Black Was the Ink

By Booklist

Coles’ stunning debut celebrates forgotten heroes and better futures. Malcolm Williams is a Black teen living in DC with his mother; his father is absent from his life due to a violent tragedy during Malcom’s infancy. When Malcolm has a terrifying run-in with the police, his mother sends him to his dad’s family farm in Mississippi—the last place on Earth that Malcolm wants to go. Initially, Malcolm isn’t bothered when he learns the farm is in danger of being acquired by the state, but soon otherworldly powers change his opinion by sending him back in time to 1866 and stuffing him into the body of Cedric Johnson, one of his ancestors. While walking in Cedric’s shoes, Malcolm meets several Black heroes who fought for change during the Reconstruction era. The experience is both astounding and crushing. After all, if the heroes Malcolm meets didn’t achieve lasting change, how can he ever make a difference? In the end, Malcolm must learn how to fight for his convictions and employ the lessons he learns from the past to save his family’s legacy and future. Coles sensitively explores what it means to care about something, fight for something, and effect lasting change. Teens will immediately connect with Malcom’s journey and readily identify the real-life issues involving systematic oppression, social justice, and racism that Coles poignantly examines. A powerful story.