Urban school class is putting on the play Hamlet, in a Hip-Hop form. Student is racially profiled and killed - comes back as the ghost. A hard look at police brutality and Black Lives Matter.
Rating: 5/5 - if you teach American History or comics - or if you simply love the history behind comics - this is a must-buy book!
Reading Level - Higher level high school and up
Length - 256 pp
A collection of academic articles on comic strips, comics, and graphic novels - focusing on depictions of African-Americans in this media from the late 1800s through 2000s. There is also a strong sub-focus on African-American women as well.
Factual? Each article is well annotated and referenced.
Wow - do yourself a favor and buy this book! An entire US or African-American History curriculum could be created with his book as the center. This book is intelligent, sociological, historiographical, witty, and modern. I have purchased a lot of the titles mentioned in this book and have added a entire new section to my comics library as a result. This is not a collection of essays with proverbial axes to grind - the topics are well-balanced, honest, and leave the reader with hope for the future of diversity in comics. A good portion of the essays discuss the history of comics in general - this is not a one-sided approach at all.
Again, Black Comics tackles a wide-range of issues (don't let the title fool you) - history of American newspapers (Yellow Journalism), romance comics, societal and political changes, even some history of manga as well.
As a white male, I was able to make two personal connections to the historical lack of diversity in my beloved comics -
1. My daughter has red hair - this has often been a focus for others as they comment on her hair - much to her discomfort and my chagrin. It really is just something "different" for many - but I do not want my daughter to so strongly associate herself with an external look. My wife and I work hard to instill in our daughters the values of intelligence, independence, creativity, and to not be hemmed in by society's gender roles. She always loved Ariel (Little Mermaid) as she associated with someone who shared her physical appearance. However - this was another female who was not exactly strong/independent enough for us. When Brave came out, (again - red hair) - we were very excited as this was not an ordinary princess, waiting to be rescued - we were happy that our daughter identified with this character with positive traits. This is the same need for any child - no matter the ethnicity - finding a strong and positive role model with whom he/she can identify. For my white son, this is all too easy - there are almost innumerable strong white superheroes with whom he can identify. I was able to more fully understand the impact of this issue for the African-American (and female) community through this wonderful resource.
2 I lived in a predominately African-American community for some time - I was, by far, the minority. When going to the stores, I was initially surprised to find that most of the greeting cards had black faces, that religious items depicted dark faces, and that Santa Claus was black. I think this to have been a crucial experience for me and it has not only made me a better/open-minded person, but also a better teacher. Again - this personal experience is a direct connection to Black Comics - this resource is eye-opening on so many levels. I personally believe that it is so very important for students to see a diversity of resources and leaders in schools - posters, videos, books, teachers, administrators, etc - this book further cemented this idea for me.
I had no idea of the large black comics community - my Twitter feed has begun to diversify as a result. I have many black students, and females, sign up for my comics course as well - always exciting to see that comics are not just for the scrawny white kid! I will now have more resources to share with students.
For the editors - I would love to see another edition - perhaps this one can include interviews with some of the authors/artists for the comics and how they see society, etc. I would also imagine that Falcon becoming Captain America will also have an impact on a second addition as well. As a side note - I am also excited to see the new Wonder Woman (more warrior/Joan of Arc than sexual object) and Batgirl (no loner a skintight latex uniform).
Reading Level - Middle School on up
Confederate General Patrick Cleburne's plan to enlist slaves into the confederate armies.
I had never heard of this man or his plan until picking up this graphic novel. This would be a great "what if" type lesson when teaching the Civil War. It also begs the question - did the South fight only to protect slavery or was it for independence from an over-reaching North?
This is a beautiful book and does not focus solely on the war - it also delves into Southern society and Cleburne's romantic interests as well.
Research project based on these big idea questions - Why would blacks have fought for the Confederacy? Would they have? If General Cleburne's proposal had been accepted earlier, would it have changed the outcome of the Civil War? Did blacks fight for the North? What was their role? What was the role of women during the Civil War (spies, soldiers, etc)?
Movie - Glory with Matthew Broderick would be an easy connection.
NY Times article Jan 2014
General Cleburne's original letter/proposal
Reading Level - High School - violence and sexual innuendo
Basic Premise -
All African-American fighting unti in WWI.
Although a ficitonal account, it is based on real events. The bibliography is fascinating and extensive.
OK - I hate to admit this - but I had no idea that this highly decorate unit existed in WWI. This is a fascinating story - yes, it gets into some uncomfortable terrain with racial issues - but the story is not just about the black troops being treated unfairly, but also about their bravery and being brave men - regardless of color. This would ignite all kinds of fascinating discussions in the classroom - I am looking forward to having students read it. The best part is that, regardless of the racial issues, it is still a great book about WWI in general and teaches about gas attacks, machine guns, trenches - rats, lice, etc.
Sexual innuendo, some violent images (nothing over the top), racial issues
Reading Level - High school or above
Basic Premise - An encyclopedic history of the origins and development of hip-hop.
I am enjoying a trip down memory lane with these books and have begun to update my iphone playlist jams. The artwork is a true 80s style - even the type of oversized paper used. Obviously not just African-American history - even gets into the Beastie Boys, etc.
Drug use, curse words
This is a "kids" book and showcases positive images of love and family life. The use of terms and images in the book go far to creating an open atmosphere and creating openness to shared culture. The family in this book take care of each other and show how families can depend on one another. There are relatives coming over to grill, a relative home from college, discussion of being there in good or bad, names like Mauriqua and Najee certainly help to break from Tom, Dick,and Sally, there is an interracial couple, a home was bought, etc.
This book allows for a dialogue about privilege in an open honest way. I spoke with the author, Jerry Craft, on the phone as he was interested in my take on his book. We were just two people talking about growing up, but also about current social/race issues and how to tackle them in the classroom. I identified with the characters in this book and our shared interests - but as a white male, it was also easy to see where out experiences differed. We need to have these conversations in our classrooms if our society is to continue to improve. On one page, the kids are in a mall and having a good time, when they realize that security is watching them. Are they being watched because they are teenagers? Is it because of their race? Is it both? The reality is, that I will never have to wonder if I am being watched because of my race - again, this opens the door to important conversations. Craft goes on to discuss the culture of hip hop as well in terms of music company propaganda and false idols, even to the wearing of baggy pants and his parents being upset. This book can easily be used on any school level and the conversations could easily be adapted depending on the age of the students.
Reading Level -
6th grade and up
Congressman John Lewis' autobiography and his experiences in the civil rights movement.
This is a great book to use in the classroom when discussing the civil rights movement - and even to connect to modern civil issues as well. The book is easy to read and the story itself is fascinating. My students have commented that they get "tired" of hearing about MLK Jr over and over again - what about the other leaders of the movement? This would certainly help to alleviate some of this frustration. The story is balanced - there are certainly "bad" whites here - but he also writes about the whites who helped and even some black leaders with whom he disagreed. There are a lot of topics covered here - but not in such depth as to bog down the reader. I would use this book as a stepping stone for more research.
Detailed Lesson resources for March Books 1, 2, and 3
This book makes ME so happy! This book doesn't have to be placed under African-American and many may see it more as a picture book than graphic novel/comic, but I think it fits just fine. My daughter is a red head and strangers always talk about her hair and want to touch it, so this books speaks to me as a parent, as well as an educator. The things some folks say to girls, and it is usually well-meaning, can have deep impacts. My daughter is intelligent and creative - we don't want to be identified only by her hair. This also reminds me of some discussions I have had in regards to race and the walls we put up among ourselves at an early age in the attempt to be "polite." I have often seen parents tell kids that it is impolite to ask questions of others who are different than they are. We are all different, right? I wonder if, instead of putting up these walls, we would be better off talking about our individuality and engaging the natural curiosity of children. Once those walls go up, it becomes more difficult to have adults engage in meaningful and important conversations about race as adults. We need to talk. Feel free to disagree with me - I do understand that not all feel the same and that these conversations and questions can also lead to hurt feelings and embarrassment. At any rate, this book has beautiful and fun illustrations illuminating many skin tones and hairstyles - all in very positive ways.
Reading Level - High School. There is very little to read - but the content is mature.
Length - 207 pages - mostly illustrations.
Basic Premise - Nat Turner Rebellion.
I actually use this to introduce European Imperialism. We use the first chapter of the book - but it opens some great conversations with the students. There is much left up to the opinion of the reader - which is great to use when teaching students how to be active readers.
We discuss in class, as does the author in his introduction, why this story is not often a large part of instruction - the conversation centers on whether or not Nat Turner was a murder or hero - terrorist or freedom fighter. But this topic comes up throughout history, so I welcome the chance to discuss it. Think IRA. bin Laden. American Revolutionaries. etc.
Use this hip hop song about Turner - could then have students create their own songs.
European Imperialism. Jewish Holocaust - the Africans are stripped and branded - robbed of their humanity. All to easy to make the connections to Jews being stripped, shaved, etc before the camps and showers - also to the number tattoos and Star of David.
Lesson Ideas - see my blog where I detail how I have used this in class - Nat Turner and Hip Hop
I don't have the actual comic - it is too rare. However, the great PBS series, History Detectives, researched the comic and its author/artist. Neat look into how blacks were portrayed in 1950s comics and how certain portrayals were fought against. Begin watching at the 37.40 mark. History Detectives
As a Philly native now living and teaching in the suburbs, I know that urban living can take an image hit in the media. This is such a warm and positive book about growing up in Chicago. Each letter of the alphabet is represented by positive images of culture, life, and education. There are female baseball players, university graduates, handicapped folks having fun, female astronauts, geography, daily life, etc - I want one for Philly!
Reading Level - High School
Length - 193 pages
Childhood experiences of Mark Long, growing up in Houston, TX in the late 1960s.
As the author admits, some items were changed to allow for better storytelling, but it is mostly factual.
Excellent social commentary on the multiple issues facing America at the time - Vietnam War, gender roles, segregation, racism, etc. Interesting that this story is told from the view of a caucasian boy and his family as they moved to a more segregated part of the country. His father, Jack Long, was a race reporter (KRRC) and befriended Larry Thompson - professor at TSU. Many points of view are presented in this book - Thompson's wife doesn't want the white Longs in her house, Long's white boss at the paper threatens him to not run a story against Atwell - tells him to stick with his own kind, etc. Mark Long is also teased by some white friends for what his father has said about blacks in the news -- the authors really blend the issues together so that the reader can understand that the issues were not as clear as black and white. There are moments that strike the reader with their simplicity and honesty as well. Larry Thompson and his went to go crabbing and stopped in a store to buy bait. Larry was humiliated and kicked out of the store by the white owner and patrons. Upon returning to the car, Larry slaps his son across the face when he complains about the missing bait. A few wordless panels go by - ending with Larry putting his arm around his son. Wow - this scene resonated with me on so may levels and I could see it leading to conversations in the classroom.
The Thompson family came to visit in the Long's house - as the children played, the began to really look at each other and to touch each other's hair. "Your hair feels funny." Kids are so honest and we can learn so much from them. Most adults would immediately stop their kids from asking these types of questions as it is considered impolite. This then throws up walls between us from such an early age - we should talk openly about one another and learn that "different" is not bad - just, well, different.
After some major events, the book ends with the assassination of MLK, Jr. - nothing graphic, just a few words and then wordless panels. This is a must read type of book - easy for anyone to read, beautifully drawn, and allows the reader to ponder as he/she reads.
Vietnam War, Korean War, Segregation, Samuel Otis Trial, Geneva Convention, iconic picture of South Vietnamese General Nguyen Ngoc Loan when he shot the Vietcong prisoner in the head and it was shown on TV, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Uncle Tom, Third Ward, Larry Thompson, Stokely Carmichael, Black Panthers, Hoover, communism, TSU Five
SNCC- research the organization. The group was described as "infiltrating" college campuses and causing trouble - is this true? What were the aims and methods of the group?
Research the Otis trial -- what were the two arguments presented?
pp. 70-75 -- describe what happened between Larry Thompson and his son. Why did the father react in this way? How do you think the son will react? What are your thoughts on what happened? Has anything like this ever happened to you or a friend - where you, or someone close to you, lashed out in a similar fashion?
pp. 85-91 - what happened to Cecilia? Do you think the driver of the pick-up was responsible? Defend. If he was responsible, what consequences should he face?
There was a protest at TSU following the incident with Cecilia. The protest began peacefully, but soon turned violent? Why? Who was to blame? What is your reaction to what happened?
Jack Long was at the protest and saw Larry beaten and arrested by police officers. Upon his release, Larry says that he can't trust a white man as Jack didn't do anything to help. Is this a fair assessment? If you were Jack, what would you have done?
Research the trial of the TSU Five - what was the evidence? Outcome? Do you agree or disagree?
Complete character sketches of the main characters - what are the major influences on their racial viewpoints?
What are some other protests at universities in the 60s? Were they all focused on racial issues? What happened?
BEFORE reading the book - have the students interpret the meaning of the title. AFTER reading the book, have them revisit and write about the meaning of the title.
Use of the words - racial epithets, some cursing,
Reading Level - Middle School on up
Length - 122 pages
This is to be an ongoing series of graphic novels based on African-Americans. This one is based on the life of Bass Reeves - an amazing man who began as a slave and ended his life as a prolific lawman in the West. Reeves began life as a slave who then escaped and hid with Native Americans. While there, he came across Black troops fighting against the Confederacy - he decided to join the Northern cause. Following the Civil War, Reeves then became a highly successful lawman in the West. Despite his efforts, he must continue to face racism and prejudice - culminating in white prisoners being able to bring him to trial for a crime he did not commit. There are even historical connections that his story influenced the creation of the Lone Ranger - a truly fascinating story.
A beautifully drawn book that quickly pulls in the audience - I could see this as an easy addition to a social studies classroom. I loved that the author used symbols as allusions to historical issues - i.e. a black crow bad guy character who represented - Jim Crow laws. Also - that blacks/slaves are not called any derogatory names - rather, the face of a black man is inserted into the conversations (as is an Indian head) - this allows the reader to use his/her imagination instead of being confronted over and over again horrendous terms. I am often turned off, both as a reader and teacher, when authors use these terms too much as it just becomes noise. By using symbols, it forces the student to think/imagine the term instead - could be a good classroom conversation starter.
This book would be a great jumping off point for research into Reeves' life and what is truth and what is myth.
Jim Crow, Civil War
Dubois - the Talented Tenth.
Harvard PDF of the Talented Tenth by Dubois - Talented Tenth
Who really created the term, Talented Tenth? PBS