Telling a people

Telling A People's Story

Collage of African-American children's books. Text: January 30-June 30. Art Museum and Sculpture Park. Address and contact info.

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Telling A People’s Story is the first major museum exhibition devoted to the art found within the pages of African-American children’s picture books. The exhibition emphasizes the strength of the illustrations as visual narrative representations of the African-American experience. While aspects of social justice are found throughout the three main galleries, the exhibition goes beyond providing a look into the struggles of African Americans. This project celebrates the complex and diverse African-American experience through a lens intended for children and young readers. The exhibition offers something for all viewers through the representation of familiar and lesser-known people and the contributions of African Americans to an American identity.

More than 600 books, and over 14,000 illustrations, were reviewed during the development of this exhibition in search of a strong representation of events and milestones in the annals of African-American history. Themes and time periods include African Origins, Middle Passage, Slavery, Emancipation, Reconstruction, Harlem Renaissance, Segregation, and the Civil Rights Movement. Other themes draw attention to historical figures in politics, music, sports, arts, and entertainment. The selection of approximately 130 works on display includes paintings, pastels, drawings and mixed media works. Featured are 33 artists, spanning nearly 50 years of creativity.

Collectively, the many books created by authors and illustrators since the late 19th century contribute to an understanding of the African-American experience through two perspectives.

  • An internal look into the need for validation and the creation of positive self-images
  • An introduction to the African-American experience for those unfamiliar in order to better understand the cultural, historical and social makeup of African-American identity

Many of the artworks featured in the exhibition received top honors and honorable mentions from several major literary organizations. Now under the umbrella of the American Libraries Association, the John Newbery Medal (first awarded in 1922) recognizes authors, while the Randolph Caldecott Award (first awarded in 1938) is given to illustrators. The Coretta Scott King Award (first awarded in 1970) is the third major children’s book award, created for the recognition of African-American children’s books during a time when African Americans received little attention for their work. These three awards validate the exceptional contributions of African-American authors and illustrators to the world of children’s literature.

A number of educational and experiential offerings are scheduled throughout the duration of the exhibition (listed below). Several illustrators featured in the exhibition will engage in programs created specifically for Miami University classes, Oxford and surrounding communities, King Library and Lane Library Oxford, and Kramer, Bogen and Marshall elementary schools.

Additionally, docent-led walk-in tours are offered at 1 p.m. on February 17, March 10 and April 14.

A conference will be held April 20-21, devoted to dialogue on the central topics expressed in the exhibition. Speakers include many illustrators featured in the exhibition, along with a librarian, and Miami University faculty. Visit the conference information and registration site at www.blogs.miamioh.edu/tellingapeoplesstory.


FREE & OPEN TO ALL | Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday Noon-5 p.m.