A Long Time Coming
A Lyrical Biography of Race In America from Ona Judge to Barack Obama
A biography-in-verse of six significant Black Americans—Ona Judge, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barack Obama. Drawing on primary sources and harnessing the power of poetry, it chronicles both the familiar and the less-told struggles and victories of each historical figure in the fight for racial justice, laying bare how much has changed since our country’s founding and how much has not.
Full of daring escapes, deep emotion, and subtle lessons on how racism operates, A LONG TIME COMING reveals the universal importance of its subjects’ struggles for justice. From freedom seeker Ona Judge, who fled her enslavement by America’s first president, to Barack Obama, the first Black president, all of Shepard’s protagonists fight valiantly for justice for themselves and all Black Americans in any way that they can. But it is also a highly personal book, as Shepard — whose maternal grandfather was enslaved — shows how the grand sweep of history has touched his life, reflecting on how much progress has been made against racism, while also exhorting readers to complete the vast work that remains to be done.
Best Books 2023—School Library Journal, Booklist, and Kirkus Reviews
—Kirkus, Best Books, 2023
“Substantive Nonfiction History in Verse”
—Booklist Best Books, 2023
“Meticulously Research and Organized”
—School Library Journal Best Books, 2023
SCBWI Golden Kite Finalist
Texas Topaz, Best Nonfiction Books, 2024
“A Long Time Coming is an unflinching, thoughtful, instructive, and beautiful rendering of the African American journey from slavery to freedom and beyond. Students of all ages will benefit from reading it.”
—RANDALL KENNEDY, Michael R. Klein Professor at Harvard Law School and author of Say It Loud! On Race, Law, History, and Culture
“Ray Anthony Shepard takes readers on an epic journey along Freedom’s road. Readers will finish the book bolstered with understanding and feelings of inspiration and joy.”
—ALICE FAYE DUNCAN, author of Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop
“In powerful prose poetry, Ray Anthony Shepard recounts the lives and audacity of Black leaders from Ona Judge to Barack Obama. Learning about them together gives this history of our country’s sins and the people who fought for justice the gravitas it deserves. I pray that this book—painful, revealing, and ultimately inspiring—will disprove forever ‘the lie,’ as Shepard puts it perfectly, ‘that people are color-coded into winners and losers.’ It is a long time coming.”
—DEBORAH HEILIGMAN, author of Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith
“An exquisite historical tapestry, A Long Time Coming, weaves the lives of six heroes to create unflinchingly documentation of American strength, suffering, and survival. Approachable, quick, and brimming with dynamic storytelling.
—ANGELA JOY, author of Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement
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