OAKLAND, Calif. - Black History Month typically spurs an interest in books by Black authors, about the African-American experience in the United States. But many Black authors are urging all Americans to expand their curiosity, year-round.
The Oakland Public Library featured New York Times best-selling author Carole Boston Weatherford's book "Freedom on the Menu" this month. Boston Weatherford has written dozens of books about the civil rights movement: she says the goal is to educate children and open conversations in classrooms and at home.
"Freedom on the Menu" tells the story of the lunch counter sit-ins in 1960. They happened in Greensboro, North Carolina: Boston Weatherford says many children in Greensboro -- and elsewhere -- had never heard of the protests.
"That's because so many chapters of African American history are left out of textbooks," said Boston Weatherford, "and it's often left to parents to supplement that education. Parents have to be resourceful and seek out these stories that have been omitted or in some cases, white-washed in textbooks."
Boston Weatherford is doing readings all month, and encourages adults, to be proactive and reach for books about racism -- even though it can be uncomfortable at first.
"After kids read 'Freedom on the Menu,' children ask things like 'Who made that stupid rule about certain people can't eat at the lunch counter?' and 'Why did whites treat Blacks so unfairly' and... we're all equipped to have those conversations," said Boston Weatherford.
Author Kamaria Lofton's children's books are about her hometown of Oakland.
She started her "Kids Love Oakland" series when she was studying at Mills College in Oakland.
"I couldn't find any books about Oakland at all...there were books about San Francisco, London, Paris and also there were no books with people that looked like us, Oakland being so diverse," said Lofton.
She says she's grateful her parents sought out books with appropriate representation when she was little -- now she does the same for her children.
Lofton says it's all too easy for children to wind up with books that are almost exclusively by white people and about white people unless a parent, or teacher takes up the issue.
"Our world is a big place, a beautiful place and if you think you'll only be with people who look like you... you'l be sadly mistaken," said Lofton, "books are great because if you don't know where to start, books are wonderful."
Both authors say books can help parents and adults ease into a difficult topic. They also urge readers to go beyond what is traditionally taught in the classroom, which is usually about slavery and Martin Luther King Junior, saying that Black history isn't only about pain and loss, but also triumph, strength and promise.
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