Children and young adults of color do not often see their stories reflected in literature. New York Times bestselling author Andrea Pinkney has dedicated the entirety of her career to changing that narrative. A four-time nominee for the NAACP Image Award and recipient of both the Regina Medal and Arbuthnot Honor Award, Pinkney is known for capturing complex moments in Black history and breaking them down for younger audiences.
Most recently, Pinkney released She Persisted: Harriet Tubman, as a part of Penguin Random House’s She Persisted series. Pinkney’s work offers a holistic look at the life of Harriet Tubman, not only as an adult, but also as a child enduring moments of tragedy.
Rolling out sat down with Pinkney to discuss the importance of representation in children’s literature and her hopes for her latest book.
Many of your books are historical fiction and deal with complex moments in human history. What do you think is the importance of teaching our children that history while young?
As my mom used to say, we can’t know where we’re going unless we know where we’ve been. And that’s why I create the books that I do — to present to young people what it was like, what happened, what it’s like now, and to hopefully provide a road map for where we’re going. You know, I always say that books are [like] the North Star … compass — they point us in the right direction. And that’s why so many of my books focus on historical topics.
What importance does Harriet Tubman’s story have to the children of today? Why tell her story now?
Harriet Tubman really was in addition, of course, to being one of the most noted conductors on the Underground Railroad, one of the originators of social justice for women and people of color. So, the Kamala Harrises of tomorrow are reading She Persisted today. Those are the ones that are going to inhabit that Oval Office years from now.
Interestingly enough, Harriet was born sometime between 1820 and 1822. So, we are now kind of in the centennial celebration or through the bicentennial of Harriet Tubman’s birth, and her story of grit, bravery, unstoppable resilience is so relevant today.
Read more about She Persisted: Harriet Tubman on the next page.