Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Black History in Its Own Words

Black History in Its Own Words

Ronald Wimberly
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 12 and up
Image Comics, 2017   ISBN: 978-1534301535

In 2015 artist and writer Ronald Wimberly was asked, in honor of Black History Month, to find eight quotes and illustrate them to feature eight black men and women who have made a difference in this world. He chose “quotes ranging from the casual to the profound from luminaries both past and present.” Ronald ended up enjoying the process so much that he chose to feature twelve people instead of eight, and then went on to do twelve more in 2016. For this book he took the original twenty-four images and quotes, and then created fifteen new ones.

The people featured in this collection come from all walks of life. There are activists, musicians, artists, actors, authors, teachers, athletes, political figures, soldiers, and scientists. For each person we are given a short description of their achievements, a quotation, and a portrait. The portraits rendered are spare but incredibly expressive and powerful, and they leave the reader with a sense of what the person was or is like. The quotes chosen to accompany the artwork add a layer of context that is often thought-provoking and sometimes startling.

For example, Mary Ellen Pleasant was a businesswoman who helped with the Underground Railroad and she provided a great deal of financial support to the abolition movement. In her portrait we see her seated, wearing a relatively plain black dress and white head covering. Her quotation reads: “I’d rather be a corpse than a coward.”

Eugene Bullard fled “American Jim Crow terrorism” and went to Europem where he was a pilot for the French in WWI. He also served in the French Resistance in WWII. On the fuselage of his aircraft were written the words “Tour le sang qui coule est rouge” which roughly translated means “All blood runs red.”  This is the quote that Ron Wimberly chose to place next to his illustration of Eugene Bullard.

This remarkable book offers young adult and adult readers a unique look at the lives of some remarkable black people who have changed our world through their activism, their courage, and their many talents and gifts.