Black Life Matters Feature of the Week: Telling the Stories of the Black Experience to Children

By Candice Frederick
March 23, 2015
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

In our final exhibition feature, Maira Liriano, Curator of our Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division, discusses the importance of diverse literature, especially for young readers of color:

"On March 16, 2014, I read in the New York Times Opinion that out of 3,200 childrenʼs books published in 2013, just 93 were about black people. This article, titled 'Where Are the People of Color in Childrenʼs Books?,' was written by celebrated author Walter Dean Myers. Myers, who wrote more than 100 books for children and young adults and received numerous awards, including the Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, died at the age of 76 on July 1, 2014, three and half months after this article appeared. The world lost a major voice in the world of literature, but he left us his insight about the poor state of childrenʼs literature for people of color and reminded us that 'There is work to be done.'

This exhibition takes up Myersʼs call for action by presenting a selection of inspiring works from the Schomburg Center collection that range from the late 1960s to the present. They represent some of the best writers and illustrators of the past 45 years, which includes Myersʼs Where Does the Day Go? and Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming. The aim is to move writers, illustrators, and publishers to create new works for young people of color because 'books transmit values,' Myers wrote. 'They explore our common humanity. What is the message when some children are not represented in those books? Where are the future white personnel managers going to get their ideas of people of color? Where are the future white loan officers and future white politicians going to get their knowledge of people of color? Where are black children going to get a sense of who they are and what they can be?'"

Liriano's beautiful collection of children's books is featured in our newest exhibition, Curators' Choice: Black Life Matters.