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The 50th Law
Presidential Material: Barack Obama. ISBN 9781600103414
A quick and easy to read biography.
African-American Classics. Edited by Tom Pomplun and Lance Tooks. 9780982563045
I came across this great series while attending NCSS 2016 in Washington, DC. It is a collection of graphic adaptations of writings by black authors - Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, W.E.B. Du Bois, Charles W. Chestnut, Alice Dunbar Nelson, and many more.
American History Ink: the Underground Railroad. Terry Collins. 9780078780264
Black Comics: Politics of Race and Representation. Ed. by Sheena C. Howard and Ronald L. Jackson II
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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
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! I wish I taught a US History or African-American History course - an entire 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).
Tracing newspaper comics and how they mirrored societal changes in the United States.
Do comics mirror society or is the opposite true?
Have students read some of the titles - then complete research on the time period it was published. Compare/contrast.
What would be the impact of changing your favorite comic hero's gender/ethnicity?
Have students peer into the future - how else might comics change to mirror ethnic/gender changes in the US.
Black Dynamite. 978161377807
Black Images in the Comics. Fredrik Stromberg. 9781606995624
Great book to get your feet wet on this topic - one page summaries of historically important comics
So many comics to choose - the point here is that he is an African King, from a modern and technologically advanced nation - not the stereotype of African native. He will be in the 2016 Captain America movie.
Blackjack. Alex Simmons. 9780967634104
Captain America. August 1976 # 200.
Captain America Sam Wilson.- monthly comic. Marvel.
I include this title as I have personally seen the impact on several of my black students. I have many comic books hung up in my classroom and it is wonderful to add to the diversity. As part of the ongoing conversation of using comics books as social/historical artifacts, this certainly points to current changes in the United States. Besides that, it's a great comic in its own right.
It was great to discuss the ongoing "controversy" of changing the character to be African-American and the far-right opinions that were expressed. As part of this conversation, we tried to figure out what an"American" is - race, religion, etc.
Captain America and the Falcon. November 1971. #143
Wow. Just wow. Red Skull uses the Black Power (Panther) movement to his advantage. The word choice alone creates a powerful discussion. This would be an awesome companion piece when teaching about the Civil Rights movements - but also, are these same issues still alive today? Ferguson. Beyonce at the Superbowl, etc.
Captain America and the Falcon. July 1972 #151.
When Falcon lands in Manhattan, he is confronted as below. Interesting discussion can take place - not only about how much has changed in the role of Sam Wilson (today he is Captain America), but also in the fashion and word choice. It would also a great jumping off point to discuss the idea of "Uncle Tom", what it means, and how Sam Wilson might have fit that role.
Captain America: Truth. Robert Morales and Kyle Baker. ISBN
Reading Level -
Length - collection of the 7 comics originally published.
Captain America was originally black - the super hero serum used on Steve Rogers was originally tested on black soldiers (Tuskegee)
Tuskegee experiments, Jewish Holocaust
Cleburne: A Graphic Novel. Justin Murphy. ISBN 9780979957901
- 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)?
with Matthew Broderick would be an easy connection.
NY Times article Jan 2014
General Cleburne's original letter/proposal
Love the background on this cover!
Dark Rain. Mat Johnson. Simon Gane. ISBN 97814012216114
Hurricane Katrina is certainly not limited to African-American history, but it certainly plays a large part in understanding racial tensions.
Dreaming Eagles. Garth Ennis.
Civil Rights movement and WWII together in this powerful comic.
The Harlem Hellfighters. Max Brooks. ISBN
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.
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
Hip Hop Family Tree. Ed Piskor. Book 1 - 9781606996904. Book 2 9781606997567.
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
Icon. Dwayne McDuffie. 9781401225490
Incognegro,. Mat Johnson. 9781401210984.\
Historical fiction. Early 1900s - light-skinned African-American men in the South reporting on lynching. Murder-mystery style.
Looking for a Face Like Mine. William H. Foster III. ISBN 9780976665243
A great collection of essays and interviews on a topic close to my heart as an educator - students need to see themselves in our classrooms, in our leaders, and our heroes.
Malcolm X: a Graphic Biography. Andrew Helfer.
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Reading Level - 8th grade and up
Length - 102 pages
Factual? No issues with the facts presented.
I think this is one of the few times that I would say that perhaps a graphic novel format was not a good fit for a topic. The book is well drawn and full of important information - but it is more of a brief sketch of Malcolm X's life - much time was spent on his youth. This is a good book to build some background - but it needs to include more of what Malcolm did as a leader - discuss more of his beliefs and impacts on the African-American community - as well as whites.
March: Book One. John Lewis.
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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.
President Obama, Edmund Pettus Bridge, separate but equal, segregation, nonv-violence, Gandhi, MLK Jr, Brown VS Board, Strom Thurmond, Emmett Till, Rosa Parks, Montgomery Bus, Fred Gray, Jim Lawson, F.O.R., NAACP, Nashville Student Movement, Lunch counter sit-ins, Thurgood Marshall, Mayor West
Have the students read through the graphic biographies of MLK, John Lewis, and Malcolm X - compare.
I have my students read the graphic novel - Nat Turner - they could compare his methods of violent uprising with the non-viiolent methods of John Lewis
March Book 2. John Lewis. Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell. 9781603094009
Miles Morales: the Ultimate Spider-Man. Bendis. 9780785197799.
Muhammad Ali. Sybille Titeux. Amazing Ameziane. 9781506703183
Nat Turner by Kyle Baker. ISBN
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Reading Level -
High School. There is very little to read - but the content is mature.
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.
Nelson Mandela. Rob Shone. 9781404209237
Pistolfist: Revolutionary Warrior. J.S. Earls. 9781926914329
Seriously!?! If you are an 80s/90s Hip Hop junkie like me - this is simply awesome! Public Enemy as superhero crime fighter - trying to eliminate racism and sexism!
Romeo and Juliet. 9780763668075
Shakespeare is universal - to all cultures.
The Silence of Our Friends. Mark Long. 9781596436183
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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,
Southern Bastards. N0. 10. Jason Aaron and Jason Latour.
Published in the heat of 2015 controversy over taking down Confederate flags. The editorial by Jason Latour alone is enough to read this comic.
Spiderman - Miles Morales.
As with Captain America, I have included this comic in my classroom decor to further diversify the peoples represented as heroes in comics. Since it is a current and ongoing comic, it ties into comics as being a window into societal changes - an artifact if you will. We discussed the ongoing commentary by some that this is just political correctness - interesting conversation to have in class.
Static Shock. Dwayne McDuffie.
Strange Fruit by Joel Christian Gill. ISBN
Reading Level -
A collection of nine exceptional African Americans.
"Strange Fuit" - Billie Holiday. Jim Crow laws.
A controversial story incorporating science fiction and slave resistance.
Stuck Rubber Baby. Howard Cruse. 76194120567
Reading Level -
Basic Premise -
Set during the 60s and Civil Rights - but also with the added persecution of being gay.
Superblack: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes. Adilifu Nama. 9780292726741
I learned a lot of history reading this book - awesome resource!
Superman VS the Ku Klux Klan
Not a comic book itself, and certainly not focused solely on African-American history, but it tells a very powerful story of the 1946 radio shows
Superman VS Muhammad Ali. Neil Adams. ISBN 9781401228415
Yep - simple awesomeness.
Tales of the Talented Tenth. Joel Christian Gill. 9781938486630
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 -
Who really created the term, Talented Tenth?
Vixen: Return of the Lion. G. Willow Wilson and Cafu.
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Reading Level - 8th grade and up
Length - 125 pages
Collection of #1-5 of the original serial comic. Vixen is an African (African-American) superhero of the Justice League. She returns to Africa to seek revenge/justice on the man who killed her mother. She goes alone, despite the warnings of Superman of the dangers she will face. Eventually, members of the Justice League follow Vixen to help her out of trouble - but they are the ones who wind of needing rescuing from Vixen.
Factual? No - this is not a historical-type comic - more of a social commentary.
Great to see such a strong, black female who is able to save the likes of Superman and Batman and who is the main character. There is a commentary on historical events - that of imperialism. The main antagonist, Kwesi, is an African male who is terrorizing/controlling the villages. There is a conversation that happens between Vixen and a village leader - he states that while Kwesi is a bad man - at least he is African. However, as it turns out - Kwesi is actually being controlled by outside powers - he is only a puppet. This conversation immediately led to me making connections with European Imperialism and indirect control. The second undercurrent is that of being female - the male African leaders are continually surprised that it is a female doing the fighting.
There is a little stereotyping in the book - Vixen's powers come from nature and animals, there is black magic, etc. Overall, however, the portrayal of Vixen is very positive - bot as a female and black character.
The comic itself is beautifully drawn and there are many powerful images of Vixen - who despite her name and the book cover - is not an over-sexualized creature. We need more of these types of female leads (of any ethnicity) - I will certainly add this to the library.
Imperialism, gender issues/roles
Have students write on how this story makes connections to European Imperialism.
Have students complete research on African-American/black superheroes in current comics - what do they notice?
Have students complete research on Female superheroes - what do they notice? What is the social commentary?**
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