Inspiring Healing Through Coloring Books: Paul Miles’ Ourstory Books
In the summer of 1988, Paul Miles, a man recovering from a broken hip, found solace in an unexpected project – creating a homemade coloring book for his toddlers. Infused with his newfound fascination for historical figures from the Ebony Pictorial History of Black America, Miles sketched likenesses of these lesser-known Black men and women, aiming to educate his children about their positive contributions to American history.
Fast forward 35 years, and Miles has authored, illustrated, and self-published over 50 coloring books, each meticulously researched and beautifully illustrated. His Ourstory Books series profiles various historical figures, ranging from civil rights leader Medgar Evers and entertainer Josephine Baker to astronaut Robert Lawrence and race car driver Charlie “The Negro Speed King” Wiggins. These books serve to educate readers about the lesser-known heroes and heroines of American history, particularly those from Black communities.
Miles’ journey, however, has not been without its challenges. Despite the encouragement of his family and friends, his books have not received the widespread recognition they deserve. Recognizing this, Rodney Jordan, a Norfolk School Board member and nephew of one of Norfolk’s esteemed residents, stepped in to assist. Jordan sent copies of Miles’ latest book to government officials, school board members, the state Board of Education, and even the governor’s office, with plans to extend its reach to libraries and federal officials in Washington.
The latest addition to Miles’ collection focuses on the late Joseph A. Jordan Jr., a prominent civil rights activist, attorney, and former Norfolk city councilman who played a significant role in challenging Virginia’s poll tax. Joseph Jordan’s impact extended far beyond the state and even went on to influence US Supreme Court decisions. Commissioned by Rodney Jordan himself, this book commemorates what would have been Joseph Jordan’s 100th birthday in June.
Miles, who discovered his artistic gift at a young age when he drew Disney characters for his sister’s birthday party, has tirelessly dedicated evenings to creating these books alongside his day job as a driver. He spends months researching and piecing together the lives of the individuals he profiles, shedding light on their contributions throughout history.
Miles’ ultimate dream is to see his books utilized in schools, allowing children to learn from the stories of these extraordinary individuals. While he admits that promotion has not been his strong suit, the collaboration with Rodney Jordan brings hope for wider recognition and distribution.
Paul Miles’ Ourstory Books offer a meaningful and educational journey through lesser-known figures in American history. Through his meticulous research and beautiful illustrations, Miles fosters a greater appreciation for the contributions and achievements of individuals from Black communities. With the support of Rodney Jordan and others, Miles hopes that these books will find their way into the hands of children across the country, inspiring a new generation with stories that bring our shared heritage to life.