Libraries Rewriting History

“Few modern paintings can claim their origins in a library. But before Jacob Lawrence ever picked up his brush, he often went to the library and researched or wrote the text for the story he was about to tell. To an artist like Lawrence, a library is the soul of history; its resources are like sketches for undeveloped ideas. Lawrence the storyteller used the library to interpret, study, and create works about particular historical or contemporary events.”
–Deborah Willis, artist, curator, and scholar

Explore these books recommended by Reba Williams, librarian at the Smithfield Branch Library in Birmingham, as well as the exhibition team that helped create Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle. These texts, for both adults and young readers, challenge conventional histories and reflect the diversity of stories that make up the American experience. Click on the title to check out these books through the Birmingham Public Library system.

Top 5 Books for Youth and Adults Selected by Reba Williams

A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow
by David L. Chappell

Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy
by Mary Dudziak

Great Migration
by Deborah Lock
*For young readers

Moving North: African Americans and the Great Migration, 1915-1930
by Monica Halpern
*For young readers

Righteous Discontent: The Women’s Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880-1920
by Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham

Top 5 Books For Adults Selected by the Exhibition Team

A People’s History of the United States
by Howard Zinn

An African American and Latinx History of the United States
by Paul Ortiz

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
by Ibram X. Kendi

These Truths: A History of the United States
by Jill Lepore

The Right to Protest
by Duchess Harris

Top 10 Books For Young Readers Selected by the Exhibition Team

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States
by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

A Young People’s History of the United States: Columbus to the War on Terror
by Howard Zinn and Rebecca Stefoff

Blue Sky White Stars
by Sarvinder Naberhaus. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life
by Ashley Bryan

Go Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes
by Wab Kinew. Illustrations by Joe Morse

Jake Makes a World: Jacob Lawrence, A Young Artist in Harlem
by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts. Illustrated by Christopher Myers

by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin. Illustrated by Nate Powell

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library
by Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrated by Eric Velasquez

The Undefeated
by Kwame Alexander. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Words That Built a Nation: Voices of Democracy That Have Shaped America’s History
by Marilyn Miller, Ellen Scordato, and Dan Tucker. Illustrated by Mary Kate McDevitt