Kadir Nelson: Re-introduction to the Artist

Pap was the only Africa-born slave in my family. Pap was captured in 1850 when he was only six years old and brought to America. Even though it had been illegal to capture and import slaves to America since 1807, it still happened. And often. On New Year’s Day of every year, Pap told us the story.

I didn’t consider Kadir Nelson’s recent book release, Heart and Soul, as worthy of a blog post . . . at first. It’s featured on a few websites, but I didn’t pay it much mind. I don’t have any children and I don’t talk much about children’s books on this blog. However, as I researched future Black stamp releases for 2012, Nelson’s name came up again.


I obviously discovered that Heart and Soul isn’t author and illustrator Kadir Nelson’s first book. He’s done the artwork for numerous children’s books and the art in each one looks amazing. I’m not going to individually reference them here, but I do want to feature the book titles that bear only his name:


We are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball — . . . the story of the Negro Leagues is about hundreds of unsung heroes who overcame segregation, hatred, terrible conditions, and low pay to do the one thing they loved more than anything else in the world: play ball. Using an “Everyman” player as his narrator, Kadir Nelson tells the story of Negro League baseball from its beginnings in the 1920s through its decline after Jackie Robinson crossed over to the majors in 1947.


Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans — This is the story of the men, women, and children who toiled in the hot sun picking cotton for their masters; it’s about the America ripped in two by Jim Crow laws; it’s about the brothers and sisters of all colors who rallied against those who would dare bar a child from an education. It’s a story of discrimination and broken promises, determination and triumphs. Kadir Nelson, one of this generation’s most accomplished, award-winning artists, has created an epic yet intimate introduction to the history of America and African Americans, from colonial days through the civil rights movement.

Again, I don’t have any crying mouths to feed, but I’m definitely ready to add Heart and Soul to my purchase list. If you’re not convinced, watch the video clip and checkout the NPR excerpts. And while you’re at it, take a look at some of Kadir’s artwork. Who knows, maybe you’ll buy something for your home/office—or take more pride in what you already have hanging.

Happy reading, y’all!


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