Behind the Shelves: Who Said That?

the art exhibit

Your Who Said That? activity looks awesome! I’d love to see all of the pics, descriptions and quotes if you are up for sharing! I think I’d learn something new, too. 🙂


February is Black History Month, and it’s the perfect opportunity to spend extra time talking about amazing Black figures, both past and present, that don’t always get the time that they deserve in our classrooms and curriculum. K-4 Spanish teacher Señora Roth IMG_5839and I partnered to bring some new heroes to the library space in a way that would pique curiosity, spark conversation, and get students thinking and excited. Hearing their reactions the first time students saw the display, I realized… why did we wait until Black History Month to bring these under-recognized American figures into the spotlight?! This was a great reminder for me to feature Black heroes all year round.

Our Who Said That? game features 15 Black Americans, past and present, who have made a lasting and important impact on American history and society. We tried to include a mix of famous figures that students were sure to recognize, and lesser-known names and faces. A photo of each person hangs on the library doors, facing out into the hallway, next to a short biography. When we crafted the biographies, we added little clues that might help the reader connect that person to their quote (for example, Ella Baker’s quote is about how you won’t see IMG_5914her on TV, so we made sure to mention in her biography that she loved working behind the scenes). Each quote is printed on cardstock, numbered, and hung around the library. The idea is that students will go back and forth between the quotes and the doors, trying to match the words to their speaker and learning about new American heroes in the process. Additionally, there are book displays throughout the library filled with stories, biographies, and nonfiction texts featuring Black heroes and characters throughout history and today, so interested students can check them out, share them, and learn more.

The Who Said That game has been such a great conversation starter in our library. It’s amazing to see students making connections, asking questions, and digging deeper together. I’ve gotten a few questions about what has worked for us on social media, so I wanted to share our process and resources for other teachers to use.

Interested in playing the Who Said That game in your library or classroom? Find all of the quotes and biographies that we used below. Scroll down to the bottom to see photos of our display in action. Feel free to take anything that’s useful to you, and make it your own.



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Jason Reynolds

Quote:  “Having a superpower has nothing to do with the ability to fly or jump, or superhuman strength. The truest superpowers are the ones we all possess: willpower, integrity, and most importantly, courage.”
Bio: Jason Reynolds is an American author who writes novels and poetry for young adult and middle-grade audiences, including Ghost, a National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature. Born in Washington, DC and raised in neighboring Oxon Hill, Maryland, Reynolds found inspiration in rap to begin writing poetry at nine years old. Here’s what Jason plans to do: not write boring books.

James Baldwin


Quote: “The point is to get your work done, and your work is to change the world.”
Bio: James Arthur Baldwin was an American novelist, playwright, and novelist regarded as a highly insightful, iconic writer. His essays, as collected in Notes of a Native Son, explore intricacies of racial, sexual, and class distinctions in Western societies, most notably in mid-20th-century America.

Alvin Ailey

Quote: “The creative process is not controlled by a switch you can simply turn on or off; it’s with you all the time.”
Bio:   Alvin Ailey was an African-American choreographer and activist who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Ailey School in New York City. He is credited with popularizing modern dance and revolutionizing African-American participation in 20th-century concert dance.

Rosa Parks

Quote: “As far back as I can remember, I knew there was something wrong with our way of life when people could be mistreated because of the color of their skin.”
Bio: Rosa Louise McCauley Parks was an American activist in the civil rights movement best known for her pivotal role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The United States Congress has called her “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement”.

Muhammad Ali

Quote: “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”
Bio: Muhammad Ali was an American professional boxer, activist, and philanthropist. Nicknamed “The Greatest”, he is widely regarded as one of the most significant and celebrated sports figures of the 20th century and one of the greatest boxers of all time.

Oprah Winfrey

Quote: “Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.”
Bio: Oprah Winfrey is an American media executive, actress, talk show host, television producer and philanthropist. She is best known for her talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show, which was the highest-rated television program of its kind in history and was nationally syndicated from 1986 to 2011 in Chicago.

Ella Baker

Quote: You didn’t see me on television, you didn’t see news stories about me. The kind of role that I tried to play was to pick up pieces or put together pieces out of which I hoped organization might come. My theory is, strong people don’t need strong leaders.
Bio: Ella Josephine Baker was an African-American civil rights and human rights activist. She was a largely behind-the-scenes organizer whose career spanned more than five decades. She worked alongside some of the most famous civil rights leaders of the 20th century.

Shirley Chisholm    

Quote: “I want history to remember me… not as the first black woman to have made a bid for the presidency of the United States, but as a black woman who lived in the 20th century and who dared to be herself. I want to be remembered as a catalyst for change in America.”
Bio: Shirley Anita Chisholm was an American politician, educator, and author. In 1968, she became the first black woman elected to the United States Congress, and she represented New York’s 12th congressional district for seven terms from 1969 to 1983.

Maya Angelou     

Quote: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Bio: Maya Angelou was an American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years.

Langston Hughes

Quote: “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up Like a raisin in the sun? Or does it explode?”
Bio: James Mercer Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri. He moved to New York City as a young man, where he made his career. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form called jazz poetry.

Mae Jemison

Quote: “What we find is that if you have a goal that is very, very far out, and you approach it in little steps, you start to get there faster. Your mind opens up to the possibilities.”
Bio: Mae Carol Jemison is an American engineer, physician and NASA astronaut. She became the first African American woman to travel in space when she went into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on September 12, 1992.

Serena Williams

Quote: “I don’t like to lose — at anything… Yet I’ve grown most not from victories, but setbacks. If winning is God’s reward, then losing is how he teaches us.”
Bio: Serena Jameka Williams is an American professional tennis player. The Women’s Tennis Association ranked her world No. 1 in singles on eight separate occasions between 2002 and 2017. She reached the No. 1 ranking for the first time on July 8, 2002.

Kendrick Lamar

Quote: “I’m trying to learn something new. I’m trying to surround myself with people that inspire me, or at least inquire similar desire.” OR “My whole thing is to inspire, to better people, to better myself forever in this thing that we call rap, this thing that we call hip hop.”
Bio: Kendrick Lamar Duckworth is an American rapper, songwriter, and record producer. He is regarded as one of the most skillful and successful hip hop artists of his generation, with various media outlets branding him the “new king of hip hop”. In 2018, Lamar became the first artist to be award the Pulitzer Prize for Music for a non-classical and non-jazz album.

Amy Sherald

Quote: I want people to be able to imagine life outside of the circumscribed stereotype… Imagination allows you to bend the rules of the temporal world. I just want them to see that a more beautiful world exists beyond the confines of your environment.”
Bio: Amy Sherald is an American painter based in Baltimore, Maryland. She is best known for her portrait paintings. Her choices of subjects look to enlarge the genre of American art historical realism by telling African-American stories within their own tradition, including a portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama.

Barack Obama

Quote: Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
Bio:Barack Hussein Obama II is an American attorney and politician who served as the 44th president of the United States from 2009 to 2017. A member of the Democratic Party, he was the first African American to be elected to the presidency. He previously served as a Senator from Illinois from 2005 to 2008.”



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Black History Month is important, and I’m working on creating a more meaningful and engaging experience for my students this year. Learn more, and follow along, here

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