West Side Rag » Children’s Picture Books Tell the Story of the Civil Rights Movement at the New-York Historical Society

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Posted on April 3, 2022 at 7:05 a.m. by West Side Rag

Andrea Davis Pinkney.

Text and photographs by Peggy Taylor

Andrea Davis Pinkney, award-winning children’s book author, publisher, and daughter of civil rights foot soldiers, missed Dr. King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech at the 1963 March on Washington because she was waiting to be born .

“But I heard the speech from my mother’s womb,” she said as she led the press through the New York Historical Society’s new exhibit, Imagine the Dream: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Children’s Books.

As guest curator, Pinkney shared, “I raised my two children on many of these works”, highlighting the sixty books and eighty works of art included in the exhibition running from April 1 to July 24. 2022.

Of the sixty books referenced, three were written by Pinkney and illustrated by her husband Brian Pinkney, son of famous children’s book illustrator Jerry Pinkney, who died last year.

“With this exhibit, we’re reaching out and inviting kids to come on a journey,” Pinkney said. “A picture book is the perfect tool to engage reluctant readers as well as stimulate conversations around race.”

Corn imagine the dream is not just for children. It is also about children; children of all races, who marched, paraded, rallied, sat, led the way and protested for the cause. Children who have taken on adult burdens and been hosed down, bitten, spat on, imprisoned and murdered.

Philippe Lardy, A Crown for Emmett Till, Five sharp-beaked crows guard the lynched 15-year-old Emmett Till as he peers through a crown of thorns and chains.

Frank Morrison, Let the Children Walk. Children being hosed down by state troopers (not pictured) and mobbed by dogs.

The exhibition is divided into three sections:

The way backfocusing on the “conditions that triggered the movement”.
The rocks are the roadillustrating the obstacles encountered and overcome.
Today’s journeys, tomorrow’s promiseexploring modern activism.

The media used are varied: watercolor and graphite, distemper on cardboard, colored inks on clay, oil and fabric collage, charcoal, digital printing, digital collage, India ink on Bristol board, collage on paper.

Raúl Colòn, child of the civil rights movement.

In the exhibit, Jim Crow plays a starring role, but not just as the usual nickname for racial segregation. Three of the illustrations portray Jim Crow as a literal bird – black, evil and menacing, “its peckish, prickly beak separating us,” Pinkney said.

Jim Crow flourished, not only in the South, but also in the North, which is why the exhibit features a copy of the Black Travelers Green Book, a must-have for vacationing Black families looking for homes and amenities hospitable. Visitors are encouraged to browse the pages of the book and find the shelter motels, hotels and restaurants in their states.

Sean Qualls, Dr. King’s Dream.

The final gallery explores the evolution of the civil rights movement into the Black Lives Matter movement and features works illustrating the artists’ desire for racial harmony and the fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream.

The gallery also offers a cozy reading corner where visitors can leaf through books, reflect and be charmed.

The New York Historical Society
170 Central Park West at 77th Street
Phone: (212) 873-3400


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