Gee’s Bend is a tiny little place in Alabama on the bend of a river. It isn’t even a town really, just a place with a name. It’s the place where Ludelphia Bennett lives with her family and a few neighbors who are also sharecroppers for Mr. Cobb. Old Mr. Cobb owns the land around Gee’s Bend. The Bennetts and the other familes work the farm and pay their rent with a “share” of the harvest. It’s 1932 and times are really hard. It is the Great Depression and times are tough for everyone, especially those who are alreay dirt poor to begin with, people like the Bennetts and their neighbors.
Ludelphia’s courage starts to shine the day her mom goes into labor. Ludelphia helps her mom deliver the baby. After the birth, Ludelphia’s mom is very, very sick. Her only hope is Doc Nelson, the only doctor around and he’s 40 miles away in Camden. Ludelphia’s only ten but she sets out alone anyway on a dangerous journey for a girl of her time. It’s no small thing for a black child to set out travelling alone, but Ludelphia loves her mama and will do anything to save her.
On her journey Ludelphia meets people outside of Gee’s Bend for the very first time. She sees the wealth and modern ways of a big city. She confronts the difference between superstitian and modern medicine. And she experiences both the kindness and racism of total strangers – strangers whose help she needs in order to save her mother. Author: Irene Latham
Delphine is on an airplane with her little sisters Vonetta and Fern on her way to spend a few weeks in the summer with the Mother she barely remembers. From Brooklyn to Oakland is a long way to go to spend time with someone you don’t even know, even if she is your Mother. But Delphine’s Dad thinks it is a good idea, so the girls go.
Mother is a statement of fact. Cecile Johnson gave birth to us. We came out of Cecile Johnson. In the animal kingdom that makes her out mother. Every mammal on the planet has a mother, dead or alive. Ran off or stayed put. Cecile Johnson – mammal birth giver, alive, an abandoner – is our mother. A statement of fact.
Reading that quote you get a good idea about what Delphine thinks of her Mother and the fact that her Mother just up and left. Delphine’s Mom left the girls when Fern was just a tiny baby and for all that time hasn’t done a single thing to spend any time with the girls or even talk to them on the phone. Cecile, the girls’ Mom, isn’t even very happy when she meets them at the airport. It’s like she’s put out that they’ve come to visit. Once at her house she forbids them from entering her kitchen and sends them out for takeout. During the long summer days she sends them to the park or the neighborhood community center to get them out of the house.
At the beginning of the summer you see Delphine getting to know this woman who is her Mom, and a lot of the time she doesn’t like her very much. She questions her judgement all the time. But as the day goes by Delphine starts to see who Cecile is, besides being the girls’ “mammal birth giver.”
I think when you’re a kid, it’s hard to see grown-ups, especially parents, as real people. It’s really hard to imagine your parents being anyone other than your parents, even though they were kids and grown people with a life before you came along. I liked watching Delphine get to know “Cecile the person” and learn to accept who Cecile really is and not who Delphine wishes her to be. Author: Rita Williams-Garcia 2011 Coretta Scott King Award, 2011 Newbery Honor Book, 2011 Scott O’Dell Prize for Historical Fiction, 2010 National Book Award Finalist
This is the story of Elizabth Keckley, a slave who became a free woman and a business owner as well as the favored dressmake of Mary Todd Lincoln – President Lincoln’s wife.
Her story begins on a plantation in Virginia. Elizabeth was only four years old when she was given the job of taking care of her mistress’s brand new baby. She was so excited to take care of the pretty baby that she rocked the cradle a little too hard and the baby fell out onto the floor. She was whipped for that…a four year-old! And that whipping would not be her last. Elizabeth had a very hard life as a slave. It’s a wonder she even survived, let alone growing up to be a free woman and the owner of her own business.
Elizabeth’s mom was a gifted seamstress and she taught Elizabeth how to sew. Their master would hire Elizabeth out to other ladies in St. Louis who wanted pretty dresses. One of those clients loaned Elizabeth the money to buy her own freedom. Elizabeth moved to Washington DC and was soon sewing dresses for famous wives – Mrs. Robert E. Lee and Mrs. Jefferson Davis. It was only a matter of time before her dresses caught the eye of Mrs. Lincoln.
That’s when the story gets really intersting. It is the tale of two very different women in very different circumstances who manage to carve our a friendship in the oddest of circumstances. Mary Lincoln didn’t just need pretty dresses, she needed a friend.
Maritcha Reymond Lyon was born in the mid-1800s. Her family was free but still had to deal with discrimination and injustices that put obstacles in their path to success. When Maritcha was a teenager one of those obstacles was that fact that she could not go to the all-white high school. It was the only high school in her town, Providence, Rhode Island. Maritcha and her family made the bold decision to sue the state so that Marticha could go to high school. Maritcha was black, and a girl too – two things that many people of her time would have said made it a waste of time for her to go to high school. Maritcha proved them all wrong and went on to become a teacher and school principal in New York City. Author: Tonya Bolden
I don’t know about you, but when I think about black kids fighting to integrate public schools, I think of names like Ruby Bridges and the Little Rock Nine…but these kids fought there fight in the 1960s…not the 1860s!!
Think about that – Maritcha fought her battle almost a hundred years before these other students. That goes to show you that school integration took a very, very long time. The timing also depended on which state and in what part of the country a student lived. Maritcha lived in the North, Ruby Bridges and the Little Rock Nine lived in the South. It took the South much longer to have integrated schools.
About the time Maritcha was fighting to attend high school in Rhode Island, black kids in Indiana were just getting a school. The Leora Brown School opened in Corydon, Indiana in 1891 as the Corydon Colored School. The Corydon Colored School graduated its first class of students on May 14, 1897. Leora Brown, a former student who graduated in 1923, returned to the school as a teacher in 1924 after having attended Miss Blaker’s Teachers College in Indianapolis. One year after Brown’s arrival at the Corydon Colored School, the school’s high-school-age black students were integrated into Corydon High School which was previously attended by white students only. The Corydon Colored School, however, remained open until 1950, when the grade schools were integrated.