Library notes: Respecting Black history as US history

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 19, 2022

By Stephanie Reister   

Rowan Public Library

SALISBURY — America’s history is complicated. Many achievements, events and cruel realities have been clouded in the retelling. We have to realize that whitewashing history is a disservice to our country. To make a better future, we all must learn more about America’s complex past and be truthful about the present. Rowan Public Library is expanding its collection of books that showcase people of color and their stories.

RPL has books to help young people gain a fuller picture of history and navigate the times we are living in. “Little Leaders” and “Little Legends” by Vashti Harrison gives kids an overview of a variety of Black women and men, respectively, who shaped history. “Have I Ever Told You Black Lives Matter” by Shani Mahiri King is visually vibrant while giving short biographies of African American history makers living and deceased.

For tweens and teens, “Call and Response: The Story of Black Lives Matter” by Veronica Chambers explains the American history that led up to the founding of the BLM movement. It is a good primer for understanding the events and people of the Civil Rights Movement from the mid-20th century through 2020 and beyond.

Adults can turn to a couple of books commemorating the 400th anniversary of slavery in America. “The 1619 Project” created by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones and “The New York Times Magazine” is an expansion of the groundbreaking initiative. Essays, poems and stories from a variety of authors reflect about the history and legacy of slavery in America.

In “Four Hundred Souls” the editors Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain called upon 90 writers to cover 5-year periods of the 400-year time span. The editors ask readers to look at the past so they can have “new ways of thinking about our future.” Each author gives unique perspective of history in an effort to deconstruct “the idea that Africans in America are a monolith.”

Bringing to light more Black history and current events does not diminish the accomplishments of other races. It works to fill in gaps and prove America has been and is built by people from a whole spectrum of color, culture and context. RPL has materials to learn more and open conversations about Black history and experience.

Stephanie Reister is a children’s librarian at Rowan Public Library

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