Teenage sisters Octavia and Tali can’t believe it when they find out they have to drive all the way across the United States with their crazy Grandmother for a family reunion. She drives slow. She’s nosy. She’s bossy. She smokes. And her car smells funny.
But these are all the things they know about their Grandmother. What they haven’t thought about is all the years their Grandmother was alive before they were even born. What was she like then? What did she do?
Once they start rolling and find hours of time in the car to fill, their Grandmother starts talking and her story is not at all what the girls expected. They know that their Grandmother is strong-willed, stubborn and independent. Now they learn why. Their crazy Grandma with the weird hair and weird shoes was a soldier during World War II! She even lied about her age to get away from home sooner. She became a member of the Women’s Army Corps and served in England, Scotland and France. And does she have stories to tell. Octavia and Tali can’t believe their ears!
It turns out there are a lot of things about their Grandmother they didn’t know; things they like and admire and things they are very, very proud of…even if her car does smell funny. Octavia and Tali’s Grandma’s unit was the 6888th. It was a real unit that served during World War II. The 6888th was the only unit of African Americans in the Women’s Army Corp to serve overseas. Their Grandma was a black woman in a segregated army full of men. No wonder she has such good stories to tell!
The all black 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion worked first in England and France handling a massive backlog of mail. The backlog of mail written to soldiers was so bad it filled warehouses and airplane hangars. After their work was done, the women were discharged without any special recognition for what they had accomplished. No recognition until February 25, 2009. Black Women’s Army Unit Receives Overdue Honors It took 65 years, but the thank-you finally came! Author: Tanita Davis Award: Coretta Scott King Award Author Honor Book 2010; ALA Best Book for Young Adults 2010
This book is a fictionalized version of the real Phillis Wheatley’s life story. That means it’s not an autobiography. Phillis didn’t write this book, but the author read a lot of things Phillis did write, and wrote this book pretending to be her.
Phillis is just a little girl when she is snatched from her village in Africa – a frightening…well, more than frightening…a terrifying experience. And then she tells about what it was like aboard the slave ship, it almost makes you sick yourself just to read it. Hang in there though because the rest of the story is what makes this book so powerful.
When the slave ship Phillis is on arrives in Boston, she’s laying on the dock, thousands of miles from her home and her family, a total stranger in a strange land and she’s now a slave, destined to be owned like a piece of furniture. She’s laying on the dock so sick from the slave ship she’s been left to die. That pitiful little girl…rises up to become a widely read and respected poet. How that happens is what this story is all about. Author: Afua Cooper
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
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.
Alexander 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.
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