The Beatitudes: From Slavery to Civil Rights


With the text of the biblical Beatitudes as an undercurrent, the story of the civil rights movement is told in lyrical text and stirring illustrations.
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With the text of the biblical Beatitudes as an undercurrent, the story of the civil rights movement is told in lyrical text and stirring illustrations.
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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 1–6—Weatherford uses the Beatitudes (Mathew 5: 3–12 KJV) as backdrop for a powerful, beautifully produced book. In free verse, she relates the story in first person—"I am the Lord your God,"—tracing the African-American journey from slavery through the Civil Rights Movement to the inauguration of Barack Obama. Each page begins, "I was with…" as Weatherford focuses on a particular person (Harriet Tubman, Marian Anderson, Emmett Till, Martin Luther King, Jr.) or an event (slave ships, freedom rides, right-to-vote movement). Verses, short and meaningful, carry forth a poignant message, reinforced by Ladwig's inspired, richly hued, expressive illustrations. The words of the Beatitudes, which are printed in their entirety at the book's beginning, run across the bottoms of the pages in softly colored type, making a constant connection to the pictures. In addition, the artist's choice of perspective is exemplary: angry white hecklers back an image of a hopeful-looking Ruby Bridges; Lincoln looks down on a crowded Mall as Marian Anderson sings to the throngs, and Martin Luther King, Jr., gazing into a reflecting pool, sees the smiling faces of two girls (one black and one white). Regardless of race or religion, this is a book to share with today's children who live in a discordant world too often lacking in kindness and civility.—Barbara Elleman, Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, MA
Kirkus Reviews
The Beatitudes serve as a backdrop to African-American history from enslavement to the present day. Narrated by God, each page contains a few powerful sentences about a specific moment, explaining how He comforted His people at the time. God was the star guiding Harriet Tubman north, the lamp lighting the way at Tuskegee, the microphone for Marian Anderson and the shoes of the citizens who walked during the bus boycotts. Some of Ladwig's watercolor-and-pastel illustrations, particularly Emmett Till's casket scene and the beatings in Selma, mark this as a picture book for older children. Light, larger type with the words of the Beatitudes scrolls along the bottom of each illustration. Unfortunately, the text is cut off by the page edges and often does not match the historical scene above. For example, "Blessed are they that mourn" accompanies the illustration explaining the founding of Black churches "where African Americans / could praise the Lord and shout ‘Hallelujah!'" Distracting design elements mar an otherwise heartfelt book. Included are brief biographies of each luminary. (Picture book/religion. 4-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802853523
  • Publisher: Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 1/1/2010
  • Pages: 36
  • Sales rank: 497,824
  • Age range: 6 - 9 Years
  • Lexile: 980L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 11.40 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Carole Boston Weatherford is the author of many books for children, including Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, illustrated by Kadir Nelson, which was a Caldecott Honor book, and Becoming Billie Holiday, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, a 2009 Coretta Scott King Author Honor book. Carole makes her home in North Carolina.

Tim Ladwig has previously illustrated other African-American settings of biblical texts, The Lord's Prayer and Psalm Twenty-Three, as well as many other books for children, including When Daddy Prays, by Nikki Grimes, and Good King Wenceslas (all Eerdmans). Tim lives in Kansas.

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First Chapter


From slavery to Civil Rights
By Carole Boston Weatherford

William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company

Copyright © 2010 Carole Boston Weatherford
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5352-3

Chapter One

Since the first African American churches were founded in the 18th century, black religious organizations have brought biblical values to bear on the freedom struggle. Black ministers preached against the institution of slavery, and slaves sang spirituals promising deliverance from bondage. African Americans drew on that same faith during the segregation era. And when the masses rose up against racial oppression during the Civil Rights Movement, they were emboldened by a belief in a just and a compassionate God. They trusted that God was with them and that he would set them free.

I am the Lord your God. I was with the Africans who were torn from the Motherland and cramped in holds of ships on the Middle Passage from Africa to the Americas. I heard them chant: Kum ba ya, kum ba ya.

I was with Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, and James Varick, who founded churches where African Americans could praise the Lord and shout "Hallelujah!" I rang the church bells.

I was with Harriet Tubman when she fled slavery. As she led others out of bondage, I was the star guiding them north.

I was with the U.S. Colored Troops who fought to end slavery during the Civil War. I beat the drum for freedom.

I was with Booker T. Washington and Mary McLeod Bethune, who built colleges and lit the way for young minds. I was the lamp.

I was with Marian Anderson when she sang spirituals on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial after the Daughters of the American Revolution barred her from performing in their concert hall. I was the microphone.

I was with Rosa Parks when she was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery city bus. And I was with the citizens who walked rather than ride buses during the boycott. I was their shoes.

I was with the mother of fourteen-year-old lynching victim Emmett Till. As she stood at his casket, sobbing, I was the shoulder she leaned on.

I was on the Freedom Rides and at the lunch counter sit-ins. I sat alongside the protesters.

I was with Martin Luther King Jr. when he shared his dream of brotherhood at the March on Washington. And when peaceful protesters in the Selma to Montgomery march were beaten by police on an Alabama bridge, I nursed the wounded.

I was with six-year-old Ruby Bridges when angry whites heckled her as she entered an all-white elementary school to become its first black student. I held her hand.

I was with Mississippi political organizer Fannie Lou Hamer when she got sick and tired of being sick and tired and demanded the right to vote. When she breathed song into the struggle, I shook the tambourine.


Excerpted from THE BEATITUDES by Carole Boston Weatherford Copyright © 2010 by Carole Boston Weatherford. Excerpted by permission of William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Combat racism a an early age with words and pictures about how Black America has lived Jesus' teachings

    What a great tool to counter the cultural stereotyping and racism that is so much a part of American society.

    Author Weatherford's pen is poetic as she walks readers through the history of the Black experience from the ships that carried spiritual-singing slaves through centuries of segregation and bigotry to the hard-fought years of the Civil Rights movement and even up to the glory of the election of the first African-American U.S. President.

    The background music for the journey is the Beatitudes, that striking teaching of Jesus that is captured in Matthew's Gospel (Chapter 5: 3-12).

    As your read about the heroes and heroines among Black Americans and see their images in Ladwig's colorful paintings, you can't help but recall the phrase "blessed are" for each and every one. Some are their names are well-known to adults - Booker T. Washington, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. - but may be new to the young readers for whom this Eerdmans title is intended. Other names will be new to adults as well.

    Thankfully, a brief biographical paragraph of each individual is included in the back of the book. These short sketches will be educational for young and old alike.

    This is a great book to buy for the young readers in your life. Cheat, though. Read it yourself before wrapping it as a gift. Better yet, have that young reader read it aloud to you. You'll both be blessed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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