A is for Arrington: UAB graduate student publishes first children’s book

UAB graduate student discovered an educational need for children’s books about how local African American heroes sprang to action.
Written by: Katherine Kirk
Media Contact: Adam Pope

Hailey MasonHailey Mason
Photography: Ian Logue
University of Alabama at Birmingham student Hailey Mason recently published her first children’s book, “A is for Arrington,” providing young readers insight into the life of Richard Arrington Jr., Ph.D., the first African American mayor of Birmingham, Alabama.

Mason says writing became a form of self-expression in high school, but she never imagined herself writing a children’s book. While participating in a literacy drive for a local elementary school, Mason, who is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public administration through the UAB College of Arts and Sciences, discovered an educational need for children’s books about local African American heroes.

“I was looking for a children’s book on a local African American hero and I could not find one, and it made me realize there was a gap in children’s education,” Mason said. “When deciding where to start with telling these stories, I thought of Arrington because of his history and leadership in Birmingham.”

Mason was able to meet Arrington at a speaking engagement and began research on him and his story.

“The initial idea started at Richard Arrington Jr. Boulevard near UAB’s campus, but I became more inspired by him after meeting him at a speaking engagement,” Mason said. “Through research, I came to know him as a prominent leadership figure and felt the children’s book was an avenue to tell his story.”

Mason says sharing the weight of Black history in the United States is not always easily translated to children. To overcome this, she focused her story on one attribute the figure exhibited. She says Arrington’s legacy was one of leadership in a racially charged Birmingham. While Mason touched on the racial aspects of Arrington’s story, she chose to teach readers about his leadership.

“In telling his story, I didn’t focus on the heaviness. I chose to focus on his leadership in the face of adversity, and I hope that his story inspires the next generation,” Mason said. “It’s important to remember the impact of his legacy and the barriers he broke.”

Mason’s book is an educational tool for children, while showcasing a historical figure who may not receive as much attention as Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King, Jr. She says a lot of times in cities with so much history like Birmingham, historical figures may become lost, but she wants children to grow up knowing these people. 

“My goal is for kids who drive past Richard Arrington, Jr. Boulevard or walk the halls at Richard Arrington, Jr. Elementary to know why he was important to Birmingham,” Mason said.