Dear America Wiki
Dear America Wiki
Not to be confused with "Color Me Dark" (film) or the play.

"The conductor announced that we were entering Chicago. But it took us forty-five minutes to actually get into the station. I looked out the window the whole time, my face pressed against the glass. Chicago is an amazing place, not like any place in the whole wide world. And it's my—our—new home."
Nellie Lee Love[2]

Color Me Dark: The Diary of Nellie Lee Love, the Great Migration North is the seventeenth book in the Dear America series. The book was written by Patricia C. McKissack and is her second book for the series. It was published in April 2000 and followed by A Coal Miner's Bride. The book was also adapted into a television film and a stage play.

Nellie Lee Love's family moves to Chicago, Illinois in 1919, trying to escape the racism in the south.


"To Maya Cantrell on the occasion of her first communion 1999"

Book description[]

"January 2, 1919
Some people are so color struck. They think being light-skinned is better than being dark! Mama says that's nonsense and I think so, too. I love it when Mama tells about her grandmother, Lizzie Palmer. She was a slave. After the war, because she was so light-skinned many people thought she was white. But when people asked Lizzie Palmer if she was white, she'd always answer, "No, color me dark."
Daddy won't stand for color talk, either. He says a Colored family is like a beautiful bouquet of flowers—all different colors, sizes, and shapes. But each one beautiful in his or her own way. We only need to look at Daddy's side of the family to see that he's telling us the truth. The Love family is just like the bouquet Daddy described.


In 1919, Nellie Lee Love lives in Bradford Corners, Tennessee with her parents Olive and Freeman, grandparents Grandma Nessie and Papa Till, and older sister Erma Jean. Her father and grandfather run Love and Sons Funeral Home in the small town. The whole family is eagerly awaiting the return of her uncle Pace who has been fighting in a war. In February, the sheriff brings a badly hurt Pace. He clings to life for two days, before passing on. Erma Jean stops speaking after seeing him die.

The whole family gathers for Pace's funeral, excluding Nellie Lee's older brother William. Two weeks later, Freeman takes Erma Jean to Chicago, Illinois to have her treated there. He and Olive later decide to move Chicago in hopes of opening his own funeral home there. In May, Freeman returns to Chicago with his wife and Nellie Lee. The family moves into a small apartment on State Street. Nellie Lee becomes friends with a girl in the building, Rosie Hamilton.

In the meantime, Nellie Lee becomes curious of how her uncle Meese makes his living. She and her sister collect several clues, eventually learning that he runs an upscale nightclub, which their parents hid from them. Later that summer, the drowning of the Loves' neighbor Eugene Williams sparks a bloody race riot that lasts for days. When Freeman wants to go outside, Erma Jean finds her voice and begs him not to go. She then reveals that Pace was beaten by a group of men for sitting in a whites-only carriage.

She and her sister are both placed in the third grade when they begin school that fall. A month later, Nellie Lee misses school for weeks after catching the measles. She returns in time to participate in the Thanksgiving play. In late November, Freeman is finally able to open Love and Sons Funeral Home, North after being denied several times for a business license. Following Christmas and her birthday, Nellie Lee reflects on the past year. She misses her old home, "but her [in Chicago] Colored people have a chance."


Historical Note[]


Main article: List of Color Me Dark characters
  • Nellie Lee Love is the eleven-year-old daughter of Olive and Freeman Love. She lives with her parents and older sister in Tennessee, before moving to Chicago in 1919.
  • Erma Jean Love, the twelve-year-old sister of Nellie Lee. After a traumatizing event, she is unable to speak. Her father brings her Chicago for treatment and later moves everyone there permanently.



"Color Me Dark" on VHS

Color Me Dark was adapted into a short television film in 2000. The film was produced by Scholastic Entertainment and aired on the HBO Family Channel. It was released on video cassette the same year. Makyla Smith starred in the film as Nellie Lee. In 2003, Scholastic Entertainment and the Kennedy Center co-commissioned a play based on Color Me Dark. It had a national tour from 2004 to 2005. The play was also put on at the Crossroads Theatre in 2003 and The Ensemble Theatre in 2006.


Main article: Patricia C. McKissack

Patricia C. McKissack was an American children's writer whom wrote about African-American history. She wrote three books in the Dear America series, including Look to the Hills and A Picture of Freedom. McKissack also contributed Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba to The Royal Diaries.Her own family inspired the Love family in Color Me Dark. Her grandfather witnessed the Chicago race riot of 1919 and credited his family with helping him survive it.


  • Indian Paintbrush Book Award (2002) - nominated[3]



  • The portrait on the cover is a detail from the 1928 painting Ruby Green Singing by James Chapin. The background is a detail from a 1900 photograph of South Water Street in Chicago from the Corbis Historical Collection.[4][5][6]


See also[]

Arts & Crafts, File:Color Me Dark Crossword.pdf, File:Color Me Dark Discussion Guide.pdf

Dear America

A Journey to the New World | The Winter of Red Snow | When Will This Cruel War Be Over? | A Picture of Freedom
Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie | So Far from Home | I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly
West to a Land of Plenty | Dreams in the Golden Country | Standing in the Light | Voyage on the Great Titanic
A Line in the Sand | My Heart Is on the Ground | The Great Railroad Race | The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow
A Light in the Storm | Color Me Dark | A Coal Miner's Bride | My Secret War | One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping
Valley of the Moon | Seeds of Hope | Early Sunday Morning | My Face to the Wind | Christmas After All
A Time for Courage | Where Have All the Flowers Gone? | Mirror, Mirror on the Wall | Survival in the Storm
When Christmas Comes Again | Land of the Buffalo Bones | Love Thy Neighbor | All the Stars in the Sky
Look to the Hills | I Walk in Dread | Hear My Sorrow


The Fences Between Us | Like the Willow Tree | Cannons at Dawn | With the Might of Angels | Behind the Masks
Down the Rabbit Hole | A City Tossed and Broken

External links[]