That They Lived: African-Americans Who Changed The World is a unique way to learn about important trailblazers in our history. The words by Rochelle Riley intertwined with Cristi Smith-Jones’ photography portray Black faces from the past and present into a beautiful children’s book. No matter who you are, you will love this inspiring and distinctive read.
What is so special about this book is that each of the 21 historical figures featured is actually a photo of two young children from present day – Lola and Caleb. The children are Cristi Smith-Jones’ daughter and Rochelle Riley’s grandson. I love that they did this, because it really showed that these past leaders, including Aretha Franklin, Muhammad Ali, and Ida B Wells are motivating kids to follow their footsteps and make their own history.
My favorite photo of Lola was Madam C.J. Walker. I thought she was so cute. It reminded me of the time I dressed as Madam C.J. Walker, the first Black female millionaire, for a school project. I loved Caleb as abolitionist Frederick Douglass, as well.
I liked how this book focused on some history-makers like Barbara Johnson and Shirley Chisholm who I don’t know much about, and some more popular ones like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Stevie Wonder. The photography by Cristi Smith-Jones was amazing, and the costumes for all of the historical figures looked very similar to the original pictures. Basically, Smith-Jones had started the project with her daughter in 2017, where every day for Black History Month, she would take pictures of her daughter dressed up as a Black historical figure. The response she got on social media was overwhelming, and it even reached social mediaologist Rochelle Riley, and they started to write a book together.
I recommend this book to everyone, no matter what! Everyone can learn something from this book. Young Black kids can see themselves in Caleb and Lola’s pictures, and people who aren’t Black can learn about important Black figures.
Three out of four roses!