Six Graphic Novels that Tackle Racism
At Pop Culture Classroom, we know the challenges of discussing social issues with your students in a way that keeps them engaged. As we’ve said before, engagement is one of the key ways that graphic novels are most useful as educational tools, because students can connect to the visual and written components of the stories.
With that in mind, here’s a quick list of six graphic novels that tackle the topic of racism. This isn’t by any means a complete list, just some good titles to start with.
1. MAUS, by Art Spiegelman – The story of a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe and his son, a cartoonist who tries to come to terms with his father’s story and history itself, Maus deals with the legacy of the Nazi party’s inhumane conduct, and how it affects the survivors and their descendants. https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/171065/the-complete-maus-by-art-spiegelman/
2. MARCH, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, & Nate Powell – A black and white graphic novel trilogy that tells the story of the Civil Rights Movement, through the eyes of civil rights leader and U.S. Congressman John Lewis, March has some hard and very honest moments that bring life to the struggles against racism in America. http://www.topshelfcomix.com/catalog/march-book-one/760
3. INCOGNEGRO, by Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece – Incognegro is a black-and-white graphic novel that tells the story of an African-American journalist who passes for white in the early 1930s, and uses his appearance to infiltrate racist aspects of society, so that he can report on them. In this story, he has to use this skill to try to clear his brother of a crime he didn’t commit. https://www.vertigocomics.com/graphic-novels/incognegro
4. Seven Sons, by Alex Grecian and Riley Rossmo – Based on a Chinese fable, this graphic novel tells the tale of seven identical Chinese brothers, who come to America during the Gold Rush of the 1850s. When two children fall through an iced-over river, Brother Number One tries to save them by breathing the entire river into his mouth. When he fails, a mob of angry townspeople tries to retaliate, mistaking each of Number One’s brothers for him, and providing the reader with an astute commentary of the racism of the time. http://alexgrecian.com/books/seven-sons/
5. I Am Alfonso Jones, by Tony Medina, Stacey Robinson & John Jennings – High-schooler Alfonso Jones is just as excited to play a hip-hop version of Hamlet in his school’s play as he is to share his true feelings for his best friend, Danetta. But, on an outing to purchase his first suit, Alfonso is shot by an off-duty police officer who mistakes a clothes hanger for a gun. In the afterlife, Alfonso is guided through a ghost train by well-known victims of police shootings, while in the world of the living, his family and friends struggle with their grief and seek justice for Alfonso in the streets. https://www.leeandlow.com/books/i-am-alfonso-jones
6. Nat Turner, by Kyle Baker – Written and illustrated by comics veteran Kyle Baker, this is the story of Nat Turner and his slave rebellion—which began on August 21, 1831, in Southampton County, Virginia. This book’s depictions of violence make it more suited to older students, but it tells the story in Nat Turner’s own words, communicating the evils of slavery in a moving and historically accurate way. https://copaceticcomics.com/searches
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