Freedom Over Me: Ashley Bryan's 2017 BGHB Picture Book Award Speech

Editor’s note: Rather than writing formal speeches, Ashley Bryan speaks to what moves him at the moment in connection with an event. At the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards, he led us in animated and memorable recitations of several of Langston Hughes’s poems as part of his acceptance speech. We are pleased to print this transcription of the remarks he gave amidst the shared poetry.

What a joy to thank the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards committee for recognizing Freedom Over Me, and to work with my editor Caitlyn Dlouhy and the book’s designer, Ann Bobco. When you think you’re alone in this world, you’re not alone. You have an idea, but it’s not enough for you alone; you join with others and they feed into it with their love and care, and then something comes about.

All we had to work with was the name of a slave, and a price. From the documents I had acquired, we chose these eleven. How do we bring them alive? Caitlyn suggested: What are their dreams? And with that addition they become more human; they become each one of you reading. Each one becomes alive, and it was through this working with others that the book came about.

In fact, that’s the really deeply moving aspect of it, the care that others have for you and what you are doing. The love they bring to it allows me to get across what I have to offer. And so it means everything to me. In recognizing these eleven slaves, I would like all of us to say with me a Langston Hughes poem that is about us all.


My People
The night is beautiful,
So the faces of my people…

In affirming the love of who we are, we’ve all come together. The love of our people.

In my meeting with children in elementary schools throughout the country, and all over the world, I have only one message: the printed word has a voice. Through poetry you can find your voice. And that’s what we’re all doing as we work with our writing.

From the January/February 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. For more on the 2017 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards, click on the tag BGHB17. Read more by and about Ashley Bryan here.






To commemorate Black History Month, we are highlighting a series of articles, speeches, and reviews from The Horn Book archive that are by and/or about African American authors, illustrators, and luminaries in the field — one a day through the month of February, with a roundup on Fridays. Click the tag HBBlackHistoryMonth18 and look for #HBBlackHistoryMonth18 on and @HornBook. You can find more resources about social justice and activism at our Talking About Race and Making a Difference resource pages.

The Horn Book celebrates Black History Month




Ashley Bryan

Ashley Bryan is the winner of the 2012 Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement and the 2009 Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal. In 2017 he won the Boston Globe–Horn Book Picture Book Award for Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life, and in 2020 he won the Boston Globe–Horn Book Nonfiction Award for Infinite Hope: A Black Artist's Journey from World War II to Peace.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

Carrie Marsh

Is there video of Ashley Bryan accepting this award?

Posted : Jan 18, 2018 06:05


Community matters. Stay up to date on breaking news, trends, reviews, and more.

Get access to reviews of books, ebooks, and more


We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing