N.C. African American Heritage Commission and Office of Archives and History Release New Children’s Book “My N.C. from A to Z”


The North Carolina African American Heritage Commission and the Office of Archives and History this month released a new children’s book, “My N.C. from A to Z,” that celebrates and creates connections to North Carolina’s rich African American heritage.

“My N.C. from A to Z,” written by Michelle Lanier and illustrated by Dare Coulter, is a colorful, sturdy board book that parents will want to share with their children. Studies show that children who are read to at least three times a week by a family member are almost twice as likely to score in the top 25% in reading compared to children who are read to less than three times a week.

Each letter of the alphabet represents African American people and places rooted in North Carolina that have provided positive and indelible influences in arts, culture, and social justice worldwide. The book features people and topics such as:

B is for Black Wall Street. Black Wall Street is a term that describes historic Parrish Street, a four-block area in downtown Durham, N.C., where African American enterprise thrived in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

C is for Charlotte Hawkins Brown. Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown, a pioneer in education and race relations, was born on a farm near Henderson, N.C. She established an elite boarding school, the Palmer Memorial Institute, in rural Sedalia, N.C. that prioritized liberal education, leadership and civic engagement. The school expanded in size and achieved statewide and national recognition. Dr. Brown was a vocal, national advocate for women’s and civil rights.

F is for Freedom Hill. Freedom Hill (also sometimes known as Liberty Hill) is among the oldest towns in the United States chartered by free African Americans in 1865 and incorporated as Princeville, N.C. in 1885. Princeville was named after Turner Prince, a carpenter and community leader who had been born enslaved in North Carolina in 1843 and was one of Freedom Hill’s earliest residents.

L is for Longleaf Pine. Free, enslaved, and freedom-seeking African Americans harvested raw turpentine from North Carolina’s long leaf pine forests by cutting deep “V” shapes into tree trunks that are sometimes still visible today. The processed turpentine, tar and pitch created from these harvests made North Carolina the largest producer of naval stores in the U.S. in the mid-19th century.

T is for Thomas Day. Thomas Day was a respected craftsman, furniture maker, entrepreneur, and free African American from Milton, N.C., from 1801-1861. His furniture today is highly regarded and collected.

To learn more about the book please visit https://aahc.nc.gov/resources/my-nc-z. The book may be ordered from UNC Press at https://uncpress.org/book/9780865264991/my-n-c-from-a-z/.

Michelle Lanier, the author, is a scholar, oral historian, filmmaker, museum professional, and folklorist. Her deep roots, in what she calls Afro-Carolina, inspired Lanier to successfully advocate for legislation creating the North Carolina African American Heritage Commission, which she led as its founding executive director. In 2018 Lanier became the first African American director of North Carolina's Division of State Historic Sites in the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Lanier also has a passion for teaching, particularly at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, where she has served as a faculty member for two decades.

Dare Coulter, the illustrator, is an award-winning artist. She specializes in public art, specifically monumental sculptures and large murals. She has also illustrated the children’s books “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” and “You are My Sunshine” that align with her mission of positive imagery of people of color. See more of Coulter’s work at www.darecoulter.com.

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