During World War II, two disadvantaged groups got to serve their country as aviators. One group was the Tuskegee Airmen, composed of African American males. The other group was the WASPs: Women Airforce Service Pilots. Unfortunately, neither group welcomed black females. If you want to be inspired by black female aviators, read up on Bessie Coleman, Janet Harmon Bragg, and the contemporary superstar Vernice Armour.
In her nonfiction book WASPs: The Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II, author Vera S. Williams outlines the origins of the program, detailing the roles of General "Hap" Arnold, Jackie Cochran, and Nancy Love. She also describes the lifestyle, duties, and accomplishments of the women and gives other relevant historical information. Some of the women's main jobs (all of them domestic) were towing targets in the air for target practice, testing new and repaired aircraft, ferrying planes from factories to bases, and simulating situations to help the male cadets prepare for combat. To my delight, the book draws on some great sources to tell the story of the WASPs. Passages from interviews that the author conducted, photographs, newspaper clippings, and transcripts of songs fill its pages. The variety of sources and the direct writing style make this book both fascinating and accessible to all kinds of readers.
I immensely enjoyed reading this text, and that is really saying something, because nonfiction can be difficult for me to get through. It was nice to delve deeper into this subject to get the full story. If you are curious about one of the ways that women served their country during World War II, check out WASPs: The Women Airforce Service Pilots of World War II by Vera S. Williams.
Steamboat School is wonderful
picture book that highlights yet another little known Black History fact. It tells the story of the courageous and
determined Reverend John Berry Meachum who ran a school on a steamboat that
sailed up and down the Mississippi River. The story begins with young James, a free
black growing up in Missouri during the 1840s.
While attending Reverend John’s school in the basement of a church, with
only candle lights to see, James comes face-to-face with the harsh reality of
the 1847 Missouri law which made it illegal to educate any Blacks (slave or
free) in the state. Author Deborah Hopkinson and illustrator Ron Husband have create an inspirational must-read
with Steamboat School.
Rad Women Worldwide and Rad American Women A-Z tell the stories of women who did amazing things, some well-known and, maybe more importantly, some not so well-known. From Angela Davis to Zora Neale Hurston, Rad American Women A-Z came first and focuses on American women. Rad Women Worldwide focuses on forty women from all around the world who moved beyond boundaries. From punk rockers to polar explorers to authors, organizers, athletes, artists, and more, both of these great collections of biographical profiles feature amazing cut-paper illustrations by Miriam Klein Stahl. Both are great for all ages but reside in the library's Children's and Teen materials collections. Check them out if you are interested in being inspired and learning some real-life amazing stories!
The Civil War is over. Army Captain Jefferson Kidd is traveling through Texas from one remote community to another reading the news to residents from newspapers around the country, telling them about distant countries, scientific experiments, an upcoming census, explorations. Along the way, he is asked to escort a 10-year old girl, captive for four years among the Kiowa, back to her aunt and uncle in southern Texas. She is the sole survivor from an Indian raid and has few memories.
In one sense, this is a western – the wild west, Indians, good guys and bad guys – but in the boarder sense it is a snapshot of a time and place, a sense of duty, and ultimately of love.
This slim volume was a National Book Award Finalist and on many “best of” lists for 2016. Reviewers have described is a “jewel”, “not to be missed”, “excellent in every respect”, “beautifully written”. I agree.
After last month's historic marches, I smiled when I happened upon the book The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist. This picture book tells the story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, the youngest participant in the Birmingham Children's March in 1963. She was nine years old when she volunteered to participate in coordinated action challenging racial segregation.
This book is most appropriate for readers in elementary school. Older readers should check out We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March for more in-depth information on Audrey Faye Hendricks, other young participants, and the history of the march.
It’s Black History Month! A time to celebrate the
accomplishments of African Americans, but also a great time to examine some of
the social issues and complexities of race in America. For all of the insistence upon inherent
difference between races, it is actually just a social construct based on
appearance with a few cultural differences thrown in for good measure. Or as
Maya Angelou put it in her poem Human Family, “we are more alike, my friends/ than we are unalike.”
In the 1920’s when Black Americans were treated poorly and
granted way less opportunities for success, many fair-skinned Black Americans
decided to cut ties with their family and friends to try and live out the American Dream the best
way they knew how—by pretending to be White. Americans were all too aware of
this, and as a result, there were many films and novels focused on the subject
My absolute favorite novel from this time period is Passing by Nella Larsen. Published in
1929, during the Harlem Renaissance, the story follows two
women, Irene Redfield and Clare Kendry, childhood friends who meet later as
adults. Irene is married, and living in Harlem right in the hub of the Black
social circle, while Clare, a wealthy socialite who married a racist White man,
is passing for White.
Passing explores themes of deception, jealousy, loyalty and
betrayal. It’s a tale of fashionable frenemies, scandalous parties, and a crazy
twist ending I’d love to talk to you about if you get a chance to read it. I
love it to pieces and hope you will too.
The Pullman Porter: AnAmerican Journey touched my heart. Not just because there is a lot
information that is not generally known but also because my father had been a
porter many, many years ago. My brothers, sisters and I romanticized his
journeys and thought my dad looked handsome in his uniform. We were not aware
of how demanding, degrading and difficult the job was. After all, what did being
a Pullman Porter have to do with shining shoes, babysitting, making beds and
other forms of servitude?
After reading this
book, I realized also that my dad was traveling and learning things about this
country. He was able to learn what was important to share with his children and
to teach us what we needed to know in order to survive in America. The Pullman Porter: An American Journey was
written by Vanita Oelschlager. Vanita Oelschlager publishes books for children that
teaches morals and values I personally appreciate her acknowledgement of the
Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Lately, I have been thinking a lot about what happened in the years leading up to the atrocities. The question people always ask is "how could this happen?" The following books discuss, in great detail, the events that led to genocide in Europe.
The Coming of the Third Reich and The Third Reich in Power by Richard J. Evans
Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen
The Nazi Seizure of Power: The Experience of a Single German Town, 1922-1945 by William Sheridan Allen
The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has a great website examining the history of the Holocaust, and also features resources on preventing future genocides.
When Jacqueline Bouvier married John F. Kennedy, she wore
an exquisite silk dress made by Ann Cole Lowe.
I did not know that Ann Cole Lowe was African American until I discovered
this wonderful picture book written by Deborah Blumenthal and illustrated by Laura Freeman. Despite dealing with segregation and prejudices, Cole’s designer
fashions were highly sought after by the Vanderbilts, the Rockerfellers, and
the Roosevelts. In addition, she established a prosperous design
studio on Madison Avenue in New York City. Included at the end of the
book are citations for further readings on Ann Cole Lowe and other historical African
American fashion designers. This book is a great read for young children and just in time for Black History Month.
Subtitled Extraordinary Stories of Faith That Shaped the Course of History, this is a 2016 book published by the National Geographic Society. In it are stories about ten prayers selected by author Jean-Pierre Isbouts, historian and doctoral professor at Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, California. The book is naturally divided into ten chapters which are: Abraham's Plea, Jesus' Prayer to Abba, The Dream of Constantine, The Voices of Joan of Arc, Martin Luther's Hymn, George Washington's Prayer, The Prayer of St. Francis, The Prayer for Bastogne, Gandhi's Prayer for Peace, and Mother Teresa's Daily Prayer. As can be seen, these chapters cover a wide variety of religious persuasions, thought, and practice. Thus this volume can be used as an aid in personal devotion or as a historical study.