February 24, 2013
As any visitor to those hallowed halls can attest, lining the walls of the Capitol building in Washington D.C. are portraits and sculptures depicting the history of America. Lincoln is there. So is Washington--George, that is, not Booker T. For in fact there is "nary a black face in all of those pretty pictures," says the narrator of Heart And Soul: The Story of America and African Americans.
Kadir Nelson's paintings for Heart and Soul, with their quiet, proud dignity, go as far as any author-illustrator can to right this wrong in a book. Each one of Nelson's powerful pictures is worthy of its own wall in the Capitol's rotunda gallery.
As the voice of Heart and Soul, a nameless "Everywoman" recants some of the worst, and finest moments in the history of African Americans. She recalls their early days as slaves, through their service in the Civil War and two World Wars, alongside their long-enduring struggle for freedom and fairness in their everyday lives. While these broad brushstrokes of history should be familiar, the book's true power lies in a wise balance between dramatic events and the small acts of resistance and resourcefulness by individuals determined to build better lives for themselves and their families. The result is an exceptional portrait-by-portrait account of the contributions of African Americans to the greatness of their nation.