Born on this Day, May 19

Happy birthday Lorraine Hansberry, Malcolm X, and Yuri Kochiyama!

What a coincidence that activists Lorraine Hansberry, Malcolm X, and Yuri Kochiyama were all born on this day, May 19! We’ve gathered books for all ages in celebration.

Lorraine Hansberry (1930)

Lorraine Hansberry was an artist-activist. As an artist, she was most known for her 1959 play A Raisin in the Sun, the first play by a black woman to be staged on Broadway. As an activist, Hansberry participated in countless liberation efforts and civil rights initiatives, including serving as secretary to the Student Nonviolent Action Committee (SNCC). She died too young of pancreatic cancer at the age of 34. At her funeral, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. eulogized: “Her commitment of spirit . . . her creative ability and her profound grasp of the deep social issues confronting the world today will remain an inspiration to generations yet unborn.”

A raisin in the sun / Lorraine Hansberry. 

What truth sounds like: Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and our unfinished conversation about race in America / Michael Eric Dyson. In 1963, Attorney General Robert Kennedy invited Hansberry to a private gathering of influential African-American intellectuals – including writer James Baldwin – to discuss racial unrest in Birmingham. Historian Michael Eric Dyson’s book details how Hansberry took a stand against Kennedy and the United States government for failing to see racial injustice as a moral rather than social problem.

Malcolm X (1925)

An advocate for the rights of Black Americans during the Civil Rights Era, Malcolm X was a gifted speaker and writer. His autobiography is important to the genre of autobiography and is studied in high schools and colleges throughout the country.

The autobiography of Malcolm X. / Malcolm X, as told to Alex Haley.

X: a novel / Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon. Cowritten by Malcolm X’s daughter, this young adult novel follows the formative years, words, and actions of the iconic civil rights leader.

The book itch: freedom, truth, and Harlem’s greatest bookstore / Vaunda Micheaux Nelson; illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. A nonfiction picture book for kids about the National Memorial African Bookstore. In the 1930s, the bookstore became a center of black culture and a home to activists like Malcolm X.

Free all along: the Robert Penn Warren civil rights interviews / edited by Stephen Drury Smith and Catherine Ellis. A collection of long-form interviews by important leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, including Malcolm X. As per the Publisher, “In Harlem, a fifteen-minute appointment with Malcolm X unwound into several hours of vivid conversation.”

Yuri Kochiyama (1921)

Yuri Kochiyama advocated for many causes and was active in the anti-war movement. She advocated for reparations for Japanese-American internees, the rights of people of color, and those unjustly imprisoned.

Rad American women A-Z / written by Kate Schatz; illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl. Like all children’s A-Z books, this one illustrates the alphabet —but instead of “Y is for Yellow,” Y is for Yuri Kochiyama!

Breaking the sound barrier / Amy Goodman; edited by Denis Moynihan. This edited volume of interviews by Amy Goodman, host of the award-winning broadcast radio program Democracy Now!, features a 2008 interview “Lessons of Internment” with Kochiyama.

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