Black Is a Rainbow Color

by Angela Joy and Ekua Holmes

A distinctive narrative begins with a young girl observing that there is no color... read more

A distinctive narrative begins with a young girl observing that there is no color black in the rainbow. She then notes things around her that are black—a crayon, her friend’s braid, the tires on a bicycle. As “black” subtly shifts to “Black,” the observations turn into marvelous references to African American culture. “Black is the robe on Thurgood’s back. Black are the trains on the railroad tracks. Black are the eyes on the salted peas. Black are the shadows of ooo-old magnolia trees.” An author's note places each allusion in historical and cultural context while a timeline also at volume’s end documents the use of terms such as “Negro,” “colored,” “Afro-American,” and even Malcolm X’s “so-called Negro,” concluding with “Black is back” and a note under “2020” stressing the importance of capitalizing Black “in the spirit of the W.E.B. DuBois campaign.” Ekua Holmes’ stunning illustrations visually extend this immersive, celebratory look at African American identity. For example, “Black is side-walking in spit-shined shoes” shows a sidewalk composed of historical newspaper headlines and stories, and her paintings echo stained-glass church windows throughout. As richly symbolic as they are, neither art nor text loses sight of the original child, whose final observation, “Black is a rainbow, too,” is set against an illustration showing Black people with a range of variations in their hair and skin. (Ages 4-10)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2020

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