Carole Boston Weatherford reads from book commemorating 100th anniversary of Harriet Tubman’s death
By NICK WORT
With 40 books published and counting, numerous awards and a spot on the New York Times bestsellers list, Carole Boston Weatherford’s career has been nothing short of successful
Weatherford, an English teacher at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina, traveled to South Bend to perform a reading from her book “Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom.” The reading was in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Tubman’s death, and was a part of IU South Bend’s Black History Month celebration and activities.
“I initially set out to write a story about Harriet Tubman to read at a storytelling festival,” said Weatherford. “So I wrote this story and read it at the festival. A few years later, my church was having a Black History Month program. And I said ‘Let’s try something different. I’ve got this story; maybe we can do a reader’s theater.’ They performed it as a reader’s theater with the chorus chiming in singing African American spirituals.”
After seeing her work performed, Weatherford went on to considerably change the script, transforming it into her bestselling book.
“I didn’t intend for it to be a book at first, I wasn’t trying to get it published,” Weatherford said. “Once I decided that I wanted to make it a children’s book, it took about two or three years to find a publisher then another two years, maybe even three or four for it to even be published, and it had to be illustrated of course.”
Weatherford started writing when she was just a young girl. She recited her first poem to her mother when she was in first grade. Her mother responded with encouragement and had her father, a high school print teacher, make copies of her early work.
“I’ve always been able to string words together in my brain and write them down; phrases, lines, sentences, so that I won’t forget them. That’s how it started,” Weatherford said.
Generally, Weatherford’s work focuses on historical subjects retold in a format suitable for children’s books. She looks for subjects that have not been turned into children’s books, or have not been approached the way she plans.
The book Weatherford read from, “Moses,” made the New Your Times bestsellers list, received the Coretta Scott King award and an NAACP Image Award in 2007.
Weatherford has drawn influence from a number of different people throughout her career, including Harriet Tubman, Langston Hughes and her parents. These influences have shown up prominently in her work. Notably, Weatherford draws a huge influence from Billie Holiday and jazz music in general.
“Most of my books have some kind of musical element, or at least allude to music. I love music, it’s one of my escapes,” she said. “Billie holiday is my muse, she inspires me.The book I wrote about her called ‘Becoming Billie Holiday,’ that’s one of my proudest accomplishments.”
Weatherford also noted that she takes pride in raising her children, having published 40 books and being able to influence young children throughout the world.
Though this is the first time Weatherford has read in South Bend, she does have some ties to IUSB.
“Marvin Curtis and I worked together at Fayetteville State University. He was an administrator there before coming here. He and I had collaborated on a production of ‘Moses,’ He decided that he wanted to do it here to commemorate the100th anniversary of her death,” said Weatherford. “So that’s why I’m here. I didn’t choose IU, it chose me!”
Her book “Moses” was acted out by dancers at IUSB in February as part of the “Lift Every Voice: A Celebration of the African Spirit” concert.
Weatherford has two new books that have been recently released, “A Bat Cave” and “Africa.”
More information on Weatherford and her books can be found at cbweatherford.com. More information on future RaclinSchool of the Arts events can be found at www.iusb.edu/arts/artsboxofficeevents.