Everyone has heard about the talented, super-smart teachers who work for the Teach for America program. But why do many of these new teachers only stay for a year or two and then move on?
In Reading with Patrick, compelling and emotionally resonant memoir, Michelle Kuo, a Harvard-educated Asian American, relates her two years teaching in poverty-torn Helena, Arkansas, a delta town close to the Mississippi state line that has lost nearly all of its industry. Kuo also describes her parents’ great expectations for her career, and their deep disappointment when she takes a low-paying position in education. Read more about Reading with Patrick
A Ghana proverb says, “By going and coming, a bird weaves its nest.” The title of this novel tells the story of many people from Ghana who were forcibly removed from their African home, yet centuries later, two descendants return to find their family.
If you liked Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, Yaa Gyasi’s novel will make the perfect follow-up. Hard to believe that she started writing this in her early twenties and finished it by age twenty-six. It covers much more ground than Whitehead’s historical novel: Africa and the U.S., and much more time, from the mid-seventeen hundreds to now.
At one point in the novel, a black history teacher describes history as storytelling. Gyasi presents many eloquent and heart-rending stories here. What ties them together is that all the characters belong to one extended family, who were once royalty in Ghana. They became both slave-sellers and slaves. Many came to America.
Gyasi follows two tracks of this family: one remained in Ghana, the other was forced into slavery in the U.S. It follows their descendants after the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the great migration north.
Gyasi visited Africa as a student to do research on a book about mothers and daughters. But when she toured Ghana’s Cape Coast Castle, something in the rooms, the cellar where slaves were chained and abused in dungeons called out to her. She immediately decided to focus on the African slave trade and its diaspora later in the U.S. Read more about Homegoing
Winner of the 2017 Michael L. Printz Award, the 2017 Coretta Scott King Author Award, the 2017 Sibert Medal, and several other awards, March: Book 3 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell is a monumental feat of storytelling that is a must-read. March: Book 3 is the final installment in a graphic novel trilogy that chronicles the Civil Rights Movement in the American South from the perspective of John Lewis. This book follows the Civil Rights Movement from the Selma to Montgomery march to the passage of the Civil Rights Act, chronicling the trials and tribulations the protestors faced during this time. Chock full of text, explanations, and history, March: Book 3 illustrates the human need for freedom and equality. At once deeply personal, as we see much from Lewis’s perspective, and highly detached as the broader frictions in the movement are revealed and the enormous struggle the movement overcame are presented. Read more about March: Book 3 by John Lewis
The helplessness and friendships of childhood are topics that many writers have tackled. Fewer have written about African-American girlhood, as Woodson does here. The book centers on August, the intelligent young girl who leaves the lush south for the vibrant and dangerous streets of Bushwick, Brooklyn.
“For a long time my mother wasn’t dead yet.” This sentence opens the novel, which doesn’t proceed chronologically, but follows an inner lyric pulse. Throughout, the whereabouts of August’s missing mother haunt the story.
August’s family lived in Tennessee on a farm called SweetGrove land. It was inherited from her grandparents. After their uncle, Clyde, a Vietnam soldier dies, her mother begins to unravel. Soon, her father rushes north with August and her little brother to Brooklyn, his home town.
It’s summer--so for safety, August’s father locks her and her little brother, who is only five, inside their third-story apartment. They spend long summer days watching children play on the street: double-Dutch, stick ball games and splashing under open fire hydrants. A colorful parade of adults wearing dashikis and other colorful outfits weave past. Read more about Another Brooklyn
For a powerful and poetic glimpse into the life of a real-life American civil rights hero, look no further than Voice of Freedom, a 2016 Caldecott Honor book written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated in beautiful collages by Ekua Holmes. Each haunting poem includes Fannie Lou Hamer's own words, and each tells of a formative experience in her eventful life. She was at the forefront of many important events in civil rights history, and sadly, like many black citizens of the U.S. both past and present, experienced brutality at the hands of cruel white people so severe that she was left with permanent injuries. Her ability to rise above incredible injustices and to be a leader for her people was second to none. Highly recommended for grades 4 and up.
Since 1976, four hundred and ninety four blacks have been executed in our country. This is more than half the amount of executions of whites, although Caucasians make up a much greater percentage of our population.
This powerful short novel tells the story of Jefferson, a young black man, who was sentenced to execution in the Jim Crow days of the 1940s in Cajun Louisiana. Grant Wiggins, one of the few college-educated blacks in the area, narrates the story.
It opens with a liquor store robbery where Jefferson unfortunately happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Soon an all-white jury convicts the young man, and he is sentenced to the electric chair. Attending the trial are his godmother, Miss Emma, who raised him, and Tante Louise, who brought up Grant and with whom he still lives. Read more about A Lesson Before Dying
Civil War Colonel Robert Gould Shaw of the Union Army is not a man most of us would think of as having an important role in the history of African Americans in the United States, but he did. Col. Shaw was chosen to lead the Massachusetts 54th Regiment of the Union Army. With the exception of himself and his second in command this regiment was made up entirely of African Americans and was one of the first to actually be allowed to carry arms into battle. Read more about Glory