Nonfiction for Black History Month 2022

These true stories and insights from history, including biographies of notable figures (two in graphic-novel form!), bring immediacy for YA readers about significant lives of and times for Black people in America. See also Five Questions for Marilyn Nelson about Augusta Savage: The Shape of a Sculptor's Life, Wade Hudson Talks with Roger about Defiant: Growing Up in the Jim Crow South, and our Black History Month and Black History Month 2022 coverage.

Black Birds in the Sky: The Story and Legacy of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre
by Brandy Colbert
Middle School, High School   Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins    224 pp.    g
10/21    978-0-06-305666-4    $19.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-305668-8    $9.99

On May 30, 1921 — just over one hundred years ago — a young Black man tripped in an elevator and caught his balance on the arm of the elevator operator, a young white woman who screamed in surprise. He was arrested the next day, May 31; as the story spread, an angry white mob started to assemble outside the courthouse. That night, the Tulsa Race Massacre began in earnest and carried over until the evening of the following day, June 1. The mob descended on the prosperous African American neighborhood of Greenwood to destroy property, take lives, and terrorize the Black population. Colbert chronicles each day with immediacy and in detail, with interspersed chapters providing necessary background information: Oklahoma’s journey to statehood; the forced relocation of American Indian tribes; the rush to claim and settle land; the discovery of oil; the KKK and the practice of lynching to intimidate Black people; the rise of Greenwood, the “Black Wall Street,” and its numerous Black-owned businesses; and the social mobility of African Americans during World War I. A foreword describes the author’s personal connection to this story, while the afterword makes universal connections, drawing parallels between historical and contemporary events. A bibliography, source notes, and an index are also appended. Primarily a fiction writer, Colbert (The Only Black Girls in Town; The Voting Booth, both rev. 7/20) extends her range with this excellent nonfiction book, a welcome contribution to the growing literature about this tragedy; see also Carole Boston Weatherford and Floyd Cooper’s picture book Unspeakable (rev. 1/21), a 2021 Boston Globe–Horn Book Nonfiction honoree. JONATHAN HUNT

Rise Up!: How You Can Join the Fight Against White Supremacy
by Crystal M. Fleming
Middle School, High School    Holt    256 pp.    g
10/21    978-1-250-22638-9    $19.99
e-book ed.  978-1-250-22639-6    $10.99

Professor and critical race sociologist Fleming introduces teens to the history of race and racism, beginning with an overview of racist ideas and practices and how they relate to white supremacy. Through examples including European colonizers’ stealing of land from Indigenous peoples; the enslavement of Africans; and the U.S.’s exclusion of people from Asia and Latin America through immigration policies, she traces the perpetuation of white supremacy. She also shows, in concrete detail, how racist ideas and practices affect the law; the images we see in movies and other media (with pictures throughout adding context); and the world of sports. Fleming provides readers with the language and knowledge necessary to begin an antiracist journey and offers five steps they can take. She notes from the outset that racism can be an uncomfortable subject but expresses hope that teens learning about it early can enact change. Detailed source notes and an index are appended. NICHOLL DENICE MONTGOMERY

Recognize!: An Anthology Honoring and Amplifying Black Life
edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson
Intermediate, Middle School    Crown    208 pp.    g
10/21    978-0-593-38159-5    $16.99
Library ed.  978-0-593-38160-1    $19.99
e-book ed.  978-0-593-38161-8    $9.99

The Hudsons’ latest anthology (We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices, rev. 11/18; The Talk, rev. 9/20) boasts more than thirty contributions from historical and contemporary authors and artists. Short stories, essays, poetry, and art pay homage to the current movement for Black lives. Young people will encounter familiar contemporary authors but will also be introduced to leaders such as Frederick Douglass, through his electrifying 1852 speech “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”; and Mary McLeod Bethune, from her moving “Last Will and Testament.” Poetry is prominently featured: Lesa Cline-Ransome’s “At Our Kitchen Table” celebrates the bonds of family while addressing the challenges of being Black during a time of global pandemic and racial unrest; abolitionist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s “A Slave Mother” highlights a not-so-distant past when freedom was only a whispered prayer. Stunning works of art by acclaimed Black illustrators are featured, including Keith Knight, James Ransome, Ekua Holmes, and the late Floyd Cooper. Appended with artist and author notes; brief biographies of the historical figures; contributor notes; and more information about the Black Lives Matter movement. MONIQUE HARRIS

Run: Book One
by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin; illus. by L. Fury with Nate Powell
Middle School, High School    Good Trouble Productions/ComicArts/Abrams    160 pp.    g
8/21    978-1-4197-3069-6    $24.99
e-book ed.  978-1-68335-382-9    $18.65

The story begun in the March graphic memoirs (rev. 1/14, 5/15, and 9/16) — events of the civil rights movement as seen through the eyes of young activist (and later longtime Congress member) John Lewis — continues in this first volume of a projected new series. It picks up after the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as Lewis questions his own effectiveness as SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) chairperson. But Lewis’s personal story is mostly a springboard to larger events. Depictions of efforts by segregationists to close or move polling stations; the unpunished 1966 murder of young Black man Samuel Younge Jr.; and the prevention of Julian Bond’s being seated in the Georgia General Assembly show how white supremacists and segregationists were emboldened to maintain existing power structures. Taking over most art duties from March illustrator Powell (who illustrates the pages leading up to the title page), Fury renders emotionally devastating, often violent events and quieter moments with equal finesse. Her grayscale art is reminiscent of Powell’s, but with cleaner-lined, less stylized figures. Extensive back matter includes biographical information on dozens of individuals, meticulous source notes, and additional background on both the civil rights movement and the book’s creation. Most of the finished pages were completed before Lewis’s death in 2020; plans are in progress for the series to continue with additional material he and Aydin worked on together. As informative and essential an addition to the nonfiction comic canon as its much-lauded predecessors. ERIC CARPENTER

Harriet Tubman: Toward Freedom
by Whit Taylor; illus. by Kazimir Lee
Middle School, High School    Little, Brown    112 pp.    g
6/21    978-0-7595-5550-1    $19.99
Paper ed.  978-0-7595-5551-8    $12.99
e-book ed.  978-0-7595-5766-6    $9.99

This Center for Cartoon Studies Presents entry (most recently, Glynnis Fawkes’s Charlotte Brontë Before Jane Eyre, rev. 11/19) spotlights the life and legacy of famed Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman. Biographical information is conveyed through sequential art and dialogue, including a fictionalized meeting with Philadelphia abolitionist William Still. The story also zooms in on Tubman’s successful effort in 1854 to help her brothers escape enslavement. Rectangular panels depict mostly realistic scenes, with thick black outlines and muted, shadowy shades of pink and blue; whimsical, feather- and firework-like shapes are used to symbolize her unwavering faith and belief that God was offering her direction. Shifts in visual perspective emphasize sensory-rich, scene-setting details (mice scurrying, lanterns buzzing, trains passing, etc.). The “spells” Tubman experienced after an overseer threw a heavy weight at her forehead are illustrated, as well as the subterfuges, codes, and traditions enslaved people developed to survive and celebrate their lives despite the oppression they faced and actively fought. The people highlighted have agency and courage, with their humanity and hope centered. (At one point Tubman says, about her failed marriage, “What can you do but move forward?”) With an introduction by Carole Boston Weatherford and back matter including “Panel Discussions” and source notes detailing the creative liberties taken for dramatic effect. ELISA GALL

Baseball’s Leading Lady: Effa Manley and the Rise and Fall of the Negro Leagues
by Andrea Williams
Middle School    Roaring Brook    336 pp.    g
1/21    978-1-250-62372-0    $19.99
e-book ed.  978-1-250-62373-7    $10.99

September 1946. Effa Manley is in the stands of New York City’s Polo Grounds to watch a Negro World Series game between the Kansas City Monarchs and the Newark Eagles. She is the owner of the Eagles, a league executive, and a highly successful Black woman of the 1930s and 1940s, and this game is a celebration of “Black baseball, of Black community, of new Black money that had come streaming into the community via the war and accompanying hiring sprees.” Manley is passionate about the game and envisions the Negro Leagues in partnership with Major League Baseball as farm teams that would “keep Black baseball in operation, and…also support integration by providing a steady stream of Black talent for the Majors.” It is not the direction that baseball went, but Williams’s story of Effa Manley and baseball is a dramatic narrative tapestry of America in Manley’s time: the Harlem Renaissance; Booker T. Washington; Marcus Garvey; Babe Ruth and the Yankees; Negro Leagues greats Satchel Paige, Larry Doby, Moses Fleetwood Walker, and Josh Gibson; the Great Depression; and on into the era of integrated baseball with the signing of Jackie Robinson in 1945. A large font, spacious page design, and well-selected black-and-white photographs — along with the fascinating history — make for an inviting read and a good match with Nelson’s We Are the Ship (rev. 5/08). Back matter includes an author’s note, extensive source notes, a thorough bibliography, and an index. DEAN SCHNEIDER

From the January 2022 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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