My People

Common Sense Media says

Photos bring sparkling tone to simple poem of celebration.




Coretta Scott King Medal and Honors

What parents need to know

Educational value

A budding poet, or photographer, can see just how perfectly simple, sepia-toned portraits can be used to express both the meaning of a poem, and also its tone.

Positive messages

This poem celebrates African American boys, girls, men, and women of all ages, and is a simple tribute to the beauty of a people. 

Violence & scariness
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the photographs in this book illustrate a short poem written by Langston Hughes in the late 1920s.

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What's the story?

In the late 1920s, Langston Hughes wrote this simple short poem to celebrate African American people. The photographs in this book translate his words into pictures and add to the celebration. Most are head shots showing smiles, eyes, and hopeful, happy faces. At the end, a message from the photographer explains just how he made the choices he did when choosing photographs to illustrate the poet's words.

Is it any good?


The poem is simple and short, and the photographs are expressive. Taken together, they create a wonderful reminder of just how special and unique people are.  While these photos are all of African American people, since that is whom Langston Hughes celebrates in his poem, the message applies to us all.

Sepia-toned photographs against a black background create a warm and happy tone for this poem of celebration. The artist hoped to show that "like any group of people, black people come in all shapes, sizes, shades, and ages, and that each of us is unique." The poem has been broken into short phrases that dance boldly across the black background in over-sized white or sepia letters.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the art. Why do you think the illustrator used sepia-toned photographs against a black background rather than printing the pages in color? How does that affect the way you see the faces?

  • The illustrator adds strips of photos inside the covers and along the edges of some of the pages. Why do you think he did that? How does it help you understand who he means when he says, "my people"?

Book details

Author:Langston Hughes
Illustrator:Charles R. Smith Jr.
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:January 6, 2009
Number of pages:40
Publisher's recommended age(s):4 - 8
Read aloud:4
Read alone:6
Award:Coretta Scott King Medal and Honors

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Parent of a 13 and 15 year old Written byLenore63 February 13, 2010

The is exactly what he says. "My People"

Langston Hughes had alway been one of my flavorite Author. Most of his work has been towards the older crownd. However, I find to be right on time for both young and older groups. Some picture are self explaminatory.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models


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