Tag Archives: civil rights

This Promise of Change by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy

This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy. January 8, 2019. Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 320 p. ISBN: 9781681198521.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.3.

In 1956, one year before federal troops escorted the Little Rock 9 into Central High School, fourteen year old Jo Ann Allen was one of twelve African-American students who broke the color barrier and integrated Clinton High School in Tennessee. At first things went smoothly for the Clinton 12, but then outside agitators interfered, pitting the townspeople against one another. Uneasiness turned into anger, and even the Clinton Twelve themselves wondered if the easier thing to do would be to go back to their old school. Jo Ann–clear-eyed, practical, tolerant, and popular among both black and white students—found herself called on as the spokesperson of the group. But what about just being a regular teen? This is the heartbreaking and relatable story of her four months thrust into the national spotlight and as a trailblazer in history. Based on original research and interviews and featuring backmatter with archival materials and notes from the authors on the co-writing process.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Racism, Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 5))
Grades 5-9. Students of school-desegregation history know of the Little Rock 9, but probably fewer are familiar with the Clinton 12, who integrated a Tennessee high school a full year earlier, in 1956. Boyce, one of the 12, recounts her story in a series of moving narrative poems that detail mid-twentieth-century segregation practices in the South; introduce her family and their place in the town; describe the early, relatively civilized integration of the school; and explain how the introduction of outside agitators heightened tensions and led to violence. Boyce’s positive attitude about her experiences invites reader identification. Yes, she and others endured unrelenting pressure and threats, but the cause was important and the results worthwhile. The poems (mostly free verse with a sprinkling of other forms) personalize this history, and interspersed newspaper headlines and quotes situate the response of the larger world. Generous back matter includes additional information about the Clinton 12, a time line, period photos, sources, and further reading. Engrossing, informative, and important for middle-grade collections.

Kirkus Reviews starred (October 15, 2018)
An autobiographical account in verse of a teen pioneering school desegregation in the South. Jo Ann Allen lives up on a hill with the other black residents of Clinton, Tennessee. They travel to Knoxville to attend the black schools, but in 1956, two years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, a judge in Knoxville tells Clinton officials that they must integrate immediately. Jo Ann is one of 12 black students who enroll in the all-white Clinton High School. With co-author Levy, she tells her story of that year in poems grouped by her relationship to her town (“Mine, Theirs and Ours”; “Fear,” etc.). Most of the white people who support the black students do so only out of civic duty to obey the law. Still, there are moments of hope, as when her white classmates elect her vice president of their homeroom; it seems she might make friends. But then hatred and violence overtake the town of Clinton, necessitating federal law enforcement to keep the peace. Readers will empathize with Jo Ann’s honest incredulity: “Mouths spewing insults. / (Do these mouths sing hymns on Sunday? / Do they say ‘I love you’?)” One timely poem remembers a local election in which “every single / white supremacist/ segregationist / candidate / lost.” Such gems relevant to today’s politics, along with the narrator’s strong inner voice, make this offering stand out. Powerful storytelling of a not-so-distant past. (epilogue, authors’ notes, photos, timeline, sources, bibliography, further reading) (Verse memoir. 9-14)

About the Authors

Jo Ann Allen Boyce was one of 12 students to desegregate Clinton High School in 1956. She has worked as a professional singer and a nurse. She lives in Los Angeles.

 

I (Debbie Levy) write books — nonfiction, fiction, and poetry — for people of all different ages, and especially for young people. Before starting my writing career, I was a newspaper editor; before that, I was a lawyer with a Washington, D.C. law firm. I have a bachelor’s degree in government and foreign affairs from the University of Virginia, and a law degree and master’s degree in world politics from the University of Michigan. I live in Maryland with my husband. We have two grown sons. Besides writing, I love to kayak, boat, fish, and otherwise mess around in the Chesapeake Bay region.

Her website is www.debbielevybooks.com

Teacher Resources

This Promise of Change on Common Sense Media

Around the Web

This Promise of Change on Amazon

This Promise of Change on Barnes and Noble

This Promise of Change on Goodreads

This Promise of Change on LibraryThing

This Promise of Change Publisher Page

Dark Sky Rising by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Dark Sky Rising: Reconstruction and the Rise of Jim Crow by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. January 29, 2019. Scholastic, 240 p. ISBN: 9781338262049.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1200.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. presents a journey through America’s past and our nation’s attempts at renewal in this look at the Civil War’s conclusion, Reconstruction, and the rise of Jim Crow segregation.

This is a story about America during and after Reconstruction, one of history’s most pivotal and misunderstood chapters. In a stirring account of emancipation, the struggle for citizenship and national reunion, and the advent of racial segregation, the renowned Harvard scholar delivers a book that is illuminating and timely. Real-life accounts drive the narrative, spanning the half century between the Civil War and Birth of a Nation. Here, you will come face-to-face with the people and events of Reconstruction’s noble democratic experiment, its tragic undermining, and the drawing of a new “color line” in the long Jim Crow era that followed. In introducing young readers to them, and to the resiliency of the African American people at times of progress and betrayal, Professor Gates shares a history that remains vitally relevant today.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Racism, Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 9))
Grades 7-11. A striking image on the book jacket will draw readers to this richly informative but uneven presentation on the many progressive changes during the Reconstruction era, as well as their later dismantling, which led to a resurgence of intolerance, injustice, and violence against black Americans, particularly in the South. The book is well researched, though densely packed with facts and often written in complex sentences, including many quotes from nineteenth-century documents and later historians. The writers assume that their readers have a fuller knowledge of the period and a larger vocabulary than can be expected of most middle-grade readers. Attempting to clarify a quote from Andrew Johnson, inchoate is defined within the text as embryonic, a word nearly as puzzling to most young readers. Black-and-white reproductions of archival photos, prints, and documents illustrate the text. While the topic is complex and perhaps too broad for one book, it’s also fundamental to understanding the background of racial issues in America. A challenging but worthwhile choice for somewhat older readers.

Kirkus Reviews (November 15, 2018)
“In your hands you are holding my book…my very first venture in writing for young readers,” Gates writes in a preface. And readers can tell…though probably not in the way Gates and co-author Bolden may have aimed for. The book opens with a gripping scene of formerly enslaved African-Americans celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation. It proceeds to engagingly unfold the facts that led to Reconstruction and its reaction, Jim Crow, until it disrupts the flow with oddly placed facts about Gates’ family’s involvement in the war, name-dropping of other historians, and the occasional conspicuous exclamation (“Land! That’s what his people most hungered for”). Flourishes such as that last sit uneasily with the extensive quotations from secondary sources for adults, as if Gates and Bolden are not sure whether their conceptual audience is young readers or adults, an uncertainty established as early as Gates’ preface. They also too-frequently relegate the vital roles of black women, such as Harriet Tubman, to sidebars or scatter their facts throughout the book, implicitly framing the era as a struggle between African-American men and white men. In the end, this acts as a reminder to readers that, although a person may have a Ph.D. and have written successfully in some genres and media, that does not mean they can write in every one, even with the help of a veteran in the field. Well-intentioned, well-researched, but awkwardly written considering the caliber of the scholar and his expected scholarship. (selected sources, endnotes, index) (Nonfiction. 8-12)

About the Author

Henry Louis Gates Jr. is a Professor of African and African-American Studies at Harvard University and Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. He is well-known as a literary critic, an editor of literature, and a proponent of black literature and black cultural studies.

His website is https://aaas.fas.harvard.edu/people/henry-louis-gates-jr

Teacher Resources

Dark Sky Rising Discussion Guide

Around the Web

Dark Sky Rising on Amazon

Dark Sky Rising on Barnes and Noble

Dark Sky Rising on Goodreads

Dark Sky Rising on LibraryThing

Dark Sky Rising Publisher Page

Attucks!: Oscar Robinson and the Basketball Team that Awakened a City by Phillip Hoose

Attucks!: Oscar Robinson and the Basketball Team that Awakened a City by Phillip Hoose. October 23, 2018. Farrar, Straus and Girou, 212 p. ISBN: 9780374306120.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1110.

The true story of the all-black high school basketball team that broke the color barrier in segregated 1950s Indiana, masterfully told by National Book Award winner Phil Hoose.

By winning the state high school basketball championship in 1955, ten teens from an Indianapolis school meant to be the centerpiece of racially segregated education in the state shattered the myth of their inferiority. Their brilliant coach had fashioned an unbeatable team from a group of boys born in the South and raised in poverty. Anchored by the astonishing Oscar Robertson, a future college and NBA star, the Crispus Attucks Tigers went down in history as the first state champions from Indianapolis and the first all-black team in U.S. history to win a racially open championship tournament—an integration they had forced with their on-court prowess.
From native Hoosier and award-winning author Phillip Hoose comes this true story of a team up against impossible odds, making a difference when it mattered most.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Racism, Strong language

 

Book Trailer

Related Video

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. Anyone who’s seen Hoosiers has an idea how crazy Indianans are about basketball. What it doesn’t hint at, though, is the story Newbery Honor Book author Hoose tells—that not only was Indiana, and its capital, Indianapolis, nuts about b-ball, but that the success of a black high school, built in the 1920s at the instigation of the Ku Klux Klan, would through its hardwood success drive integration in the 1950s in a place known as “the South of the North.” Crispus Attucks High School didn’t even have an adequate gym, nor were they initially allowed to play other public schools, but in the early 1950s, things slowly began to change. The 1954–55 team won the state championship, finally overcoming bad officiating and gaining the respect of the still largely segregated city. As Hoose puts it, “Attucks varsity were becoming activists for racial justice by excelling at something that was dearly prized by whites.” The story of triumph covers personalities as well as history: Oscar Robertson, the NBA basketball great, was the centerpiece of a team led by Ray Crowe, a remarkable coach. Their backgrounds and what drove them are woven into the exciting descriptions of games. Excessively readable, this should appeal to sports fans and those looking for a good book about the civil rights era. Exemplary notes and sources will push readers—adults included—to learn even more.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2018)
Acclaimed author Hoose (The Boys Who Challenged Hitler, 2015, etc.) returns to his home state with the true story of the all-black high school basketball team that broke the color barrier in segregated 1950s Indianapolis, anchored by one of the greatest players of all time. Recently honored with the NBA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Oscar Robertson is known for his accomplishments both as an athlete and advocate for NBA players. However, few know the story of how the Naptown basketball savant was able to lead his segregated high school to back-to-back state championships. Hoose does a brilliant job of portraying the surrounding historical context, exploring the migration of black families from the South to Indiana, showing how Jim Crow practices were just as present in the North as in the South, and describing the deep groundswell of support for basketball in Indiana. The inspiration for the book was the Big O himself, who told Hoose that the Ku Klux Klan “did something they couldn’t foresee by making Attucks an all-black school. The city of Indianapolis integrated because we were winning.” Could basketball have served as a pathway to racial progress within the Hoosier state? Attucks! doesn’t pretend that we’ve outlived the racism of the American past, all the while showing readers how being grounded in one’s self-worth and committed to the pursuit of excellence can have a lasting impact on a community. A powerful, awe-inspiring basketball-driven history. (biographies, sources, notes, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Phillip Hoose is the widely-acclaimed author of books, essays, stories, songs, and articles, including the National Book Award winning book, Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice.

A graduate of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences, Hoose has been a staff member of The Nature Conservancy since 1977, dedicated to finding and protecting habitats of endangered species.

A songwriter and performing musician, Phillip Hoose is a founding member of the Children’s Music Network and a member of the band Chipped Enamel. He lives in Portland, Maine.

His website is philliphoose.wordpress.com/

Teacher Resources

Attucks! Educator’s Guide

Around the Web

Attucks! on Amazon

Attucks! on Barnes and Noble

Attucks! on Goodreads

Attucks! on LibraryThing

Attucks! Publisher Page

The Schoolhouse Gate by Justin Driver

The Schoolhouse Gate: Public Education, the Supreme Court, and the Battle for the American Mind by Justin Driver. September 4, 2018. Pantheon Books, 576 p. ISBN: 9781101871652.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

An award-winning constitutional law scholar at the University of Chicago (who clerked for Judge Merrick B. Garland, Justice Stephen Breyer, and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor) gives us an engaging and alarming book that aims to vindicate the rights of public school stu­dents, which have so often been undermined by the Supreme Court in recent decades.

Judicial decisions assessing the constitutional rights of students in the nation’s public schools have consistently generated bitter controversy. From racial segregation to un­authorized immigration, from antiwar protests to compul­sory flag salutes, from economic inequality to teacher-led prayer—these are but a few of the cultural anxieties dividing American society that the Supreme Court has addressed in elementary and secondary schools. The Schoolhouse Gate gives a fresh, lucid, and provocative account of the historic legal battles waged over education and illuminates contemporary disputes that continue to fracture the nation.

Justin Driver maintains that since the 1970s the Supreme Court has regularly abdicated its responsibility for protecting students’ constitutional rights and risked trans­forming public schools into Constitution-free zones. Students deriving lessons about citizenship from the Court’s decisions in recent decades would conclude that the following actions taken by educators pass constitutional muster: inflicting severe corporal punishment on students without any proce­dural protections, searching students and their possessions without probable cause in bids to uncover violations of school rules, random drug testing of students who are not suspected of wrongdoing, and suppressing student speech for the view­point it espouses. Taking their cue from such decisions, lower courts have upheld a wide array of dubious school actions, including degrading strip searches, repressive dress codes, draconian “zero tolerance” disciplinary policies, and severe restrictions on off-campus speech.

Driver surveys this legal landscape with eloquence, highlights the gripping personal narratives behind landmark clashes, and warns that the repeated failure to honor students’ rights threatens our basic constitutional order. This magisterial book will make it impossible to view American schools—or America itself—in the same way again

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Drugs, Homophobic slur, Mild sexual themes, Racism, Strong language

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2018)
A compendium of constitutional law as it relates to public schools.In his book-length debut, Driver (Law/Univ. of Chicago), an editor of the Supreme Court Review and former Supreme Court clerk for Sandra Day O’Connor and Stephen Breyer, assembles a coherent summary of court opinions governing a wide variety of topics bearing on public education. He contends that “the public school has served as the single most significant site of constitutional interpretation within the nation’s history.” This is because “the cultural anxieties that pervade the larger society often flash where law and education converge….Then we engage in an argument that is fundamentally about what sort of nation we want the United States to be.” Driver explores the strange twists of school desegregation law flowing from Brown v. Board of Education along with wide-ranging coverage of such topics as students’ freedom of expression; the place of prayer and religion in schools; school discipline, searches, and drug testing; and interdistrict funding disparities. The author accompanies the summaries of the decisions themselves with a survey of their receptions in the popular press and in legal academic circles. Driver often adds his own opinions of many of the decisions, but he is not overbearing about it, and his positions are generally well-grounded and well-argued. The topics are thoughtfully organized and presented in a style that is precise enough for lawyers while remaining lively for educators and concerned parents, always keeping in view the human stories behind the landmark cases. One of Driver’s major concerns is that students will get early and vivid impressions of their rights as citizens from their treatment at school, and he often finds that treatment wanting. Thorough, accessible, and always relevant, this is a valuable service and reference for legal practitioners, educators, parents, and citizens concerned about constitutional rights in the context of public education.

Publishers Weekly (June 18, 2018)
University of Chicago Law professor Driver, a former clerk for two Supreme Court Justices, examines the intersection of the Supreme Court and the public school system in this scrupulous study of two vital American institutions. Driver smartly analyzes how the Constitution applies to disciplinary actions, free speech, prayer in schools, and searches and seizures. In addition, Driver discusses less-understood constitutional issues including permissible mechanisms for school funding and complicated problems related to school integration arising from Brown v. Board of Education. Driver’s approach to each precedent includes a sophisticated legal discussion of the Court’s majority and dissenting opinions, a recounting of how the decisions were received by the media and legal commentators, followed by his own illuminating, often contrarian analysis of the case’s importance. This structure allows him to cohesively construct his argument that the balance between students’ rights and the right of school administrators and local governments has shifted too far away from the students, to the detriment of society as a whole. Readers with the ability to grapple with complex constitutional issues will find much to learn from Driver’s independent thinking and unique insights.

About the Author

Justin Driver is the Harry N. Wyatt Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. A graduate of Brown, Oxford (where he was a Mar­shall Scholar), and Harvard Law School (where he was an edi­tor of the Harvard Law Review), Driver clerked for Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer and Sandra Day O’Connor. A recipient of the American Society for Legal History’s William Nelson Cromwell Article Prize, Driver has a distinguished publication record in the nation’s leading law reviews. He has also written extensively for lay audiences, including pieces in Slate, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and The New Republic, where he was a contributing editor. A member of the American Law Institute and the American Constitution Society’s Academic Advisory Board, Driver is also an edi­tor of The Supreme Court Review. Before attending law school, Driver received a master’s degree in education from Duke and taught civics and American history to high school students.

Around the Web

The Schoolhouse Gate on Amazon

The Schoolhouse Gate on Barnes & Noble

The Schoolhouse Gate on Goodreads

The Schoolhouse Gate Publisher Page

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Just Mercy: A True Story of the Fight for Justice (adapted for young adults) by Bryan Stevenson. September 18, 2018. Delacorte Press, 277 p. ISBN: 9780525580041.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 1130.

In this young adult adaptation of the acclaimed bestselling Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson delves deep into the broken U.S. justice system, detailing from his personal experience his many challenges and efforts as a lawyer and social advocate, especially on behalf of America’s most rejected and marginalized people.

In this very personal work–proceeds of which will go to charity–Bryan Stevenson recounts many and varied stories of his work as a lawyer in the U.S. criminal justice system on behalf of those in society who have experienced some type of discrimination and/or have been wrongly accused of a crime and who deserve a powerful advocate and due justice under the law.

Through the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), an organization Stevenson founded as a young lawyer and for which he currently serves as Executive Director, this important work continues. EJI strives to end mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, working to protect basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Criminal culture, Mild sexual themes, Racism

 

Author Video

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. Stevenson brought the topic of mass incarceration to the forefront in his critically acclaimed, Carnegie Award–winning Just Mercy​ (2014). In this adaptation for young people, Stevenson once again describes the difficult work he’s faced as a lawyer and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, based in Mobile, Alabama. As he focuses on the case of Walter McMillian, a poor African American man wrongfully convicted of capital murder, he brings to light alarming racial and socioeconomic disparities in the criminal-justice system, particularly the overwhelming number of poor and black prisoners without adequate legal representation and on death row. The author also weaves in stories of mistreated prisoners with mental illness, female prisoners abused by male guards, and other atrocities. The stories that will resonate most with adolescent readers, however, are those of teens, even as young as 13 and 14, sentenced to life in prison in adult facilities. While calling out needs for prison reform, Stevenson asks readers to consider a just mercy for the prisoners mentioned in the book and those like them. A just mercy would see prisoners as human beings, taking into consideration their often trauma-filled backgrounds, realistic sentences for young teens, and rehabilitative services upon release, among other changes. Classrooms and book groups will find plenty to discuss and debate. Compassionate and compelling, Stevenson’s narrative is also unforgettable.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2018)
“Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done,” proclaims Stevenson’s adaptation for younger audiences of his 2014 New York Times bestseller, a deeply moving collage of true stories dedicated to transforming the U.S. criminal justice system. The story begins in 1983, when 23-year-old Stevenson, a Harvard Law intern, found the moral resolve to join the pro bono defense team of a capital punishment case in Georgia. Throughout his journey, he highlights numerous cases that demonstrate unfair policies and practices throughout our criminal justice system. These examples form an incisive critique of mass incarceration resulting from state and federal policy changes in the late 20th century. He continues to lead the Alabama-headquartered Equal Justice Initiative, whose mission it is to protect basic human rights for the most vulnerable. Stevenson argues that, “The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.” These important stories put a human face on statistics and trends and give us tested strategies to reverse the oppressive consequences of racial and economic injustice in our country. This inspiring book will ignite compassion in young readers and show connections between the history of slavery, Reconstruction, and the present day. This is required reading, embracing the ideals that “we all need mercy, we all need justice, and—perhaps—we all need some measure of unmerited grace.” (notes, index) (Nonfiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Bryan Stevenson is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, and a professor of law at New York University Law School. He has won relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, argued five times before the Supreme Court, and won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color. He has received numerous awards, including the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant.

Teacher Resources

Just Mercy Discussion Guide

Around the Web

Just Mercy on Amazon

Just Mercy on Barnes & Noble

Just Mercy on Goodreads

Just Mercy Publisher Page

Betty Before X by Ilyasah Shabazz

Betty Before X by Ilyasah Shabazz. January 2, 2018. Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (BYR), 256 p. ISBN: 9780374306106.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.6; Lexile: 810.

A powerful middle-grade novel about the childhood activism of Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X’s wife, written by their daughter.

In Detroit, 1945, eleven-year-old Betty’s house doesn’t quite feel like home. She believes her mother loves her, but she can’t shake the feeling that her mother doesn’t want her. Church helps those worries fade, if only for a little while. The singing, the preaching, the speeches from guest activists like Paul Robeson and Thurgood Marshall stir African Americans in her community to stand up for their rights. Betty quickly finds confidence and purpose in volunteering for the Housewives League, an organization that supports black-owned businesses. Soon, the American civil rights icon we now know as Dr. Betty Shabazz is born.

Collaborating with novelist Renée Watson, Ilyasah Shabazz illuminates four poignant years in her mother’s childhood, painting a beautiful and inspiring portrait of a girl overcoming the challenges of self-acceptance and belonging that will resonate with young readers today.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Violence, Mentions of lynchings, Whipping, Racial prejudice

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 7))
Grades 4-6. Ilyasah Shabazz and Watson breathe life into a lightly fictionalized account of the childhood of her mother, Dr. Betty Shabazz. The story spans from 1945 to 1948, bookended by the life-changing experience of seeing lynching firsthand in Georgia, and the beating of Leon Mosley, a black 15-year-old, by a white police officer in Detroit. When the aunt who raised her dies, Betty leaves the segregated South to live with her birth mother in Detroit. Their fractious relationship forms the spine of the book, gaining complexity when Betty finds a more loving home with another family in the neighborhood. Betty finds purpose volunteering with the Housewives’ League, encouraging black women to spend their money in black-owned and black-staffed businesses. Short chapters and lucid prose make for an accessible read, with key details bringing the era to life for contemporary young readers. Extensive back matter provides further context for educational use. The lessons from Betty’s life are abundant: forgiveness, gratitude for life’s blessings, and planting seeds for the future. Her response to hardship and injustice is timeless.

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 1, 2017)
A passion for social justice blossoms during the middle school years for the girl who grew up to become Dr. Betty Shabazz. Loved but unwanted by her mother, 11-year-old Betty finds solace in friends and church. In 1945 Detroit, Betty’s African-American church community is a hub for activism in the face of Jim Crow racism, police brutality, and economic inequality. With renowned guests such as Thurgood Marshall and Paul Robeson coming to speak and perform, Betty and her friends are swept up in the fervor and demand for social justice that would become a movement. They volunteer for the Housewives’ League, a group that encourages the community to give its dollars to black-owned and -employing businesses. But the movement is also personal for Betty, who struggles to find her place in a world that treats brown-skinned black girls as lesser—less beautiful, less worthy, less deserving. Authored by her daughter Ilyasah Shabazz in collaboration with Watson, this moving fictional account of the early life of the late civil rights leader and widow of Malcolm X draws on the recollections of family and friends. The result is a heart-rending imagining of Shabazz’s personal challenges as well as a rare, intimate look at the complex roots of the American civil rights movement. A personal, political, and powerful imagining of the early life of the late activist. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Ilyasah Shabazz, third daughter of Malcolm X, is an activist, producer, motivational speaker, and the author of the critically acclaimed Growing Up X and the picture book Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X. She lives in Westchester County, New York.

 

Teacher Resources

Betty Before X Reading Guide

Around the Web

Betty Before X on Amazon

Betty Before X on Goodreads

Betty Before X Publisher Page

Facing Frederick by Tonya Bolden

Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, a Monumental American Man by Tonya Bolden. January 9, 2018. Harry N. Abrams, 208 p. ISBN: 9781419725463.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 8.6.

Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) is best known for the telling of his own emancipation. But there is much more to Douglass’s story than his time spent enslaved and his famous autobiography. Facing Frederick captures the whole complicated, and at times perplexing, person that he was. Statesman, suffragist, writer, and newspaperman, this book focuses on Douglass the man rather than the historical icon.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts, Discrimination, Violence

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 7-12. Most folks know Frederick Douglass as an escaped slave turned abolitionist. Bolden’s insightful and impeccably researched biography reveals, instead, a multifaceted man who would travel many paths and constantly redefine himself. And instead of commencing with Douglass’ life as a slave, as many biographies do, this account begins after his escape, as he becomes one of the most in-demand speakers for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society and launches his place in history as a great orator against the “twin monsters of darkness,” slavery and racism. It balances Douglass’ personal and financial successes and accolades with his frustrations, controversies, and setbacks, which only encouraged him to question the Constitution and fight harder for freedom, racial justice, and women’s suffrage. Framing the biography are more than a dozen photographs of Douglass from his early twenties to just before his death at age 77, with a note explaining his love for photography, because of its democratizing quality. Many other period photographs, colorful reproductions, and quotes from the media of the time add to the impressive visuals. Author, newspaper owner, lecturer, Underground Railroad conductor, Union army recruiter, abolitionist, and presidential campaigner are just some of Douglass’ roles described here. Bolden’s beautiful, sophisticated narrative demonstrates that throughout all of his responsibilities, Douglass never lost sight of his biggest role—humanitarian.

Kirkus Reviews starred (October 15, 2017)
The story of one of the most iconic and photographed figures in American history.Frederick Douglass wanted to be viewed as more than an escaped slave, and Bolden emphasizes that point by beginning his story when he makes the decision to break with abolitionist publisher William Lloyd Garrison to begin his own newspaper. Douglass’ history is nevertheless revealed as he contemplates changing his course. In his paper, the North Star, he pressed for an end to slavery and was outspoken in favor of women’s suffrage. Once the nation’s struggles between freedom and slavery led to armed conflict, he pushed President Abraham Lincoln to allow black men to fight in the Union cause. After the Civil War, Douglass remained tireless in seeking to improve the lives of African-Americans until the end of his life. This narrative about a well-known figure feels fresh due to Bolden’s skilled storytelling. It fully captures his outsized personality and provides clarity for nuanced episodes such as his disagreements with Garrison, his refusal to support efforts to colonize blacks outside of the United States, and his reservations about John Brown’s raid. Complications in his personal life are handled with sensitivity. In addition, Douglass was a celebrity at the dawn of photography and became the era’s most photographed figure, and this handsome volume includes many, as well as period illustrations. A spirited biography that fully honors its redoubtable subject. (author’s note, timeline, source notes, selected sources, index) (Biography. 10-14)

About the Author

Author and publisher Tonya Wilyce Bolden was born on March 1, 1959, in New York City to Georgia Bolden, a homemaker, and Willie Bolden, a garment center shipping manager. Bolden grew up in Harlem in a musical family and loved to read; she attended Public M.E.S. 146, an elementary school in Manhattan, and then graduated from the Chapin School, a private secondary school, in Manhattan in 1976. Bolden attended Princeton University in New Jersey, and, in 1981, obtained her B.A. degree in Slavic languages and literature with a Russian focus. Bolden was also a University Scholar and received the Nicholas Bachko, Jr. Scholarship Prize.

Upon graduating from Princeton University, Bolden began working as a salesperson for Charles Alan, Incorporated, a dress manufacturer, while working towards her M.A. degree at Columbia University. In 1985, Bolden earned her degree in Slavic languages and literature, as well as a Certificate for Advanced Study of the Soviet Union from the Harriman Institute; after this she began working as an office coordinator for Raoulfilm, Inc., assisting in the research and development of various film and literary products. Bolden worked as an English instructor at Malcolm-King College and New Rochelle School of New Resources while serving as newsletter editor of the HARKline, a homeless shelter newsletter.

In 1990, Bolden wrote her first book, The Family Heirloom Cookbook. In 1992, Bolden co-authored a children’s book entitled Mama, I Want To Sing along with Vy Higginsen, based on Higginsen’s musical. Bolden continued publishing throughout the 1990s, releasing Starting a Business from your Home, Mail-Order and Direct Response, The Book of African-American Women: 150 Crusaders, Creators, and Uplifters, And Not Afraid to Dare: The Stories of Ten African-American Women, American Patriots: The Story of Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm and The Champ. Bolden became editor of the Quarterly Black Review of Books in 1994, and served as an editor for 33 Things Every Girl Should Know, in 1998. Bolden’s writing career became even more prolific in the following decade; a partial list of her works include:, Our Souls: A Celebration of Black American Artists, Maritcha: A Nineteenth Century American Girl, MLK: Journey of a King, Take-Off: American All-Girl Bands During World War II, and George Washington Carver, a book she authored in conjunction with an exhibit about the famous African American inventor created by The Field Museum in Chicago.

Her website is www.tonyaholdenbooks.com.

Teacher Resources

Collection of Frederick Douglass Lesson Plans

Around the Web

Facing Frederick on Amazon

Facing Frederick on Goodreads

Facing Frederick Publisher Page

 

Streetcar to Justice by Amy Hill Hearth

Streetcar to Justice: How Elizabeth Jennings Won the Right to Ride in New York by Amy Hill Hearth. January 2, 2018. Greenwillow Books, 160 p. ISBN: 9780062673602.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 7.5; Lexile: 1120.

Amy Hill Hearth uncovers the story of a little-known figure in U.S. history in this biography. In 1854, a young African American woman named Elizabeth Jennings won a major victory against a New York City streetcar company, a first step in the process of desegregating public transportation in Manhattan.

One hundred years before Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, Elizabeth Jennings’s refusal to leave a segregated streetcar in the Five Points neighborhood of Manhattan set into motion a major court case in New York City.

On her way to church one day in July 1854, Elizabeth Jennings was refused a seat on a streetcar. When she took her seat anyway, she was bodily removed by the conductor and a nearby police officer and returned home bruised and injured. With the support of her family, the African American abolitionist community of New York, and Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Jennings took her case to court. Represented by a young lawyer named Chester A. Arthur (a future president of the United States) she was victorious, marking a major victory in the fight to desegregate New York City’s public transportation

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts, Discrimination, Violence

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 5-8. When Elizabeth Jennings, a young black woman on her way to church, refused to vacate a New York City streetcar and was literally torn off of it by its driver and roughed up by that driver and a police officer, there was no one around to photograph the event. Luckily, though, there were people who took up her cause for justice, including a young lawyer who went on to become a U.S. president (Chester Arthur). It was 1854, years before the Civil War and emancipation, and a century before Rosa Parks similarly stood her ground. But few people know about Jennings and how her case impacted discrimination laws in the northern city, where she lived as a free black gentlewoman. Hearth places this obscure gem of a story in context: illustrations from the era and extensive notes and references help readers follow the story. Those interested in the myriad origins of the civil rights movement will be fascinated by the case and how it galvanized the black community of its day.

Publishers Weekly (October 16, 2017)
Hearth (The Delany Sisters Reach High) draws on her journalism roots to carefully piece together the story of a mostly forgotten figure in the struggle for racial equality in the United States. African-American schoolteacher Elizabeth Jennings vehemently fought back when she was refused streetcar service in 1854 Manhattan; her victorious court case against the streetcar company helped integrate public transportation in New York. Hearth grounds Jennings’s story in vivid sensory detail: “she would have walked around piles of horse manure and maybe even the bloated remains of a dead animal or two.” Fifteen chapters pack in contextualizing information, often in sidebars, educating readers on topics ranging from Jim Crow laws and de facto segregation in the north to Jennings’s contemporaries Frederick Douglass and Chester Arthur (Jennings’s lawyer and future U.S. president). Archival photos, newspaper clippings, and resources that include a timeline of Jennings’s life (she founded the first kindergarten for black children in New York City) augment a book that belongs in any civil rights library collection. Ages 8-12

About the Author

Amy Hill Hearth (pronounced HARTH) is a Peabody Award-winning journalist and New York Times bestselling author. Her topics include women’s history, forgotten stories, and elder wisdom.

Ms. Hearth and her husband, Blair, a native of Naples, Florida, live by the ocean in New Jersey, about an hour from Manhattan, with their rescued Boston Terriers. Her website is www.amyhillhearth.com

Around the Web

Streetcar to Justice on Amazon

Streetcar to Justice on Goodreads

Streetcar to Justice Publisher Page

Chasing King’s Killer by James L. Swanson

Chasing King’s Killer: The Hunt for Martin Luther King’s Assassin by James L. Swanson. January 2, 2018. Scholastic Press, 384p. ISBN: 9780545723336.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile:.

In his meteoric, thirteen-year rise to fame, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led a mass movement for Civil Rights — with his relentless peaceful, non-violent protests, public demonstrations, and eloquent speeches. But as violent threats cast a dark shadow over Dr. King’s life, Swanson hones in on James Earl Ray, a bizarre, racist, prison escapee who tragically ends King’s life.

As he did in his bestselling Scholastic MG/YA books Chasing LIncoln’s Killer and “THE PRESIDENT HAS BEEN SHOT!”, Swanson transports readers back to one of the most shocking, sad, and terrifying events in American history.

With an introduction by Congressman John Lewis, and over 80 photographs, captions, bibliography, various source notes, and index included.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, War, Violence

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (December 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 8))
Grades 7-12. Many Americans remember James Earl Ray’s gunshot that killed Martin Luther King Jr. King experienced a near-death encounter earlier in 1958 when a mentally ill woman stabbed his chest, narrowly missing his heart. The event reinforced fatalism in King and sets a foreboding tone for this masterful work akin to Swanson’s previous success, Chasing Lincoln’s Killer (2009). Following a foreword by Congressman John Lewis, the text gives a short biography of King, highlighting his rise as a civil rights leader. It takes on thriller pacing as it portrays, in alternating segments, King’s ceaseless work and Ray’s escape from prison and eventual plot to assassinate King. Occasional maps and time lines help readers track pivotal movements. As King delivers his stirring “Mountaintop” speech during his last public appearance, untrained hit man Ray stakes out a position to shoot. And as the public mourns King, the search for Ray becomes the largest and most expensive manhunt of the time. Packed with period photographs, the book gives illuminating details, such as how J. Edgar Hoover was ordered to take charge of Ray’s capture. It concludes with numerous conspiracy theories and ponders what message King would deliver today. Copious back matter offers a wealth of additional information. This immersive history reveals, in gripping style, how one individual can impact history.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 1, 2018)
Swanson, bestselling author of Chasing Lincoln’s Killer (2009), here explores all aspects of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.From the foreword by Congressman John Lewis to the epilogue, this volume places Dr. King and his loss in its historical context. The story begins with a detailed look at an unsuccessful attempt on Dr. King’s life, a foreshadowing of what was to come. Dr. King’s life and work to gain full civil and economic rights for all Americans are presented briefly, but the crux of the narrative is directed at the assassination; the man behind it, escaped convict James Earl Ray; and the aftermath. Swanson describes the events that brought King to Memphis, Tennessee, as part of a larger push for economic justice. In addition to the real-life thriller aspects of the hunt for Ray after King was shot, Swanson’s narrative adds poignant details, such as the experiences of King’s heartbroken aides and their reluctance to cooperate with law enforcement as well as the nation’s mourning of Dr. King. He also addresses conspiracies around the assassination as well as distrust of the FBI due to their wiretapping of King and other activists. This is page-turning nonfiction that captures the tenor of the times with meticulous research and a trove of photographs. Exhaustive, exemplary backmatter further enhances the text. An important contribution to the understanding of a complex period in United States history that still reverberates today. (Nonfiction. 12-adult)

About the Author

James Swanson is the Edgar Award-winning author of the New York Times bestseller Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer. Swanson has degrees in history from the University of Chicago, where he was a student of John Hope Franklin, and in law from the University of California, Los Angeles.

He has held a number of government and think-tank posts in Washington, D.C., including at the United States Department of Justice. Swanson serves on the advisory council of the Ford’s Theatre Society. Born on Lincoln’s birthday, he has studied and collected books, documents, photographs, art, and artifacts from Abraham Lincoln’s life—and death—since he was ten years old.

Teacher Resources

Martin Luther King, Jr. Assassination Lesson Plans

Around the Web

Chasing King’s Killer on Amazon

Chasing King’s Killer on Goodreads

Chasing King’s Killer Publisher Page

March Forward, Girl by Melba Pattillo Beals

March Forward, Girl: From Young Warrior to Little Rock Nine by Melba Pattillo Beals. January 2, 2018. HMH Books for Young Readers, 224 p. ISBN: 9781328882127.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.5; Lexile: 950.

From the legendary civil rights activist and author of the million-copy selling Warriors Don’t Cry comes an ardent and profound childhood memoir of growing up while facing adversity in the Jim Crow South.

Long before she was one of the Little Rock Nine, Melba Pattillo Beals was a warrior. Frustrated by the laws that kept African-Americans separate but very much unequal to whites, she had questions. Why couldn’t she drink from a “whites only” fountain? Why couldn’t she feel safe beyond home—or even within the walls of church?  Adults all told her: Hold your tongue. Be patient. Know your place. But Beals had the heart of a fighter—and the knowledge that her true place was a free one.

Combined with emotive drawings and photos, this memoir paints a vivid picture of Beals’ powerful early journey on the road to becoming a champion for equal rights, an acclaimed journalist, a best-selling author, and the recipient of this country’s highest recognition, the Congressional Gold Medal.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Racial taunts, Discrimination, Violence, Sexual harassment

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 9))
Grades 5-8. Beals (Warriors Don’t Cry, 1995) wastes no time getting into the deep, choking horror of living under Jim Crow in 1940s and 1950s Arkansas. Likening her fear of white people to an ever-growing monster consuming her nights, she reflects on how the Ku Klux Klan rode through her black neighborhood, plucking friends and neighbors from their homes to be lynched for minor infractions of the codes or for fun. That fear morphed into anger and motivation to find a way out, eventually helping her to become one of the Little Rock Nine. Beals has a way with short, powerful sentences that efficiently capture her roiling emotional inner life. She also outlines the interplay of racism and sexism in a harrowing recounting of the time she was herself a target of the Klan. The narrative stops short of the integration of Little Rock Central High School, featuring it instead in the epilogue. Young readers will be gripped by Beal’s personal courage and determination to march forward for civil rights at such a young age.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2017)
One of the Little Rock Nine describes her childhood in the years leading up to the 1957 event.Beals’ moving adult memoir, Warriors Don’t Cry (1994), painted a harrowing portrait of her experience as one of the African-American students who integrated Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Here she shares her memories of growing up in the segregated South and what led her to challenge Jim Crow laws. She describes a warm, loving family environment where church and education were highly valued. These positives are not always enough to outweigh the darkness she feels from witnessing and experiencing racism from whites in stores or even those doing business in and around her home. There are episodes involving the Ku Klux Klan and even the lynching of a family acquaintance, experiences that leave Beals with a desire for justice and an abhorrence of the treatment of blacks at the hands of whites. When she is among those chosen to integrate Central High School, the determination she needs has been building for years. This narrative is told in a conversational tone, full of personal stories and remembrances. Beals pinpoints clearly the injustices and pain of her early years and shows how they prepared her for the challenges of making history, intertwining these stories with more personal coming-of-age recollections. Archival photographs and Morrison’s drawings punctuate the pages. (Final art not seen.) A valuable addition to the stories of life in Jim Crow America. (Memoir. 10-16)

About the Author

Melba Pattillo Beals is the author of the bestselling Warriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High and the recipient of the 1995 American Library Association Nonfiction Book of the Year award and the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Book Award. Dr. Beals was given a Congressional Gold Medal for her role, as a fifteen-year-old, in the integration of Central High School, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Her website is http://melbapattillobeals.com/

Around the Web

March Forward, Girl on Amazon

March Forward, Girl on Goodreads

March Forward, Girl Publisher Page