Review of Your Legacy: A Bold Reclaiming of Our Enslaved History

Your Legacy: A Bold Reclaiming of Our Enslaved History
by Schele Williams; illus. by Tonya Engel
Primary, Intermediate    Abrams    48 pp.    g
9/21    978-1-4197-4875-2    $19.99
e-book ed.  978-1-64700-072-1    $15.54

A message from the African ancestors to today’s African American children. Narrated in the second person, this picture book tells African American youth an uplifting story about the many positive qualities passed down to them: “love, intellect, determination, courage, brilliance, strength, ingenuity, grace, and dignity.” Countering the notion that African American history started with slavery, Williams opens with “Your story begins in Africa,” and says that Africans, “the first people on the earth,” lived in thriving societies, speaking many different languages, for thousands of years before slavery. The narrative progresses through their kidnapping and enslavement, their sharing music as a common language, the vital connection between literacy and freedom, and the contributions of so many who made America successful. Readers meet well-known and lesser-known historical figures, some named, others only pictured, giving young people opportunities to learn more about them all. Engel’s (Rise!, rev. 11/19) mixed-media illustrations, which include acrylic, collage, and printmaking on wood and paper, capture the historical settings well, while her inclusion of flowers and trees throughout symbolizes growth and the potential of the next generation. (She illustrates Africans boarding slave ships unchained and fully clothed in their cultures’ colorful garb and ­jewelry — perhaps to downplay the trauma of the Middle Passage.) An inspirational story that instills hope and encourages today’s African ­American children to consider what they will give to their own descendants. Pair with recent similarly themed titles The People Remember and The 1619 Project: Born on the Water (both rev. 11/21).

From the January/February 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Dr. Michelle H. Martin
Dr. Michelle H. Martin
Dr. Michelle H. Martin is the Beverly Cleary Professor for Children & Youth Services in the Information School at the University of Washington in Seattle.

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