I was delighted to open Michelle Lanier’s beautiful new children’s book My N.C. from A to Z and discover Abraham Galloway on the very first page! I helped bring Galloway’s story to light in my book The Fire of Freedom only a few years ago and now he’s starring in one of the most wonderful children’s books I’ve seen in ages!
But that was only the beginning! Written by Lanier and illustrated by the breathtakingly talented artist, muralist and sculptor Dare Coulter, My N.C. from A to Z is full of bright and beautiful stories that flit and sparkle across the storyboards, exuberant and dazzling and wise.
From A to Z, Lanier and Coulter use the alphabet to introduce our youngest readers to African American luminaries that have shaped North Carolina’s history and culture and its struggle for social justice.
Here we find Abraham Galloway but also E is for Ella Baker, J is for Michael Jordan (and Harriet Jacobs and John Chavis), P is for Pauli Murray and U is for the United States Colored Troops, to name just a few!
Other pages feature historic places—F is for Freedom Hill, for example, the settlement of freed slaves that became Princeville, on the banks of the Tar River in Edgecombe County.
And you could teach a whole class on the North Carolina musicians that My N.C. from A to Z highlights in “S is for Songs.”
There’s J. Cole and John Coltrane, 9th Wonder and Roberta Flack, Rihannon Giddens, Thelonious Monk, Shirley Caesar and many more.
Full of light, music and soul, My N.C. from A to Z is a dream come true for anyone that loves North Carolina’s history and culture. How I would have liked to read it to my children when they were babies and toddlers!
And oh the illustrations! They deserve a show at the N.C. Museum of Art. They are colorful and gay, sometimes funny, sometimes moving and always interesting and enchanting for children and parents alike.
I could look at “I is for Ice Cream” all day long.
At the end of the day, I’d still have a smile on my face and I’d still be seeing new things in the scene every time I looked at it.
Published by the North Carolina Office of Archives and History, My N.C. from A to Z is available from the University of North Carolina Press, your local independent bookstore, Amazon and other e-retailers.
In addition, you can find My N.C. from A to Z at many of the State Historic Sites and museums when they open back up.
You can learn more about the book’s author, Michelle Lanier, here, and you can discover more about the illustrator Dare Coulter here. You can also learn more about the people, places and subjects featured in My N.C. from A to Z here.
The book grew out of the work of the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission, an extraordinary group of people dedicated to preserving, protecting and promoting the state’s African American history, arts and culture for all people. Lanier was the group’s founding executive director.
Now the first African American director of the Division of State Historic Sites, she and Dare Coulter have given us all a great gift.
We have so many things we cannot do during this terrible coronavirus pandemic. My N.C. from A to Z reminds us that, good times or bad, we have few greater joys in life than cuddling up on the couch with a child and sharing a book that is filled with beauty and love.