100 books like Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt

By Deborah Hopkinson, James E. Ransome (illustrator),

Here are 100 books that Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt fans have personally recommended if you like Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Talking to Faith Ringgold

Susan Goldman Rubin Author Of The Quilts of Gee's Bend

From my list on quilting created by African American women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first saw the quilts of Gee’s Bend at the Whitney Museum in New York. I was wowed! I viewed the quilts as works of art and included some in a book I was doing, Art Against the Odds: From Slave Quilts to Prison Paintings. But I wanted to show and tell more about the quilters. Who were these women who dreamed up incredible designs and made art out of scraps despite their poverty and hard lives? Since I never quilted I had to find out how they did it, and realized that quilting not only produced covers for their families, but expressed individual creativity, and brought women together.

Susan's book list on quilting created by African American women

Susan Goldman Rubin Why did Susan love this book?

Faith Ringgold, an acclaimed Black artist who grew up in Harlem, tells about her childhood and explains the process of creating her extraordinary painted quilts such as Tar Beach, Sonny’s Quilt, and Dancing at the Louvre. Each tells a story. “When I was starting out,” she wrote, “there were hardly any galleries that showed the work of black women, or women at all.”  Her quilts are now housed in museums and public collections nationwide. Full-color reproductions of her work, as well as vintage photos, illustrate this inspiring book.

By Faith Ringgold,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Talking to Faith Ringgold as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In her own words, here is a conversational account of Faith Ringgold's life and work--in an innovative, interactive format. Presented in short sections, such as "Introducing Myself," "Growing Up," and "Being an Artist," the author and illustrator comments on her achievements, how she developed her style, and what some of her works mean to her. Ideal for use in the classroom or at home, the book also contains suggestions for activities and projects.


Book cover of Stitchin' and Pullin': A Gee's Bend Quilt

Susan Goldman Rubin Author Of The Quilts of Gee's Bend

From my list on quilting created by African American women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first saw the quilts of Gee’s Bend at the Whitney Museum in New York. I was wowed! I viewed the quilts as works of art and included some in a book I was doing, Art Against the Odds: From Slave Quilts to Prison Paintings. But I wanted to show and tell more about the quilters. Who were these women who dreamed up incredible designs and made art out of scraps despite their poverty and hard lives? Since I never quilted I had to find out how they did it, and realized that quilting not only produced covers for their families, but expressed individual creativity, and brought women together.

Susan's book list on quilting created by African American women

Susan Goldman Rubin Why did Susan love this book?

Patricia McKissack introduces the quilts of Gee’s Bend to young readers in this charming picture book. McKissack not only read about Gee’s Bend but she visited and learned how to quilt. Her text is written in poems that capture the lilt and rhythm of Gee’s Bend women. The speaker, “Baby Girl,” describes how she learned how to quilt from her grandma. The soft, painterly illustrations by Cozbi A. Cabrera resemble Gee’s Bend quilts, and depict the colorful scraps of material the women used. The story includes the visit of Dr. Martin Luther King to “the Bend” on his way to Camden, then Selma, to march for the right to vote. And the aftermath of that march. A superb picture book full of history and hope for readers of all ages.

By Patricia McKissack, Cozbi A. Cabrera (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stitchin' and Pullin' as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

This collection of poems that tell the story of the quilt-making community in Gee’s Bend, Alabama, is now available as a Dragonfly paperback.
 
For generations, the women of Gee’s Bend have made quilts to keep a family warm, as a pastime accompanied by sharing and singing, or to memorialize loved ones. Today, the same quilts hang on museum walls as modern masterpieces of color and design. Inspired by these quilts and the women who made them, award-winning author Patricia C. McKissack traveled to Alabama to learn their stories. The lyrical rite-of-passage narrative that is the result of her journey seamlessly…


Book cover of Gee's Bend: The Women and Their Quilts

Susan Goldman Rubin Author Of The Quilts of Gee's Bend

From my list on quilting created by African American women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first saw the quilts of Gee’s Bend at the Whitney Museum in New York. I was wowed! I viewed the quilts as works of art and included some in a book I was doing, Art Against the Odds: From Slave Quilts to Prison Paintings. But I wanted to show and tell more about the quilters. Who were these women who dreamed up incredible designs and made art out of scraps despite their poverty and hard lives? Since I never quilted I had to find out how they did it, and realized that quilting not only produced covers for their families, but expressed individual creativity, and brought women together.

Susan's book list on quilting created by African American women

Susan Goldman Rubin Why did Susan love this book?

This huge volume was another reference book for me as I researched The Quilts of Gee’s Bend.  The large reproductions of the quilts showed how the women with the same material used it in different waysStartling to see so many imaginative versions of a pattern called Housetop. Two quilts titled Flower Garden shown side by side are dazzling. And this book contains more photos of the quilters and provides information about their lives and struggles against poverty and racism. The art they produced despite their limited resources and hardships is truly an inspiration. A miracle!

By William Arnett (editor), Alvia Wardlaw (editor), Jane Livingston (editor) , John Beardsley (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Gee's Bend as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hardcover Book


Book cover of The Quilts of Gee’s Bend

Susan Goldman Rubin Author Of The Quilts of Gee's Bend

From my list on quilting created by African American women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first saw the quilts of Gee’s Bend at the Whitney Museum in New York. I was wowed! I viewed the quilts as works of art and included some in a book I was doing, Art Against the Odds: From Slave Quilts to Prison Paintings. But I wanted to show and tell more about the quilters. Who were these women who dreamed up incredible designs and made art out of scraps despite their poverty and hard lives? Since I never quilted I had to find out how they did it, and realized that quilting not only produced covers for their families, but expressed individual creativity, and brought women together.

Susan's book list on quilting created by African American women

Susan Goldman Rubin Why did Susan love this book?

I used this adult coffee table book as a main reference for writing my children’s book of the same title. The amazing reproductions of the quilts are beautiful. The colors glow. I could see the bits of patterns –flowers, triangles, plaids – ingeniously composed like abstract paintings. Captions give the names of the quilters.  And there are photos of them as well as vintage pictures. Quotes from the quilters tell their histories. One of the most touching stories was by Missouri Pettway who told that when her Daddy died her mother took his old work clothes to make a quilt “to remember him, and cover-up under it for love.” I have seen this extraordinary quilt displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and remembering the story behind it, was deeply moved.

By William Arnett, Alvia Wardlaw, Jane Livingston , John Beardsley , Paul Arnett

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Quilts of Gee’s Bend as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Since the 19th century, the women of Gee’s Bend in southern Alabama have created stunning, vibrant quilts. Beautifully illustrated with 110 color illustrations, The Quilts of Gee’s Bend includes a historical overview of the two hundred years of extraordinary quilt-making in this African-American community, its people, and their art-making tradition. This book is being·released in conjunction with a national exhibition tour including The Museum of Fine Art, Houston, the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, The Museum of Fine Art, Boston, The Cleveland Museum of Art, The Milwaukee Art Museum, The High Museum of Art, Atlanta,…


Book cover of The Underground Railroad

Ciera Horton McElroy Author Of Atomic Family

From my list on historical fiction featuring strong women.

Why am I passionate about this?

I may be only 27, but I’ve spent years researching the Cold War. Mostly because it’s very personal to me…my grandfather was a scientist at a top-secret hydrogen bomb plant in the 1960s. I began researching to understand his work and how it affected my family. I didn’t expect to become so consumed by the sixties. The more I learned about the nuclear arms race and the protests that were led, largely, by women, the more I felt convinced that there was a story here. I’m passionate about the often untold stories of resistance—resilience—endurance. Especially women’s stories. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I do! 

Ciera's book list on historical fiction featuring strong women

Ciera Horton McElroy Why did Ciera love this book?

I am including The Underground Railroad as it’s both historical fiction and magical realism—a beautiful surrealist imagining of Civil War history. This inventive novel follows Cora, who is enslaved on a plantation in Georgia. When Cora hears of the underground railroad, she plots her escape—but in this book, the railroad is more than a secret network. It is a real, physical, underground train. Cora must fight for her life and her freedom on a harrowing journey north, evading the slave hunter Ridgeway as he seeks to track her down. Cora’s strength and independence make her a character that will stick with you.

By Colson Whitehead,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked The Underground Railroad as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NOW A MAJOR TV SERIES BY BARRY JENKINS (COMING MAY 2021)

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE FOR FICTION 2017
WINNER OF THE ARTHUR C. CLARKE AWARD 2017
LONGLISTED FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE 2017
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER 2016

'Whitehead is on a roll: the reviews have been sublime' Guardian

'Luminous, furious, wildly inventive' Observer

'Hands down one of the best, if not the best, book I've read this year' Stylist

'Dazzling' New York Review of Books

Praised by Barack Obama and an Oprah Book Club Pick, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead won the National Book Award 2016 and the…


Book cover of The Water Dancer

Raven Maragh-Lloyd Author Of Black Networked Resistance: Strategic Rearticulations in the Digital Age

From my list on internet activism (hint: the kids are actually alright).

Why am I passionate about this?

I write about race and technology, and specifically the histories of Black folks as they influence online activities, from memes and community-building to care networks and activist efforts. I use theory, research, and most importantly lived experiences to tell the story of Black digital practices. The books I choose here represent how diverse my thinking is when it comes to this topic: from fiction to non-fiction, these works are as fluid yet meaningful as I think identity is, on and offline.

Raven's book list on internet activism (hint: the kids are actually alright)

Raven Maragh-Lloyd Why did Raven love this book?

I bought this book thinking it would be a whimsical read and a fun departure from my non-fiction, academic world. Fast forward a few years, and I have consistently used this book in my teaching of university students in my Digital Cultures classes.

The book might not seem like it’s about the Internet, but the spiritual, inter-generational elements of the story are easily connected to the hopeful stories we see time and again of Black folks online.

By Ta-Nehisi Coates,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Water Dancer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE NEW YORK TIMES #1 BESTSELLER

OPRAH BOOK CLUB PICK

'One of the best books I have ever read in my entire life. I haven't felt this way since I first read Beloved . . .' Oprah Winfrey

Lose yourself in the stunning debut novel everyone is talking about - the unmissable historical story of injustice and redemption that resonates powerfully today

Hiram Walker is a man with a secret, and a war to win. A war for the right to life, to family, to freedom.

Born into bondage on a Virginia plantation, he is also born gifted with a…


Book cover of General Harriet Tubman

Artika Tyner Author Of The Untold Story of John P. Parker: Underground Railroad Conductor

From my list on champions for racial justice.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a civil rights attorney, author, and lifelong educator. My work has focused on addressing racial disparities in education and criminal justice. I worked on the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice and created restorative justice programs in schools. As a leadership scholar, I read books on remarkable sheroes and heroes. This provides me with keen insights into the leadership characteristics of changemakers while developing the tools to better understand how to build and sustain social change.

Artika's book list on champions for racial justice

Artika Tyner Why did Artika love this book?

General Harriet Tubman provides an in-depth look at Tubman’s leadership legacy.

You discover her passion for justice and commitment to ensuring freedom for all. Most publications on Tubman focus on her role in the Underground Railroad. Her courage and tenacity helped many to break free from the bondage of slavery. This is only one dimension of her life. She was also a spy for the Union Army.

In addition, she helped to organize a community in Canada for hundreds who had escaped from slavery and reclaimed their liberty.

By Earl Conrad,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked General Harriet Tubman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Written by Earl Conrad and originally published by Carter G. Woodson and the The Associated Publishers in 1943 and 1990, General Harriet Tubman is a well-researched and documented biography.  It draws on the accounts of Tubman's living relatives and others with expert knowledge of the period in which she lived.  Perhaps, for this reason, in his Acknowledgements for the first edition, Conrad likened the book to Tubman herself:  "Scores of people have contributed to the information, the understanding, and diverse other assistance that has been necessary in effecting this complete life of Harriet Tubman.  I could not possibly call it…


Book cover of The Reaper's Garden: Death and Power in the World of Atlantic Slavery

Nicholas Hudson Author Of A Political Biography of Samuel Johnson

From my list on why the Enlightenment is the beginning of the modern world.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a teacher and writer, I am a passionate believer in the ideals of the Enlightenment. In my understanding of these ideals, they include a belief in reason and honest inquiry in the service of humanity. More and more we need these ideals against bigotry, self-delusion, greed, and cruelty. The books recommended here are among those that helped to inspire me with continued faith in the progress of the human species and our responsibility to help each other and the world we live in.

Nicholas' book list on why the Enlightenment is the beginning of the modern world

Nicholas Hudson Why did Nicholas love this book?

I was on the Guggenheim committee that awarded The Reaper’s Garden the prize for the best book on the eighteenth century in 2010.

The eighteenth century marked the climax of the slave trade and the plantation system in European colonies in the Americas and elsewhere. Brown’s book brings the plantation world of eighteenth-century Jamaica alive like no other that I have read.

This was a world filled with death, not only the mortality of the African slaves but just as commonly of the white plantation owners and their families who seldom lasted two years before dying of tropical diseases. Funerals became competing sites for display between blacks and whites.

The funerals of black people became such powerful vehicles of protest and cultural identity that the plantation owners tried to repress them. Brown’s book stands out in my mind as a powerful study of the evils of slavery and morbid culture…

By Vincent Brown,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Reaper's Garden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Merle Curti Award
Winner of the James A. Rawley Prize
Winner of the Louis Gottschalk Prize
Longlisted for the Cundill Prize

"Vincent Brown makes the dead talk. With his deep learning and powerful historical imagination, he calls upon the departed to explain the living. The Reaper's Garden stretches the historical canvas and forces readers to think afresh. It is a major contribution to the history of Atlantic slavery."-Ira Berlin

From the author of Tacky's Revolt, a landmark study of life and death in colonial Jamaica at the zenith of the British slave empire.

What did people make…


Book cover of Love Twelve Miles Long

Nancy I. Sanders Author Of D Is for Drinking Gourd: An African American Alphabet

From my list on inspirational African American history.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a bestselling and award-winning KidLit author of more than 100 books, I’ve been blessed to specialize in writing for kids about the amazing and inspiring legacy of African Americans. From an alphabet book for even the youngest readers to biographies with hands-on activities for middle graders and up, both nonfiction and fiction as well, these stories are my passion because many of these individuals are my personal heroes as well. I want kids to love and honor these men and women who have made a difference in our world as much as I do!

Nancy's book list on inspirational African American history

Nancy I. Sanders Why did Nancy love this book?

The author and I live near each other and we got to know each other at local writer events. So when I heard that her book won Lee and Low’s New Voices Award, I just had to get Glenda’s book. And I did! She autographed a copy for me which I treasure. This is a tender, powerful, and inspiring picture book. It tells the true story of how Frederick Douglass’s mother would visit him. He was a young child working on a plantation. His mother lived and worked six miles away. At night, she would walk six miles through the dark woods to come to visit Frederick, then head back home before dawn. He knew his mother loved him—it was a love that stretched 12 miles long.

Book cover of Survivors of Slavery: Modern-Day Slave Narratives

Seth Mallios Author Of Born a Slave, Died a Pioneer: Nathan Harrison and the Historical Archaeology of Legend

From my list on confronting slavery and how it impacts society today.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an archaeologist, anthropologist, and historian who has worked on both the East Coast (Flowerdew Hundred and Jamestown, Virginia) and West Coast (San Diego, California) of the U.S. and dug sites from the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, I am passionate about how archaeology can serve to offer new insights for marginalized peoples in American history. I specialize in exposing how narrow thinking, revisionism, and myth-making warp local histories and turn them into fabrications of the present. 

Seth's book list on confronting slavery and how it impacts society today

Seth Mallios Why did Seth love this book?

Laura Murphy uses nearly forty survivor narratives from around the world to demonstrate that slavery is not a heinous phenomenon of the past, but of the present as well. Her work is essential to students of American history; it ensures that slavery is never presented as merely a crime of the past or only as a despicable practice isolated to one geographic region.

By Laura T. Murphy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Survivors of Slavery as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Slavery is not a crime confined to the far reaches of history. It is an injustice that continues to entrap twenty-seven million people across the globe. Laura Murphy offers close to forty survivor narratives from Cambodia, Ghana, Lebanon, Macedonia, Mexico, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine, and the United States, detailing the horrors of a system that forces people to work without pay and against their will, under the threat of violence, with little or no means of escape. Representing a variety of circumstances in diverse contexts, these survivors are the Frederick Douglasses, Sojourner Truths, and Olaudah Equianos of our time, testifying to…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Slavery, the Underground Railroad, and quilting?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Slavery, the Underground Railroad, and quilting.

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