Brown versus the Board of Education, the historic ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court declaring segregated schools unconstitutional, occurred 50 years ago this month, on May 17, 1954. To celebrate this pivotal milestone, Pulitzer Prize winner and Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison has gathered archival photographs depicting the events surrounding school integration and created a unique book for young people titled Remember: The Journey to School Integration.
Remember puts history in context for a new generation of readers through photographs of segregated schools, newspaper headlines announcing the Supreme Court decision and scenes of protests. Morrison has interlaced fictional text with some of the visuals in order to suggest the emotions of the children and adults who participated in this tumultuous era of change. Morrison explains her intentions in an author's note, saying, "I have imagined the thoughts and feelings of some of the people in the photographs chosen to help tell this story. They are children, teenagers, adults: ordinary people leading ordinary lives all swept up in events that would mark all of our lives."
Perhaps just as fascinating as Morrison's narratives are the extensive photo notes at the end of the book, which provide a place, date and description of the amazing documentary photographs included in the book. The notes provide historical background that will help extend and enrich a child's experience of the struggle to integrate American schools. Also included is a page of milestones in civil rights and school integration history, which provides highlights of events from 1896 through November 1999, when the Little Rock Nine were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
Remember is dedicated to the four young girls who died in the bombing of their Birmingham church on September 15, 1963. The final photograph in the book shows two girls, one white, one black, holding hands. Morrison's text reads, "Anything can happen. Anything at all. See?" Copyright 2004 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2004 Fall
To black-and-white photographs chronicling the history of African-American segregation and civil rights, Morrison appends captions imagining what those portrayed in each picture might be thinking. It's a dubious exercise, particularly in that several of the photos are of well-known people (Ruby Bridges, Elizabeth Eckford) perfectly capable of speaking for themselves. But the photographs, many of them signal images of the civil rights movement, are beautifully reproduced. Timeline. Copyright 2004 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2004 April #2
Morrison attempts to tell the story of Southern school integration through archival photographs oddly juxtaposed with a confusing narrative. Introductory words explain that Morrison has "imagined the thoughts and feelings of some of the people in the photographs chosen to help tell this story." Unfortunately, it's often difficult to tell who is doing the talking. On one page is a picture of black and white schoolchildren joyfully running out of school together; on the opposite page are white teenagers tipping a car. The text for both pages reads, "Great! Now we can have some fun!" Endnotes place each photo in historic context, but at least one note is inaccurate. Gov. George Wallace closed Huntsville schools, but the note states "integration in Huntsville schools took place without incident." Staying closer to the theme of school integration would have helped keep focus, especially in the later section, essentially a presentation of every civil-rights icon from Rosa Parks to Martin Luther King. While it's nice to see familiar photographs collected in one place, the overall feeling of the narrative is confusion. Younger children will need adults to help with interpretation. (timeline, photo notes) (Nonfiction. 8-14) Copyright Kirkus 2004 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2004 April #3
Assembling more than 50 photographs depicting segregation, school scenes and events prior to and following the 1954 Supreme Court ruling on Brown v. Board of Education, Morrison (Who's Got Game?) writes that "because remembering is the mind's first step toward understanding," her book is designed to take readers "on a journey through a time in American life when there was as much hate as there was love." She adds, she has "imagined the thoughts and feelings of some of the people in the photographs to help tell this story." The photographs have a uniformly high impact. Some will be familiar: first-grader Ruby Bridges escorted by U.S. marshals from a newly integrated school; white adults' faces contorted with rage as they heckle black students. Against this disturbing backdrop, perhaps the most striking images are the rare moments of unguarded affection, as when a black girl and a white girl smile candidly at each other in a high school cafeteria. However, it's odd to see words invented for Ruby Bridges, who has told her own story elsewhere, and for other public figures; and not all the imagined words ring true (e.g., beneath a photo of three white teens wearing signs protesting the integration of their high school: "My buddies talked me into this.... These guys are my friends and friends are more important than strangers. Even if they're wrong. Aren't they?"). Odd, too, is the decision to put events that lead up to integration (the bus boycott, lunch counter protests) out of sequential order. In the end, the pairing of the fictional text with the historical photographs poses a problem: how much is the audience asked to "remember" and how much to "imagine"? All ages. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 2004 June
Gr 3-8-This unusual blend of archival photographs, historical background, and fictional narrative brings to life the experiences and emotions of the African-American students who made the tumultuous journey to school integration. Dramatic, mostly full-page, black-and-white photographs make up the bulk of the book. An introduction sets the scene, and factual pages, consisting of several sentences, are scattered throughout. They explain the significance of the events, the trauma of racial conflict, the courage and determination of African Americans and their supporters, and the importance of remembering and understanding. With poignant simplicity and insight, Morrison imagines the thoughts and feelings of some of the people in the pictures. The wrenching, inspiring autobiographical school integration memoirs of first-grader Ruby Bridges (Through My Eyes [Scholastic, 1999]) and Little Rock Nine high school junior Melba Pettillo Beals (Warriors Don't Cry [Washington Square, 1995]) offer greater immediacy and convey a powerful message for future generations about the need for understanding, self-awareness, and self-respect. However, Morrison's reflective interpretation presents a gentler guide for younger readers. Appended are a chronology of "Key Events in Civil Rights and School Integration History"; "Photo Notes" that describe the actual date, location, and content of each picture; and a dedication that recalls the four young girls killed in the bombing of their Birmingham, AL, church in 1963. The provocative, candid images and conversational text should spark questions and discussion, a respect for past sacrifices, and inspiration for facing future challenges.-Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
VOYA Reviews 2004 October
This title is all about the pictures. Designed to deliver a powerful emotional impact, the book's mesmerizing sepia photos, mostly of children, artfully interspersed with Morrison's brief interpretations, give today's youngsters a glimpse into the 1950s struggle for civil rights. Hatred, yes, but also hope and the beautiful curiosity and empathy of childhood shine forth, strongly reminding readers that good does, eventually, prevail. Dr. King, Rosa Parks, the Warren Supreme Court, and other famous figures are here, but they are secondary to the images of children playing, studying, eating, demonstrating, and finally integrating. Morrison, in her imagery-filled introduction, charges young readers to understand their precious inheritance. She tells how the courtroom battle for decent education led to the elimination of racist laws, and how the struggle was painful, violent, and long. She relates her own experiences in those days and of the kindness of strangers who took her and her fellow students into their homes. "These were country people . . . denied adequate education, relegated to backs of buses and separate water fountains, menial jobs or none," but whose souls were untainted by racial segregation. Key events in civil rights and school integration history as well as detailed photo notes give historical perspective. Dedicated to the four children killed in the Birmingham church in 1963, the book is a "must have" for elementary African American collections and is appropriate for any archival collection. Deliberately published on the fiftieth anniversary of Brown vs. the Board of Education, this book is a sparkling gem.-Laura Woodruff Photos. Source Notes. Chronology. 5Q 4P M J Copyright 2004 Voya Reviews.