“Picture the Dream”

“Picture the Dream: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Children’s Books” can be seen at the New-York Historical Society through July 24.

International Museum Day is on May 18. In honor of the annual commemoration, I recently toured the New-York Historical Society. Founded in 1804, the society is the oldest museum in New York City.

During my visit, I toured an exhibition called “Picture the Dream: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Children’s Books.” It was curated by Andrea Davis Pinkney, an award-winning author and editor at Scholastic.

“Picture the Dream” showcases children’s books and illustrations that explore the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s, as well as the ongoing struggle for racial justice. The contributions of Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, Ruby Bridges, and other trailblazers are celebrated.  

“There are many visuals in the [exhibition] that make people think,” Pinkney told a reporter. “‘What would I do at a drinking fountain where there are signs? What would I do if I can’t ride a bus or I’m relegated to the back? What would I do if I saw violence?’” 


“Storybooks are so powerful,” a young reader told Sasha. 


The exhibition introduces young people to the Green Book. Black Americans used the informal guide to travel safely in the South before segregation was outlawed in the 1960s. Kids can also see artwork inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. The movement raised awareness about racial inequality around the world after the murder of George Floyd in 2020 in Minneapolis.

While touring the exhibition, I spoke with friends Julie and Gloria, who were visiting from out of state. Julie was particularly drawn to the illustrations from If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks. The 2003 picture book by Faith Ringgold tells the story of a girl named Marcie. While riding a magical bus, Marcie learns about the life and heroism of Parks. “Storybooks are so powerful,” Julie said.

Gloria added that books like Ringgold’s help kids learn about history. “It’s hard for adults to talk about racism,” she said.


Sasha gets ready to tour “Picture the Dream.”


In addition to the illustrations in the exhibition, I also viewed a film entitled Tell Me Another Story. It explores the lack of representation in children’s books and highlights some of the first stories about Black children. 

One of the best-known books, The Snowy Day, was written by Ezra Jack Keats in 1962. The award-winning picture book introduces young readers to a Black child named Peter who explores his neighborhood after the first snowfall of the season. 

The exhibition reminds young people of America’s continuing struggle for equality. It will surely inspire our next leaders, who want to leave discrimination behind for a better tomorrow.

“Picture the Dream” is open through July 24. 


Photos courtesy of the author