Listen to Ray Anthony Shepard discuss his book, A LONG TIME COMING, with Editorial Director, Carolyn Yoder in this ALA podcast.
A Long Time Coming is the story of six heroes with the strength to challenge the racial barriers of their day. Ona Judge, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barack Obama, changed how Americans think about race. They helped defeat slavery and Jim Crow’s menace and reset the nation’s racial laws and beliefs. It is an “only-in-America” journey—from an enslaved servant in thePresident’s House to a Black president in the White House.
With the approaching 250th anniversary of the United States in 2026, I chose to tell this story in flash lines of verse, prose, and quotes to swiftly engage young readers and show the persistent use of race to advantage one group and disadvantage others. Through my writing, I wanted to encourage empathy for the bravery and sacrifice needed to tear down well-entrenched racial walls without the reader feeling embarrassment or guilt for what happened long before they were born.
This is my 3rd biography showing young readers why race matters in American life. Now or Never! 54th Massachusetts Infantry’s War to End Slavery was a 2018 Carter G. Woodson Honor Book, and Runaway: The Daring Escape of Ona Judge was a 2022 Jane Addams Peace Association Honor Book.
A Long Time Coming is my call to celebrate the promise of America and the grit, resilience, and intelligence still required to reach it.