Synopses & Reviews
The story of America and African Americans is a story of hope and inspiration and unwavering courage. But it is also the story of injustice; of a country divided by law, education, and wealth; of a people whose struggles and achievements helped define their country. This is the story of the men, women, and children who toiled in the hot sun picking cotton for their masters; it’s about the America ripped in two by Jim Crow laws; it’s about the brothers and sisters of all colors who rallied against those who would dare bar a child from an education. It’s a story of discrimination and broken promises, determination and triumphs.
Kadir Nelson, one of this generation’s most accomplished, award-winning artists, has created an epic yet intimate introduction to the history of America and African Americans, from colonial days through the civil rights movement. Written in the voice of an “Everywoman,” an unnamed narrator whose forebears came to this country on slave ships and who lived to cast her vote for the first African American president, heart and soul touches on some of the great transformative events and small victories of that history. This inspiring book demonstrates that in gaining their freedom and equal rights, African Americans helped our country achieve its promise of liberty and justice — the true heart and soul of our nation.
"As in We Are the Ship, Nelson knits together the nation's proudest moments with its most shameful, taking on the whole of African-American history, from Revolutionary-era slavery up to the election of President Obama. He handles this vast subject with easy grace, aided by the voice of a grandmotherly figure who's an amalgam of voices from Nelson's own family. She does not gloss over the sadness and outrage of her family's history, but her patient, sometimes weary tone ('The law didn't do a thing to stop it,' she says about the Ku Klux Klan. 'Shoot, some of the men wearing the sheets were lawmen') makes listeners feel the quiet power that survival requires. In jaw-dropping portraits that radiate determination and strength, Nelson paints heroes like Frederick Douglass and Joe Louis, conferring equal dignity on the slaves, workers, soldiers, and students who made up the backbone of the African-American community. The images convey strength and integrity as he recounts their contributions, including 'the most important idea ever introduced to America by an African American' Dr. King's nonviolent protest. A tremendous achievement. Ages 9 – up. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"The dramatic oil paintings heighten the dignity of this story, whether they are of well-known historical figures, common folk or landscape....This intimate narrative makes the stories accessible to young readers and powerfully conveys how personal this history feels for many African-Americans." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Nelson...adds to his notable titles with this powerful view of African American history. Illustrated with 44 full-page paintings, this handsome volume is told in the fictionalized, informal voice of an African American senior looking back on her life and remembering what her elders told her." Booklist (starred review)
"Provocative and powerful, this book offers a much-needed perspective for individuals of all ages seeking to understand America's past and present." School Library Journal (starred review)
"Nelson effectively creates a voice that is at once singular and representative. A tour de force in the career of an author/artist who continues to outdo himself." Horn Book (starred review)
As in WE ARE THE SHIP, Nelson knits together the nation's proudest moments with its most shameful, taking on the whole of African-American history. He handles this vast subject with easy grace. [Nelson's] jaw-dropping portraits radiate determination and strength. A tremendous achievement. Publishers Weekly (starred review)
About the Author
Kadir Nelson is one of the most accomplished, award-winning illustrators working today and is known for his stunning oil paintings depicting the African American experience. He received Caldecott Honors for Henry's Freedom Box
by Ellen Levine and Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People To Freedom
by Carole Boston Weatherford, for which he also garnered a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award and won an NAACIP Image Award; Ellington Was Not A Street
by Ntozake Shange won a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award. Nelson's authorial debut, We Are The Ship
, was a New York Times
bestseller, a Coretta Scott King Author Award winner, and a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book.
Kadir Nelson's paintings have been exhibited in many galleries and museums around the world, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, both in Los Angeles; the Museum of African American History in Detroit; the Smithsonian Anacostia Museum in Washington, DC; the Citizen's Galley of Yokohama, Japan; and the Studio Museum in Harlem. He is also the cover artist for Michael Jackson's posthumous album, Michael.
Kadir Nelson lives with his family in Southern California.