African American History in Poetry

fics
Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford; illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
As slaves relentlessly toiled in an unjust system in 19th century Louisiana, they all counted down the days until Sunday, when at least for half a day they were briefly able to congregate in Congo Square in New Orleans. Here they were free to set up an open market, sing, dance, and play music. They were free to forget their cares, their struggles, and their oppression. This story chronicles slaves’ duties each day, from chopping logs on Mondays to baking bread on Wednesdays to plucking hens on Saturday, and builds to the freedom of Sundays and the special experience of an afternoon spent in Congo Square.
This title received honors as a Caldecott Honor Book and a King Illustrator Honor Book this year.

jday
Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph by Roxanne Orgill; illustrated by Francis Vallejo
When Esquire magazine planned an issue to salute the American jazz scene in 1958, graphic designer Art Kane pitched a crazy idea: how about gathering a group of beloved jazz musicians and photographing them? He didn’t own a good camera, didn’t know if any musicians would show up, and insisted on setting up the shoot in front of a Harlem brownstone. Could he pull it off? In a captivating collection of poems, Roxane Orgill steps into the frame of Harlem 1958, bringing to life the musicians’ mischief and quirks, their memorable style, and the vivacious atmosphere of a Harlem block full of kids on a hot summer’s day. Francis Vallejo’s vibrant, detailed, and wonderfully expressive paintings do loving justice to the larger-than-life quality of jazz musicians of the era. Includes bios of several of the fifty-seven musicians, an author’s note, sources, a bibliography, and a foldout of Art Kane’s famous photograph.

letsclap
Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout; Dance, Spin, and Turn It Out! Games, Songs, & Stories from an African American Childhood collected by Patricia C. McKissack; illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Parents and grandparents will delight in sharing this exuberant book with the children in their lives. Here is a songbook, a storybook, a poetry collection, and much more, all rolled into one. Find a partner for hand claps such as “Eenie, Meenie, Sassafreeny,” or form a circle for games like “Little Sally Walker.” Gather as a family to sing well-loved songs like “Amazing Grace” and “Oh, Freedom,” or to read aloud the poetry of such African American luminaries as Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, and Paul Laurence Dunbar. And snuggle down to enjoy classic stories retold by the author, including Aesop’s fables and tales featuring Br’er Rabbit and Anansi the Spider.

1last
One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes
In this collection of poetry, Nikki Grimes looks afresh at the poets of the Harlem Renaissance — including voices like Langston Hughes, Georgia Douglas Johnson, and many more writers of importance and resonance from this era — by combining their work with her own original poetry. Using “The Golden Shovel” poetic method, Grimes has written a collection of poetry that is as gorgeous as it is thought-provoking. This special book also includes original artwork in full-color from some of today’s most exciting African American illustrators, who have created pieces of art based on Nikki’s original poems.
Nikki Grimes is the 2017 winner of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for her “substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.”

pforp
A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day by Andrea Davis Pinkney
A celebration of the extraordinary life of Ezra Jack Keats, creator of The Snowy Day. The story of The Snowy Day begins more than one hundred years ago, when Ezra Jack Keats was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. The family were struggling Polish immigrants, and … it was many years before Keats’s greatest dream was realized and he had the opportunity to write and illustrate his own book. For more than two decades, Ezra had kept pinned to his wall a series of photographs of an adorable African American child. In Keats’s hands, the boy morphed into Peter, a boy in a red snowsuit, out enjoying the pristine snow; the book became The Snowy Day, winner of the Caldecott Medal, the first mainstream book to feature an African American child. It was also the first of many books featuring Peter and the children of his — and Keats’s — neighborhood. Andrea Davis Pinkney’s lyrical narrative tells the inspiring story of a boy who pursued a dream, and who, in turn, inspired generations of other dreamers

youcan
You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen by Carole Boston Weatherford; art by Jeffery Boston Weatherford
This history in verse celebrates the story of the Tuskegee Airmen: pioneering African-American pilots who triumphed in the skies and past the color barrier.

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