Benson, Kathleen 1947–
Benson, Kathleen 1947–
Born February 10, 1947, in Keene, NH; daughter of Roland (a technical representative) and Margaret (a secretary) Benson; married Jim Haskins (an author; deceased); children: Margaret Emily. Education: University of Connecticut at Storrs, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1969.
Home—New York, NY. Office—Museum of the City of New York, 1220 5th Ave., New York, NY 10029.
Writer and editor. Education Department, Museum of the City of New York, New York, NY, chair of community and family programming and museum editor, beginning 1969. Children's Book Review Service, co-founder and member of board of directors, 1971. Creator of curriculum kits for Museum of the City of New York. Compiler of indexes for adult and children's books for such publishers as Atheneum, William Morrow, and Scarborough House.
American Association of Museums, New England Museum Association, New York City Museum Educators Roundtable, Phi Beta Kappa, Mortar Board.
Deems Taylor Award, American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, 1979, for Scott Joplin: The Man Who Made Ragtime.
WITH JIM HASKINS, EXCEPT AS NOTED
(With Jim Haskins and Ellen Inkelis) The Great American Crazies, Condor, 1977.
Scott Joplin: The Man Who Made Ragtime, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1978.
The Stevie Wonder Scrapbook, Grosset & Dunlop (New York, NY), 1978.
Lena: A Personal and Professional Biography of Lena Horne, Stein & Day (New York, NY), 1983, published as Lena: A Biography of Lena Horne, Scarborough House (Chelsea, MI), 1991.
Nat King Cole: A Personal and Professional Biography, Stein & Day (New York, NY), 1984, revised, Scarborough House (Chelsea, MA), 1990.
Space Challenger: The Story of Guion Bluford, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1984.
Aretha: A Personal and Professional Biography, Madison, 1987.
(Editor) The Sixties Reader, Viking (New York, NY), 1988.
African Beginnings, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1998.
Bound for America: The Forced Migration of Africans to the New World, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1999.
Out of the Darkness: The Story of Blacks Moving North, 1890-1940, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Carter G. Woodson: The Man Who Put "Black" in American History, illustrated by Melanie Reim, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 2000.
Building a New Land: African Americans in Colonial America, illustrated by James E. Ransome, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
Conjure Times: Black Magicians in America, Walker (New York, NY), 2001.
Following Freedom's Star: The Story of the Underground Railroad, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 2002.
John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement, Lee & Low (New York, NY), 2006.
Africa: A Look Back, Benchmark Books (New York, NY), 2007.
"COUNT YOUR WAY THROUGH" SERIES; WITH JIM HASKINS
Count Your Way through Brazil, illustrated by Liz Brenner Dodson, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1996.
Count Your Way through France, illustrated by Andrea Shine, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1996.
Count Your Way through Greece, illustrated by Janice Lee Porter, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1996.
Count Your Way through Ireland, illustrated by Beth Wright, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 1996.
Count Your Way through Zimbabwe, illustrated by Janie Jaehyun Park, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 2007.
Count Your Way through South Africa, illustrated by Alissa Neibert, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 2007.
Count Your Way through Afghanistan, illustrated by Megan Moore, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 2007.
Count Your Way through Iran, illustrated by Farida Zaman, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 2007.
Count Your Way through Egypt, illustrated by Sue Ramai, Carolrhoda (Minneapolis, MN), 2007.
A Man Called Martin Luther, Concordia (St. Louis, MO), 1980.
Joseph on the Subway Trains, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully, Addison-Wesley (Reading, MA), 1981.
(Editor with Philip M. Kayal) A Community of Many Worlds: Arab Americans in New York City (conference papers), Museum of the City of New York/Syracuse University Press (New York, NY), 2002.
Contributor to The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Curator, and Cobblestone.
Beginning in the early 1970s, Kathleen Benson worked alongside her late husband, children's author Jim Haskins, on many of the books Haskins wrote. "Some I co-wrote and for others I did research, typed or edited manuscripts, and even compiled indexes," she explained on the Lee & Low Books Web site. Haskins, an African American, used writing to share the history of black America with young readers; for Benson, as a Caucasian, the collaboration challenged her to experience things from outside her own culture and gave her a unique insight into race. According to her, "this sensitivity to other ethnicities" inspired her to reach out to the ethnic communities in her native New York City through her job in the education department at the Museum of the City of New York.
The books Benson and Haskins wrote during their long collaboration include several that, grouped together, constitute a history of the black people in the United States. In Bound for America: The Forced Migration of Africans to the New World the coauthors begin with the enslavement of Africans by Europeans, and then follow the horrific treatment of these captives as they were branded, survived life aboard slave ships, and then endured mistreatment as slave workers in the Americas. Moving to the colonial era, Building a New Land: African Americans in Colonial America discusses the contributions of African Americans between 1607 to 1763, while Out of the Darkness: The Story of Blacks Moving North, 1890-1940 provides readers with a window onto the migration of blacks from the former slave states north and west to more industrialized areas following the U.S. Civil War.
Featuring artwork by Floyd Cooper, African Beginnings presents a history of Africa. The book is geared for children in the elementary grades, and covers eleven cultures that arose on the African continent, such as Nubia, Ghana, and Egypt. Haskin and Benson's history then follows the rise and fall of kings and other political leaders, as well as the spread of Islam and other ideologies on the plateau continent. In Publishers Weekly a contributor praised the coauthors' "eloquently written" chapter on the era of colonization, and added that Cooper's "soft-edged, luminous oil paintings" bring to life day-to-day life in a variety of historical epochs.
In addition to broad histories, Benson and Haskins also profiled individuals of color whose impact still reverberates in U.S. society. In Carter G. Woodson: The Man Who Put "Black" in American History they present a biography of a man who, born of former slaves, earned a doctorate at Harvard University and worked tirelessly to publicize the contributions of blacks to the historic record. Focusing on one of the most troubled times in twentieth-century history, John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement follows the life of a civil rights leader and congressman from Georgia. Praising Carter G. Woodson, Shelle Rosenfeld noted in her Booklist review that the coauthors' "profile is well-rounded, acknowledging both Woodson's virtues and shortcomings," and in School Library Journal Eunice Weech described the book as a "well-written, balanced portrayal of Woodson's life and achievements." Reviewing the biography on Lewis, Mary N. Oluonye commended Benson and Haskins in her Booklist review, commenting that the coauthors "have written a lively, readable introduction to this important figure."
Benson once commented: "I was born in New Hampshire and spent my first five years in the small town of Winchester. One of my earliest memories is of the two marble busts of great men (I don't remember who they were) that graced the entryway of the town's public library. I am told that I got my first library card when I was three, and that I insisted I could write my own name on the card and did not want my mother to do it.
"My parents divorced when I was very young. When I was five, my mother remarried and we moved to Connecticut. The small house into which we moved had an unfinished upstairs, and my stepfather worked nights after work and on weekends to create bedrooms for my stepbrother, who was two years older, and me. In my bedroom, he built a knotty-pine shelf across the front of the room, and my mother made a pink fabric skirt for it. It was there that I nestled with a flashlight and read after I should have been in bed. As a child, I liked to read books in series—the ‘Bobbsey Twins’ books and a series about a little girl named Mayda come to mind. I also enjoyed biographies. I could not have been more than eight years old when I proudly announced to friends and relatives that I was reading thirty books a month.
"At the University of Connecticut, I became interested in history and enrolled in the first black-history course taught at the school. While I was still in college, I worked two summers at the Museum of the City of New York, which is dedicated to the history of New York City. I then took a full-time job in the museum's education department, and many years later I am still there. My current title is a mouthful: chair of community and family programming and museum editor! I started New York City History Day, which is part of the National History Day program, and enjoy helping students do historical research and use what they have learned to create projects for History Day. To me, there is nothing more exciting (and sometimes frustrating) than the ‘detective work’ one has to do to uncover the past through primary documents. I serve on various committees and panels of archivists and historians, whose aim is to bring history to life for young people. In January, 1999, I was named one of one hundred twenty-six Centennial Historians in New York City. I also coordinate the museum's exhibitions with outside community and cultural organizations whose work is making history now.
"I have written one work of fiction, published many years ago and long out of print. Joseph on the Subway Trains is about a little boy who got separated from his class while traveling on the subways to visit a museum. Even that book was based on an actual incident involving a class visiting the Museum of the City of New York (the little boy was eventually located at a distant subway station). I prefer nonfiction, because what actually happens to real people is usually more exciting to me than anything I can make up."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Black Issues Book Review, May, 2001, review of Carter G. Woodson: The Man Who Put "Black" in American History, p. 79.
Booklist, September 15, 1996, Susan Dove Lempke, review of Count Your Way through Brazil, p. 243; February 15, 1998, Susan Dove Lempke, review of African Beginnings, p. 1002; December 15, 1998, Hazel Rochman, review of Bound for America: The Forced Migration of Africans to the New World, p. 746; April 1, 2000, Shelle Rosenfeld, review of Carter G. Woodson, p. 1458; July, 2001, Roger Leslie, review of Conjure Times: Black Magicians in America, p. 1995; August, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of Count Your Way through Iran, p. 80; October 1, 2006, Hazel Rochman, review of John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement, p. 50.
Horn Book, January-February, 2007, Joanna Rudge Long, review of review of John Lewis in the Lead, p. 82.
Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2006, review of John Lewis in the Lead, p. 1015.
Kliatt, May, 2005, Patricia Moore, review of Building a New Land: African Americans in Colonial America, p. 44.
Publishers Weekly, December 22, 1997, review of African Beginnings, p. 60; November 20, 2006, review of John Lewis in the Lead, p. 58.
School Library Journal, January, 1999, Ann Welton, review of Bound for America, p. 142; February, 2000, Laura Glaser, review of Out of the Darkness: The Story of Blacks Moving North, 1890-1940, p. 133; July, 2000, Eunice Weech, review of Carter G. Woodson, p. 117; November, 2001, Jennifer Ralston, review of Conjure Times, p. 178; December, 2006, Mary N. Oluonye, review of John Lewis in the Lead, p. 123.
Lee & Low Books Web site,http://www.leeandlow.com/ booktalk (October 27, 2007), "Kathleen Benson."