Your Legacy by Schele Williams

Cover image for Your Legacy.

Your Legacy: A Bold Reclamation of Our Enslaved History by Schele Williams, illustrated by Tonya Engel (9781419748752)

This picture book honors the history of African Americans in America. Looking at Africa first, as a place of pride, filled with a long history of heritage and kingdoms. When Africans were loaded onto ships and taken into slavery, they brought so many of the qualities that they had in Africa. Their freedom was taken into a brutal system, but their intelligence allowed them to bridge their different languages with music. They loved one another as family, secretly learned to read, and smuggled messages for one another. Some managed to escape with determination and bravery. Black Americans were inventors of engines, farm equipment, and furniture, though they rarely got credit for their ideas. They created jazz, ice cream, peanut butter, and the blood plasma bank. The book ties all of these qualities to modern figures who exemplify them, showing how the heritage carries through ancestors to today.

Filled with a sense of pride from the very first pages, this picture book offers a way to speak to children about slavery without creating shame. There is a strong sense of resilience throughout the book, of people who not only endured but survived and continued to invent and create. The book allows space for slavery as part of African American history, but frames it in terms of the qualities of character it took to survive. This is history that is not shared in schools that then turns to the accomplishments of Black Americans throughout our history.

Engel’s illustrations are full of connection and joy. She uses deep and bright colors, creating scenes where African Americans stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity, work side by side, and sing together.

A necessary purchase for public and school libraries looking for a way to teach African American history in a better way. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Abrams Books for Young Readers.

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