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Your Legacy: A Bold Reclaiming of Our Enslaved History

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A proud, empowering introduction to African American history that celebrates and honors enslaved ancestors

Your story begins in Africa. 
Your African ancestors defied the odds and survived 400 years of slavery in America and passed down an extraordinary legacy to you.

Beginning in Africa before 1619, Your Legacy presents an unprecedentedly accessible, empowering, and proud introduction to African American history for children. While your ancestors’ freedom was taken from them, their spirit was not; this book celebrates their accomplishments, acknowledges their sacrifices, and defines how they are remembered—and how their stories should be taught.

48 pages, Hardcover

First published September 28, 2021

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Schele Williams

2 books2 followers

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5 stars
186 (63%)
4 stars
86 (29%)
3 stars
17 (5%)
2 stars
1 (<1%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 57 reviews
Profile Image for Bookishrealm.
2,086 reviews5,080 followers
November 13, 2021
This is a constant reminder of how important it can be to include picture books into your monthly reading. I remember ordering this specific title for the collection at my library so I made sure to grab a copy as soon as it came in. Your Legacy is a love letter to all Black children in hopes of helping them look at the legacy of their ancestors in a different way. Black people including Black children are constantly bombarded with the trauma based narratives of our history. Ask people to say the first things that come to mind when they think of the words "slave" or "slavery" and there will be few positive and/or empowering responses. This book attempts to reclaim those narratives and highlight the many ways that our legacies are beyond pain and suffering. Even the art speaks to this message with it's bold colors and dynamic style. Every child and caregiver will be reminded of the strength, courage, integrity, brilliance, ingenuity, and intellect that lives within the legacy of Black people.
Profile Image for Beth Hawes.
14 reviews
November 4, 2021
Your Legacy is a book that belongs in every library. Reading it makes me wish the copy I read belonged to me, not only because of its outstanding and breathtaking artwork but also because the message is so incredibly empowering and I want to keep rereading it. The book from start to finish is a story of humanity. Through the beautiful foundations in Africa and the heartbreaking realities of enslavement, to the Black children of today learning about their history through white-washed textbooks that have failed to tell more than recounts of often harsh events. Schele Williams and Tonya Engel bring life and power back to African American history and people. They emphasize love, the roots that have been planted since the start of human history that have blossomed into some of the most beautiful traits of humanity in the way a tree that has had its share of scarring still stands tall and proud. The art captures these traits and emotions so vividly, and with such inspiring stories and people laid out across the pages it brings about a sense of celebration and happiness that has failed to be established in textbook tales.
October 30, 2021
A letter, a note a wish, a hope. This book, "YOUR LEGACY" is written to all black people and especially young students as a way to reclaim their enslaved history and take control of the narrative. For so long, the idea of slavery and the horrid treatment of the black community has been filtered down for students so that it is not even accurate anymore, skewing the horrors of the real situations that have taken place. This book not only gives power and voice to the reality of the black history through things like music, influential people, creative world-changing inventions and tributes to some of the greatest people of all time, but also shows the significance of the history through powerful descriptors repeated throughout the story. I loved the painted, double spread illustrations that depicted the beauty of the history as well as the harsh reality of the situations. This book fills a gap of reality that is needed in anyone's library.
Profile Image for JoyAnn.
443 reviews9 followers
January 22, 2022
Absolutely gorgeous and impactful illustrations with great movement and color. A well done historical picture book. More books like this are certainly needed.
Profile Image for Margaret Boling.
2,372 reviews36 followers
February 6, 2022
2/6/2022 ~ Stunningly illustrated book which re-frames enslavement with an emphasis on the traits and characteristics which enabled people to survive and create a culture composed of myriad traditions from former lives.

I do wish that the concept of Africa contained more detail. Yes, several different versions of "hello" were spotlighted, but the individual countries/regions weren't mentioned. Also, when the ships of Europeans landed in Africa, the individual countries weren't named. Finally, I wish that some sources of information for the inventors and performers were given.

The layout/font/color choices for the traits & attributes were powerful. I also appreciated the names of people associated with various achievements.

I will be adding this book to our elementary library.
Profile Image for Barbara.
13.3k reviews276 followers
October 22, 2021
Not only is the text empowering but the mixed media illustrations, created with acrylics, oils, printmaking, and collage, are quite striking and seem to have caught various individuals while they were moving. Even the title page is filled with life as two youngsters explore a garden; one of them is immersed in the study of a blossom she holds in her hands while the other holds a net as he prepares to capture a butterfly for closer examination. Addressing youngsters growing up today, the author provides a perspective on slavery or enslavement often missing in today's history texts and stories about the African diaspora in which she seeks to do exactly what the book's subtitle asserts--reclaim the history of those who have been enslaved. Starting with lives led on the African continent, she describes the intention of ancestors to pass down their lands to the next generation, and the next and the next, an ambition that was thwarted by the slave trade begun in 1619. Instead of focusing on the helplessness and hopelessness of their lot, the author uses words such as "love," "intellect," "courageous," "determination," "brilliance," "strength," "ingenuity," "grace," and "dignity," all emotions or characteristics that helped those that came before today's youngsters to survive, endure, and thrive. After this listing of attributes, the illustrations show various individuals who seem to typify each characteristic. These are strong roots, intended to make readers proud as well as mindful of how much is owed to those who came before them. It would be hard for many young Black boys and girls to read this and not come away from it feeling a strong sense of empowerment and self-determination as well as gratitude to those others. Notes from the Author and the Illustrator are certainly worth reading as both share their inspiration and creative process and the potential this book has for healing. With a legacy like this, the sky's the limit.
Profile Image for Opetoritse.
241 reviews
January 11, 2022
While it is a bit disappointing that the history of African peoples before slavery is only given 4 pages, it's understandable, as William's main goal is to wrestle with the legacy of American slavery. Her approach to this difficult subject is indeed bold, detailing the atrocity in a way that honors its weight without becoming a traumatic experience for young readers themselves. There are certainly artistic liberties taken with the history to help keep a positive undercurrent as well as streamline the narrative, but nothing egregiously misleading. A good bit of momentum is lost when the storytelling gives way to long lists of pioneers, and as valuable as these springboards for further research are, it may have been more impactful to focus on a small selection of individuals. One standout trait of these pages, however, is the creative way the artwork bring together the icons and accomplishments into collages that cross time and space. The art throughout the book is equally bold, with Engels paintings boasting striking colors, poignant symbolism (shoutout to the kola nut!), and a fittingly tactile look. Her illustrations are given extra room to shine in the last third of the book, which features numerous portraits and several double-page spreads.
Profile Image for Maura.
635 reviews9 followers
June 1, 2022
Gorgeously illustrated by Tonya Engel, Your Legacy: A Bold Reclaiming of Our Enslaved History is a beautiful re-framing of the history of African-Americans, reminiscent of Born on the Water. It begins in beauty and freedom, and centers love, courage, determination, brilliance, strength, and ingenuity when referring to enslaved ancestors. This change in perspective: focusing on resistance, grace, and dignity rather than what was *done* to enslaved people, is a welcome addition to literature or children about slavery. While it is imperative for all people to understand the horrors of slavery, and vitally important to teach a full and accurate history, it is also important for literature to emphasize the humanity of the people caught in a system determined to treat them as less than human.

Shele Williams does this beautifully, emphasizing that the legacy that descendants of enslaved ancestors inherit is one of love, brilliance, ingenuity, courage, dignity, determination, strength, intellect, and grace -- an enduring spirit that descendants can carry with pride.

Highly recommended for elementary library collections.
Profile Image for C..
Author 8 books35 followers
June 13, 2022
This short 26-minute audiobook is a breath of fresh air. The author explains why history must include whole truths. She shares how she felt learning about slavery as a young student. Often our children are only given the bases, and as she attested, it made her feel less than what she would want for her children.

This book explains why enslaved people sometimes didn't have adequate clothes, had scars on their backs, and stole to eat and stay alive. This book, Your Legacy, takes some of the sting and embarrassment young children can feel about their African and American ancestors when circumstances and context are not provided.

She makes history interesting, accessible, and life-affirming. My favorite parts are the accompanying music, her enthusiastic narration when she lists the inventions made by enslaved people that they didn't receive compensation for, and why this information is essential to everyone's understanding of US History, not just brown and black children.

I imagine the photos are outstanding as the audiobook is fabulous? I highly recommend this book. It will help harness understanding, build self-esteem, and explain why everyone matters in history.
Profile Image for Kris.
3,115 reviews70 followers
April 17, 2023
I think a quote from the author's note in the back encapsulates why this books is so important: "I realized I did not want to write a book about slavery. I wanted to write a book about the enduring spirit of the enslaved."

We teach about slavery from the perspective of the enslavers in the United States. Still. We don't, again as the author says, "They never told us that enslaved people spoke broken English because they weren't allowed to have speak their native languages or to have a formal education in America. They never told us that enslaved Africans wore rags because those were often the only clothes they were given, and that they weren't paid for the grueling work they did every day. They never told us that the lash marks on their backs were because of cruelty, not because of anything they did. And they certainly did not honor the ingenuity, intelligence, suffering, and perseverance of the men, women, and children they called slaves."

This book begins to rectify that costly error.
Profile Image for Kathy.
2,966 reviews7 followers
October 18, 2021
Aimed at children of color, this talks directly of the ways their ancestors survived slavery: through love (trying to protect each other), intellect (creating a language to communicate even though they spoke different languages), courage (defying the restrictions every day), determination (they kept looking for ways to escape), brilliance, strength and ingenuity, grace and dignity. It lists many stars to emulate, and encourages readers to build on the strong roots their ancestors gave them. This will inevitably be pulled out for Black History Month, but should be prominently displayed other times as well. I liked that the author wanted a book about the strength needed to survive slavery rather than the horrors of it: she didn't find it, so she wrote it.
Profile Image for Pamela.
755 reviews5 followers
October 9, 2022
Written in second person, this story begins in Africa w people proud of their heritage, speaking many languages and ruling many kingdoms. Then came the slave ships starting in 1619. They had no choice, were treated abysmally, separated from their families and forced to work. But they clung to love, used their intellect, were courageous, showed determination, passed down brilliance, innovated w strength and ingenuity, and walked w grace and dignity. The book lists several inventors and artists and leaders who survived and thrived despite their incredibly harsh environment. Walk tall and change the world, encourages Williams.
7,507 reviews28 followers
June 16, 2021
I received an electronic ARC from Abrams Books.
Powerful and empowering book about the history of enslaved Black people from Africa. The journey begins in Africa and introduces readers to the kingdoms they may come from. Williams then takes readers through the years of slavery to the present time. Connecting words are introduced throughout the book to offer support to current readers. Williams also offers brief glimpses of historic figures in their heritage. The illustrations support the text and pull readers further in to the message.
Profile Image for Erin.
3,831 reviews46 followers
November 21, 2021
A celebratory look at African-American history, from Africa through the slave trade, from innovators to civil rights fighters, from famous cultural icons to unknown names. I like the traits used as a chorus throughout the book, reiterating the inherent qualities of Black ancestors in order to balance out the traditional trauma-based narrative.

The biggest flaw is that despite lovely author and illustrator notes, there are no additional resources or sources listed. I wanted to find more information, especially about those lesser-known names of history.
Profile Image for Aolund.
1,386 reviews11 followers
January 16, 2022
An exquisitely beautiful and powerful book. Written directly to Black American children (and really, people of all ages) descended from enslaved African ancestors, Your Legacy traces the love, determination, courage, brilliance, dignity, intellect, strength, ingenuity, and grace handed down by these ancestors through honestly and sensitively telling the story of Black Americans, beginning in Africa and ending with the present day.

Themes: Ancestors, Slavery, History, Social Justice
Age range: All ages, particularly Kindergarten +
Profile Image for Darlena Glenn.
390 reviews
December 12, 2022
EXCEPTIONAL! This book has the most brilliant illustrations and expressive language to share with learners of all ages. I have been changing my language about slavery every since I visited Charleston, SC on January 1, 2020. I love how this books weaves the ingenious intelligence and creativity of enslaved persons to build a nation. It is so important to communicate the value of the sacrifice of our ancestors and the sacrifices some still are making to achieve greatness.
Profile Image for Douglas.
146 reviews1 follower
February 14, 2023
This book is worthy of inclusion in a family library. It will serve as an introduction to a number of historical personalities that can be fleshed out with other books. I especially liked how the people that Williams chose to include were freedom fighters and rebels.
Personally, I preferred the book to the narration mainly because the music didn't match the material. The illustrations were well done.
Profile Image for Becky.
594 reviews9 followers
September 5, 2021
A beautiful remembrance and retelling of African American history. The acknowledgment about freedom being taken away is shared but the perseverance, accomplishments and sacrifices made are shared throughout this beautifully illustrated picture book. The legacy shared will leave readers feeling a sense of pride.
Profile Image for Monica.
34 reviews
September 16, 2021
- empowering introduction to African American history with beautiful images
- celebrates the resilience, ingenuity, and perseverance of ancestors
- great resource for introducing academic language and history units in primary grades (then & now, making a difference/biographies, ancestors, US history)
Profile Image for Bethany.
1,642 reviews15 followers
November 13, 2021
Ugh!!! I want to give this book 10 stars— it is soooo good!

First thing that I love about this book: it’s not written for white people like me; it’s written in second-person. The “you” is Black children. And it teaches them about the LOVE, INTELLECT, DETERMINATION, COURAGE, BRILLIANCE, STRENGTH, INGENUITY, GRACE, and DIGNITY that their ancestors passed in to them. *chef’s kiss*
Profile Image for Michaela Perkins.
69 reviews2 followers
December 8, 2021
This book has some of the most beautiful illustrations I have ever seen. Tonya Engel is so so so talented. The one that stands out the most is the picture of the sunflowers with the black families exuding courage amid their situation, while still showing the love that they have for each other and their respective cultures.
Profile Image for Katelynne.
812 reviews11 followers
January 24, 2022
"Now take a deep breath, close your eyes, and receive your ancestors: Love, intellect, determination, courage, brilliance, strength, ingenuity, grace, and dignity. They are part of you. Honor them and their sacrifices. You are meant to do great things. Walk tall, hold your head high, and change the world."
Profile Image for Kim.
2,609 reviews5 followers
March 9, 2022
The author, Schele Williams, started with a question: how will I tell them about slavery. Discuss Africa before 1619 and how there were many nations and different languages. Black people are scientists, musicians, dancers and writers. This would be a great book to give to teachers and have the students research all of them.
Profile Image for Paula.
135 reviews6 followers
June 11, 2022
My official rating: 8 out of 10 promising legacies
Read my whole official review here: https://www.storybookem.com/post/book...
Target age: 3-13

Honestly, I found this book uplifting refreshing and educational. A book that should be in every elementary and middle school classroom and library across the country.
Profile Image for Amy.
110 reviews29 followers
July 20, 2022
I absolutely loved this book. It chronicles the history of African Americans from the capture of people from Africa until now. But the beauty of the book is that while it covers horrific history, it notes all the ways African American have conquered so much. The illustrations are bright and beautiful. I checked this one out through the library, but will be adding it to my classroom library.
Profile Image for Margaux.
1,507 reviews30 followers
June 16, 2021
Beautiful images accompany the history of Black Americans, from their roots in Africa, to their journey to America as Enslaved People, and their innumerable inventions and contributions to our country.
Profile Image for Nicole.
2,098 reviews2 followers
October 24, 2021
From the African tribes, through enslavement for hundreds of years, to today's innovators, this book celebrates black ancestors. This is a real way to teach our kids the great things their ancestors meant for them to do.
Profile Image for Liz.
1,721 reviews16 followers
January 26, 2022
This book does its job telling readers about the enduring spirit of the enslaved. There is nothing to be ashamed of. They survived, thus allowing future generations to live and thrive. It also highlights well-known and lesser-known African American figures.
Profile Image for Sandy.
2,106 reviews12 followers
February 8, 2022
Beautiful illustrations and empowering text in this picture book. Includes references to so many African American inventors, entertainers, and leaders. A great discussion starter with an inspiring message.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 57 reviews

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