Audrey Muhammad remembers chatting with her brother in 1996 about how well they could still recite nursery rhymes.
That’s when the idea hit.
“What if there were nursery rhymes that helped children learn about black history?” she said.
Muhammad, an Academic Advisor and Instructor of College Success at Durham Technical Community College, spent the next several years writing nursery rhymes about black historical figures like Martin Luther King, Jr. and modern day figures like Barack Obama and Oprah.
Family members encouraged her to transform her rhymes into a book for all ages.
Last month, Muhammad self-published her book Rhymes of the Times: Black Nursery Rhymes, featuring 28 nursery rhymes that introduce concepts of self-esteem and perseverance all while teaching black history, including “Martin Had a Little Dream,” “Woman on the Bus,” and “Elijah Be Humble, Elijah Be Quick.”
“I hope children will learn to feel good about their history and know that there are a lot of wonderful historical and modern day figures to pattern themselves after,” Muhammad said. “One of the best teachers is a good example and our young people need more good examples in front of them. It’s more than just athletes and rappers. You have entrepreneurs and courageous people that have done wonderful things in the past.”
Before Durham Tech, Muhammad taught as a high school English teacher and said she remembered students not wanting to pick up African-American literature books.
“When I taught high school English, my students said they didn’t want to read African-American literature because they didn’t want to learn about slavery,” Muhammad said. “I thought, that’s all you think black history is about? I was surprised that there was such a negative view of black history. I said you’re just talking about a very limited amount of American history and there’s so much than that. If they look back further, they’ll learn that we built pyramids and had so many inventions, so I included those in the book as well.”
Muhammad says she hopes this book will highlight and uplift black history in a fun and memorable way.
“I hope young people feel good about themselves, aspire to do well in school, and take pride in their family and heritage,” Muhammad said. “The book also helps people from other cultures have respect for a different culture.”
Muhammad set a goal for herself last summer to complete the book by Black History Month so she teamed up with a book consultant, illustrator, and CreateSpace guru to prepare the launch. On February 19, the book officially published.
“It was great to hold the book in my hand for the first time,” Muhammad said. “I wanted to have this book published and I did it. I really took the time to invest in myself to make this happen and I encourage all women to live up to their God-given talents and spend each day doing what they enjoy.”
Muhammad is already thinking about her second book, which will have a similar nursery rhyme theme, but focus on a different culture.
“My daughter has an affinity for different cultures so I’m going to pick her brain on the different cultures I can highlight and uplift for the next book,” Muhammad said. “The more you learn about another culture, the more you can respect it.”