Looking for some non fiction to read for African American History month? Check these books out!
Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March is a short memoir of Lynda Blackmon Lowery's experience participating in the Selma voting rights march. It opens with the lyrics to the song "Woke up this Morning" then Lynda starts talking about her life in the civil rights movement. Throughout the book she provides historical photographs of the civil rights movement and each chapter has some beautiful graphic illustrations.
What I enjoyed most about this book was reading about her life during the civil rights movement and what she was able to do at such a young age. She spoke about going to jail 9 times and what the jail was like each time. She spoke about her fears while marching but how she was able to overcome her fear and be strong. She also highlighted other people who were involved with the civil rights movement.
The other aspect of this book that I enjoyed reading was how she was telling this story through the voice of a 15 year old, herself as a 15 year old. I think that's quite important to point out. As a teenager, when you're reading non-fiction books, memoirs, biographies and autobiographies they all tend to have the same "voice", that of a dry adult who's giving you a boring history lesson. This book instead, gives you the sense that you're talking with someone your age and they're telling you about something that happened to them not that long ago. I think tween and teen readers would appreciate this.
Tales of the Talented Tenth: Bass Reeves is a young adult biography that's also a graphic novel based on Bass Reeves who was one of the first (if not the first) African American US Marshals and possibly even the inspiration of the well known character "Lone Ranger".
Throughout this graphic novel the story of Bass Reeves jumps to and from his early life and to a present moment. In his early life he was a slave and his master would enter him into shooting competitions (this helped to give Bass the opportunity to develop his skill as a shooter) and with each competition he began to win and become better and better. Eventually after one fateful day where Bass loses his cool with his master he runs away and ends up in the desert. After passing out from exhaustion, he is found by a Native American man and taken to the village to be looked after, Bass ends up living among the Native Americans as one of their own soon after helping the Native Americans with some issues they were facing as well. It's Bass' ties with the Native American community that led him to the path of becoming a US Marshal. Bass' talent for nabbing the bad guy became legendary and it's believed that he is the inspiration for the character, "Lone Ranger".
I must say, I was really impressed with how Gill presented the story of Bass Reeves. You see Bass as a young boy, a young man and as an older man all the while making connections from his early life to his later life. I also want to mention how Gill used images in place for very derogatory terms for African Americans and Native Americans, which to me was very clever and helps to alleviate the reader's apprehension to read the derogatory names for the groups of people mentioned.
I just really enjoyed reading this graphic novel and would like to know more about Bass Reeves.
Strange Fruit: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History [Volume 1] is a collection of short introductory biographies about little known or unknown figures in African American history. This book is also in graphic novel form and Gill's illustrations are really cool. He uses deep rich colors and does a great job in utilizing both panels and full page spreads within each life he introduces us too. I do enjoy his use of visual imagery as euphemisms for things. Such as, instead of writing out the 'n word' in speech bubbles, he uses a very outdated representation of an African American. He does the same in regards to Jim Crow and racist individuals, he will often just draw them as crows. He also injected a bit of whimsy in his work too by including 9 3/4 as a train station platform in a couple of the stories he was telling us. I thoroughly enjoyed this. Because who doesn't love Harry Potter? Right?!
I enjoyed reading each person's story and being introduced to new people that I never knew existed. It has made me want to look up these individuals too. I will recommend this book to tweens and teens and adults who are wanting to learn more about figures of African American History.