Telling A People’s Story Conference

Miami University Art Museum is holding a first-of-its-kind conference in conjunction to Telling A People’s Story, on display until June 30. This conference will showcase eleven speakers from various disciplines to discuss diverse topics including the contextualization of African-American children’s picture books.

The conference will take place April 20-21 at the Miami University Art Museum and feature illustrators, scholars, librarians, and educators, many of whom have played pertinent roles in creating Telling A People’s Story. Keynote Speaker Javaka Steptoe, author and illustrator of Radiant Child, a book with two works on display in the exhibition, will take the stage Friday, April 20 at 9 a.m.

Attendance to the conference is free, however, because of limited seating, registration is required. Because Telling A People’s Story has been so popular, conference registration for the main auditorium filled up pretty quickly. MUAM has extended registration on a first-come, first-served basis allowing for overflow seating in the galleries to watch a live feed of the speakers in the auditorium. This opportunity will allow for additional attendees to experience the speaker’s presentations while surrounded by the original artwork.

In addition to the speaker presentations, there will be a book signing held in the gallery for attendees to purchase various books by the authors and illustrators in attendance, and have them signed. To adjourn Friday’s sessions, a special program devoted to the incredible writings by Langston Hughes will be presented by Miami University Theatre students, choreographed by Dr. Ann Elizabeth Armstrong in the Department of Theatre. Recitation of Hughes’ poetry will be performed to the backdrop of images from children’s books pertaining to Hughes, and accompanied by recorded music provided by Dr. Tammy Kernodle in the Department of Music. To conclude the conference Saturday afternoon, attendees are encouraged to take a guided tour of the Freedom Summer Memorial located on Western Campus. This memorial is dedicated to James Chaney, 21; Andrew Goodman, 20; and Michael Schwerner, 24, who after attending the orientation sessions held on Western Campus to educate and train civil rights activists to register African Americans to vote in the South, were murdered in Mississippi.

This conference will serve as an incredible springboard to foster discussions and dialogue about the difficult truths discussed throughout Telling A People’s Story. For more information about the conference, visit

To register for overflow seating:


Conference Schedule: 


8:00-8:30 a.m.   ~   Check-In

8:30-9:00 a.m.  ~   Welcome
Dr. Gregory Crawford, President of Miami University
Jason E. Shaiman, Curator of Exhibitions

9:00-10:00 a.m.   ~   Keynote Speaker: Javaka Steptoe (Author/Illustrator)
Radiant Child: Radiant Illustrator
In 2017, Javaka Steptoe became the first author/illustrator to win the Randolph Caldecott Medal and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for the same book in the same year. What does this represent in the progression of recognition garnered by African-American authors and illustrators of children’s books? Can this be seen as a major turning point for African-American illustrators? Where do we go from here?

10:10-11:10 a.m.   ~   Ekua Holmes (Illustrator) & Dr. Ann Elizabeth Armstrong (Professor, Miami University)
Fannie Lou Hamer: A Civil Rights Leader
Explore the life of Fannie Lou Hamer, a leading figure in Freedom Summer (1964) & the Civil Rights Movement. Her strength and endurance influenced the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and segregation within national politics.

11:10 a.m.-12:10 p.m.   ~   R. Gregory Christie (Illustrator)
Activism & Promoting Diversity in Children’s Picture Books
As an Illustrator, R. Gregory Christie’s art brings stories to life by combining inspirational imagery to an author’s text. Come explore how his work as an activist and bookstore owner connects his community to the tangible and preserves an appreciation of multicultural inclusion in children’s picture books.

12:10-1:30 p.m.   ~   Lunch (on your own)
Many dining options all within a 5-10 minute walk or quick bus ride will be provided to attendees in registration packet.

1:30-2:30 p.m.   ~   Jerry Pinkney (Illustrator)
Legacy and Longevity
Over the past six decades, veteran illustrator Jerry Pinkney has experienced many developments in the changing face of multiculturalism in children’s books. His career as an illustrator will shed light on how the field of African-American children’s books has evolved and is reaching new audiences.

2:40-3:40 p.m.   ~   Dr. Paula Saine (Professor, Miami University) and Markayla Washington (Undergraduate)
Common Core: Using Global Children’s Literature and Digital Technologies
Learn how children’s literature is used in curricular studies for the training of future Pre-K-12th grade school teachers in Miami University’s Teacher Education program.

3:40-4:40 p.m.   ~   E.B. Lewis (Illustrator)
Researching Identities
E.B. Lewis maintains a strong emphasis on research in order to best present the African-American experience. Even for an African-American illustrator, research is required to capture the likeness of a people, an event, or a moment in time.

4:45-6:00 p.m.   ~   Book Signing

4:45-7:00 p.m.   ~    Exhibition Viewing or Dinner (on your own)
Telling A People’s Story: African-American Children’s Illustrated Literature

7:00-8:00 p.m.   ~   The Langston Hughes Experience
Dr. Ann Elizabeth Armstrong (MU Faculty, Choreographer)
Dr. Tammy Kernodle (MU Faculty, Recorded Music Arranger)
Student Performers, Department of Theatre


8:30-9:00 a.m.   ~   Check-In

9:00-10:00 a.m.   ~   Sam Bloom (Senior Children’s Librarian)
Who can tell a People’s Story?
We have seen many discussions about #OwnVoices and accurate representation in the children’s book world of late. But how can we go beyond these conversations to actually bring about positive change in a field in which white, patriarchal, heteronormative standards fuel so many decisions at every level?

10:10-11:10 a.m.   ~   Dr. Yvette Harris (Professor, Miami University)
Mothers as Literacy Agents in the Lives of their Children
This presentation investigates how African American mothers use literacy, especially books which contain depictions of African American children and families, as ways in which to cultivate a sense of identity both cultural and self for their children.

11:10 a.m.-12:10 p.m.   ~   Shadra Strickland (Illustrator)
Positivity and Fulfilling the Dream
Strickland works to promote self-affirmation and validation for African-American children in order to encourage positivity. Through her work, and her ultimate goal as a picture book author and illustrator, Strickland believes her work is about teaching children how to live their dreams.

12:10-1:30 p.m.   ~   Lunch (on your own)
Many dining options all within a 5-10 minute walk or quick bus ride will be provided to attendees in registration packet.

12:10-5:00 p.m.   ~   Exhibition Viewing
Telling A People’s Story: African-American Children’s Illustrated Literature

1:30-2:30 p.m.   ~   Freedom Summer Memorial Guided Tour (Weather Permitting)
A special guided tour of the Freedom Summer (’64) Memorial on the Western Campus of Miami University, formerly the Western College for Women.