In late 2015, Marley Dias noticed that something major was missing from the books she was reading in school. “I wasn’t seeing girls like me—black girls who are smart,” she says. In fact, most of the stories her class was reading in school didn’t feature any characters at all who were black. “The ones that did were very one-dimensional. Black girls are not being portrayed fully,” Marley explains.

So the 11-year-old New Jersey girl set out to collect 1,000 amazing stories featuring black girls. “Black girls need to see stories about girls like them,” Marley says. “Our voices and stories are so important.”

She created the hashtag #1000blackgirlbooks, and her book drive took off. Marley began receiving books from people all over the world. In just a matter of months, Marley collected more than 7,000 books of many different genres and was asked to speak on several big talk shows. “People were surprised because I’m 11. But they were also proud of me.”

'You don't have to be the best', she says. 'You just have to do your best and do what you love.'

Marley decided to donate the books to a school in Jamaica, where her mom is from. “We delivered the books in person,” Marley says. “I think it’s important to step out of your comfort zone.”

Now 12 years old, Marley is still collecting books and speaking about the importance of black female characters, and her social action campaign continues to thrive. To date, #1000blackgirlbooks has collected over 10,000 books and has given life to the “1000 Black Girl Books Resource Guide,” an ongoing and valuable project that aims to catalog the titles according to author, title, description, and reading level.

Despite her overwhelming success, Marley remains grounded, driven, and true to herself. “You don’t have to be the best,” she says. “You just have to do your best and do what you love.”


Adapted from American Girl magazine, October 2017. American Girl Publishing, 2017. All rights reserved.