Although written for young adults, Alexander’s book, which she calls an anthology, can be used on several levels. First, this text serves as a source for young adults seeking information on African Americans who displayed courage, tenacity, vision, and determination, breaking a pattern of injustice inflicted upon millions of African Americans. Second, Alexander covers the Civil Rights movement, sit-in demonstrations, and the voting rights movement, so that Young and Black in America can be easily used as a supplemental text for high-school American history classes. The book provides information about young African Americans and their attitudes concerning the nature of inhumanity toward others and the anguish and pain that African Americans suffered as individuals because of the color of their skin or the texture of their hair.
Alexander’s carefully selected anthology offers all young adult students a view of history as seen through the eyes of young African Americans. These young people of color write of confrontations, insurmountable working and living conditions, life-threatening situations, and their struggle against racial discrimination. At an early age, they all displayed a conviction to make a positive difference in their lives, as well as in the future lives of others. While acting singularly—as the writer Richard Wright, the great orator Malcolm X, or David Parks describing racial prejudices in Vietnam—or in a collective...
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Alexander’s Young and Black in America fills a void in young adult literature by allowing students to read and discover about young African Americans who, during their youths, transcended the hostilities of racial discrimination while facing volatile situations that could have cost them their lives. This book offers alternative choices for students seeking heroic characters from the lives of famous and ordinary African Americans. The majority of the figures, with the exception of Frederick Douglass, were all contemporaries of the author. It can be assumed by her age at the writing of this book that she included people who were newsmakers with whom she was familiar. Living in the 1960’s was a turbulent time for most Americans. She may have seen in the lives of these selected African Americans those individuals who impacted her life, as well as her way of thinking.