A Her-Story of Loud Leaders

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Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History is a compilation of stories of the women who shaped the modern world. Written by children’s book illustrator, Vashti Harrison, the lives of forty powerful African American women are told. Each biographical snippet is accompanied by a whimsical drawing, which are sweet and empowering. Side-by-side, well-known leaders and lesser-known icons are chronicled in this easy-to-read history. And although the writing was straightforward, at times sugar coated, it only make the book more accessible to readers of all ages.

Beginning with the poet, Phillis Wheatley, who lived in the mid 1700’s and closing with the gymnast Dominique Dawes, the change enacted over the 250 year span was largely apparent and concisely written in chronological order. This was a powerful choice as it demonstrated the evolution which took place as a result of the bold stance these women took for their rights.

Each recollection of the woman was short n’ sweet (leaving the reader craving to know more) and Harrison used inspiring vocabulary to further rivet the new generation (the readers of this book) to take action for their rights. Additionally, it was quite refreshing to have a book dedicated not only to powerful women, but powerful black women and the variety of leaders, ranging from poets to politicians to athletes, was encouraging.

With all this being said, the title is still a cause for bafflement. Little Leaders is an extremely counterintuitive title for a book discussing such powerful torchbearers and it is largely condescending. Even if it was a tool to appear to younger audiences, it seems to mock the intelligence of those it was designed for. And above all else, the title mocks the legacy of the women it remembers.

“Women are powerful and dangerous,” the black poet, Audre Lorde wrote. And on the whole, the illustrated her-story Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History is a remembrance of all the women who stood against the current of oppression. Little Leaders rekindles the fire scorched by complacency and asks: what will you do to make your voice heard?