African American History Resources in the Curriculum Materials Collection

1a18f436-29bc-47f0-b01c-6b055c496787Today’s post was written by Carol Raby, Library Events Specialist. It originally appeared in the February 2016 issue of the Happenings @ Hannon.

According to a 2013 study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin of approximately 3,200 children’s books published in 2013, only 93 were about Africans or African Americans. Just last month, a survey by Lee & Low Books highlighted the lack of diversity in the publishing industry as well. Both of these studies focus on a problem recognized by readers of children’s literature since as far back as 1962 when Ezra Jack Keats’s Caldecott Medal winning book,The Snowy Day, caught national attention: children’s books lack diverse cultural representation. Walter Dean Myers, a giant in children’s literature who passed away in 2014, wrote a piece on the subject for the New York Times. “Books transmit values,” states Myers. “They explore our common humanity. What is the message when some children are not represented in those books?”

We invite you to explore our Curriculum Materials Collection (CMC) on Level 2 and engage with some resources you may not have seen before. Here is a snapshot of a few titles you can find there.

Congressman John Lewis’s graphic (comic) style books March, Volumes 1 and 2 and Turning 15 On The Road To Freedom are first person accounts from the Civil Rights Movement. Seeds of Freedomexamines the process of integration in Huntsville, Alabama and explores why this community managed a more peaceful transition compared to other places across our country.

Sometimes, CMC books provide an introduction for further study. For example, you can read about the amazing Biddy Mason in With Open Hands. In the 1840’s Biddy, a slave, walked from Mississippi to Utah and then on to California where she fought for her freedom in court. When she died in 1891, she was one of twelve founding members of the First AME church and one of the wealthiest women in Los Angeles. There is a memorial to her at Third and Spring Streets in Downtown Los Angeles. You can read more about her in The Force of a Feather: The Search for a Lost Story of Slavery and Freedom.

Horace Pippin is the subject of another interesting pairing between the CMC’s A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin and the general collection’s I Tell My Heart: The Art of Horace Pippin. The art in A Splash of Red pays homage to Pippin while I Tell My Heart fills in the details of his life and provides reproductions of his art.

Another recently published, well-researched CMC nonfiction book is Port Chicago 50, the story of a horrific World War II naval disaster that killed 320 black sailors in San Francisco. The book is full of gripping, firsthand accounts of surviving Navy men and chronicles incredible injustices not often recognized in our collective history.

Rhythm Ride and Heart and Soul are two of our favorite books in the CMC. The first is brand new and explores the life of Berry Gordie, founder of the Motown record label. The second book, Heart and Soul, is a personal look at one family through generations of American history and features incredible illustrations.

If you are interested in learning more about the Curriculum Materials Collection, please contact Carol at