Carole Boston Weatherford
Carole Boston Weatherford is an African-American author and critic, now living in North Carolina, United States. She writes children's literature and some historical books, as well as poetry and commentaries.
The music of poetry has fascinated Weatherford and motivated her literary career. In an interview with The Brown Bookshelf she said, "The Creator called me to be a poet. I hear words strung together in my head just as a composer hears notes and chords. Scenes unfold in my mind just as they do on a filmmaker’s storyboard. Like poetry, quality children’s literature compresses language, distills feeling, evokes scenes, and can be experienced on multiple levels. The best poetry makes music with words."
Weatherford began writing in first grade by dictating poems to her mom. Her father taught printing at a local high school and published his daughter's early works. As a child, she enjoyed reading Dr. Seuss and Langston Hughes. Continuing to pursue creative writing as a hobby through high school and college, she later earned her M.F.A from the University of South Carolina and an M.A. in publication design from the University of Baltimore. Although a Baltimore native, she currently resides in North Carolina and teaches composition and children's literature at Fayetteville State University. Initially, Weatherford was invited to FSU as a writer-in-residence, but in 2007, she received the position of associate professor.
As an author, she acknowledges her calling "to mine the past for family stories, fading traditions and forgotten struggles." The books she writes, in poetry and prose, explore African-American history from a children's perspective and relate the past to new generations. Her works are often inspired by true events, many of which took place in the areas where Weatherford has lived. In her Author's Notes for each book, she includes a portion of her historical research, from which her fiction or poetry emerged. In describing her purpose for writing to the School Library Journal, she says, "I want the books that I write that are set during the Jim Crow era and the Civil Rights era to nudge today's kids toward justice. We've gone a long way, but we still have a long way to go."
In 1995, Lee & Low Books published her first picture book, Juneteenth Jamboree, about a summer celebration in memory of the Texas Emancipation. She then wrote a series of board books for preschoolers. In 1998, she co-authored Somebody's Knocking at Your Door: AIDS and the African American Church, and then published a collection of poetry, The Tar Baby on the Soapbox. After establishing herself as a versatile writer for both children and adults, she published two nonfiction chapter books before penning her first award-winning children's book, The Sound That Jazz Makes, a poem that traces the history of African-American music.
Since then, she has continued to write poetry, historical fiction, and nonfiction biographical works for children. She said in an interview with The Brown Bookshelf that one of the most important poems she has written was Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom: "Those inspired words came together with Kadir Nelson’s soulful paintings and Ellice Lee’s brilliant art direction in a perfect publishing storm. Moses propelled my career to another level." Moses has won a Caldecott Award for Illustration as well as an NAACP Image Award as an Outstanding Literary Work for Children and became a New York Times bestseller.
In 2008, Weatherford published her first poetic novel for young adults, Becoming Billie Holiday, about the development of the artist who she refers to as her muse.
Allegations of racism in East Asian popular culture
Weatherford has written multiple articles attacking what she identifies as stereotyped caricatures of black people in East Asian popular culture, with two of the more prominent ones being geared toward children's cartoons, and another aimed at the name of a toothpaste brand.
In January 2000, Weatherford wrote an op-ed piece that ran in newspapers across Alabama. "Politically Incorrect Pokémon" explained how she believed that Pokémon #124, Jynx, was a negative stereotype of African Americans:
The character Jynx, Pokémon #124, has decidedly human features [in contrast to most other characters]: jet-black skin, huge pink lips, gaping eyes, a straight blonde mane and a full figure, complete with cleavage and wiggly hips. Put another way, Jynx resembles an overweight drag queen incarnation of Little Black Sambo, a racist stereotype from a children's book long ago purged from libraries.
In response to the controversy, Jynx's in-game sprites were given a purple skin color in the American versions of Pokémon Gold and Silver, released in late 2000. By 2002, Nintendo officially redesigned Jynx, changing her skin color from black to purple; this change was not reflected in the animated series until Shogakukan (the company that produces the Pokémon anime) changed the color of Jynx's face to purple in 2005.
In an article published in the Christian Science Monitor in May 2000, Weatherford reiterated and expanded on her argument. Jynx 124 had looked like "an obese drag queen," and she also offered Mr. Popo, a character from the Dragon Ball franchise, up for critique:
Mr. Popo is a rotund, turban-clad genie with pointy ears, jet-black skin, shiny white eyes, and, yes, big red lips.
- Carter G. Woodson Book Award (Elementary Level), The Sound that Jazz Makes
- North Carolina AAUW Award for Juvenile Literature, Remember the Bridge
- North Carolina AAUW Award for Juvenile Literature, Freedom on the Menu
- Capitol Choices: Notable Books for Children, Moses
- Bank Street College Best Children's Books, Freedom on the Menu
- Capitol Choices: Notable Books for Children, Freedom on the Menu
- Notable Books for a Global Society, A Negro League Scrapbook
- Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, Freedom on the Menu
- Golden Kite Honor Award for Picture Book Text, Dear Mr. Rosenwald
- NAACP Image Award, Outstanding Literary Work for Children, Moses
- Caldecott Honor Book, Moses
- Teachers' Choice (International Reading Association), Moses
- Jane Addams Children Book Honor Award, Birmingham, 1963
- Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, Birmingham, 1963
- Jefferson Cup Award, Birmingham, 1963
- Juneteenth Jamboree, with Yvonne Buchanan (Illustrator), 1995, Lee & Low Books, ISBN 1-60060-248-7
- Grandma and Me, with Michelle Mills (Illustrator), 1997, Writers & Readers Publishing, ISBN 0-86316-252-5
- Me & the Family Tree, with Michelle Mills (Illustrator), 1997, Writers & Readers Publishing, ISBN 0-86316-251-7
- Mighty Menfolk, with Michelle Mills (Illustrator), 1997, Writers & Readers Publishing, ISBN 0-86316-253-3
- My Favorite Toy, with Michelle Mills (Illustrator), 1997, Writers & Readers Publishing, ISBN 0-86316-215-0
- Somebody’s Knocking at Your Door : AIDS and the African-American Church, with Ronald J Weatherford (Author) and Harold G Koenig (Author), 1998, Routledge, ISBN 0-7890-0575-1
- The Tar Baby on the Soapbox, 1999, Methodist College, ISBN 0-9670994-3-9
- Sink or Swim: African-American Lifesavers of the Outer Banks, 1999, Coastal Carolina Press, ISBN 1-928556-03-5
- The African-American Struggle for Legal Equality, 2000, Enslow Publishers, ISBN 0-7660-1415-0
- The Sound that Jazz Makes, with Eric Velasquez (Illustrator), 2001, Walker Books, ISBN 0-8027-7674-4
- Sidewalk Chalk: Poems of the City, with Dimitrea Tokunbo (Illustrator), 2001, Wordsong, ISBN 1-56397-084-8
- Princeville: The 500-Year Flood, 2001, Coastal Carolina Press, ISBN 1-928556-32-9
- Remember the Bridge: Poems of a People, 2002, Philomel Books, ISBN 0-399-23726-7
- Jazz Baby, with Laura Freeman (illustrator), 2002, Lee & Low Books, ISBN 1-58430-039-6
- Stormy Blues, 2002, Xavier Review Press, ISBN 1-883275-11-3
- Great African-American Lawyers: Raising the Bar of Freedom, 2003, Enslow Publishers, ISBN 0-7660-1837-7
- Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins, with Jerome Lagarrigue (Illustrator), 2005, Dial Books for Young Readers, ISBN 0-8037-2860-3
- A Negro League Scrapbook, 2005, Boyds Mills Press, ISBN 1-59078-091-4
- The Carolina Parakeet: America's Lost Parrot in Art and Memory, 2005, Avian Publications, ISBN 0-910335-01-X
- Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her people to Freedom, with Kadir Nelson (Illustrator), 2006, Jump at the Sun/Hyperion, ISBN 0-7868-5175-9
- Dear Mr. Rosenwald, with R. Gregory Christie (Illustrator), 2006, Scholastic Press, ISBN 0-439-49522-9
- Champions on the Bench: The 1955 Cannon Street YMCA All-Stars’‘, with Leonard Jenkins (Illustrator), 2006, Dial Books for Young Readers, ISBN 0-8037-2987-1
- Jesse Owens: Fastest Man Alive, with Eric Velasquez (Illustrator), 2006, Walker Books, ISBN 0-8027-9550-1
- Before John Was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane, with Sean Qualls (Illustrator), 2007, Henry Holt, ISBN 978-0-8050-7994-4
- Celebremos Juneteenth, with Yvonne Buchanan (Illustrator), 2007, Lee & Low Books, ISBN 1-60060-247-9
- Birmingham, 1963, 2007, Wordsong, ISBN 1-59078-440-5
- I, Matthew Henson, with Eric Velasquez (Illustrator), 2007, Walker Books, ISBN 0-8027-9688-5
- The Library Ghost, with Lee White (Illustrator), 2008, Upstart Books, ISBN 1-60213-017-5
- Racing Against the Odds: Wendell Scott, African American Stock Car Champion, 2009, Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, ISBN 0-7614-5465-9
- Interview with The Brown Bookshelf
- Biography at ChildrensLit.com
- Carole Boston Weatherford's Website
- School Library Journal Interview: "She Shall Overcome"
- Interview with The Brown Bookshelf
- Weatherford, Carole Boston (2000-01-05). "Politically Incorrect Pokémon". Retrieved 2009-04-17.[dead link][dead link]
- Weatherford, Carole Boston (2000-05-04). "Japan's bigoted export to kids". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2009-04-17.
- "Q. I know you're not exactly a manga expert...". Daizenshu Ex. Retrieved 2009-04-17.
- The official website
- All articles about racist Pokémon by Carole Boston Weatherford — See "Articles/ Information" section
- Argument, points of view, feelings, and discussion from Jynx aficionados
- 2007 Audio Interview of Carole Boston Weatherford
- Weatherford reads from Dear Mr. Rosenwald and answers questions from her 3rd grade readers
- Weatherford performs her works at Vanderbilt University