Skip to Main Content

Let Us March On!

James Weldon Johnson and the Silent Protest Parade

Illustrated by Xia Gordon

About The Book

A moving and inspiring nonfiction picture book about James Weldon Johnson and the first mass all-Black march for civil rights in the United States when 10,000 Black protestors, including children, marched down New York’s Fifth Avenue.

James Weldon Johnson was a man of words. He wrote “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a poem so uplifting and inspiring it became known as the Black national anthem. James was also a leader of the NAACP, and many people turned to him for advice in troubling times. And then was one of those times. White people were hurting Black people in scary and shocking ways.

“Let us march,” James said, “in New York City.” A big protest on the biggest avenue in the biggest city in the country. “And,” he said, “let’s make it a silent march.” Because sometimes silence can be more powerful than screaming and shouting.

In July 1917, James helped lead thousands of children and adults in the Silent Protest Parade as they marched down Fifth Avenue in New York City. Today, the parade stands as an inspiring reminder of the power of protest in all forms, and the power and resilience of young people in the face of ongoing racial hatred and violence.

About The Authors


Yohuru Williams is the distinguished university chair and professor of history and founding director of the Racial Justice Initiative at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. The former chief historian of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, he appeared in Ken Burns’s Jackie Robinson and with Michael G. Long coauthored More Than a Dream: The Radical March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which was longlisted for the National Book Award, and Call Him Jack: The Story of Jackie Robinson, Black Freedom Fighter. He is the author of numerous books, including Teaching Beyond the Textbook.

Michael G. Long has a PhD from Emory University and is the author or editor of numerous books on nonviolent protest, civil rights, LGBTQ+ rights, politics, and religion. With Yohuru Williams he coauthored More Than a Dream: The Radical March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which was longlisted for the National Book Award, and Call Him Jack: The Story of Jackie Robinson, Black Freedom Fighter. His other acclaimed books include Unstoppable: How Bayard Rustin Organized the 1963 March on Washington and Troublemaker for Justice: The Story of Bayard Rustin, the Man Behind the March on Washington. He also served as an expert historian for Ken Burns’s documentary Jackie Robinson. He lives in Pennsylvania with his family.

About The Illustrator

Xia Gordon graduated from the School of Visual Arts with a BFA in cartooning and illustration. She is the illustrator of A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks by Alice Faye Duncan and Let Us March On! by Yohuru Williams and Michael G. Long and has worked with clients such as The New York Times, BuzzFeed, Lenny Letter, and Narratively. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Visit her at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (May 28, 2024)
  • Length: 48 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781665902793
  • Ages: 4 - 8

Browse Related Books

Raves and Reviews

"James Weldon Johnson was a highly respected lawyer, teacher, and writer. When he spoke,

“people listened.” Addressing a crowd in the aftermath of troubling violence, he proposed that the

Black community respond with a silent protest march down the biggest street in the largest city in

America. … Gordon’s handsome digital artwork illustrates the story with dignity in this expressive picture book."

– Booklist

"The idea that a man of words could harness silence to convey a powerful message comes through loudly. Expressive digital illustrations in a palette of browns, tans, yellows, and fiery oranges support the storytelling. . . A moving depiction of a potent response to a dark period in U.S. history."

– Kirkus Reviews

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images