Rolling Out

Michelle Coles brings historical facts to life in ‘Black Was the Ink’

Michelle Coles brings historical facts to life in 'Black Was the Ink'
Michelle Coles, author of Black Was the Ink. (Photo courtesy of Tony Garr Photography)

Michelle Coles has spent many years as a civil rights attorney with the Department of Justice. “As a civil rights attorney, I see constant reminders of the legacy of slavery, and the harm racism inflicts in Americans’ everyday lives,” Coles says. To break the monotony of her day job, Coles penned Black Was the Ink, a young adult novel about 16-year-old Malcolm who takes a fantastical journey through Reconstruction-era America with the help of a ghostly ancestor, while working in the present day to save his family’s farm in Mississippi from being claimed by the state.

Rolling out had an opportunity to talk with Coles about her debut novel that received the New Visions Award.

What’s the backstory for Black Was the Ink? 
I worked a lot with my editor and we just tossed around a lot of different names thought and we wanted to try to capture the theme and the reason Black Was the Ink spoke to us, is for several reasons. One, the main character, Malcolm is an artist and so one of the ways that he processes what he’s learning from these time-travel trips in the past is he draws about it. That’s the way he processes his present as well. But it’s also how he processes what he’s saying. And he’s using his ink pens, and making this incredible art.

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