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Best of the 2021 National Book Festival: Kekla Magoon and Revolution in Our Time

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This event from the National Book Festival is especially for teens, and this blog post includes prompts for writing and thinking that teens, families and teachers can use to explore the author and the author’s work. Recommended for ages 12-17.

This is a guest post by Cearra Harris, PhD candidate at the University of South Carolina and an intern with the Library’s Archives, History, and Heritage Advanced Internship Program. 

Growing up in a small town in South Carolina, I have vivid memories as a child of traveling to the Statehouse each year on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with my grandmother to march alongside her in honor of Dr. King’s legacy. I remember holding hands in front of the Statehouse and proudly singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” in unison with people I had never met but who instantly felt like family. These vivid memories have fueled a lifelong journey to learn more and continue the fight for the civil rights of Black people.

In learning more about Kekla Magoon’s book “Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People,” I was overcome by a renewed energy to deepen my knowledge about all of the party’s monumental efforts. In her 2021 National Book Festival presentation, Magoon discusses “Revolution in Our Time” (Candlewick) with Liv Aspholm, a student ambassador in the spring 20201 GRAB THE MIC tour with Library of Congress National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Jason Reynolds.

Timestamps for major topics are below:

  • 4:30 – Kekla Magoon explains why she was inspired to write a book about the Black Panther Party and how she executed her initial goal.
  • 7:31– Magoon shares what she learned from actual members of the Black Panther Party while conducting research for the book.
  • 15:00– Magoon speaks on the importance of rhetoric in the Black Panther Party.
  • 18:00– Magoon discusses the successes of the Black Panther Party and its lasting impact.
  • 20:48– Magoon discusses the counterintelligence program (or COINTELPRO) and its impact on the Black Panther Party.
  • 25:00- Magoon discuses the importance of considering multiple perspectives when preserving history.
  • 28:48– Magoon provides insight into her writing process.

Writing and Thinking Prompts:

  • Before learning about Kekla Magoon’s book did you have any knowledge about the Black Panther Party? If so, what did you know? What surprised you?
Black Panther mural dating from 1996, side wall of Rick’s Barbershop, 3406 Jefferson Blvd., Los Angeles, 2011; Camilo J. Vergara, photographer; Prints and Photographs Division

At 8:13 Magoon speaks on meeting with Ericka Huggins, a prominent member of the Black Panther Party, and asking her, “What was the important thing that people should know about the role women played in the Black Panther Party.” Huggins graciously corrected her and simply stated, “it’s not the role women played in the party, women were the party.” Similar to other movements, women in the Black Panther Party served as matriarchs leading initiatives, organizing and facilitating community programs, and engaging directly in civic engagement.

  • Take a moment to reflect on and delve into your family’s history. Who serves as the matriarch or matriarchs in your family? Talk with a family member about these matriarchs and their impact. Search for pictures and mementos that preserve their history using your family’s collections, personal online archives and library resources. After you’ve conducted your research on your family, reflect on what you’ve gathered. What can you learn from the matriarchs in your family? You can also visit this resource on African American genealogy to learn more about tracing family history.
  • Learn about civil rights activist Jennifer Lawson in this oral history interview. Growing up amid segregation, Lawson decided to stand up against civil unrest as a teen.  She strengthened her commitment to Black empowerment as a student at Tuskegee University and eventually got involved with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Lawson eventually left Tuskegee to become a full-time organizer with the SNCC, where she became directly involved with grassroots efforts. Utilizing her skills as an amateur artist, Lawson contributed illustrations to SNCC’s organizing tools and drew what would eventually become the Black Panther Party’s symbol.

Explore More:

Kekla Magoon has written more than a dozen books for middle grade students and young adults that focus on Black history. Visit her website to learn more about her many books or take a moment to watch more insightful videos for teens from the 2021 National Book Festival.

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