Carole Boston Weatherford and I discuss poetry, history, and race in her newest picture books BOX: HENRY BROWN MAILS HIMSELF TO FREEDOM and UNSPEAKABLE: THE TULSA RACE MASSACRE. We talk about discussing difficult history for children, how to tailor-make books for Critical Reading elementary school students, what it means to be called to poetry by The Creator, calling out Jinx the Pokémon, a spirit story, race memory, writing with agency, and so much more.
Carole Boston Weatherford grew up in an all-black neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland. An only child until the age of 10, she has fond memories of riding bikes, drawing and writing, and singing and tap dancing to her dad’s collection of jazz records. In the first grade, Carole recited her first poem. Throughout elementary and middle school, her artistic and literary talents were recognized and encouraged by her teachers. Carole continued writing through high school and into college, but it was only when one of her poems was published in a city magazine that she seriously considered becoming an author.
For 20 years, Carole Boston Weatherford worked for the National Bar Association in Washington, DC and North Carolina. After becoming a mother, she enrolled in a master’s level creative writing program at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro. Although she entered the program writing poetry for adults, she graduated wanting to write historical fiction and poetry for children. Weatherford’s first children’s book, Juneteenth Jamboree, was published in 1995. Since then she has authored more than two dozen children’s books.
Weatherford says that persistence is one of the keys to her success. “I had manuscripts that had been rejected 20 times before finding a home with a publisher,” she recalls. “But I keep going and I believe in what I write about.” Weatherford creates the kind of books that weren’t available to her as a child: ones that feature African-American protagonists. In the late 1990s Weatherford began teaching college courses in composition, creative writing, and children’s and adolescent literature.
Today Carole Boston Weatherford is an associate professor at Fayetteville State University. She and her husband live in High Point, North Carolina.