Tag Archives: Black History

The Rock and the River

The Rock and the River

The Rock and the River

Teenage brothers Sam and Stick live in Chicago in 1968. Their dad, Rev. Roland Childs, is a respected minister and close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King. Sam’s dad believes passionately in non-violent protest and tirelessly organizes and participates in peaceful protest marches.

Older brother Stick has begun to question Dr. King’s nonviolent philosophy and has been secretly attending meetings of the Black Panthers, an organization whose philosophies are more aggressive than Dr. King’s and are different from what Rev. Child’s preaches and teaches his boys at home. Sam is torn between the ideas of has father and the ideas of his older brother, both of whom he respects and admires.

Everybody can relate to being torn between two choices and being torn between the opinions of two people you respect. When it comes down to figuring out what you think for your own self – that’s when things get hard.

After Dr. King is assassinated and Sam witnesses the brutal beating of a friend by police officers, he becomes more interested in the ideas Stick is learning about at the Black Panther meetings. He begins to attend the meetings also. The conversation the teens have at home, at school, and at these meetings are some of the best parts of the book. They are living the civil rights struggle as they face discrimination every day. Listening to these conversations you get a real sense of each philosophy and why it was chosen by the people committed to it.

This book has a pretty explosive, surprising ending. It isn’t a book for the faint hearted. These are really hard issues and there is violence in the book. It isn’t a happy story with a happy ending because it’s not that kind of story. It wasn’t a happy time. The book is true to the historical period so the violence is part of the story being told.

It is hard for Sam and Stick to stand by watching people suffer the injustices of racism. When Sam finds out Leroy, the leader of the student Black Panthers, sneaks away to talk to Rev. Childs, the same way Sam is sneaking off to the Black Panther meetings, he realizes that these issues are hard for everyone. Sam discovers that standing quiet and firm is different than doing nothing and that you can be agressive, without being violent. A really powerful, emotional book. Don’t miss the author’s note at the end – it is a great discussion of the true events, people and groups that appear in this book. Author: Kekla Magoon Award: Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent 2010

Look Inside The Rock and the River

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Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Bake You a Pie: a Story about Edna Lewis

Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Bake You a Pie: a Story about Edna Lewis

Bring Me Some Apples

Edna Lewis cooks simple and she cooks Southern. Edna grew up in Virginia and this book tells the story of how she ended up a chef in New York City. When she was a little girl her family ate what they could grow and they ate what was ripe when it was ripe or they canned it to save for later. The dishes served at her restaurant depended on the season because Edna only used fresh ingredients in her recipes. If it wasn’t just picked, she didn’t use it.

An interesting look at a person who followed her passion into a career and life she enjoyed.

  • Look Inside Bring Me Some Apples
  • Listen to NPR Audio: Memories of Southern Chef Edna Lewis
  • Watch the Documentary Fried Chicken & Sweet Potato Pie
If you like learning about Edna Lewis try some of these books:
Heritage Cookbook Addy's Cookbook George Crum and the Saratoga Chips Kwanzaa Karamu
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Indiana’s 28th Regiment & Tuskegee Airmen

Indiana’s 28th Regiment & Tuskegee Airmen

28th-colored-troops-photoIndiana’s first black troops in the Civil War were enlisted in November 1863. More than eight hundred black men joined the Twenty-eighth Regiment. The regiment trained at Camp Fremont near Fountain Square in Indianapolis. The regiment is best known for its role in the siege of Petersburg, Virginia, where on July 30, 1864, it participated in the Battle of the Crater. In this battle, Union troops dug a tunnel under the Confederate fort at Petersburg, carried eight thousand pounds of explosives into the tunnel, and blew up the fort. When the war was over the soldiers returned to Indianapolis on January 6, 1866. The regiment lost 212 men in battle or as a result of disease.

Tuskegee Airmen were African-American pilots who flew in World War II. Before the Tuskegee Airmen, no African-American pilots had every been in the U.S. armed forces. These guys were the first and became highley regarded airmen. They are best known for escorting bombers. In this video you can watch some Hoosier airmen talk about their experiences during the war.

Tuskegee Airmen Official Website

  • Tuskegee Airmen at Huntington, Indiana Airport Part 2
  • Tuskegee Airmen at Huntington, Indiana Airport Part 3
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January’s Sparrow

January’s Sparrow

January's Sparrow

Eight-year-old Sadie is a slave on the plantation of Master Francis Giltner. When Master Giltner whips January, a young man dear to Sadie and her family for trying to run away, Sadie wishes she would have tried to stop him. Just the other day January had handed her a little bird, a sparrow, carved from wood. He’d handed it to her and said, “It’s fixin’ to fly And so is I.” Maybe Sadie should have told her mom and dad what January was planning to do.

That same night Sadie is shaken awake. Her dad says, “We is gonna cross water tonight!” Her mom says “They was comin’ to fetch the boys in the mornin’. We heard it ourselves. They was gonna be auctioned off.” To keep their family together, Sadie’s mom and dad have made the decision to make a run for it, even though they have seen what their punishment will be if they get caught. This night begins their harrowing journey to Indiana and then on to Michigan and finally to Canada on the Underground Railroad.  Pursued by slave catchers and dogs the family relies on the help of others to survive. And even when they finally get to a free state, slave catchers still chase them, hoping to drag them back to the planation. Author: Patricia Polacco

 This video is a dramatization of people escaping with the help of Abolitionists. It really shows you the emotional toll fleeing took on people and the importance of having help along the way. Fugitive slaves running through Indiana may have passed through the homes of Alexander Rankin in Fort Wayne or Levi Coffin in Fountain City.

rankin-house1Alexander Rankin was a well-known abolitonist. Rankin came to Fort Wayne in 1838 to become a minister. He built a house at 818 Lafayette Street in Fort Wayne and lived there for two years. The Rankin house is the only surviving structure in Fort Wayne that is known to be connected to the Abolition movement or the Underground Railroad.

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The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had

The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had

The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had

Dit Sims lives in tiny Moundville, Alabama in 1917. He’s got nine brothers and sisters and his Dad routinely forgets his name. It’s summer, it’s hot and Dit’s best friend is away for the summer. When he finds out that a new postmaster is coming to town, Dit hopes the new postmaster, Mr. Walker, has a son close to his age that will want to go fishing and play baseball.

The postmaster comes, and Dit is disappointed to learn that he doesn’t bring a son, he brings prissy, brainiac Emma who always has her nose in a book and doesn’t know one thing about baseball. Dit’s town is disappointed to learn that the Walkers are African-American.

Dit’s family welcomes the Walkers and the two families slowly build a relationaship sharing chores and helping out when family members are sick. Dit and Emma start building a friendship too. Dit teaches Emma how to throw and hit a baseball. Emma helps Dit with math and introduces him to exciting adventure books like Treasure Island. Slowly, over the summer, the two kids become best friends.

Some people in Dit’s town don’t welcome the Walkers, especially the town sheriff. Some people object to Dit and Emma’s friendship, even object to the Walkers living in Moundville at all. When the two kids witness a racially motivated shooting and realize their friend, the town’s black barber, is unjustly blamed and sentenced to hang, they secretly come up with a daring plan to save him.

This story brings the injustice and horrors of racial bigotry to life. It’s a story about friendship between people and how that friendship is stronger than the forces around it that try to tear it apart. Two thumbs up historical fiction. Author: Kristin Levine

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