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Two Excellent Black History Books

February 8, 2012

It’s Black History Month. And though we don’t want to be guilty of thinking that there is a difference between between black history and american history (because there is no difference), we do want to take advantage of this time of year and draw particular attention to the often neglected lives of black americans.

Here are two books by Kadir Nelson that are particularly well-written, and even better illustrated. Remarkably, Nelson is both the author and the illustrator. These books are marketed as children’s book, but I am confident that not only will children find them interesting, but you older folks will too. In fact, the vivid portraits in the books are worth the price of the books alone. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself tempted to cut some of the pages out and frame them.

The first book is Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African-Americans. This is general sweeping overview of American history with a particular view to African-Americans. Nelson begins the book with the American Revolution and reminds us of the inherent contradiction that was America’s war from freedom. In commenting on one of his the early portraits in the book, Nelson says:

“I think it was the irony of this country that [was] created with the concept of freedom, yet a large part of the population [was] held as slaves. So we start this great story about freedom, and then we have our first president sitting on his horse; he’s proud of his achievement, and yet his slave is sitting there holding his hat.”

Here is an NPR interview with Kadir Nelson discussing this award winning book.

The second book is We Are The Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball. One the more fascinating dramas of American history is the development of the Negro League, and the huge contribution baseball made to the breaking down of color barriers in American society. Jackie Robinson is one of my favorite athletes. But he was only one of the many men who made Baseball a truly American sport.  Here is an NPR interview with Nelson discussing this book as well.

Again, these books are marketed as children’s books. However, I challenge any adult not to be engrossed with the history and the vivid portraits these volumes deliver. Check ’em out. You’ll be glad you did.

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