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My Country, 'Tis of Thee: How One Song Reveals the History of Civil Rights

Overview

More than any other, one song traces America?s history of patriotism and protest.

Everyone knows the words to ?My Country, ?Tis of Thee.? What most don?t realize is that this iconic song has been a beacon of change for hundreds of years. Generations of protesters and civil rights pioneers have created new lyrics, beginning in royalist Britain and continuing through conflicts in colonial times, the American Revolution, the suffragist and labor movements, and the struggles for ...

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Overview

More than any other, one song traces America’s history of patriotism and protest.

Everyone knows the words to “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.” What most don’t realize is that this iconic song has been a beacon of change for hundreds of years. Generations of protesters and civil rights pioneers have created new lyrics, beginning in royalist Britain and continuing through conflicts in colonial times, the American Revolution, the suffragist and labor movements, and the struggles for black and Native American civil rights. With spectacular illustrations by Caldecott Honor–winning artist Bryan Collier, My Country, ’Tis of Thee offers a fascinating insight into the American fight for freedom.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
04/14/2014
“More than any other, one song traces America’s history of patriotism and protest.” Murphy’s (Marching with Aunt Susan) sweeping opening line sets the stage for subsequent examples of how marginalized groups have adopted and changed the song, “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.” A straightforward narrative examines the song’s various versions. Beginning in 1700s England as an anthem supporting King George II, the melody was put to use across the sea in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, along with the abolitionist, farmworkers’, suffragist, Native American, and Civil Rights movements. Collier’s (Knock, Knock) striking full-spread collages invite close inspection. Layered textures and hues, photographs, and intricate paper designs create eye-catching and sometimes haunting illustrations. In one scene, runaway slaves escape through dark woods, the silhouettes of African-American children’s faces forming mountains and shrubs. A boy’s face stares out at readers from a hole in a tree trunk, as faded, anguished faces blend into the bark. “My country, ’tis for thee,/ Dark land of slavery,/ For thee I weep.” Source notes offer more details about each spread, and a bibliography and resource list are included. Ages 5–9. Illustrator’s agent: Marcia Wernick, Wernick & Pratt. (June)¦
From the Publisher

Praise for My Country, 'Tis of Thee:

"Murphy revisits pivotal moments - social, political, martial, in which the familiar song was co-opted and re-lyricized as a partisan theme song . . . Will indeed be helpful in connecting readers to songs and recordings." - BCCB

"An intriguing new take on a beloved patriotic song." - Booklist

"A familiar patriotic song culminates in a hymn to "Great God Our King". - School Library Journal

"This examination of a well-known piece of music and the activism it inspired makes for a fascinating way to explore history." - Kirkus Reviews

Bryan Collier’s awards:

· 6 Coretta Scott King Awards (including Rosa, Uptown, and Visiting Langston)

· 3 Caldecott Honors (Rosa, Martin’s Big Words, Dave the Potter)

· Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award (Uptown)

Praise for Rosa:

 * “Collier’s large watercolor-and-collage illustrations depict Parks as an inspiring force that radiates golden light.” —Booklist, starred review

Praise for Uptown:

“Collier’s evocative watercolor-and-collage illustrations create a unique sense of mood and place.” —School Library Journal

“This complex, many-layered vibe is made almost tangible by the kaleidoscopic illustrations.” —Kirkus Reviews

 

"Layered textures and hues, photographs, and intricate paper designs create eye-catching and sometimes haunting illustrations." -Publishers Weekly

Children's Literature - Vicki Foote
The history of this patriotic song is traced from its beginnings in England to the present time. The song appears in England in the 1740s as “God Save the King.” Verses were changed as British colonial soldiers sang it to celebrate their victories in the French and Indian War. Verses continue to be changed as George Washington becomes president, Abigail Adams protests for women’s rights, and abolitionists fight for the end of slavery. Black people sing of their freedom after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. An American Indian protests the fact that American Indians were not considered citizens of the United States in her version of the song. Martin Luther King Jr. quotes words from the song during the march on Washington in 1964. Singer Aretha Franklin performs the song at President Barack Obama’s inauguration. The various verses are shown throughout the book, and the music with the current words are included on the end pages. There are source notes, a bibliography, and a list of further resources. Dramatic and beautiful illustrations on full pages portray the historical events. Full of history and interesting facts, this nonfiction text would make a good supplementary resource for schools and libraries. Reviewer: Vicki Foote; Ages 9 to 12.
School Library Journal
05/01/2014
Gr 5–7—A familiar patriotic song culminates in a hymn to "Great God Our King," having long ago originated as a tribute to England's King George II. Through two centuries, many different texts were used by groups for whom freedom didn't ring. Murphy's subtitle introduces this collection of variants. The chronological string of historical points begins in 18th-century England and moves through protests of the colonists, the Revolutionary War, and subsequent lack of freedoms and full citizenship for women, slaves, Native Americans, and people of color until well after the Civil War. Double-page entries include a short bit of history and a related verse of a protest song set against Collier's watercolor and collage scenes and portraits of individuals and groups. The view is most often somber, with dark and neutral tones occasionally brightened with a bit of deep blue. The presentation culminates with Marian Anderson's 1939 Lincoln Memorial performance upon being shut out of Constitution Hall, the rise of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Aretha Franklin's singing at the inauguration of Barack Obama. Finally, readers are invited to "Write a new verse for a cause you believe in. Help freedom ring." The invitation is laudable, and some of the songs are clear and compelling. Others seem quaint or even murky for a young audience: "Let Freedom's voice prevail,/And draw aside the veil,/Supreme Effulgence hail,/Sweet Liberty." The book concludes with brief notes about each entry and the music and verses of "My Country 'Tis of Thee." The sketchy outline of civil rights history could serve as an introduction for some readers or classrooms. Creative music teachers might also use it to explore the larger realm of protest songs.—Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston
Kirkus Reviews
2014-04-09
One of the first patriotic songs young Americans learn in school is "America," more commonly known as "My Country, 'Tis of Thee."At some point, many also learn it shares its melody with the British anthem, "God Save the Queen." What is not so familiar is how several different versions of the words have appeared through the years and how many groups and movements used these versions to fuel their efforts for expanded rights. From the tune's first appearance in 1740s England as a way to support the monarch, during the Revolutionary War and beyond, lyrics were written and rewritten to reflect sometimes-conflicting causes. Murphy introduces various movements seeking civil rights and how they crafted verses to suit their particular causes. Short paragraphs provide context to introduce the variations, while single sentences in a larger type punctuate each spread. Readers are encouraged not only to learn about the song, but to write their own verses. Collier's watercolor-and-collage illustrations provide an additional level of understanding and complement the narrative. Detailed backmatter, including extensive source notes, bibliography, resource list (including musical links), make this an enlightening addition to social history.This examination of a well-known piece of music and the activism it inspired makes for a fascinating way to explore history. (Informational picture book. 5-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805082265
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
  • Publication date: 6/3/2014
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 231,073
  • Age range: 5 - 9 Years
  • Lexile: 1000L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 8.70 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Bryan Collier

Claire Rudolf Murphy is a long-time history buff who loves to write stories from the viewpoint of outsiders in American history. She has written fifteen award-wining books for young readers and currently teaches at Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children program.

Bryan Collier grew up in Pocomoke City, Maryland. His first book, Uptown, won the Coretta Scott King Award for illustration and the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Award. He has also received Caldecott Honors for his illustrations in Rosa, Dave the Potter, and Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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