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Educate & Empower Your Girl

From the beginning, American Girl has created timeless stories that help bridge the past and present. Each demonstrates how strong women can change the course of history—especially during our country’s most troubling times—with courage, compassion, and resilience.

As part of our commitment to racial equality, we’re making stories written by Black women and featuring Black heroines available for free. We invite you to add the titles below to your reading list and use them to educate, empower, promote understanding, spark important conversations, and create change.

 

The perspective of Denise Lewis Patrick, author of the Melody and Cécile series.

 

 

Gabriela McBride: Girl of Today

 

 

Helps a girl learn how to become a changemaker

Every girl has something important to say. Now, it’s more important than ever for your daughter to know that her opinions matter—and that she can change things for the better! Reading Gabriela’s stories with your daughter can help her gain the confidence she needs to believe in the power of her own words.

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Story synopsis

Nine-year-old Gabriela McBride has grown up surrounded by the arts—dance, painting, music, and theater. Her mother is the founder of the Liberty Community Arts Center, a beautiful old building that is the gathering space for Gabriela’s network of family and friends.

Gabriela has a lot to say. But it can be tough to get her message out. She struggles with stuttering, so when she tries to speak, she often finds herself in a battle with her own words. A new group at the arts center helps Gabriela embrace poetry as her art form of choice. When she speaks her poetry aloud with her friends, she finds that her words flow more freely.

Gabriela is determined to harness her creativity and speak out for change. From saving her beloved arts center to bringing together her classmates at her new school, she always manages to find the right words to rally her community when they need hope.

 

 

 

Melody Ellison: Civil Rights, 1964

 

Helps a girl learn how to speak up for equality

The conversation around race in America is in the news daily, just as it was during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. In Melody’s time, ordinary people found extraordinary ways to stand up for justice and equality for Black Americans. Read Melody’s story with your girl to give her the courage to speak up for what she believes in—even if it’s not easy to do.

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Story synopsis

Nine-year-old Melody Ellison is growing up in Detroit in the mid-1960s, a time of great energy, optimism, challenges, and change for the Black community. Her stories are set against the backdrop of the civil rights movement and the music scene, including the success of the most popular Black-owned business: Motown Records. Melody loves to sing and is happiest blending her voice with others, whether it’s in the children’s choir at church, backing up the music her brother writes, or singing into a hairbrush with her sisters.

Although Melody’s stories are set in the North, she and her family still experience injustices because they are Black. She and her brother are accused of shoplifting at a neighborhood department store, and her sister isn’t allowed to apply for a summer job at a bank because she’s Black. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. comes to Detroit, Melody and her family go listen to him speak. Melody finds inspiration in Dr. King’s words and discovers a dream of her own: to add her voice to those speaking up for fairness and equality.

Author Denise Lewis Patrick notes, “Much of what was being fought then is still being fought. I hope these stories give parents a springboard to talk about what’s going on today, and why we are still in the place that we are today.”

 

 

 

Cécile Rey and Marie-Grace Gardner: New Orleans, 1853

 

Helps a girl learn about transcending racial barriers

Cécile and Marie-Grace’s books tell a story from two different points of view. Set in New Orleans in 1853, the books explore a place where ideas about race are very different than anywhere else in America. Although slavery exists, Cécile is what was known then as a “free girl of color.” She is wealthy and well-educated. She befriends Marie-Grace, a White girl whose family struggles to make ends meet. Although the girls are from very different backgrounds, their friendship grows despite differences in race and class. Read Cécile and Marie-Grace’s stories with your girl to see how two girls reached across boundaries and made things better in their communities.

 

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Story synopsis

Cécile Rey is a nine-year-old girl growing up as a free girl of color in New Orleans. In 1853, New Orleans is unlike any other place in America. The people who live there don’t have the same ideas about race as “Americans” from the North. In fact, New Orleanians consider themselves—and their city—quite separate from the rest of the United States.

In New Orleans, people of all colors and races live and work in the same neighborhoods. Black people enjoy more freedoms in New Orleans than almost anywhere else in America. Cécile, like many free people of color, is well-educated and comes from a wealthy family.

When Cécile meets a White girl named Marie-Grace, Cécile doesn’t expect to like her because she’s from the North. But the girls form a strong connection despite their differences. They both take music lessons from the same instructor, and it’s in the corridors of the Royal Music Hall that their friendship blossoms. They share a daring adventure at a Mardi Gras Ball, and both begin volunteering at a local orphanage. When a yellow fever epidemic sweeps New Orleans, the girls’ friendship grows even deeper as they work together to help the city they love.

Cécile author Denise Lewis Patrick says, “I hope girls learn from Cécile that sometimes, true friendship finds you even when—or especially when—you’re not looking for it. It comes when you need it. Cécile discovers an ability that all girls have—to bravely open their hearts to a bigger world than the one they’ve known.”

 

 

Addy Walker: Civil War, 1864

 

Helps a girl learn about the fight for freedom

Addy’s story may be your child’s first introduction to the concept of slavery, a painful and tragic time in America’s past. Read Addy’s stories with your daughter to help her understand the courage, strength, and perseverance it took for Black people to fight for freedom, equality, and a better life in America—a fight that continues today.

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Story synopsis

Nine-year-old Addy Walker and her mother are escaping slavery after Addy’s father and brother have been sold away. But their escape means leaving Addy’s baby sister behind—her cries could cost them their lives.

After a dangerous journey, Addy and Momma begin new lives in Philadelphia. Freedom isn’t what Addy imagined—both she and Momma work long hours and barely have enough to get by. But in freedom, Addy can go to school, and by learning to read and write, she can send letters through the Quaker Aid Society in search of her family. She is determined that they’ll all be reunited in freedom.

Author Connie Porter says, “Addy is a voice, she is a face, an embodiment of the lives of our African American ancestors. She takes readers beyond whatever negative connotations they may put on the word ‘slave.’ They see Addy being what the world didn’t want people to see—a child, a human being with hopes and dreams, family, history, and the potential to live a full and abundant life—if given the chance.”

 

 

 

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