Ray Anthony Shepard
“As a fifth-grader in Nebraska, I was one of the few Black students in the class, and when American slavery was taught I was embarrassed by the topic.”
Writers are often inspired by personal situations, whether good or bad, that ignites the fire for their greatest piece of work. Such is the case with Ray Anthony Shepard
Shepard had a great grandfather that was enslaved. His early beginnings growing up was being exposed to his mother’s teachings on her father being born into slavery (1859) and emancipated at the age of 6 years old in 1965. As a young person this first hand experience from his family’s history alongside his school experiences had a significant impact on him as a child and later on down the line as a writer. Shepard talks about the horrific experience of being in school when the topic of slavery was brought up in class. Considering that he was one of the few children of color in his class he couldn’t help but to feel singled out. It caused him to physically feel different from his white peers and implied that he wasn’t as good as his white peers. “ This meant I sat in class knowing I had a grandfather who had been enslaved and a great-grandfather who “owned” him. Nothing in my three years of American history (fifth, eighth and eleventh grades) made that anxiety go away. Those feelings continued in my professional life as a history teacher and textbook editor.” This is what propelled shephard to reach a generation of youth through writing that would change their perspective on American history.
Shepard felt the need to write the book entitled Now or Never. His book opens up the minds of young readers letting them know about the roles of slavery and how it built America and the racial attitudes and how it sustained it. Furthermore he wanted to show the courageous acts of individuals whose actions led to its abolition. Although teaching young people about slavery is hard Shepard wrote his book in a way that young people can understand it. More importantly he wanted young people of color to not feel the shame, guilt and embarrassment that he felt as a kid while being taught about black history. He even goes into greater depth on what the confederate flag really means and the offense surrounding it. His book Now or Never is a must read.
Ray Anthony Shepard is a former teacher and retired editor-in-chief of a major education publishing company. A graduate of the University of Nebraska College of Education and the Harvard Graduate School Education where he received a Martin Luther King Jr. Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. More importantly although a grandson of a slave he didn’t let that define him. He took his personal experiences and rewrote how black history is taught through his first nonfiction work of art Now or Never.
Author profile written by Daisy Copelin.
Learn more at Ray Anthony Shepard’s official website