Ibram X. Kendi on Why Our Children Need to Be Told the Stories of Slavery and Colonialism
This Week on The Literary Life with Mitchell Kaplan
On today’s episode of The Literary Life, Dr. Precious Symonette, Miami-Dade County Teacher of the Year and creative writing teacher, is joined by Ibram X. Kendi to discuss his latest book, Magnolia Flower, out now from Amistad Books for Young Readers.
From the episode:
Ibram X. Kendi: It is just not often that our children are able to read a story about an Afro-Indigenous person. And so Magnolia Flower [adapted from Zora Neale Hurston’s story] is Afro-Indigenous. And of course, black people and indigenous people are grossly underrepresented in children’s books. But Afro-Indigenous people, particularly from the standpoint of Florida, where Florida has a very rich history of Afro-Indigenous people, I think that’s one reason why our children need to be exposed to the stories of Afro-indigenous people.
Secondly. I think for our children to be exposed to history, particularly two of the most painful historical moments in U.S. history, from slavery to the Trail of Tears, or the forced removal of Native people from Florida, but the context in which they’re taught about those moments are more indicative of what was happening. In other words, despite the violence and brutality and pain of slavery and even settler colonialism, people still were able to find joy and love.
And so a way to introduce those difficult moments is through human characters and human characters. We’re still finding love. I think it’s an incredibly important way to introduce young people to those moments. I would say thirdly, and obviously, this is sort of reiterating what I already stated. I personally think that the folklore that Zora Neale Hurston collected, the stories that she told, these stories and folklore that are filled with so much wisdom, so much clarity, so much joy and love, so much complexity should be told. To our youngest, the people who are impressionable. These are the types of stories that that I think we should be conveying.
Dr. Ibram X. Kendi is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University and the founding director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research. He is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a CBS News racial justice contributor. He is the host of the new action podcast Be Antiracist. Dr. Kendi is the author of many highly acclaimed books including Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction, making him the youngest-ever winner of that award. He has also produced five straight #1 New York Times bestsellers, including How to Be an Antiracist, Antiracist Baby, and Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, co-authored by Jason Reynolds. In 2020, Time magazine named Dr. Kendi one of the 100 most influential people in the world. He was awarded a 2021 MacArthur Fellowship, popularly known as the Genius Grant.