After centuries of receiving no or minuscule compensation (by being hired out) for their labor, formerly enslaved people, at the stroke of a pen, were responsible for their own livelihood.
Seamstresses, servants, cooks, carpenters, blacksmiths, wheelwrights and masons could ply their trade. Most, however, of this country’s enslaved workforce had been deployed to cultivate monocrops. No matter their occupation, they were responsible for negotiating wages, securing housing, paying rent, purchasing supplies, buying and/or growing their own food, clothing themselves and their families. After centuries of laws that denied them literacy, property and ownership of their own bodies and those of their children, thousands of people were thrust into a world that did not welcome their newly acquired status.
Her heart was as big as Texas. That’s why it takes more than twenty voices to relay the story of her life. Aunt BeBe, otherwise known as Dr. Carolyn Beatrice Hammond Montier, was a woman to be reckoned with.
This past November, Seattle swore in a new Mayor and City Councilmember, and we here at ShelfTalk thought this would be a great opportunity to continue our series of posts in which we invited your representatives to share books that have meant a lot to them. This time, we asked them “What book was most influential in your life or career and why?” This week, Councilmember Rob Johnson, representing District 4, Northeast Seattle.
“What book was most influential in your life or career and why?”
The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein made a huge impact on me, and continues to shape my work as I serve as the chair of the Seattle City Council’s Planning, Land Use & Zoning committee. This book represents a powerful examination of the way 20th century land use and zoning policy in America deepened the harmful divide of segregation, Continue reading “City Council Reads – Rob Johnson, District 4”
It began with a poem! Reading the Langston Hughes poem One-Way Ticketinspired Jacob Lawrence to make a sketch of a train station waiting room filled with travelers, travelers like the ones seeking The Warmth of Other Suns. As a boy who became an artist, he knew about traveling. Lawrence moved from city to city and house to house until his mother, finally, found a place in Harlem for them to call home.
“I was part of the migration,“ he says “as was my family… I was only
about 10, 11, or 12. I didn’t realize that we were even a part of that….I didn’t
realize what was happening until the middle of the 1930s, and that’s
when the Migration series began to take form in my mind.”
In 1941, at the age of 23, Lawrence began painting works in a series that would become known as The Migration Series. Bookended by World War I and World War II, the work portrays an exodus, at once sweeping and, yet, singular in its focus. Long before his wet brush met a dry canvas, Lawrence had steeped himself in the works of writers and intellectuals focused on the Black migration and the role of the artist in art and culture. Where did he do so? At the library! The New York Public Library’s Division of Negro History, Literature and Prints, now known as The SchomburgCenter for Research in Black Culture, was instrumental in the artist’s development and formation of the work. Continue reading “Where I’m Bound: African Americans and Migration in Art and Life”
I’ve always been proud to have been a college student in the 1970’s when the campuses were hotbeds of protest, hippies, and monumental societal change. Those turbulent and triumphant times written about in recent children’s books allow us to relive those moments with awe. Sometimes children’s books are really best appreciated by adults, especially those of us who lived through it all. They also stand as tributes to the sacrifices and heroism deservedly celebrated during Black History Month. So for adults and children alike, here are some suggestions: Continue reading “Radical Reading for February”