A child reflects on the meaning of being Black in this moving and powerful anthem about a people, a culture, a history, and a legacy that lives on.
Red is a rainbow color.
Green sits next to blue.
Yellow, orange, violet, indigo,
They are rainbow colors, too, but
My color is black . . .
And there’s no BLACK in rainbows.
From the wheels of a bicycle to the robe on Thurgood Marshall’s back, Black surrounds our lives. It is a color to simply describe some of our favorite things, but it also evokes a deeper sentiment about the incredible people who helped change the world and a community that continues to grow and thrive.
Stunningly illustrated by Caldecott Honoree and Coretta Scott King Award winner Ekua Holmes, BLACK IS A RAINBOW COLOR is a sweeping celebration told through debut author Angela Joy’s rhythmically captivating and unforgettable words.
Thanks for talking to us, and congratulations on the publication of this book laden with so much important Black history and culture! There’s a deep well to draw from for both — did you choose references that were meaningful to you personally, or that you felt were important to focus on in your book? Or both?
Thank you! It’s an honor to speak with you. I’ve admired the work of WNDB for a long time.
The references in Black Is a Rainbow Color began as a simple brainstorm; a list of things that (1) are the color black, (2) have a positive connotation, and/or (3) have a tie to Black culture. This list is shorter than one might imagine! Eliminating ideas such as black cat, black magic, black hole, blackmail, etc., and inserting historic figures of various hues resulted in the references that are included—references that are intended to be both meaningful and culturally significant.
As an educator, what do you notice lacking most from the ways in which children are taught history and social issues? What would you like to see change?
I would love to see diverse perspectives incorporated into everyday curriculum to a greater degree. As our 4th graders explore the California Gold Rush, for example, I’d love to see equal time given to women entrepreneurs, life for free Blacks in a Fugitive Slave Act state, the treatment and resilience of Chinese people, and the status of modern day Native Californians. When learning about “Neighborhood” I’d love to see our little ones take a field trip up the street to Little Saigon—the largest Little Saigon in the United States! Bringing culture into everyday learning and curriculum normalizes differences and teaches children to accept them, as opposed to viewing them as taboo, exotic, or trivial enough to be confined to certain times of the year.
The visuals on every page are so striking. How closely did you work with the artist (Ekua Holmes)? Did you write the book first, or was it collaborative from the start?
The manuscript for Black Is a Rainbow Color was completed before illustration began. It is a testament to Ekua’s talent and the wonderful team at Roaring Brook that this book reads as an in-time collaboration!
Was there anything you wanted to fit into the book that you had to cut in the editing process?
No. In fact, I was given the freedom to expand the book during the editing process! I’m thankful for that.
Alternatively, where would you recommend young readers turning to next to continue the dialogue begun with your work?
I recommend listening to the Black Is a Rainbow Color playlist. The curated music will inform the mind and inspire the soul—I promise! After that, there are many directions one could go: Brown vs. Board of Ed., women of the Civil Rights Movement, or the Montgomery Bus Boycott. An idea I find particularly interesting begins with an examination of The Great Migration. Using The Great Migration: An American Story by Jacob Lawrence, Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome, and the many wonderful picture books of Hughes’ poetry, I’d explore this segment of American life: pre-Civil Rights yet post-enslavement—an interesting era that is too-often overlooked.
What do you hope most that readers take away from this book?
Within each reader I hope to plant a seed that says, “Black, in all of its shades and representations, is beautiful.”
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Angela Joy was born and raised in Minneapolis. Before graduating Summa Cum Laude from the University of Minnesota, Angela attended New York University and Spelman College. Angela then traveled as a background vocalist, also working in television and movie soundtracks. She’s a substitute teacher, Girl Scout Cookie Manager, and co-founder of the McGaugh International Culture Club. She currently lives in southern California with her family. Black Is a Rainbow Color is her first book.