Reviews for Free at Last! : Stories and Songs of Emancipation


Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 February 2004
/*Starred Review*/ Gr. 4-8. Drawing on first-person accounts by leaders and ordinary people in song, poetry, memoir, letters, and court testimony, this history brings close the experience of black Americans in the U.S. from the time of emancipation to the 1954 Supreme Court decision that declared "separate but equal" illegal. The stories are riveting. Jane Kemper steals back her four children, who were forcibly "apprenticed" by her former slave master. Harriet Postle, seven months pregnant, confronts the night riders who crash into her home. And there's no sentimentality. A letter tells of a slave family reunion that is painful and disappointing. A poem shows that convict labor was slavery under a new name. As in the author's history of slavery, No More! (2002), Rappaport talks about her sources and how she has adapted them, and the readable, informal notes bring authenticity to the personal accounts. Like the narrative, Evans' dramatic oil paintings, many of them full page, show the cruelty, even of a lynching, without exploiting the horror, and his portraits of individuals, from the famous to the unknown, celebrate the courage of people who helped break the color line. The clear, spacious design will encourage browsing, and a detailed chronology, a lengthy bibliography, and source notes will help readers to find out more. ((Reviewed February 15, 2004)) Copyright 2004 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2004 Fall
In a companion volume to [cf2]No More!: Stories and Songs of Slave Resistance[cf1], Rappaport samples the African-American experience from 1863 (Emancipation) to 1954 ([cf2]Brown v. Board of Education[cf1]). Included are historical vignettes, brief historical summaries, and poems and songs. Chronology, websites. Bib., ind. Copyright 2004 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2004 #3
In a companion volume to No More!: Stories and Songs of Slave Resistance (rev. 3/02), Rappaport samples the African-American experience from 1863 (Emancipation) to 1954 (Brown v. Board of Education). Again, she includes historical vignettes (newly emancipated Jane Kemper rescues her kidnapped children; Ida B. Wells successfully sues the railroad that had forcibly removed her from first class); and brief historical summaries (lynchings; chain gangs as a new form of slave labor). Turning from the "inventive defiance and resistance" of the early years, she presents notable figures such as Booker T. Washington and his critics, figures of the Harlem Renaissance, Jackie Robinson, and Thurgood Marshall. Poems and songs from the African-American canon are sprinkled throughout. The strengths here are the compelling theme--progress made with courage and grace, despite cruelty and injustice--and Evans's powerful, page-filling paintings of stalwart figures of serious mien, lending drama to the simply described events. Frustratingly, Rappaport scatters source citations, which appear variously in an introduction, acknowledgments, permissions, and "selected sources." Why not just list full references in the order the material appears in the book? Not only would it be more convenient for scholars, it would also be a much better model for young readers developing a sense of historical accuracy. Included are a chronology, a list of additional reading and related websites, and an index. Copyright 2004 Horn Book Magazine Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 2003 December #2
Rappaport and Evans reprise the passion and power that informed their 2002 collaboration No More! Stories and Songs of Slave Resistance, shining their spotlight on the progress and struggles of African-Americans from 1863 to 1954. Vigorous prose is punctuated by poems, songs, and excerpts from primary sources, all of which serve to illuminate the peculiar experiences of a people freed and still not free. Vignettes from the lives of several individuals, both famous (Booker T. Washington, Jackie Robinson) and less so (a woman stealing her children back from her former master, an "Exoduster" making a new life in Kansas) add to the power and specificity of the text; the foreword carefully informs readers that "dialogue and descriptions . . . come directly from their first-person accounts." Glowing, almost monumental oils convey the pent-up anger and sadness of those depicted, both anonymous and historical, and a striking design integrates the illustrations with the text, each spread responding to its own internal need. Extensive back matter includes an illustrator's note, acknowledgments, bibliography, further reading, Web sites, and an index. (Nonfiction. 9-12) Copyright Kirkus 2003 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2003 December #4
The creators of No More! Stories and Songs of Slave Resistance here chronicle the African-American experience from the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 to the 1954 Supreme Court decision outlawing school segregation. Rappaport labels this era "one of the most shameful periods in American history" and proceeds to demonstrate the ways in which the promise of Emancipation failed to deliver. The author includes among reports of widespread discrimination, vigilante campaigns (such as Ku Klux Klan members' "night rides"), and legislation that was intended to protect blacks but frequently failed to do so, as well as the occasional bright spots in the arduous struggle for equality. Curiously, given the emotional intensity of the many tragic events of the period, the historical account seems at times dry or vague (e.g., "After Germany invaded Poland in 1939, hundreds of thousands of white men were hired to build weapons for our allies. Black leaders insisted that some of these jobs go to their people. Nothing was done"). Because of the episodic presentation, the ideas are not as integrated as in Harlem Stomp! (reviewed below). The volume is most involving when utilizing primary sources, such as poetry, songs and brief anecdotal stories about such influential individuals as Ida B. Wells, Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall. Evans, on the other hand, creates a strong visual counterpart, with portraits of famous individuals every bit as strong as dramatic scenes-from a haunting image of a lynching (only the victim's feet show) and joyful paintings of theater and dance. Ages 9-12. (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2004 February
Gr 3-7-In this companion to No More! Stories and Songs of Slave Resistance (Candlewick, 2002), stories, poems, and songs about events from the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 through the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954 are perfectly matched with vibrant oil paintings. The result is a glorious tribute to the lives of African-American heroes and heroines. Familiar figures, such as Booker T. Washington and Jackie Robinson, are mentioned, along with unsung individuals, such as John Solomon Lewis and Harriet Postle. Rappaport offers tidbits of information, such as the history surrounding "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," the Negro National Anthem, and even tosses in a little of the oral tradition with the legend of John Henry. These selections have a magnetic impact, encouraging readers to dig deeper to discover more about the rich heritage of African Americans. Evans successfully interprets each subject with his rich, thought-provoking paintings that leap from the pages. A well-researched, handsome title.-Tracy Bell, Durham Public Schools, NC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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