Reading the words of great leaders can inspire you; hearing their speeches, thoughts, beliefs and feelings can make you want to stand up and make a difference. This week, we are taking a look at (and having a listen to) some of Black History’s most celebrated heroes, past and present, with three amazing audiobooks.

We Rise Published by Phoenix Books Inc

This two-hour audiobook is an extraordinary collection of live-recorded speeches delivered by African-American women. Exposing the struggle for equality over several decades, the content reveals significant parts of Black History like other books before it. However, this title handles the fight from a female perspective. Each recording is preceded by a short introduction for each speaker.

Speeches include:

  • Michelle Obama at the Democratic National Convention (2008)
  • Rosa Parks at the Million Man March (1995)
  • Barbara Jordan, “Who Will Speak for the Common Good?” (1976)
  • Shirley Chisholm on Equal Rights for Women (1969)
  • Fannie Lou Hamer at the Democratic National Convention (1964)

Freedom in the Family by Tananarive Due and Patricia Stephens Due

The mother-daughter duo of Patricia Stephens Due and Tananarive Due (American Book Award winner for The Living Blood) take readers on a journey through the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. While great leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired a nation, the lesser-known heroes, the everyday people, are the ones spotlighted in Freedom in the Family. The women take turns narrating chapters detailing experiences of the people around them fighting for equality.

Patricia, an activist with CORE, shares her perspective on the protests at the segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter in Florida and the arrests that shocked a nation. Tananarive describes a time when racist police officers turned up at the family home in Miami in a racially motivated hunt for thieves. The collection of past challenges and future hopes of overcoming discrimination meshes with an emotional tribute to one of the most important times of social change.

Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport and Michael Clarke Duncan

Children have the opportunity to “meet” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Martin’s Big Words. The inspirational compilation won many awards, including the Caldecott Honor Book, Coretta Scott King Honor Book, ALA Notable Book, ALA Notable Audio Recording, and Storytelling World Award.

While the audiobook is geared toward children, Rappaport intertwines elegant, lyrical prose with King’s own words to create a portrayal of one of the most respected men of American history.  The audiobook spans most of King’s life, from his goal as a child to “get big words” like his preacher father, to his death at a garbage workers’ strike. The work simply allows King’s power and passion to shine through to a new generation.

Brianne Carlon is a marketing associate at OverDrive.

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