black-children-books

Illustration by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Children’s literature may be the most influential literary genre of all. Picture books, chapter books, middle-grade and young-adult novels all serve the most noble of purposes: to satisfy the need for information, to entertain curious imaginations, to encourage critical thinking skills, to move and inspire. Within their pages, seeds of wisdom and possibility are sown.

Therefore we, the undersigned children’s book authors and illustrators, do publicly affirm our commitment to using our talents and varied forms of artistic expression to help eliminate the fear that takes root in the human heart amid lack of familiarity and understanding of others; the type of fear that feeds stereotypes, bitterness, racism and hatred; the type of fear that so often leads to tragic violence and senseless death.

Our country is deeply divided. The recent election is a clear indication of the bigotry that is entrenched in this nation, of the prevalence of systems that threaten to destroy the very fabric of society, and has exposed the fault lines that continue to polarize us. As we struggle to bridge the chasm and search for common ground, we must remember our strength, show our resilience and think of the children. Now is the time to raise our voices for them, for our future.

The stakes are too high for us to be silent. The stakes are too high for us to wait for someone else to take the lead. The stakes are too high for us to just hope things will get better. Each day, we see attempts to disenfranchise and dehumanize marginalized people and to dismiss the violence that we face. As children’s book creators, we feel a special connection and responsibility to amplify the young voices that too often go unheard. When the headlines fade, the impact on children’s lives remains. They are left feeling confused, afraid, angry, hurt. We believe it is our duty to not just create, but also to empower children, affirm their lives and stand up for change.

It is our duty to create, empower children, affirm their lives and stand up for change. Click To Tweet

For our young readers, we will create stories that offer authentic and recognizable reflections of themselves, as well as relatable insight into experiences which on the surface appear markedly different. We will use our books to affect a world brimming with too many instances of hostility and injustice. We will plant seeds of empathy, fairness and empowerment through words and pictures. We will do so with candor and honesty, but also in the spirit of hope and love.

The values of adults can often be traced back to early influences. It is our collective mission, therefore, to promote understanding and justice through our art; to bolster every child’s visceral belief that his or her life shall always be infinitely valuable. This is a matter of life and death.

With paintbrushes and pens in hand, we, the undersigned, will continue to press toward the goals of equality, justice, and peace. We will write. We will draw. We will listen to the children. We invite you to join us.

In the words of Ella Baker, “We who believe in freedom cannot rest.”

Signed by:

Kelly Starling Lyons

Tameka Fryer Brown

Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

Don Tate

Gwendolyn Hooks

Tracey Baptiste

Crystal Allen

Paula Chase-Hyman

Varian Johnson

Jacqueline Woodson

Denene Millner

Jabari Asim

Zetta Elliott

Carole Boston Weatherford

Dinah Johnson

Joyce Hansen

Lin Oliver

Bruce Coville

Linda Sue Park

Pat Cummings

Jane Yolen

Deborah Underwood

Anne Marie Pace

Derrick Barnes

Kristy Dempsey

Pat Zietlow Miller

Charles R. Smith, Jr.

Stephen Messer

Kurtis Scaletta

Anne Ursu

Kelly Barnhill

Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Mitali Perkins

JJ Johnson

John Bemis

Lamar Giles

Renée Watson

Mike Jung

Kate Messner

Jo Knowles

Martha Brockenbrough

Laurie Thompson

Audrey Vernick

Laurel Snyder

Sarah Darer Littman

Eileen Heyes

Clay Carmichael

Chris Barton

Christine Taylor-Butler

Cynthia Leitich Smith

Daniel Minter

Alice Faye Duncan

Wade Hudson

Cheryl Willis Hudson

L. Divine

Kekla Magoon

Margaree Mitchell

Tonya Cherie Hegamin

Jacqueline K. Ogburn

Jay Asher

Megan E. Bryant

Evelyn Coleman

Kim Turrisi

Kathleen Ahrens

Karen Sandler

London Ladd

Kathryn Erskine

Padma Venkatraman

Ellen Oh

Dhonielle Clayton

Jennifer Ziegler

Tonya Bolden

Tony Medina

Sharon G. Flake

Melanie Conklin

Sayantani DasGupta

Johnny Ray Moore

Danette Vigilante

Laura Pegram

Sona Charaipotra

Uma Krishnaswami

Phil Bildner

Elana K. Arnold

Jewell Parker Rhodes

Shadra Strickland

Ki-Wing Merlin

Yamile Saied Mendez

Neesha Meminger

Carmen Oliver

NH Senzai

If you’d like to add your name to our declaration, please let us know in the comments.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

10 Comments

  1. I’ve written a teen novel that embodies much of what is powerfully defined in this post. I am committed to continuing this work in my writing and in my professional role driving the positive narratives of HBCU students and alumni, and all who are dedicated to their success. #PowerToTheYoungPeople

  2. Thank you so much for this. Not only is this a wonderful reminder of the power of books but also a great list to keep handy for where I want to spend my dollars – on these inspiring artists who care so much. Thank you!

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