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Pittsburgh Author Writes Stories Left Out Of History Books

author_jonah.jpg
Suzanne Clary
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Courtesy of the author

Pittsburgh author Jonah Winter wants to make the founding fathers, the Voting Rights Act, and the Supreme Court accessible to kids.

 

Winter said he wants his books to highlight the facts he thinks are left out of the history books.

“Most children’s books make no reference to [Thomas Jefferson’s] paternity of Sally Hemings children,” Winter said, as an example. “Sally Hemings was an enslaved person who was owned by him and was the mother of four of his children. This is left out of the history books,” said Winter. “Here in this country, we want to protect the idea of Thomas Jefferson as this unapproachable figure whose main legacy were the words ‘All men are created equal,’ though his life was a total contradiction of that premise.”

Many of Winter’s books, like his recent “Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of RBG v. Inequality” focus on the life of an important person in American history before they enter the public sphere.

“[The book] deals with all sorts of prejudice she dealt with, both anti-Semitic prejudice but largely misogynist prejudice,” Winter said. “The sorts of details that I talk about in the book are things that any child could understand.”

But while young readers will connect with the tangible details of an historic figure’s life, Winter said it’s hard to say whether or not they’ll understand why he wants to fill in the gaps in history books.

“I think sometimes it takes children a while to fully absorb what they have listened to,” he said. “I’ll have just given this long, impassioned talk about justice and women's rights and who the founding fathers were, and voting rights, and the fact that only white men were allowed to vote … and then they'll ask me if I have a dog.”

Lucy Perkins is an editor and also reports on federal government and elections for the Government and Accountability team. Before joining the WESA newsroom, she was an NPR producer in Washington, D.C., working on news programs like All Things Considered and Weekend Edition. You can reach her at lperkins@wesa.fm.
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