Telling A People's Story

Telling a people's story. African-American Children's Illustrated Literature

January 30-June 30, 2018

Telling A People’s Story is the first major museum exhibition devoted to the art found within the pages of African-American children’s picture books. The exhibition emphasizes the strength of the illustrations as visual narrative representations of the African-American experience. While aspects of social justice are found throughout the three main galleries, the exhibition goes beyond providing a look into the struggles of African Americans. This project celebrates the complex and diverse African-American experience through a lens intended for children and young readers. The exhibition offers something for all viewers through the representation of familiar and lesser-known people and the contributions of African Americans to an American identity.

More than 600 books, and over 14,000 illustrations, were reviewed during the development of this exhibition in search of a strong representation of events and milestones in the annals of African-American history. Themes and time periods include African Origins, Middle Passage, Slavery, Emancipation, Reconstruction, Harlem Renaissance, Segregation, and the Civil Rights Movement. Other themes draw attention to historical figures in politics, music, sports, arts, and entertainment. The selection of approximately 130 works on display includes paintings, pastels, drawings and mixed media works. Featured are 33 artists, spanning nearly 50 years of creativity.

Collectively, the many books created by authors and illustrators since the late 19th century contribute to an understanding of the African-American experience through two perspectives.

  • An internal look into the need for validation and the creation of positive self-images
  • An introduction to the African-American experience for those unfamiliar in order to better understand the cultural, historical and social makeup of African-American identity

Many of the artworks featured in the exhibition received top honors and honorable mentions from several major literary organizations. Now under the umbrella of the American Libraries Association, the John Newbery Medal (first awarded in 1922) recognizes authors, while the Randolph Caldecott Award (first awarded in 1938) is given to illustrators. The Coretta Scott King Award (first awarded in 1970) is the third major children’s book award, created for the recognition of African-American children’s books during a time when African Americans received little attention for their work. These three awards validate the exceptional contributions of African-American authors and illustrators to the world of children’s literature.

Online Exhibit: Telling a People's Story

List of Illustrators

Benny Andrews
Nneka Bennett
Colin Bootman
Rod Brown
Ashley Bryan
R. Gregory Christie
Bryan Collier
Floyd Cooper
Michael Cummings
Leo and Diane Dillon
Tom Feelings
AG Ford

Jan Spivey Gilchrist
Ekua Holmes
John Holyfield
London Ladd
Jerome LaGarrigue

E.B. Lewis
Frank Morrison
Kadir Nelson
Brian Pinkney
Jerry Pinkney
Ansel Pitcairn
James Ransome

Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson
Javaka Steptoe
John Steptoe
Shadra Strickland
Don Tate
Eric Velasquez
Charlotte Riley Webb
Cornelius Van Wright & Ying-Hwa Hu
Elizabeth Zunon

Video Transcript

[MUSIC: Rev - Eveningland]
00:02-00:04: Telling a People's Story. African-American Children's Illustrated Literature.
00:05-00:12: The first major museum exhibition devoted to the Art within the pages of African-American children's picture books.
00:14-00:16: 130 works
00:16-00:17: 95 books
00:17-00:20: 33 African-American artists
00:21- 01:08: [Images of people and artwork at the exhibit]
01:09-01:12: Telling a People's Story. African-American Children's Illustrated Literature. January 30-June 30, 2018. Miami University Art Museum. 801 South Patterson Ave. Oxford, OH 45056
01:13-01:17: Art Museum and Sculpture Park. Instagram: @miamiohartmuseum. Twitter: @MiamiUArtMuseum. Facebook: Miami University Art Museum.
01:17-01:21: [CREDITS] Photography: Scott Kissell. Video: Grace Bihl. Music: "Rev" Eveningland. Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. [c] 2015 Miami University Art Museum.

Special Events

A number of educational and experiential offerings are scheduled throughout the duration of the exhibition (listed below). Several illustrators featured in the exhibition will engage in programs created specifically for Miami University classes, Oxford and surrounding communities, King Library and Lane Library Oxford, and Kramer, Bogen and Marshall elementary schools.

Additionally, docent-led walk-in tours are offered at 1 p.m. on February 17, March 10 and April 14.

A conference was held April 20-21, devoted to dialogue on the central topics expressed in the exhibition. Speakers include many illustrators featured in the exhibition, along with a librarian, and Miami University faculty.

FREE & OPEN TO ALL | Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday Noon-5 p.m.

Collage of African-American children's books. Text: January 30-June 30. Art Museum and Sculpture Park. Address and contact info.


Programming at a glance

NOTE: Gallery hours are extended during any program held after 5 p.m.

WED, FEB 7 | 5:30 p.m. | It’s All About Telling A People’s Story | Jason E. Shaiman, Curator of Exhibitions

SAT, FEB 17 | 10:30 a.m. | Eye of the Beholder Workshops | Kate Lucey, Education Librarian, King Library

SAT, FEB 17 | 1 p.m. | Docent-Led Walk-in Tours

WED, FEB 21 | 2:30 p.m. | Eye of the Beholder Workshops | Kate Lucey, Education Librarian, King Library

MON, MAR 5 | 10 a.m. | Black Power No More – Transmutation of An Idea | Nishani Frazier, Associate Professor, History & Black World Studies

TUE, MAR 6 | NOON Brown Bag | Building Temples for Tomorrow: Langston Hughes & the Shaping of the Political Consciousness of Black Women Artist-Activists | Tammy Kernodle, Professor, Music

WED, MAR 7 | 5:30 p.m. | Don Tate: My Art Journey | Don Tate, Illustrator

SAT, MAR 10 | 1 p.m. | Docent-Led Walk-in Tours

SAT, APR 14 | 1 p.m. | Docent-Led Walk-in Tours

THURS, APR 19 | 1:15-2 p.m. | Radiant Child: Radiant Illustrator | Javaka Steptoe, Illustrator

FRI-SAT, APR 20-21 | Telling A People’s Story Exhibition Conference

MON, APR 23 | 6:30 p.m. | Meet the Illustrator: An Evening with R. Gregory Christie at Lane Library

TUE, APR 24 | 2:50 p.m. | The Long March Toward Civil Rights | Rodney Coates, Professor, History & Black World Studies

All Programs are free & open to all and held at the art museum (unless noted otherwise)