JP Kids: Children’s book on African-American heritage in Mass.

JP CENTER—Rosalyn Elder, co-owner of Jamaicaway Books, an independent bookstore with a focus on multicultural children’s literature, has written a series of books that celebrate African American heritage of Massachusetts.

The first book in the series: “African American Heritage in Massachusetts: A Coloring Book,” will be launched at the store at 676 Centre St. on Sat., Feb. 23 at 2 p.m. The book was illustrated by local artist Laurence Pierce with graphic design by the youth art entrepreneurship group, Artists for Humanity.

Elder, a Jamaica Plain resident, said her goal is to “increase literacy in urban students by allowing them to read and be inspired by stories of heroism and determination relevant to their culture. The only way to raise the educational bar is to get students to read more. The only way to do that is to raise their self-esteem by inspiring them with books about their heritage.”

The book highlights the contributions of 38 African-Americans from Massachusetts, all of whom were born prior to 1900. “This state has been pricelessly enriched by numerous contributions by African-Americans. This educational resource introduces those many brave and talented individuals from early in our state’s history to the children of Massachusetts,” Elder said.

Some examples from the book include:
• Elizabeth “Mum Bett” Freeman, who sued her owner for physical abuse. She won the lawsuit, her freedom and damages. Her court case and that of Quock Walker, another slave who sued, led to the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts in 1783.

• Paul Cuffe, a successful entrepreneur who presented a petition to the legislature to protest “no taxation without representation.” His protest led to free blacks gaining the right to vote in Massachusetts in 1780.

• Sarah Roberts, a 5-year-old student who sued the Boston Public School system for its segregation policies. Her efforts and those of others led to the desegregation of the Boston Public Schools in 1855.

• Maria Stewart, who was the first female of any race to give public speeches in 1830.

• Jan Matzeliger, whose invention of the shoe lasting machine revolutionized the shoe manufacturing industry in 1883.

Jamaicaway Books was founded in 1998 by Elder and Brian Sandiford. The stated mission of the store is “to provide an environment that celebrates the creativeness of all the different cultures of the world and at the same time, celebrates the united efforts of people around the world to sustain our planet. In accomplishing our mission, we hope to break down the barriers that separate us ethnically, racially and economically.”

For more information, call 983-3204 or see
From press materials.

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