One of my informal mentors in history was Florida A & M University’s Dr. James Eaton, a professor and most important, curator of the campus Black Archives, then housed in the aging Carnagie Library in Tallahassee, Florida. www.famu.edu/index.cfm?BlackArchives&TheFounder
Prof. Eaton taught everyone within earshot ( pre- email) that black history, African-American history, was everyone’s history. It’s the history of this entire country. It’s a lesson I learned & have kept. And I think most of us also today like every month to be a month to teach black history, women’s history, American Indian history, immigrants’ history & on & on. Enuf of the idea that we think of it one month & then think little of it for a year.
But yet, in this month, I present icons whose work is exemplary. They themselves are exemplars, not only for young readers, but for readers of all ages. And for readers of all colors and cultural backgrounds. Almost all are still with us, so run and catch them presenting, signing or singing … while you can!
Jerry Pinkney’s work is on display in New York City at The Schomberg where I remember visiting on tour with my writer pal Deborah Ibert.
Not only did Jerry Pinkney earn 5 Coretta Scott King and Caldecott awards, but he long ago earned a place in every parent and teacher’s heart for his tender work. Here’s one of my favorites, from my shelves. And it’s not surprising that In for Winter, Out for Spring, is so special – he teamed with Arnold Adoff, (whose Love Letters with artist Lisa Desimini, was my post early in February. ) Notice in the cover below, the heart on her overalls ♥
Virginia Hamilton is still with us in spirit via her many fine works and also a delight to find, this love letter below at the School Library Journal link. You will enjoy columnist Ann Bowllan’s presentation via Jerry Pinkney. I had the wet eyes, reading.
I became aware of Elizabeth Anderson last January as she read her
praise poem for President Obama’s ignauration. Her poetry in picture book form for young readers is a stunner, about a school in Connecticut that went from being a refuge for black girls to an emblem of New England racism, a topic that isn’t often discussed.
Alice Walker is from Georgia, my next door region here in North Florida. She brought attention to Florida’s neglect of Zora Neale Hurston.
She is read in every high school, and some braver middle schools, via The Color Purple.
I think Alice Walker is a talent one can’t categorize. I had the wet stuff, again, when I read her piece recently on the passing of her beloved mentor, “the people’s historian” Howard Zinn.
Faith Ringgold is another original. She is generous & inventive. Here from my shelf, is a lesser known p.b. of hers, a story that celebrates family ties, those willing to adopt and will take you to war-time Paris. www.faithringgold.com
You may know Sharon Dennis Wyeth. She is an actress and writer. I learned from her mentoring to ask my characters questions, out loud, on the spot and run right away with the answers to my notebook or keyboard.