Heart and soul: Portraits of black American history
26 January 2012 Last updated at 10:59 GMT
From slavery to segregation, the history of black people in the United States is impossible to tell without mentioning some of the nation's darkest secrets.
While these hard truths cannot be ignored, however, the story of the African American experience is much more than a centuries-long struggle to overcome racism and violence.
In his new children's book, Heart and Soul: the story of America and African Americans, award-winning artist Kadir Nelson celebrates the key moments and characters in black history.
The book's unnamed narrator, inspired by Nelson's own grandmother, guides the reader through a series of transformational moments from colonial times to the civil rights era.
He told the BBC how he hopes the book will help young people better understand how black Americans helped shape the country's history.