The Newbery Award-winning author of THE CROSSOVER pens an ode to black American triumph and tribulation, with art from a two-time Caldecott Honoree.
Originally performed for ESPN’s The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present. Robust back matter at the end provides valuable historical context and additional detail for those wishing to learn more.
What page of the book was your favorite? Flip to the back of the book and see if you can find any additional information about the focus of the page.
Did anything in the book make you uncomfortable? While the sad parts of our history can be painful or uncomfortable to reflect on, why do you think it's important to be reminded of and learn about them?
If you are parenting a white child, talk to them about the history of racism and the events of this book. Continue learning about the civil rights movement, and celebrate Black accomplishments.
On the "this is for the unspeakable" pages, share what happened in a way that is appropriate for your child's age. It is good to know those things are unspeakable, but our kids need context around these events.
Kwame Alexander is a poet, an educator, a New York Times bestselling author of twenty-one books, and recipient of the Newbery Medal for his novel The Crossover. The founder of two organizations, Book-in-a-Day and LEAP for Ghana, he regularly travels the world as a literacy advocate and expert. Kwame has owned several publishing companies, written for stage and TV (TLC’s “Hip Hop Harry”), recorded a CD, produced jazz and book festivals, hosted a radio show, and taught high school English. In 2015, Kwame served as Bank Street College of Education’s first writer-in-residence.
To my great-great-grandfather, Sgt. March Coprew, 2nd UCST.
Kadir Nelson is an acclaimed artist and the illustrator of several New York Times bestselling picture books, including his authorial debut We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball, which won a Coretta Scott King Award and a Sibert Medal. Kadir has received three additional Coretta Scott King Awards and five Coretta Scott King honors. He has also received two Caldecott Honors, for Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad and Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, and has twice received the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work.
For my grandmother, Verlee Gunter Moore, I love you.