Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives 

Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives 

"The material used for this beautifully made HBO documentary dates back to the 1930s when journalists conducted thousands of interviews with former slaves who'd been emancipated at the end of the Civil War. A selection of these faithfully transcribed "slave narratives" are vividly read (acted, really) here by a host of distinguished performers, ranging from Samuel L. Jackson to Oprah Winfrey, from Don Cheadle to Angela Bassett, with narration by Whoopi Goldberg. Since there's obviously no film available from the slave period, the producers use artfully edited photos, file footage, some atmospheric new film, and shots of the performers in action to bring the material to life. Add all of that to the DVD bonus features (text bios of individual slaves and a couple of lengthy audio segments), and you have a moving record of bitter, weary, yet resilient and quietly proud people living with memories that never would, or could fade."

We have the following critique:
1. We use the terms "enslaved people/enslaved Africans" not "slaves". (notes)

2. We use the word "enslaver" not "master/owner/slave-owner". We use "labor camp" not "plantation".  (notes)

3. Despite the narratives, there were no "good slave owners". To enslave people requires complicity with systems and institutions that strip another human being of their humanity. There were no benevolent enslavers and cheerful, proud "slaves".  (notes) (notes) (notes) (notes)

MALCOLM X: Fire Burning Bright

MALCOLM X: Fire Burning Bright by Walter Dean Myers and illustrated by Leonard Jenkins.

We have the following critique:
1. It refers to incarcerated persons pejoratively as "convicts". (notes)

2. It posits Malcolm's position on self-defense without context and simply labels it as a "rejection of nonviolence". (notes)

3. It reduces Malcolm X to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s antithesis.  (notes)

4. It entertains the idea that reverse racism exists.

5. It conflates racism and racial discrimination. 

6. There is only a sentence in the entire book where Dr. Betty Shabazz, his wife and the mother of his children, is mentioned.

7. It falsifies history and perpetuates the lie that Malcolm X's mother, Louise Little was not deliberately and cruelly harassed into a state of nervous exhaustion and then stripped of her children and placed in a mental institution because a local probate judge coveted family land.

A is for Activist

A is for Activist written and illustrated by Innosanto Nagara

A is for Activist" is an ABC board book written and illustrated for the next generation of progressives: families who want their kids to grow up in a space that is unapologetic about activism, environmental justice, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and everything else that activists believe in and fight for. The alliteration, rhyming, and vibrant illustrations make the book exciting for children, while the issues it brings up resonate with their parents’ values of community, equality, and justice. This engaging little book carries huge messages as it inspires hope for the future, and calls children to action while teaching them a love for books. The illustrations are also multi-layered. Your child will find something they can learn to recognize on each page. There are new things to discover over multiple readings. There are references for grownups to 'get', and maybe even be a conversation starter. Oh, and there’s always a cat.

Representation in literature is essential for children of all races. For children of color, seeing themselves reflected in the books they read is crucial. When they fail to see themselves in books, they internalize the message that society devalues and erases them, and it can negatively affect their self-esteem. For white children, having books that accurately reflect the world around them helps to build empathy for people that are different from them, and helps open up discussions about race and oppression.