakes Is Magic! by Sally Warner, illustrated by Brian Biggs, ISBN: 9780670785001

Middle Grade Fiction

Sasquatch in the Paint by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld, ISBN: 9781423178705

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, ISBN: 9780544107717

How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy by Crystal Allen, ISBN: 9780061992728

Hold Fast by Blue Balliett, ISBN: 9780545299886

The Zero Degree Zombie Zone by Patrik Henry Bass, illustrated by Jerry Craft, ISBN: 9780545132107

Zora and Me by Victoria Bond, Victoria and T.R. Simon, ISBN: 9780763643003

Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth, ISBN: 9780545224963

Serafina’s Promise by Ann E. Burg, ISBN: 9780545535649

Riding on Duke’s Train by Mick Carlon, ISBN: 9781935248064

Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet by Andrea Cheng, ISBN: 9781600604515

The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis, ISBN: 9780545156646

Africa Is My Home: A Child of the Amistad by Monica Edinger, illustrated by Robert Byrd, ISBN: 9780763650384

Unstoppable Octobia May by Sharon Flake, ISBN: 9780545609609

Winter Sky by Patricia Reilly Giff, ISBN: 9780375838927

The Perfect Place by Teresa E. Harris, ISBN: 9780547255194

Buddy by M.H. Herlong, ISBN: 9780142425442

The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson, ISBN: 9780545525527

Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana, ISBN: 9781452124568

Nightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin, ISBN: 9781595145468

True Legend by Mike Lupica, ISBN: 9780399252273

The Sittin’ Up by Sheila P. Moses, ISBN: 9780399257230

Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri, illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson, ISBN: 9780763649227

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes, ISBN: 9780316043083

8th Grade Superzero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, ISBN: 9780545097253

The Other Side of Free by Krista Russell, ISBN: 9781561457106

Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery on Museum Mile by Marcia Wells, illustrated by Marcos Calo, ISBN: 9780544238336

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, ISBN: 9780060760885

P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia, ISBN: 9780061938627

The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods, ISBN: 9780399257148

Crow by Barbara Wright, ISBN: 9780375873676

Non-Fiction

What Color Is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Raymond Obstfeld, and Ben Boos, illustrated by A.G. Ford, ISBN: 9780763645649

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, ISBN: 9780375867125

The Cart That Carried Martin by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Don Tate, ISBN: 9781580893879

Words Set Me Free: The Story of Young Frederick Douglass by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome, ISBN: 9781416959038

Ballerina Dreams: From Orphan to Ballerina by Michaela Deprince, Michaela and Elaine Deprince, illustrated by Frank Morrison, ISBN: 9780385755160

Spirit Seeker: John Coltrane’s Musical Journey by Gary Golio, illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez, ISBN: 9780547239941

Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow: A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix by Gary Golio, illustrated by Javaka Steptoe, ISBN: 9780618852796

I Lay My Stitches Down: Poems of American Slavery by Cynthia Grady, illustrated by Michele Wood, ISBN: 9780802853868

The Great Migration: Journey to the North by Eloise Greenfield, illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist, ISBN: 9780061259210

When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III, ISBN: 9781596435407

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier, ISBN: 9780316107310

I, Too, Am America by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Bryan Collier, ISBN: 9781442420083

The Girl from the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement by Teri Kanefield, ISBN: 9781419707964

Queen of the Track: Alice Coachman: Olympic High-Jump Champion by Heather Lang, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, ISBN: 9781590788509

We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson, ISBN: 9781561456277

When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Various, ISBN: 9781452101194

Touch the Sky: Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jumper by Ann Malaspina, illustrated by Eric Velasquez, ISBN: 9780807580356

Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Will Allen, illustrated by Eric-Shabazz Larkin, ISBN: 9780983661535

Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson, ISBN: 9780061783746

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans
by Kadir Nelson, ISBN: 9780061730740

Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald by Roxane Orgill, illustrated by Sean Qualls, ISBN: 9780763664596

Martin & Mahalia: His Words – Her Song by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Andrea Davis, illustrated by J. Brian Pinkney, ISBN: 9780316070133

Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by J. Brian Pinkney, ISBN: 9781423142577

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by J. Brian Pinkney, ISBN: 9780316070164

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Christian Robinson, ISBN: 9781452103143

Jackie Robinson: American Hero by Sharon Robinson, ISBN: 9780545569156

Something to Prove: The Great Satchel Paige Vs. Rookie Joe Dimaggio by Robert Skead, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, ISBN: 9780761366195

Brick by Brick by Charles R. Smith Jr., illustrated by Floyd Cooper, ISBN: 9780061920820

Stars in the Shadows: The Negro League All-Star Game of 1934
by Charles R. Smith Jr., illustrated by Frank Morrison, ISBN: 9780689866388

Black Jack: The Ballad of Jack Johnson by Charles R. Smith Jr., illustrated by Shane W. Evans, ISBN: 9781596434738

Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickels: America’s First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone, ISBN: 9780763651176

It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw by Don Tate, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, ISBN: 9781600602603

She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Don Tate, ISBN: 9780061349201

My Uncle Martin’s Words for America: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Niece Tells How He Made a Difference by Angela Farris Watkins, illustrated by Eric Velasquez, ISBN: 9781419700224

My Uncle Martin’s Big Heart by Angela Farris Watkins, Angela illustrated by Eric Velasquez, ISBN: 9780810989757

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, ISBN: 9780399252518

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5. Jacqueline Woodson ~ Author of Brown Girl Dreaming

Jacqueline_Woodson_by_David_ShankboneJacqueline Woodson (born February 12, 1963) is an American writer of books for children and adolescents. She is best known for Miracle’s Boys, which won the Coretta Scott King Award in 2001 and her Newbery Honor-winning titles Brown Girl Dreaming, After Tupac & D Foster, Feathers, and Show Way. Her work is filled with strong African-American themes, generally aimed at a young adult audience.

For her lifetime contribution as a children’s writer, Woodson won the Margaret Edwards Award in 2005[1] and she was the U.S. nominee for the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2014. IBBY named her one of six Andersen Award finalists on March 17, 2014. She won the National Book Award in 2014 in the category of “Young People’s Literature” for her work Brown Girl Dreaming.

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6. Celebrate Black History Month with Two Book Collections from LEE & LOW BOOKS!

A heads up to our blog readers that we have two great sales happening now to celebrate Black History Month!

We’re offering 25% off two Black History Month collections on leeandlow.com through the end of the month. Kick-start your Black History book collection or mix things up with great books that can be used all year long.

CELEBRATE

Both collections offer biographies of great leaders who excelled in many different fields including writing, politics, music, and the culinary arts and will appeal to a wide range of readers.

Our Black History Month Paperback Collection features four award-winning picture books in paperback:

John Lewis in the Lead
I and I Bob Marley
George Crum and the Saratoga Chip
Love to Langston 

Originally $40, it’s currently on sale for $29.95.

Our Black History Month Special Collection features five award winning picture book biographies in a mix of paperback and hard cover editions:

John Lewis in the Lead
George Crum and the Saratoga Chip
It Jes’ Happened
Love to Langston
Baby Flo

Originally $65.70, it’s currently on sale for $50.

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7. February is Black History Month

blackstarsFebruary is Black History Month. To commemorate the contributions of African-Americans to science and innovation, we offer this list of 12 books chronicling some of their many achievements: Black Inventors.

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8. An African American in Imperial Russia: the story of Frederick Bruce Thomas

Decades before P. Diddy, Jay-Z, and Russell Simmons, there was Frederick Bruce Thomas, known later in his life as Fyodor Fyodorovich Tomas — one of the most successful African-American musical impresarios and businessmen of his generation.

Why isn’t he better known now?

The first reason is that a century ago, white America had no interest in celebrating black achievement.

The second is that he triumphed not in the United States, but in Tsarist Russia, which was one of the last places anyone would have expected to find a black American at the dawn of the twentieth century.

As we celebrate Black History Month, Thomas’s story — which until recently was virtually forgotten — provides a striking example of how blacks who fled the United States to escape racism could rise to the top of the economic pyramid in Europe and elsewhere, despite the wars, revolutions, and other hurdles they had to overcome.

Thomas was born in 1872 in Coahoma County, Mississippi and got his wings from his parents — freedmen who had become successful farmers. However, since the Thomas family lived in the Delta — which has been called the most “Southern place on earth” — their prominence was also the cause of their ruin. In 1886, a rich white planter who resented their success tried to steal their land. After fighting him as much as they could, the Thomases decided it would be prudent to get out of harm’s way and moved to Memphis.

Several decades before the Great Migration began, Thomas left the South and went to Chicago, and then Brooklyn. Seeking even greater freedom, he went to Europe in 1894, several decades before some black Americans began to seek a haven in Paris. And in 1899, after crisscrossing the Continent, mastering French, and honing his skills as a waiter and a valet, he signed on to accompany a nobleman to Russia, a country where people of African descent were virtually unknown.

Frederick Bruce Thomas, Paris, c. 1896. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Frederick Bruce Thomas, Paris, c. 1896. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Thomas’s career in Moscow proved to be more successful than he could ever have imagined. He found no “color line” there, as he put it, and in a decade he went from being a waiter to an owner of a large entertainment garden called Aquarium near the city center. Within a year of acquiring it, he had transformed a failing business into one of the most successful venues for popular theatrical entertainment in Moscow.

Were it not for the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, Thomas would have happily spent the rest of his life in his adopted country. He married twice, acquired a mistress who became his third wife, and fathered five children. He also took Russian citizenship, and was possibly the first black American ever to do so.

But when the Bolsheviks seized power, Thomas suddenly discovered that he was on the wrong side of history. His newly acquired wealth trumped his past oppression as a black man in the United States, and nothing could mitigate this class “sin.”

To save himself, Thomas fled Soviet Russia. In 1919, after surviving hair-raising perils, he managed to reach Constantinople. Although he had lost all his wealth, within three months of arriving he opened an entertainment garden on the city’s outskirts. He was the first person to import jazz to Turkey, and its popularity among the city’s natives and swarms of well-heeled tourists consolidated his success and made him rich once again.

However, after escaping from Russia, Thomas was never again free of the burden of race, and it would be his undoing. Although his skin color was of no concern to the Turks, he could not avoid dealing with the diplomats in the American Consulate General in Constantinople, or with their racist superiors in the State Department. When he most needed their help, they refused to recognize him as an American and to give him legal protection. Abandoned by the United States, and caught between the xenophobia of the new Turkish Republic and his own extravagance, he fell on hard times, was thrown into debtor’s prison, and died in Constantinople in 1928. The New York Times was one of the few American newspapers that noticed his passing, and on 8 July in an article about Constantinople, referred to him as the city’s late “Sultan of Jazz.”

Perhaps if the United States ever becomes a genuinely post-racial society, Black History Month will fade in importance. But in the meantime, we can at least try to recover and remember the lives of extraordinary individuals like Frederick Bruce Thomas.

Heading image: Red Square, Moscow. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The post An African American in Imperial Russia: the story of Frederick Bruce Thomas appeared first on OUPblog.

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9. 7 Core Values to Celebrate During Black History Month

The month of February is a time when many communities pause and celebrate the great contributions made by African Americans in history. At Lee & Low we like to not only highlight African Americans who have made a difference, but also explore the diverse experiences of black culture throughout history, from the struggle for freedom in the South and the fight for civil rights to the lively rhythms of New Orleans jazz and the cultural explosion of the Harlem Renaissance.

We put together a list of titles – along with additional resources 7 Core Values for copy– that align with 7 core values and
themes to help you celebrate both Black History Month and African American culture all 365 days of the year.

It’s important to remember that heritage months, like Black History Month, can encourage a practice of pulling diverse books that feature a particular observed culture for only one month out of the year. To encourage a more everyday approach, we developed an 8-step checklist for building an inclusive book collection that reflects the diversity of the human experience. Teaching Tolerance also offers some helpful solutions to connect multicultural education with effective instructional practices and lists insightful “dos and don’ts” for teaching black history that are applicable to any culturally responsive curriculum or discussion.

How do you celebrate during Black History Month? Or, better yet, how do you help children discover the cultural contributions and achievements of black history all year long? Let us know in the comments!

Perseverance, Determination, & Grit

Leadership & Couragemain_large-4

Teamwork & Collaboration

Responsibility & Commitmentmain_Mooncover

 Optimism & Hope

Compassion & Love

Passion & Pridemain_large

Discussion questions when reading and learning about core values:

  1. How does/do the character(s) show (core value)?
  2. What positive effects are associated with having/showing (core value)?
  3. How do you show (core value)?
  4. How can you work towards having/showing (core value)?
  5. What core values do you think are important to apply in our classroom? Why?

Further reading on teaching core values with students:

Looking for additional resources for teaching Black History? Check out these lesson plans, videos, and tips:

veronicabioVeronica has a degree from Mount Saint Mary College and joined LEE & LOW in the fall of 2014. She has a background in education and holds a New York State childhood education (1-6) and students with disabilities (1-6) certification. When she’s not wandering around New York City, you can find her hiking with her dog Milo in her hometown in the Hudson Valley, NY.

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10. Seven Middle Grade Books for African American History Month

February is African American History Month. Sharing these books with young readers comes with the responsibility to discuss ... progress towards equality.

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11. A Conversation with Sharon M. Draper About Stella by Starlight | Interview

In this conversation, we talked to Draper about the inspiration behind Stella by Starlight and the basic goodness in humanity.

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12. Stella by Starlight, by Sharon M. Draper | Book Review

Stella by Starlight, by esteemed storyteller Sharon M. Draper, is a poignant novel that beautifully captures the depth and complexities within individuals, a community, and society in 1932, an era when segregation and poverty is at the forefront.

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13. 5 Books to Celebrate Black History Month

February is Black History Month and to celebrate we’re sharing five of our favorite books that honor the history and legacy of African Americans.

If you work with kids in need, you can find these and other great titles to celebrate Black History Month on the First Book Marketplace.

wilma_unlimited_krullWilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull

Before Wilma Rudolph was five years old, polio had paralyzed her left leg. Everyone said she would never walk again. But Wilma refused to believe it. Not only would she walk again, she vowed, she’d run. And she did run—all the way to the Olympics, where she became the first American woman to earn three gold medals in a single olympiad. This dramatic and inspiring true story is illustrated in bold watercolor and acrylic paintings by Caldecott Medal-winning artist David Diaz.

martins_big_wordsMartin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport and Bryan Collier

This picture book biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. brings his life and the profound nature of his message to young children through his own words. Martin Luther King, Jr., was one of the most influential and gifted speakers of all time. Doreen Rappaport uses quotes from some of his most beloved speeches to tell the story of his life and his work in a simple, direct way. Bryan Collier’s stunning collage art combines remarkable watercolor paintings with vibrant patterns and textures.

bad_news_outlawsBad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U. S. Marshal by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Sitting tall in the saddle, with a wide-brimmed black hat and twin Colt pistols on his belt, Bass Reeves seemed bigger than life. Outlaws feared him. Law-abiding citizens respected him. As a peace officer, he was cunning and fearless. When a lawbreaker heard Bass Reeves had his warrant, he knew it was the end of the trail, because Bass always got his man, dead or alive. Born into slavery in 1838, Bass had a hard and violent life, but he also had a strong sense of right and wrong that others admired. When Judge Isaac Parker tried to bring law and order to the lawless Indian Territories, he chose Bass to be a deputy U.S. Marshall. Bass would quickly prove a smart choice.  The story of Bass Reeves is the story of a remarkable African American and a remarkable hero of the Old West.

chains_andersonChains by Laurie Halse Anderson

As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight…for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom.

angelou_caged_bird_singsI Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age–and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns about love for herself and the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.

*Book descriptions shown are publisher descriptions and have not been written by First Book.

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14. Three by Zetta Elliott

The Magic Mirror by Zetta Elliott. Illustrations by Paul Melecky. Rosetta Press, 2014. Review copy. Kamara suffers from the mean words of a boy at school until her Gramma comforts her and shows her the ancient mirror kept in a back bedroom of her old house. Kamara willingly cleans Gramma's mirror and discovers a magical storytelling window into her own family history. Generations of brave,

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15. Spring Reading 2014


Picture Books


Rip Van Winkle- Retold and illustrated by Will Moses, based on Washington Irving's book. Philomel Books a division of Penguin Putnam Books for young readers. New York 1999. This book is based on a  classical folk tale about a man who goes into the woods and falls asleep waking up many years later to a new world. This classic tale is retold with a combination of wonderful illustrations and words. It is probably better suited for the older child because of complex words and storyline. This new version brings a wonderful story back to our modern world. The storyline and sophisticated crafted words make it more suited for an older child.  

 
Patti Cake and Her New Doll- Written by Patricia Reilly Giff and illustrated by Laura J. Bryant. Published by Orchard books New York an imprint of Scholastic Inc. 2014. The book describes one day in a life of a little girl named Patti and her home companions mainly a dog named Tootsie and a new doll she got. With an imaginative approach, the author turns an regular day into an adventure and makes the ordinary into the extraordinary. A good book for you to get for you kids.



 
The Fisherman & His Wife- Based on a story by Grimm and Illustrated by John Howe 1984. Published by Creative Editions Mankato MN, 2001. The fisherman is happy living a simple life until one day everything turns around when he catches a magical fish. The fisherman's wife cannot be satisfied with what she gets. Her greed takes away everything the fish gave them. It is a great book for the older reader and the illustrations are stunning.







   
   Trouper- Written by Meg Kearney and Illustrated by E.B. Lewis. Published by Scholastic Inc. NY, 2013. The book is written from the point of view of a dog. The dog Trouper tells us his life story: how he lived on the streets t the time he was put in a pound and finally adopted. This book makes readers empathize with millions of abandoned dogs running on the streets or sitting in cages in the pounds waiting to find a loving home. I highly recommend this book to everyone.   




 
The Little Engine that Could
- Retold by Watty Piper and New Art by Loren Long. Published by Philomel Books a Division of Penguin Young Readers Group 2005. This is a great version of a classic. I loved how the writer and illustrator gave life to the characters. The story does not only teach children a lesson about never giving up, but it also introduces them to four kind of trains. I really loved this book and I strongly recommend you get it with your children. Each of us can accomplish anything we put our mind too.    


 Under the Same Sun- Written by Sharon Robinson and Illustrated by AG Ford. Published by Scholastic Press, New York 2014.  This is a great educational book about Tanzania a small country in Africa. One can vividly imagine the beautiful land of Africa with its lush scenery and many different animals. This book is very unique and the illustrations are amazing. The story is idle for a classroom setting.


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16. Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles by Tanya Lee Stone

I first heard about the Triple Nickles when I read the book Jump into the Sky by Shelly Pearsall, the story of a young African American boy whose father was a paratrooper in 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, or the Triple Nickles.

Now, Tanya Lee Stone's Courage Has No Color tells the true story of the Triple Nickels, America's first and only all black unit of paratroopers in World War II.  She begins their story by describing in graphic detail what it feels like to jump out of an airplane and parachute back to earth, to give you an idea of the level of courage it takes to be a paratrooper.  It is not something I think I would want to ever do.    

From there she writes about the kind of treatment black soldiers received in the military: segregated and relegated to service work and treated like servants.  It was demeaning and demoralizing to the men who joined the military to fight for their country and freedom.  One man, Walter Morris, a first sergeant in charge of Service Company of The Parachute School, saw how being treated like servants was affecting the men serving under him.  Morris devised a plan to teach his men how to feel like soldiers again.  It was his plan to teach them what they needed to know to become paratroopers.  And so after the white serviceman were finished practicing for the day, and the black servicemen arrived to start cleaning up after them, they also began their training.  And someone noticed how well they learned what was needed to become a successful paratrooper.  Pretty soon, the First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, long a proponent of equality, got into the act.

In 1941, The 99th Pursuit Squadron, or the Tuskegee Airmen, was formed and the men trained to be the country's first African American aviators.  And in 1943, these airmen were finally sent into combat overseas.   But the 555th Paratrooper Infantry Battalion was finally formed in February 1943.  Though trained as paratroopers, the Triple Nickles would never be used in combat, instead they were sent to Oregon to fight fires.  Turns out those fires were started by balloons sent over by Japan for that very purpose.

All of this and much more about the people and history of the 555th is detailed in Courage Has No Color, including an in-depth explanation of how they got their name - yes, there more to it than just 555.  It is a fascinating book covering this little known aspect of the United States military and World War II and an exceptional contribute to the history of African Americans in this country.

Stone has done an exemplary job of gathering primary source material, including interviews with some the of members of the 555th and lots of archival photographs, to bring to life the courage and heroism of these men and their accomplishments even against all odds.  Included is a very eyeopening timeline of the desegregation and the Triple Nickles,

Sadly, the United States Military was not desegregated until 1950.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was obtained from the publisher

Oh yes, remember that description of jumping out of an airplane I mentioned, well, you too can experience what it is like to be a paratrooper by reading it here.

A very useful teaching guide including Common Core connections, can be downloaded here.

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17. Black History Month: Why Remember Florence “Baby Flo” Mills?

Everyone knows Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, Jr., but there are many other African Americans who have contributed to the rich fabric of our country but whose names have fallen through the cracks of history.

We’ve asked some of our authors who chose to write biographies of these talented leaders why we should remember them. We’ll feature their answers throughout Black History Month.

Today, Alan Schroeder shares why he wrote about Florence Mills in Baby Flo: Florence Mills Lights Up the Stage:

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While researching African-American life, I have come across the name Florence Mills time and again.  She was a famous singer and dancer in the 1920s, but not much is known about her today.  She is a “forgotten” celebrity.  Then, a few years ago, a man named Bill Egan wrote a marvelous biography of Mills, which I happened to read.  Thanks to Mr. Egan, Mills’s incredible career sprang to life, and I knew I wanted to write about her — to share her story with young readers.
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Unlike Booker T. Washington or Frederick Douglass or Martin Luther King, Jr., Florence Mills is not an important figure in American or African-American life.  Children do not need to know about her in the way that they should know about Douglass or King, or Cesar Chavez, or Harvey Milk.  Nevertheless, her story was interesting, and her hard work and many accomplishments can, I think, serve as an inspiration to young readers.  In an amazingly short time, Florence Mills rose to the very top of her profession, and I had a wonderful time researching and writing about her.
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Further reading:

Filed under: Holidays Tagged: African American history, African American interest, african american women, baby flo, black history month, dancing, dreams &, florence mills, inspiration, performing

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18. Friday Poetry: Brick by Brick

by Charles R. Smith, Jr., illustrated by Floyd Cooper. HarperCollins, 2012 (F& G reader's proof) This lovely picture book (all I'm saying is Floyd Cooper, ladies and gentlemen...) tells the story of the building of the white house. In 1792 workers were needed to construct the White House. There weren't enough free labors so the government rented out the work of slaves from Virginia and Maryland

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19. Feb Six



It has been a cold and snowy winter so far. I really hope that you take the time to purchase these picture books and share them with your young children by your fireplace. Please have fun and enjoy that special moment with them.





Picture Books







"I Want my Hat Back"-  Written and Illustrated by Jon Klassen published by Candlewick 
press 2011 Somerville, MA and a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor book. A Bear's hat is stolen, but who has done it? He searches everywhere by talking to several of his animal friends. Have any of them seen it? This sounds like a simple concept for a story, but it is much more then that. What makes the book unique are the words and Illustrations.  The hat is hidden in the story and your child has to find it. They have to look carefully. It can be used as a game for them, and this makes the book fun. Get a copy today. 

"The Very Beary Tooth Fairy"- Written  by Arthur A. Levine and Illustrated by Sarah S.Brannen, Published by Scholastic Press 2013 New York. All his life Zach the bear has been told to stay away from humans. Than one day he notices a family having a picnic and the little boy has a tooth loose. Zach discovers his tooth is also loose. What if the tooth fairy is a human, he has to find out for himself. The author's words and the illustrations give the legend of the tooth fairy a new twist. I really enjoyed this book very much. It is  a great story to share with your kids. Get your youngster a copy, they will ask you to read over and over again.

"While Your Are Sleeping"-  Written and Illustrated by Alexis Deacon, Published Farrar, Straus and Giroux New York 2006. What happens after the lights go out? This book explores this idea by creating a fantastic world where toys come to life to protect you. The words and illustrations blend perfectly together to make a great book that does not only teach your kids to take care of their toys, but to dream. It answers the question that every child has: "What happens when I sleep?" This delightful story for your young children to read at bedtime. I highly recommend this book for everyone.  

"The Lamb and the Butterfly"- Written by Arnold Sundgaard and illustrated by Eric Carle, Published by Orchard Books an imprint of Scholastic Inc. New York 1988 reprinted 2013. Classic books stay with you all your life and inspire new generations as well. This book teaches a terrific lesson in a classic folk tale style. I was happy to see it re-released. It uses a combination of wonderful language and simple illustrations to show that every individual is unique, and so is their lifestyle. This book wisely teaches youngsters to identify with others, but to truly know themselves. This classic folk tale will be a great gift for your kids.  

"Before You Came."- Written by Patricia Maclachlan and Emily Maclachlan Charest, Illustrated by David Diaz, Published by Katherine Tegan Books an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers New York 2011. Summary-"A mother relates how she spent time before her child arrived, then passes on a gift of days peddling a red canoe, reading in a pillow-filled hammock until dark, and watching the moon rise at night." The use of poetic language and beautiful illustrations explores a universal view of a bound between mother and child. I think that any parent can relate to it. Get a copy of this book and make your little one feel extra special.  

"The Granddaughter Necklace."- Written by Sharon Dennis Wyeth and Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline,   Published by Arthur A. Levine Books an imprint of Scholastic Inc.. January 2013.This picture book is a great read for Black History month. Summary- " A mother shares with her daughter stories of the generations of women in their family as each individual has passed along the tales and glittering necklace to her own daughter." I liked this book very much. I recommend it for older readers or to be used in a classroom setting. The illustrations are wonderful and the concept beyond the story is great.  

Enjoy the picture books above, and I will have four new middle readers up in mid March.

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20. African American lives

February marks a month of remembrance for Black History in the United States. It is a time to reflect on the events that have enabled freedom and equality for African Americans, and a time to celebrate the achievements and contributions they have made to the nation.

Dr Carter Woodson, an advocate for black history studies, initially created “Negro History Week” between the birthdays of two great men who strived to influence the lives of African Americans: Fredrick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. This celebration was then expanded to the month of February and became Black History Month. Find out more about important African American lives with our quiz.

Rev. Ralph David Abernathy speaks at Nat’l. Press Club luncheon. Photo by Warren K. Leffler. 1968. Library of Congress.

Your Score:  

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The landmark American National Biography offers portraits of more than 18,700 men & women — from all eras and walks of life — whose lives have shaped the nation. The American National Biography is the first biographical resource of this scope to be published in more than sixty years.

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21. The Origins of the Coretta Scott King Award

In this guest post, Dr. Henrietta M. Smith, Professor Emerita and the first African-American professor at the University of South Florida, School of Information shares her memories of how the Coretta Scott King Award began:

The news of the damage sustained by the boardwalk in Atlantic City during Hurricane Sandy brought back memories of where the Coretta Scott King Award started. This writer’s mind went back to an earlier time, to an American Library Association annual meeting in Atlantic City. Never since the inception of the Newbery Medal...The year was 1969. Two librarians walking through the exhibit hall stopped by a booth where a poster of the late Martin Luther King Jr. was on display. This was the start of a genial conversation that evolved into the observation that never since the inception of the Newbery Medal in 1922 and the Caldecott Medal in 1938 had any award committee recognized the work of a person of color.

John Carroll, a publisher from a small company in New York, overheard the conversation. It was reported that he said, rather matter of factly, “Then why don’t you ladies establish your own award?” The seed was planted. Before the conference ended, in an informal meeting on the boardwalk in Atlantic City under the leadership of Glyndon Greer and Mabel McKissick, the idea of a award for African American authors was shared with a group of African American librarians, including Augusta Baker, Charlemae Rollins, Ella Mae Yates, and Virginia Lacy Jones, to name a few. At this seaside gathering, the struggle for recognition began.

CORETTA KING SEALThe ALA questioned the need for another award. A majority of publishers informed the committee that they did not have enough children’s books by African Americans to provide for evaluation. And many librarians were skeptical of anything becoming of this fragile brainchild. Undaunted and unconvinced that this venture was fruitless, the committee moved on. In 1970, the first Coretta Scott King Awards breakfast was scheduled in a hotel that just “happened” not to be on the ALA list of official hotels. After a meager meal and short program, the first recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award was announced. A school librarian from New Jersey, Lillie Patterson, went down in history as the first winner of the award for her elementary level biography, Martin Luther King, Jr.: Man of Peace.

Ray Charles

from Ray Charles

It was not until 1974 that the award breakfast was held in an ALA conference site, but even then, the CSK Award was not recognized as an official ALA award, nor was the award committee recognized as an official ALA body. But to the joy of all, publishers were now sending more quality books, and attendance at the 7:30 a.m. breakfast was steadily growing! Another change came in 1974 when the committee presented its first illustrator award. George Ford, who is still painting today, won for the illustrations he created for Sharon Bell Mathis’ biography Ray Charles.

In the years that followed, a major breakthrough came when E. J. Josey was elected president of the ALA. One of his first concerns was to bring the Coretta Scott King Committee into the official folds of the American Library Association. In 1980, the Coretta Scott King Committee became the Coretta Scott King Task Force, a viable part of Social Responsibilities Task Force (since 1993 a part of EMIERT), with founder Glyndon Greer as its first chair.

Growth and changes can be seen as the benchmark of this dynamic group of librarians. Artist Lev Mills designed the medal that is placed on each award-winning book. The symbols in the medal’s design each carry a special message; even the colors of the winner and honor book medals, and the more recent new talent award medal, have significance. The monetary prize for the winners was first given through the efforts of the late Basil O. Phillips of the Johnson Publishing Company, and today the encyclopedias from Britannica and World Book have moved from print into the digital age.Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award seal

Following negotiations with the ALA parent body on Awards and Recognitions, and the late John Steptoe’s son, illustrator Javaka Steptoe, in 1995, the New Talent Award was established. It was named in honor of John Steptoe, whose first book, Stevie (1969), won national acclaim when the author/illustrator was only nineteen years of age.

With each meeting of the Coretta Scott King Task Force, new ideas for growth are on the docket. Among the newest is the Coretta Scott King/Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, which goes to an African American author, illustrator, author/illustrator, or practitioner (such as a librarian) for his or her body of work or contributions to reading programs involving African American literature. Changes are constantly in the works too. New ideas for creating greater visibility and wider use of Coretta Scott King Award books and materials are a part of every Task Force meeting.

To think that all this started with a meeting on the boardwalk in Atlantic City! The very spot may not be there now, but surely the news reports about Hurricane Sandy conjured up many of these same memories for those who met on the boardwalk way back in 1969.

Dr. Henrietta M. Smith, native New Yorker, received her MLS degree from Columbia University and EdD from University of Miami, Florida. She teaches in the Materials for Youth in the School of Information (University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida). Longtime member of the ALA, Smith has served on Newbery Caldecott, Wilder (Chair), and Pura Belpré Award committees for ALSC and has chaired the Coretta Scott King Task Force and the CSK Award Committee. Smith received the ALSC Distinguished Service Award in 2008 and in 2011 was the first practitioner recipient of the Coretta Scott King/Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement in Librarianship.


Filed under: guest blogger, Musings & Ponderings, Publishing 101, Resources Tagged: African American history, African/African American Interest, american library association, awards, black history month, coretta scott king awards, Why I Love Librarians

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22. Black History Month: Why Remember Bill Traylor?

Everyone knows Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, Jr., but there are many other African Americans who have contributed to the rich fabric of our country but whose names have fallen through the cracks of history.

We’ve asked some of our authors who chose to write biographies of these talented leaders why we should remember them. We’ll feature their answers throughout Black History Month.

Today, Don Tate shares why he wrote about Bill Traylor in It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw:

cover

Bill Traylor was an “outsider artist.” He learned to draw in much the same way that I learned to paint: by trial and error. He taught himself to draw. Somehow I felt an immediate kinship to Bill. In his day, Bill’s art sold for about 10- to 25-cents and was panned by art critics as “primitive.” Today Bill’s art is collected by top art connoisseurs, and is on display in museums all over the world, selling for thousands of dollars. I love these kinds of stories where the “outsider” gets the glory.

Bill had an inborn – I believe God-given – talent that came forth in time of great need. That spoke to me, too. It supported my belief that all people are born equipped with everything needed to overcome great obstacles in life and do great things.

bill1

I think it’s important for children to be exposed to a variety of historical figures. Black history is not limited to the one or two people that are so often written and published about. In addition to civil rights, African Americans have made great contributions to science and technology, arts and literature, sports and entertainment, education and business. Bill Traylor was an artist, but he was also a journalist, though he may not have realized it. And a historian, too.Through his art, he documented an important part of American history that will be appreciated for many hundreds of years to come.

Further reading:

Black History Month: Why Remember Florence “Baby Flo” Mills?

Black History Month: Why Remember Robert Smalls?

Black History Month: Why Remember Toni Stone?

Black History Month: Why Remember Arthur Ashe?

Black History Month Book Giveaway


Filed under: Musings & Ponderings Tagged: African American interest, bill traylor, biography, black history month, don tate, dreams and aspirations, It Jes' Happened, nonfiction, overcoming obstacles, painting, slavery, united states history

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23. The Plantation Church: a Q&A with Noel Erskine

In honor of Black History Month, we sat down with Noel Erskine to learn more about the Plantation Church—the religions that formed on plantations during slavery—and its roots in the Caribbean.

How was the Plantation Church formed?

The Plantation Church was formed through the traffic across the Black Atlantic of Africa’s children, packed like sardines, and treated as human cargo, to work on plantations in the Americas. The plantation was at first a site of human bondage, and provided the context for chattel slavery, where the entire family was brutalized as they realized that there was a connection between higher sugar prices and cruel treatment of slaves. In plantation society the political power of the African chief was transferred to the white master, except in the context of the plantation, there were no safeguards for women and children. The entire family was dehumanized. Plantation etiquette required submission to the wishes of the master and failure to comply would often elicit a violent response. The will of the master applied to every aspect of plantation life. The master had the right to whip, sell, or trade members of the family whenever or for whatever reason. Africans found it difficult at first to mount a credible form of resistance against the violence perpetrated against them on plantations.

Picture of slaves being transported from Africa

Slaves being transported in Africa, 19th century engraving. From Lehrbuch der Weltgeschichte oder Die Geschichte der Menschheit by William Rednbacher, 1890. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Why was the Plantation Church formed?

It is often forgotten that Africans who were captured and brought against their will to work on plantations in the New World left institutions of their clan and tribe behind. The creation of the Plantation Church was an attempt to hold body and soul together in an alien environment. In the Plantation Church, which was at first an African Church, Africans “stolen from the homeland” had to compensate for the loss of language, culture, and the constant change of environment as they were often sold and separated from members of their families. The cruelty meted out to Africans who traversed the Black Atlantic on route to the Caribbean and North American colonies for work in plantation society is beyond compare in the annals of the history of slavery. The Indians and Spaniards had the support and comfort of their families, their kinsfolk, their leaders, and their places of worship in their sufferings. Africans the most uprooted of all, were herded together like animals in a pen, always in a state of impotent rage, always filled with a longing for flight, freedom, change, and always having to adopt a defensive attitude of submission, pretense, and acculturation to the new world.

What characterized the Plantation Church?

Enslaved Africans on plantations “a long ways from home”, remembered home, and the memory of Africa became a controlling metaphor and organizing principle as they countered the hegemonic conditions imposed on them by their masters. There was a tension between their existence on plantations here in the New World and there in Africa, their home of origin. Here in plantation society they longed for there, their home, Africa – the forests, the ancestors, family, Gods and culture. They remembered the forests and they relived their experience of forests through the practice of religious rituals in the brush arbors, often down by the riverside. The memory of ancestors and a sense that their spirits accompanied them served as sites of a new consciousness on the plantations in which the struggle for survival and liberation took precedence. This awakening convinced them that they would survive through running away to the forests or through suicides that would reunite them with families and the Africa they remembered. It was primarily through religious rituals and the carving out of Black sacred spaces that enslaved persons were able to affirm self and create a world over against plantation society which was created for their families by the master. With the creation of the Plantation Church, the African priest and medicine man/woman were able to prevent the enslaved condition from dominating their consciousness and rob the children of Africa the freedom to dream a new world. It was the community’s memory of Africa that provided hope for dreaming the emergence of new worlds whether in Haiti, South Carolina, or Cuba.

Why is the Caribbean so important to the Plantation Church?

There were more than eleven million enslaved persons who were transported across the Black Atlantic and forced to work on plantations in the New World. Of this number, about 450, 000 arrived in the United States and all the rest went south of the border to the Caribbean nations and South America. More than twice the number of Africans who landed in the United States arrived in each of the islands of Haiti, Jamaica, and Cuba.  Additionally, it must be noted that slavery began in the Caribbean as early as 1502, well over a hundred years before the first twenty Africans landed in James Town Virginia in 1619. The historical priority and the numerical advantage point to the Black religious experience being born in the Caribbean and not the United States of America.  W.E.B. Du Bois puts this in perspective, “American Negroes, to a much larger extent than they realize, are not only blood relatives to the West Indians but under deep obligations to them for many things. For instance, without the Haitian Revolt, there would have been no emancipation in America as early as 1863. I, myself, am of West Indian descent and am proud of the fact.”

Noel Leo Erskine is Professor of Theology and Ethics at Candler School of Theology and the Laney Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Emory University. He has been a visiting Professor in ten schools in six countries. His books include Plantation Church: How African American Religion Was Born in Caribbean Slavery, King Among the Thologians, and From Garvey to Marley.

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24. African American demography [infographic]

In celebration of Black History Month, Social Explorer has put together an interactive infographic with statistics from the most recent Census and American Community Survey. Dig into the data to find out about current African American household ownership, employment rates, per capita income, and more demographic information.

Take a sneak peak below and visit Social Explorer Presents Black History Month for the full, interactive infographic.

se-blackhistorymonth-PDF_r1-oupblog

Social Explorer provides quick and easy access to current and historical census data and demographic information. The easy-to-use web interface lets users create maps and reports to illustrate, analyze, and understand demography and social change. In addition to its comprehensive data resources, Social Explorer offers features and tools to meet the needs of demography experts and novices alike. From research libraries to classrooms to government agencies to corporations to the front page of the New York Times, Social Explorer helps the public engage with society and science.

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25. Black History Month Beyond the Basics: Remembering Cortez Peters

Pamela M. TuckGuest BloggerAs February comes to an end, we round out Black History Month with a guest post by Pamela M.Tuck, author of As Fast As Words Could Fly. We asked her if there was one person she could choose to be as well-known or remembered as Rosa Parks, who would it be and why?

In a segregated all-black school, a young student was empowered by an African American motivational speaker from Washington, DC. It was 1960s North Carolina and this speaker, in the student’s mind, was famous. The young student was my mother, Pauline Teel, and the speaker was Cortez Peters.

Cortez Peters, Sr. taught himself to type, at the age of 11, on a used typewriter his father had received in a trade. His “hunt and peck” system later developed into a fast and accurate method that garnered him the title of World Typing Champion, with speeds over 100 words per minute. He was the founder of the Cortez W. Peters Business School, which debuted in 1934. It was one of the first vocational schools in Washington, DC to prepare African Americans for business and civil services. The opening of his school became a pivotal point in history for African Americans.

cortez petersCortez Peters, Jr. began typing at the age of 12. He eventually surpassed his father’s world record with a typing speed of 225 words per minute with no mistakes.

Both Peters Sr. and Peters Jr. made a career out of teaching their craft to others.

At that unforgettable school visit, Cortez Peters awed my mother and the other students with his rhythmic typing finesse. My mother remembers how his typing mimicked the tunes of many songs, and how he made artistic configurations on his paper. She stated, “He would use all A’s to form the letter A, and all B’s to form the letter B.” His phenomenal typing ability was an amazing entertainment for the students, but his accomplishments as an African American entrepreneur made him an empowering role model.

Cortez gave his formula of success to the students in 3 simple words: Determination, Inspiration, and Perspiration. Determined not to let anyone or anything stop them from reaching their dreams. Inspired to do whatever it takes to accomplish their dreams. And work hard (Perspiration) to make those dreams come true.

Cortez Peters’ formula for success became ingrained into my mother and was one of the driving forces that helped shape her into the successful woman she became. Enough so, that she passed the formula on to me and I have passed it on to my children.

With the impression Cortez Peters made on my mom, I guess it seems fitting that her high school sweetheart, my dad, turned out to be a local typing champion. Ironically, Cortez Peters and my dad unknowingly shared the same formula for success, and As Fast As their Words Could Fly, change was taking place, history was being made, and dreams were coming true.


Filed under: guest blogger, Musings & Ponderings Tagged: Black History, black history month, cortez peters, Pamela Tuck, Rosa Parks, typing

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