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A Long Time Coming: A Lyrical Biography of Race in America from Ona Judge to Barack Obama (Hardcover)
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This YA biography-in-verse of six important Black Americans from different eras, including Ona Judge, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barack Obama, chronicles the diverse ways each fought racism and shows how much—and how little—has changed for Black Americans since our country’s founding.
Full of daring escapes, deep emotion, and subtle lessons on how racism operates, A LONG TIME COMING reveals the universal importance of its subjects’ struggles for justice. From freedom seeker Ona Judge, who fled her enslavement by America’s first president, to Barack Obama, the first Black president, all of Shepard’s protagonists fight valiantly for justice for themselves and all Black Americans in any way that they can. But it is also a highly personal book, as Shepard — whose maternal grandfather was enslaved — shows how the grand sweep of history has touched his life, reflecting on how much progress has been made against racism, while also exhorting readers to complete the vast work that remains to be done.
About the Author
Ray Anthony Shepard is the author of Now or Never!: Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Infantry’s War to End Slavery, a Carter G. Woodson Award Honor Book and a Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Book, and Runaway: The Daring Escape of Ona Judge, an ALSC and an NCSS Notable Book.
R. Gregory Christie is a recipient of the Caldecott Honor, a winner of the NAACP Image award, and a six-time Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award honoree. His recent Calkins Creek books include Answering the Cry for Freedom by Gretchen Woelfle, which won the Carter G. Woodson Book Award, and Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop by Alice Faye Duncan, which received six starred reviews and for which Christie received the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor.
A 2023 School Library Journal Best Book
A 2023 Booklist Editors' Choice
A 2023 Kirkus Best Book
Texas Topaz Nonfiction Reading List
Finalist, SCBWI Golden Kite Award for Nonfiction Text for Older Readers
★ "These narratives will also give young people a new understanding of how the subjects became exceptional forces for racial freedom...Meticulously researched and organized...Shepard creatively argues through captivating poetic history that racial justice is the long struggle in this country and that we are still working toward who ''we' is in this more perfect union. A must purchase." —School Library Journal, starred review
★ "Rooting the events presented in documented history, Shepard distills them into concentrated bursts of truth... Christie’s section-heading black-and-white scenes are as starkly powerful as the poems. The information presented is kaleidoscopic rather than comprehensive; readers will come away with clear senses of who these individuals were and what motivated them, while formidable backmatter...provides avenues for them to fill in the gaps. Electrifying." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
★ "In this substantive nonfiction history in verse, Shepherd depicts the lives of six Black Americans who 'tilted the country’s moral arc toward liberty, freedom, and justice.' The poetry is always engaging, at times unwieldy, at times electric in its power. Highly recommended for both personal reading and curricular study." —Booklist, starred review
★ “This is a highly readable work of creative nonfiction told in five story-poems–flash lines of verse, prose, and quotes–anchored in historical facts The individual poems are impressionistic, and many have a rhythm that would work well when read aloud.” —Youth Service Book Review
"In this biography in verse, Shepard presents thoroughly researched portraits of six historical Black figures...Shepard makes each subject both distinct and connected; repetitive phrases and similar stylistic structures thread through the book, underscoring an arc of history that has lurched toward racial justice in fits and starts, taking one step back as many times as it moved forward." —The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
“A Long Time Coming is an unflinching, thoughtful, instructive, and beautiful rendering of the African American journey from slavery to freedom and beyond. Students of all ages will benefit from reading it.”—Randall Kennedy, Michael R. Klein Professor at Harvard Law School and author of Say It Loud! On Race, Law, History, and Culture
“Ray Anthony Shepard takes readers on an epic journey along Freedom’s road. As they encounter conquering souls like Ona Judge, Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, and President Obama, readers will finish the book bolstered with understanding and feelings of inspiration and joy.”—Alice Faye Duncan, author of Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop
“In powerful prose poetry, Ray Anthony Shepard recounts the lives and audacity of Black leaders from Harriet Tubman and Frederic Douglass to Ida B. Wells, Martin Luther King Jr., and President Barack Obama. Learning about them together gives this history of our country’s sins and the people who fought for justice the gravitas it deserves. I pray that this book—painful, revealing, and ultimately inspiring—will disprove forever ‘the lie,’ as Shepard puts it perfectly, ‘that people are color-coded into winners and losers.’ It is a long time coming.”—Deborah Heiligman, author of Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith
“An exquisite historical tapestry, A Long Time Coming, weaves the lives of six heroes to create unflinchingly detailed documentation of American strength, suffering, and survival. Approachable, quick, and brimming with dynamic storytelling. Depth of research shines as Shepard graciously sheds new light on the lives of these heroes.”—Angela Joy, author of Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement