In what her preface describes as "this scrapbook, this witness of the black experience in miniature," Bolden (The Book of African-American Women) presents a pastiche of visuals and narratives spotlighting American children of African descent, from colonial times to the present. An abundance of period photographs, paintings, drawings and handsomely set-off extracts from memoirs, letters and journals create the appearance of a scrapbook or album; more importantly, they allow readers to immerse themselves directly in the historical past. An 1861 photograph of children outside an orphanage in New York City, for example, adds immediacy to the accompanying information that the orphanage was looted and set on fire during the Draft Riots of 1863. The first-hand accounts are often heartrending: in an 1868 letter to a Sunday school class in the North, a seven-year-old from Alabama whose mother has died and whose father "went off with the Yankees" writes, "Perhaps I shall get on the cars some time and come to see you. Would you speak to a black boy?" Bolden's overview meanders at times, but it is filled with intriguing, little-known facts, e.g., in March 1955, nine months before Rosa Parks touched off the Montgomery bus boycott by refusing to surrender her bus seat to a white passenger, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin of Birmingham, Ala., was arrested for the same offense. This impressively researched, imaginatively presented history evokes deep appreciation for the struggles, perseverance and triumphs of young black Americans. Ages 9-12. (Feb.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Subtitled, "Memories and Mementos of Being Young and Black in America," this incredible book belongs in every elementary school library in the United States. It tells the history of America through the eyes and writings of black children. Well written and researched by an author who has written other black history books, this particular book is powerful in its use of the actual experiences of black children, beginning with their capture in Africa, their enslavement and eventual emancipation. Using the diaries and recollections of slave children, the story is sometimes awful and sometimes glorious. Actual photos, drawings and reproduced paintings provide even more authenticity to this powerful story. Part I relates the terrible journey from Africa, Part II, enslavement and longing for freedom and Part III, eventual emancipation, which has taken most of the 20th century. Creative art and writings of the famous and not so famous are used to tell this amazing story of hope. These personal stories from the children themselves, often reflecting what everyday life was like, are far more powerful than any normal history book can relate. Sources on the author's research as well as those for further reading are included. An amazing way to bring history alive for young people. 2001, Harry N. Abrams, $24.95. Ages 8 up. Reviewer: Meredith Kiger
The experiences of black children growing up in America are chronicled in this lavishly illustrated volume. Beginning with the story of William Tucker, the first black child born in America and baptized in Jamestown in 1624, the author discusses the slave trade and its horrors as well as the economic situations that led to its inception. Here the focus is the effect the slave had trade upon the children, detailing as much as possible the life they led. The narrative moves on to the Civil War era, covering the lives of black children in both the North and the South. After the Civil War, the emphasis is on education and economic advancement. The book is illustrated throughout with pictures and includes selections and reminiscences of their early years from African American children. Focused so completely on the lives of black children in America, this book is a truly remarkable addition to the history of African Americans. With its index, bibliography, and suggested readings, it would be valuable for school reports or general interest reading. The book is thorough and well documented as well as readable and attractive. Index. Illus. Photos. Biblio. Further Reading. VOYA CODES: 4Q 2P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, Harry N. Abrams, 128p,
— Rosemary Moran
Bolden (Rock of Ages, 2001, etc.) presents an overview about what life has been like through the years for African-American children in the US. Covering the entire span of time from the Jamestown colony to the end of the 20th century, this is a stirring narrative that broadly summarizes conditions over these hundreds of years while dipping into details to engage and connect readers. The design, which uses a specific type for quoting actual individuals, makes the juxtaposition of such things as photographs, paintings, and notices much clearer. The heart is in these quotes from primary sources. As "Papa Dallas" tells his daughter how he lost his sight as a child for daring to learn his alphabet, he says, "Don't you cry for me now, daughter. . . . Promise me that you gonna pick up every book you can and you gonna read it from cover to cover. . . . And one more thing, I want you to promise me that you gonna tell all the children my story." The cumulative effect of hearing such heartfelt words from those who are little known along with others such as Paul Robeson, Gordon Park, and Dorothy West is a powerful one. With notes, bibliography, and an excellent suggested reading list, this will serve both browsers and researchers. Valuable and impressive. (Nonfiction. 8+)