“Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, “may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!” To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking…” 
— Frederick Douglass, “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro

I have never been a big fan of the Fourth of July. Yes, in the past, I have joined parties or barbeques and taken my pictures in red, white, and blue with friends or my significant other. But, last year I had enough. 

Last year, I decided to spend this day trying to reshape our nation into something better. On July 4, 2019, I spent the whole day at the National Education Association Representative Assembly advocating for ethnic studies and anti-racist policies for education with my colleagues. It was a start. 

Now, this year, as I am reflecting on everything that is happening in America, I believe that is the best way to spend the Fourth of July (and every day). This Fourth of July (and every day) I call on us to push to change our nation into something better. I call on us to understand racism in order to advocate for anti-racism. I call on us to read and help our students and children read about racism and our history as a nation. We must not forget our history because, to forget the racism in our history or not teach it, is to run the risk of repeating it. And, for many communities of color (including my own), that is a risk we cannot take. 

The most patriotic thing we can do is to constantly strive for our nation to be better, more equitable, and just. So, today (and every day), sit down with your kiddos, delve into racism in our American History, and talk about next steps to redress the harm. Here are some books to Read About Racism & Our History

Elementary Students

We Came to America, by Faith Ringgold

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 5-8 years old

We Came to America talks about immigration and the different reasons people came to America. It is one of my favorite books to talk about immigration and America because it shows about how some people did not come here by choice (a reference to slavery), which some immigration and history books never address. Use this to talk about who makes up America and start the conversation of what we need to do to make a country that is just for everyone. 

The Undefeated, by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 6-10 years

Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson are a dream author-illustrator team that produced this picture book. The Undefeated is a poem that acts as a “love letter to Black America”. It references the obstacles and triumphs that have happened to the Black community in history. Use this book to talk about how we can redress the harm and trauma that comes with racism in our country. 

Middle School & High School Students 

Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You, by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 12+ years old

I have been loving that Ibram X. Kendi has been reimagining his famous book, Stamped from the Beginning, for younger and younger crowds. Jason Reynolds, another brilliant author who specialties in middle grade books, teamed up with Kendi in order to write this version of Stamped geared towards middle school and high school students. It shares the history of racism within our nation and reminds us how racism is still very real today. 

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People, by Rozanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Jean Mendoza, and Debbie Reese

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 12+ years old

Another beautiful book that delves into racism and the history of the United States. Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza adapted An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz for middle-grade and young adult readers. This book examines the history of the United States through the legacy of Indigenous peoples.

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

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: Young Adult +

This book is on the shelf of so many anti-racist activists and advocates. With 608 pages, Ibram X. Kendi writes about the history of racist ideas that are rooted in America. He shows how racism was birthed in order to justify extreme racial inequities, harm on communities, and discriminatory policies. It is a long read, but a worthwhile read, especially in our journey to change our nation. 

Remember: the most patriotic thing we can do is change our nation into one that wants the best for our communities!

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