All posts for the month March, 2015

Rosa, by Nikki Giovanni

Published March 22, 2015 by Dagmar

There are so many incredible books to share during African-American History Month.  This compelling book made a real impression on me and on my fourth graders.

rosaRosa is a dramatic retelling of Rosa Parks’ story.  It begins with Rosa going to work at her job as a seamstress in the alterations department.  She is good spirits, and her supervisor has let her leave work early.  When Rosa gets on the bus, she sits in the neutral section, the area where both blacks and whites can sit.  As she sits, she thinking about the meal she’ll prepare for her husband that evening.  Suddenly, she hears the bus driver yell, “I said give me those seats!”.  This exclamation, coming after such a peaceful beginning to the story is a jolt, to the reader, to the listeners, and, you can imagine, to Mrs. Parks, daydreaming after a day’s work.  The other black people in the neutral section slip back to the crowded black section of the bus, trying to avoid trouble.  Mrs. Parks watches them go but decides that she will just sit.

Nikki Giovanni wraps the story of Rosa Parks in the history of the time: the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. the Board of Education that stated that separate was “inherently unequal” and the death of Emmet Till, a fourteen-year-old boy who was lynched in Mississippi, shortly after the Brown vs. the Board of Education ruling.   It was these events and Mrs. Parks’ courageous action and arrest that led supporters band together with the Women’s Political Council, the NAACP and local churches.  The people gathered selected Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as their spokesman.  Together, they chose to stay off the buses of Montgomery.  They walked in every kind of weather, at all times of day, every day.  On November 13, 1956, a year after Rosa Parks’ arrest, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation on buses was also illegal.

“Rosa Parks said no so that the Supreme Court could remind the nation that the Constitution of the United States makes no provision for second-class citizenship.  We are all equal under the law and are all entitled to its protection.”

Giovanni’s retelling of this important moment in African-American history is presented with the incredible illustrations of Bryan Collier.  This book won the Caldecott Honor in 2006.

Please don’t miss this great book.  African-American history month is over now; but, as a friend of mine correctly said, sharing the messages of this book is important all year long.

The Case for Loving, by Selina Alko

Published March 16, 2015 by Dagmar

I love looking for new books to share with my students during African-American history month.  This year, I found quite a few that I really enjoyed for all ages.  This book really resonated with my the case for lovingfourth and fifth graders.

The Case for Loving is the story of the marriage of Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred Jeter, an African-American woman.  The Lovings lived in Central Point, Virginia.  In 1959, interracial marriage was illegal in Virginia and 16 other states; so, the Lovings went to Washington, D.C. to get married.  Upon return to their home in Virginia, the Lovings were arrested for illegal cohabitation and sent to jail.  (I heard gasps from my students.  It does make you gasp, doesn’t it?)  They were told to move out of Virginia if they wanted to live together.  The Lovings moved to Washington, D.C. and had three children; but, they were not happy with their new urban life.  The Lovings wanted to return to Virginia where they could live in the countryside.  “By now it was 1966, and the times they were a changin’.”  The Lovings moved back to Central Point and filed a lawsuit, Loving v. Virginia.  The Loving case went all the way to the Supreme Court.  Richard and Mildred did not attend the Supreme Court hearings.  Their lawyers read Richard’s words to the justices, “Tell the Court I love my wife, and it is just unfair that I can’t live with her in Virginia.”  These words were so plain and so honest, they resonated with all my students.

The Lovings were victorious in their battle and nine years after marrying, they were able to legally move back to Virginia to live.

When I finished reading this book, my students all asked if this book was true.  I found the author’s note at the end of the book particularly poignant.  Selina Alko, a white, Jewish woman, married Sean Qualls, an African-American man and one of the illustrators of this book, in 2003,  having benefitted from the Lovings fight for justice so long ago.