A Field Trip to the New-York Historical Society, by Virginia Law Manning

On July 17, I traveled with a group of five Eastern PA SCBWI members to New York City to see Picture the Dream: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement through Children’s Books at the New-York Historical Society. The exhibition was curated by award-winning children’s book author Andrea Davis Pinkney and included original illustrations from over 40 children’s books. The illustrations told the story of how Black people and families were impacted by and resisted racism.

I was thrilled the Eastern PA chapter offered free registration to SCBWI members for this important show. While we were a small group, I believe we all left eager to share our stories of the day and information about the historical figures and events with family and friends. 

There was so much to absorb—the beautiful original illustrations, the valuable explanations offered by our tour guide, and the placards, as well as historical photographs and objects culled from the museum’s collection. The museum provided reading copies of all the books included in the show. Unfortunately, our time was limited, so I was relieved to find a list of all the books on the museum’s website. The list is included below. 

One of the books I’m hoping to read first is Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey with Gwen Strauss, illustrated by Floyd Cooper. Prior to the tour, I was not familiar with The Negro Travelers’ Green Book, a directory of safe hotels, motels, restaurants, and service stations for Black travelers published from 1936 to 1966. A 1959 edition of the Green Book was on display, and museum visitors could explore a digital version on an iPad.

Another book I’m eager to read is Milo’s Museum written by Zetta Elliott and illustrated by Purple Wong. As a volunteer educator for Art Goes to School, I’m all too aware that artwork created by minorities is underrepresented in museums’ collections. I’m happy to see authors, illustrators, and publishers now working hard to create beautiful books to educate children about diverse artists!

I was also drawn to endpapers by James E. Ransome from This Is the Dream; an illustration created on a recycled box by Van Thanh Rudd for The Patchwork Bike; and collage illustrations by Bryan Collier, Jared Andrew Schorr, Ekua Holmes, and Charlotta Janssen. While the illustrations included in the exhibition were all from children’s books, they didn’t shy away from difficult imagery. Kadir Nelson’s “Burning Cross” glows as if lit from behind. Faith Ringgold’s haunting Klan members ride black horses in the night. Tim Ladwig depicted community members coming to witness 14-year-old lynching victim Emmitt Till’s broken body. 

While our tour guide brought us through the galleries, I became aware there were only two other visitors in the halls with us. Both adults. Perhaps families thought the subject or imagery too difficult for children. I don’t know. I do know the curator and our tour guide wanted us to understand that children, as well as adults, suffered, struggled, marched, and built the civil rights movement. As children do today. In the last gallery, works created by children over the past two years, and collected by the New-York Historical Society’s History Responds Initiative, were on display: “Through these marker, paint and pencil colored works, kids demand and put to paper a plea for a more just world.” 

Over the next year, I hope to read all the books included in the exhibition. If you have a favorite children’s book that you believe should be included in this list, I hope you’ll add it to the comments section below.         

I want to thank the Eastern PA regional team for giving me the opportunity to organize this trip and my fellow travelers! I loved going on this journey with you! 

To all readers, I hope you’ll join us for the next Eastern PA SCBWI field trip! On October 8, we’ll meet at the Princeton Children’s Book Festival in Princeton, NJ. More information coming soon. Here is the list of books included in Picture the Dream. Enjoy! 

  • A is for Activist, written and illustrated by Innosanto Nagara, Kupu Kupu Press, 2012
  • A Place to Land by Barry Wittenstein, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, Holiday House, 2019
  • A Sweet Smell of Roses by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Eric Velasquez, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2005
  • A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Philippe Lardy, Houghton Mifflin, 2005
  • All Because You Matter by Tami Charles, illustrated by Bryan Collier, Scholastic, 2020
  • Always, Jackie by J. Patrick Lewis and Ronnie Rabinowitz, illustrated by John Thompson, Creative Editions, 2020
  • As Good as Anybody: Martin Luther King, Jr., and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March toward Freedom by Richard Michelson, illustrated by Raúl Colón, A.A. Knopf, 2008
  • Back of the Bus by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, Philomel Books, 2009
  • Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney, Greenwillow Books, 2008
  • Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton, illustrated by Raúl Colón, Schwartz & Wade Books, 2010
  • Coretta Scott by Ntozake Shange, illustrated by Kadir Nelson, Katherine Tegen Books, 2009
  • Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James, Bolden, an Agate Imprint, 2017
  • Delivering Justice: W.W. Law and the Fight for Civil Rights by James Haskins, illustrated by Benny Andrews, Candlewick, 2005
  • Freedom Like Sunlight, by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by John Thompson, Creative Editions, 2000
  • Goin’ Someplace Special by Patricia McKissack, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2001
  • Hands up! by Breanna J. McDaniel, illustrated by Shane Evans, Dial Books for Young Readers, 2019
  • Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans, written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson, Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2011
  • Hey Black Child by Useni Eugene Perkins, illustrated by Bryan Collier, LB Keys/Little, Brown and Company, 2017
  • Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, illustrated by Laura Freeman, HarperCollins, 2018
  • I Am Enough by Grace Byers, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo, Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, 2018
  • I Am Human: A Book of Empathy by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter Reynolds, Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2018
  • I Have a Dream: Martin Luther King Jr., by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., illustrated by Kadir Nelson, Schwartz & Wade Books, 2012
  • I, Too, Am America by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Bryan Collier, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012
  • If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks, written and illustrated by Faith Ringgold, Simon & Schuster Books for Young People, 1999
  • John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement by James Haskins and Kathleen Benson, illustrated by Benny Andrews, illustrated by Lee & Low, 2006
  • Let it Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Stephen Alcorn, Harcourt, 2000
  • Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson, illustrated by Frank Morrison, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018
  • Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Shane Evans, Schwartz & Wade Books, 2015
  • Malcolm X: A Fire Burning Brightly by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by Leonard Jenkins, HarperCollins, 2000
  • March: Book One by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell, Top Shelf Productions, 2013
  • March: Book Two by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell, Top Shelf Productions, 2015
  • March: Book Three by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell, Top Shelf Productions, 2016
  • Martin Rising: Requiem for a King by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney, Scholastic Press, 2018
  • Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier, Hyperion Books for Children, 2001
  • Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 by Alice Fay Duncan, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, Calkins Creek, an imprint of Highlights, 2018
  • Milo’s Museum by Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Purple Wong, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016
  • My Country ‘Tis of Thee: How One Song Reveals the History of Civil Rights by Claire Rudolf Murphy, illustrated by Bryan Collier, Henry Holt & Company, 2014
  • My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King III, illustrated by AG Ford, Amistad, 2013
  • Our Children Can Soar: A Celebration of Rosa, Barack, and the Pioneers of Change by Michelle Cook, multiple illustrators, Bloomsbury, 2009
  • Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment by Parker Curry and Jessica Curry, illustrated by Brittany Jackson, Aladdin, 2019
  • Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Jared Andrew Schorr, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2018
  • Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, Carolrhoda Books, 2010
  • She Stood for Freedom: The Untold Story of a Civil Rights Hero, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland by Loki Mulholland, illustrated by Charlotta Janssen, Shadow Mountain, 2016
  • Sit-in: How Four Friends Stood up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney, Little, Brown and Company, 2010
  • Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o, illustrated by Vashti Harrison, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2019
  • The Beatitudes: From Slavery to Civil Rights by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Tim Ladwig, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2010
  • The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage, written and illustrated by Sean Qualls & Selina Alko, Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., 2015
  • The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Earl Bradley Lewis, Putnam’s, 2001
  • The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke, illustrated by Van Thanh Rudd, Hachette Australia, 2016
  • The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles, illustrated by George Ford, Scholastic, 1995
  • The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist, by Cynthia Levinson, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 2017
  • Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy by Tony Medina, multiple illustrators, Penny Candy Books, 2018
  • This is the Dream by Diane Z. Shore and Jessica Alexander, illustrated by James E. Ransome, HarperCollins Publishers, 2006
  • Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom by Lynda Blackman Lowery, illustrated by PJ Loughran, Penguin Random House, 2015
  • Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes, Candlewick Press, 2015
  • We March written and illustrated by Shane Evans, Roaring Brook Press, 2012
  • We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices edited by Wade Hudson & Cheryl Willis Hudson, multiple illustrators, Crown Books for Young Readers
  • What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?: The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan by Chris Barton, illustrated by Ekua Holmes, Beach Lane Books, 2018
  • When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson: The Voice of a Century by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrated by Brian Selznick, Scholastic Press, 2002
  • White Water: Inspired by a True Story by Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein, illustrated by Shadra Strickland, Candlewick Press, 2011
  • Why Am I Me? by Paige Britt, illustrated by Sean Qualls & Selina Alko, New York, 2017
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9 Responses to A Field Trip to the New-York Historical Society, by Virginia Law Manning

  1. Thanks for the great summary of the trip, a great resource too.

  2. Danette Richards says:

    Virginia, Thank you for a wonderful synopsis of your tour. So sorry I missed it. My intention is also to look up many of these books as the stories are important.
    Thanks again,
    Dani Richards

  3. Heather Stigall says:

    It sounds like a wonderful exhibit. I’m sorry I had to miss it. I’ll add the books I haven’t read yet to my “to read” list. Thanks for the list and for sharing the highlights of the trip!

  4. rosecappelli says:

    Thanks for sharing all this information, Virginia. It sounds like it was a great trip. I’d love to attend the Princeton Book Festival in October but I will be babysitting a couple of tiny humans that weekend.

  5. Thank you to everyone who read the post and left a comment! During my last trip to the public library, I began checking out books from the list. I came across two others I’d like to add: COOL CUTS by Mechal Renee Roe and WHEN WE SAY BLACK LIVES MATTER by Maxine Beneba Clarke (author of THE PATCHWORK BIKE which is on the museum’s list).

  6. I, too, am sorry I couldn’t join you on this trip. Thanks for the excellent overview and book list.

  7. adillustration says:

    Virginia, you outdid yourself with the field trip, and for this blog post! Your insights and attention to detail is nothing short of miraculous! Thank you for leading us on the wonderful day out to see this excellent exhibition and for sharing the list of books. 🥰

  8. Rona Shirdan says:

    Virginia, I enjoyed your post!
    I liked that you shared some of the books you intend to read as a result of visiting the exhibit.
    Sharing a list of selections with others is a great way for people to begin introducing themselves to books they wouldn’t have known about otherwise, and wouldn’t have been able to find on their own.

    I agree that Ruth and the Green Book is an important story to read. Not many people are familiar with The Negro Travelers Green Book and how necessary it was for black families to own one so they could travel safely. Even though I grew up during a period when it must have been used, I wasn’t aware then that there was an unspoken danger involved during family trips. I guess it was something that parents didn’t share with their kids. I own a copy of the book having purchased it in recent years after learning more about its place in history. You might also watch the movie The Green Book (2018) that includes this theme of unsafe travel for African Americans, especially when traveling in the south.

    I have read and/or own many of the books on your reference list, but not all. I think it’s a great list to move through and either read again or enjoy for the first time. A Wreath for Emmett Till is on the list and is a fascinating book. I do own a copy. It introduces a very unique poetic style called “a crown of sonnets”. It is a very difficult design that is made up of a sequence of fifteen interlinked sonnets, in which the last one is made up of the first lines of the preceding fourteen. Not only do you have the challenge of the style, but you also have to tell a story. I bought the book because of the story but mostly because I thought one day I would try to write a story in that style. By the way, that has not happened yet! LOL!

    Thanks for organizing a trip to a very important and interesting exhibit and for taking time to share the experience, through your blog, with those of us who were unable to enjoy it in person.

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