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The Seven Days of Kwanzaa

The Seven Days of Kwanzaa

by Angela Shelf Medearis

In the aftermath of the Watts race riots in Los Angeles in 1965, a California professor named Maulana Karenga created the holiday of Kwanzaa to instill in African Americans a sense of cultural identity and unity that he found missing in their communities. From its first observance in 1965, Kwanzaa — from the Swahili word meaning "first" — was meant to evoke African harvest ceremonies, which traditionally celebrated unity, prosperity, and history while also including plenty of festive eating, music, and dancing all of which made the event unlike any other in the calendar.

Dr. Karenga incorporated into Kwanzaa various African traditions and symbols to remind African Americans of their rich heritage, and to encourage them to continue to use those same traditions and symbols in strengthening and enriching their lives throughout the rest of the year. Beginning December 26, each of Kwanzaa's seven days addresses a different principle important both to community and individual alike. And each day a biography of an African-American man or woman is told to further illustrate that day's principle. Angela Shelf Medearis recounts seven such stories, including the history of Olympic champion Wilma Randolph for kujichagulia, or day of self-determination.

Far from being simply a history or even an explanation on the practice of Kwanzaa, this fun, informative manual also features: a glossary of Swahili terms used throughout the holiday, recipes for traditional African dishes, and easy-to-follow instructions for making Zawadi gifts — handmade, inspirational gifts usually given out on the last day of Kwanzaa.

9, 10, 11
Interest Level
Grades 4 - 6
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading
Scholastic Inc.
Book Type
Activity Book
Number of Pages
Biography and Autobiography, Functional and How-To, Informational Text

About the Author

Contributor Image Alt Tag Angela Shelf Medearis Children's author Angela Shelf Medearis started writing to make sure young African Americans could see themselves reflected in the books they read. Medearis currently directs Book Boosters, a multicultural program that concentrates on the reading of creative writing and drama.

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