Black History Month

The month of February is a time to reflect on the rich history and accomplishments of Americans with African ancestry. It’s a time to reflect on what “Can Be”. (A Reason to Celebrate and Share Our History by Cris Clay) It is a time to stand united and look forward to the future with optimism and hope. This month provides the opportunity of a deep learning experience across different cultures.

Discover Books is pleased to highlight some of the great African-American authors who have left an indelible mark on the history of time. The history is rich and the poetry, stories, and people are unforgettable. Each week this month, we will highlight the great African-American authors and their messages to the world.

Phyllis Wheatley was the first African-American woman to publish a book of poetry. She found her voice and freedom through her poetry. Born in West Africa and sold into slavery at the age of 7 or 8. She was emancipated after publishing her works. Her story is tragic but her words are beautiful. Her life is embedded deep within her writings. Born in 1753 and died in 1784 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Maya Angelou was an American poet, singer, and civil rights activist working with both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry. She has been awarded over 50 honorary degrees. At the inauguration of Bill Clinton, Angelou recited her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” (1993). This was the first time a poet recited at an inauguration since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. Born in 1928 and died in 2014.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

“Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.”

-Maya Angelou

Langston Hughes used jazz rhythms in his works leading to the art form known as jazz poetry. People’s love for poetry in the 1920s was dwindling, but he was connecting with his audience through the use of easily relatable language, themes, attitudes.

He was one of the main contributors of the Harlem Renaissance, and known for his colorful portrayals of Black life from the 1920s-1960s. Hughes wrote plays, short stories, poetry, and several books. He focused on change and using art to change people’s perspectives and worldviews. Born in 1902 and died in 1967.

“What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up Like a raisin in the sun?… Or does it explode?”

“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly”

“I’ve known rivers: I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins. My soul has grown deep like the rivers.”

– Langston Hughes

W.E.B. Du Bois was an activist, sociologist, educator, historian, and prolific writer. He was one of the most influential African American thought leaders of the 20th century. It wasn’t until his college years that he began to see the effects of racism. His thesis, The Suppression of the African Slave-Trade to the United States of America, 1638-1870 remains an authoritative work on the subject. Born in 1868 died in 1963.

“A true and worthy ideal frees and uplifts a people; a false ideal imprisons and lowers.”

“I believe in Liberty for all men; the space to stretch their arms and their souls; the right to breathe and the right to vote, the freedom to choose their friends, enjoy the sunshine and ride on the railroads, uncursed by color; thinking, dreaming, working as they will in the kingdom of God and love.”

“Read some good, heavy, serious books just for discipline: Take yourself in hand and master yourself.”

-W.E.B. Du Bois

Discover Books will continue throughout this month to highlight the contributions of these great writers. Join us on this incredible journey and Let The Stories Live On.

“Language is the Expression of Ideas. . .”

Noah Webster. Photo is in the Public Domain in the United States

“Language is the expression of ideas, and if the people of one country cannot preserve an identity of ideas they cannot retain an identity of language.” ~ Noah Webster

Noah Webster was an academic by nature. His mother taught him at home spelling, mathematics, and music. He then attended a one-room schoolhouse which he didn’t enjoy and later wrote about the terrible conditions. He went onto Yale and later studied law.

Webster became an educator himself set on teaching American children in an American way. He threw off the shackles of the British education system and books. He began writing his own textbooks. One being the Blue-Backed Speller. It was part of a  3 part series known collectively as A Grammatical Institute of the English Language.

The work consisted of a speller (published in 1783), a grammar (published in 1784), and a reader (published in 1785). “His goal was to provide a uniquely American approach to training children. His most important improvement, he claimed, was to rescue “our native tongue” from “the clamour[30] of pedantry” that surrounded English grammar and pronunciation.” Webster finished his first dictionary in 1806. It was titled, A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language.

Original copies of his handwritten dictionary notes. This photo is in the Public Domain in the United States.

In 1793, Webster was asked by Alexander Hamilton to write for the Federalist Party newspaper. He also served in the Connecticut House of Representatives.

Upon Webster’s death in 1843, George and Charles Merriam acquired the rights to his dictionary. This is why it is called the Merriam-Webster Dictionary to this date. To learn more about this man, who desired nothing more than to preserve the American Spirit through written words, see our website for a selection of books for all ages.

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