Monday, September 18, 2023

Q&A with Carole Boston Weatherford


Photo by Gerald Young



Carole Boston Weatherford is the author of Kin: Rooted in Hope, a new work of poetry for older kids. It is illustrated by her son, Jeffery Boston Weatherford. Carole Boston Weatherford's many other books include the picture book You Are My Pride. She is a professor of English at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina.


Q: How did your family history lead you and your son to create Kin, and how did the two of you collaborate on the project?


A: All our lives, Jeffery and I have visited the small farm that has been in our family since the Reconstruction. That’s when my newly emancipated great-great-grandfathers, Phillip Moaney and Isaac Copper, cofounded two all-Black villages on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.


That land and what little we knew about our ancestors spurred our curiosity about our family’s history. As I researched, I passed along images to Jeffery as picture references. After viewing his art, I made a few suggestions. Beyond that, there was little collaboration. 


Q: How did you research the book, and did you learn anything about your family that especially surprised you?


A: I conducted research at the Talbot County Free Library and the Maryland Center for History and Culture and on a slave ship database.


I visited Wye House, the plantation where my ancestors were enslaved by the Lloyd family. There, I toured the house, the Orangerie, the cemetery, and the grove where enslaved people were buried. To recreate the historic setting, I researched the plantation’s material culture, landscape, and archeology.


I also referenced the autobiography of Frederick Douglass—the most famous resident of Wye House. He wrote about the plantation and about my fourth great-grandfather, Isaac Copper. Using the Lloyds' ledgers, letters, and legal documents, I traced my ancestors back to a 1770 inventory. Surprisingly, I heard some family lore about royal lineage.


Q: What do you think your son’s art adds to the book?


A: I cannot think of anyone else I would have wanted to illustrate this text. Although I wrote the poems, this is Jeffery’s story as much as it is mine. His art adds depth and emotion to the text. Just as I have given our ancestors voices, Jeffery has given them faces.


I am blown away by his digital scratchboard illustrations. My favorites accompany the poems “Rachel Speaks,” “Chicken Sue,” and “The Ages of the Enslaved.” My granddaughter Jordin posed for the cover image.


Q: The book’s subtitle is “Rooted in Hope.” What do you hope readers take away from Kin?


A: Kin affords a window into the world of enslaved African descendants. When the Civil War erupted, there were nearly four million people enslaved in the United States. Back then, their voices were muted, marginalized, and even muzzled. Today, their stories remain largely untold.


Kin gives them voice and restores the humanity that enslavement denied them. I want young readers to understand that the enslaved were real people who endured horrors but maintained hope. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Jeffery and I are working on a picture book biography of a famous artist and on a hip-hop novel in verse.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Carole Boston Weatherford.

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