Tag Archives: segregation

The Girl from the Tar Paper School

The Girl from the Tar Paper School
Teri Kanefield
Abrams books for young readers, 2014

This is a delicious, sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat story of Barbara Rose Johns and the advent of the Civil Rights Movement, a story almost lost to history because of the racism of the times.

In Farmville, Virginia, at the age of 15, Barbara launches in her tar paper high school a strike, demanding equal education be offered to the black population.  Secretly she talks to all the kids and enlists the help of a few adult supporters.  Once the strike is launched, at an assembly where she directs everyone what to do, she enlists the help of NAACP and others.  In the onslaught of threats and ‘damage’ done to activists’ property, she persists until NAACP files a petition with the county school board demanding ‘integration of the schools’.  The school board rejects the petition and NAACP files a lawsuit in federal court alleging that segregation was unconstitutional.  This lawsuit is one of the four filed in federal court and that come together to form the Brown v. Board of Education case.  In 1954, three years after the strike at Moton High School, the US Supreme Court renders its decision declaring segregation in schools unconstitutional.  Segregation was a long time coming to the county, however, resulting in a generation of illiterate black students.

An incredible story in its day, it helps readers understand how dangerous it was to try to institute civil rights change in earlier times in the United States.  Fascinating story that will inspire readers.

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Back of the Bus

Back of the Bus
By Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Philomel Books, 2010

Told from the perspective of a young African-American boy sitting in the back of the bus, this book is a fictionalized story of December 1, 1955, the day Rosa Parks refused to move from her seat near the front of the bus and police arrested her.

Author Aaron Reynolds uses a tiger’s eye marble to symbolize how the black population of the day had to ‘hide’ their true selves to live in the ‘white’ society. The young boy, who had been playing with a marble on the bus, was told to put the marble away as more white people boarded the bus and, again, when the commotion began with Ms. Parks. After Rosa Parks is taken to jail, the boy brings out the marble and holds it up declaring he no longer has to hide it. While all children will not understand the symbolism consciously, this is a great story to launch into a discussion on Rosa Parks and civil rights in the ‘60’s.

Floyd Cooper’s illustrations bring a softness to an extremely uncomfortable event, an event that changed the course of the civil rights movement.

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These Hands

These Hands
By Margaret H Mason, Illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2011

I don’t know which I like best, the story, the message or the art, but together These Hands is a moving book that can inspire youngsters to do anything they want. I think it was the art that invited me to get the book.

The story is about a grandfather sharing the story of what his hands do and have done in the course of his lifetime. He moves from teaching the young one to tie his shoes, to playing the ivories, to shuffling cards. The author Margaret H. Mason touches back to the day of civil rights to remind readers of the discrimination experienced at the time, when grandfather’s hands couldn’t do things. Like bake bread (at higher wages). The story moves on to tell how grandfather used his hands to join with other hands to change things, so that the color of a person’s hands that touches bread, no longer matters.

Floyd Cooper, an award-winning artist, uses an oil wash with kneaded erasers to create brown-tone scenes to tell his side of the story. Very inviting, nurturing, comforting.

Golden Kite Honors

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