By Carol Kennedy
Black History Month concludes next week, but these books are a good read at any time of the year. All are available at the Swarthmore Public Library, along with the three books we recommended in the Swarthmorean two weeks ago.
Granddaddy’s Turn: A Journey To the Ballot Box. This beautifully illustrated book by Michael S. Bandy provides a great way to introduce the history of the Voting Rights Act to young children. Bandy describes the joy with which his grandparents greeted their first opportunity to vote in 1965, and his memories as a young boy.
For upper elementary school children who have already learned about the slave ship Amistad and its mutiny, the picture book Africa Is My Home: A Child of the Amistad by Monica Edinger is a good read, describing the life of a child from Sierra Leone who wound up on the ship bound for slavery. This book should accompany others that go into more detail about the mutiny. It is a moving tribute to a child who was caught up in the slave trade without understanding it.
Russell Freedman’s Because They Marched covers the Selma-to-Montgomery march that won the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Step by step, Freedman takes the reader through the year 1965, which began with Black teachers in Selma attempting to register to vote and galvanizing sentiment supporting further action. This book is riveting and important as a historical document, and is highly recommended for all ages old enough to understand the issues.
A great Civil War-era history is Emancipation Proclamation by Tonya Bolden, which discusses all aspects of the evolution of the Emancipation Proclamation issued in 1863, including Lincoln’s attempts to work with both the North and the South. The photographs and art reproductions are fabulous; the writing is sublime, with many quotes from primary sources; and the layout is attractive. There are numerous notes, citations, and references for further research. This one is recommended for kids of middle-school age and up.
David Aretha’s Sabotage, Sedition, and Sundry Acts of Rebellion provides a brief but thorough introduction to the history of slave rebellions that took place in this country from the 17th through 19th centuries. It begins with some early slave uprisings, as well as the influence of the Haitian revolution in 1791, and briefly describes 30-some different instances of slave-led rebellions and planned insurrections. He includes the story of John Brown and other white abolitionists who led rebellions as well. The book is meticulously researched, and includes some wonderful photographs. It is highly recommended for preteens and teens.
For older teens, Cy In Chains by David L. Dudley is a great fiction book based on historical records. Cy Williams is a 13-year-old boy who finds himself wrongfully imprisoned under very cruel conditions several years after the Civil War has ended. He is detained at a forced labor camp for African-American boys, which is run by a trio of racist tyrants who overwork the boys, beat them, and do worse. The novel is beautifully written, with sharply drawn characters, a lot of harrowing adventure, and food for thought about the meaning of family, love, and independence. There are scenes of brutal violence, and it is only recommended for readers in the upper grades of high school.
Carol Kennedy of Swarthmore is a retired school librarian and a member of the TriState Young Adult Review Committee (tristatereviews.org).