Reviews /

Young, Gifted and Black Too: Meet 52 More Black Icons from Past and Present

Authored by Jamia Wilson
Illustrated by Andrea Pippins
Published by Wide Eyed Editions

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In this delightful book, a sequel to Young, Gifted and Black, fifty-two more Black icons from past and present are celebrated. Their biographies are ordered chronologically from the 1500s to the present day. Both books have been inspired by Nina Simone’s song of the same name, written as a tribute to her friend, Lorraine Hansberry, the first Black woman to write a Broadway play.

In the book’s welcome, Jamia Wilson (author) and Andrea Pippins (illustrator) tell the reader that they want to celebrate inspirational Black people who are artists, athletes, healers, leaders, thinkers and inventors.

 All children deserve to read positive stories of heroes who are like them, and we hope that this book makes you feel celebrated, hopeful, connected, seen and part of a global community, wherever you are.’

One of the aims of this book is to inspire young people to investigate further, as each biography is just a snapshot of that person’s life and achievements. It calls out to young people to make a difference and to be themselves, ‘a unique and incomparable hero‘.

Jamia and Andrea start their book with Juan Latino (c1518-c1594), an Afro-Spaniard who published books of Latin verse poetry. He broke the boundaries of slavery to become a University professor. The book ends with the biography of Mari Copeny (2007 – to present), an activist and philanthropist. At the age of eight she raised awareness of the high levels of lead in the water supply of her hometown Flint, Michigan. The other fifty people have been chosen for a variety of reasons, all pioneers or inspirational in their own way, from Toussaint L’Ouverture, Sister Rosetta Thorpe and Loretta Scott King to Oswald Boating, Laverne Cox and Amanda Gorman.

Each of the fifty-two icons that has been chosen has an explanation of what that person has achieved in their life, along with a brief biography. The illustrations of each person are vibrant, colourful and draw you in to the page. There are accompanying quotes from speeches or writing in easy-to-read bubbles, and most of the people have the country they are from labelled as well.

The text is either black on white or black on colours that are clear to see the text on. There is a two-page glossary at the back, with explanations of key vocabulary that may be unfamiliar to some readers. The book’s endpapers are bright and colourful, giving you clues about the activities the icons within are involved in. There are pictures of scientific and mathematical equipment, musical instruments, sports kit and a space rocket.

This book would be good for young people to dip into and explore. As well as being able to find out more information about well-known figures from history, or current icons, there are many lesser-known figures who deserve to be heard about, and this book gives that opportunity.

Although aimed at young people, it would be a fascinating book for readers of all ages. To be able to explore the lives of everyday, inspirational Black people, who through their words or deeds have worked to change the world, is a great resource to have available.

Young, Gifted and Black Too would work well both in the classroom as a resource for biographies in Key Stage Two as well as at home to pore over and talk about at leisure. It has been put together with care and love by Jamia and Andrea and is indeed a fitting tribute to so many extraordinary, pioneering, world-changing people.