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Coretta Scott King Books Award Winners: Commemorating African American History Month

Kelly Patton
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African American History Month

Commemorate National African American History Month by reading a Coretta Scott King Book Award winner. 

Today’s spotlight, in honor of National African American History Month, is on a few winners of the Coretta Scott King Book Award. These have been given since 1970 to authors and illustrators of books exhibiting appreciation for African American culture and universal human values. Many of these books are biographies, others are poetry, fiction or history. They are all vital to a full appreciation of American art, history and literature for both kids and adults.

One of my favorite honor award winners for authors is Nikki Grimes’ Talkin’ About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman. It is a beautiful picture book and a fascinating biography. It is also an inventive fictional narrative in open verse written from multiple points of view. Although Bessie’s life was not easy, one feels her triumph in being the first black, female pilot in the world and the exuberance of her spirit.

Another favorite is the 2011 illustrator award winner, Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave, illustrated by Bryan Collier and written by Laban Carrick Hill. The text is simple and short enough for a second grader to read, but the story is deeply poetic and so vividly enhanced by the artwork that adults will love it too.

A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919, by Claire Hartfield, the 2019 author award winner is a clearly written elucidation of the social context and events leading up to the riot. It’s a story of the wealthy pitting the poor against one another in order to enrich themselves. It is a story of intolerable discrimination against African Americans by white people in positions of power. It is non-fiction that continues to resonate today.

Commemorate National African American History Month by reading a Coretta Scott King Book Award winner. You’ll be grateful you did.

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