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Free at Last! Stories and Songs of Emancipation
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Free at Last! Stories and Songs of Emancipation

by Doreen Rappaport, Shane W. Evans (Illustrator)

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True stories and traditional songs shed light on a lesser known era in African-American history - the crucial decades between Emancipation and the start of the Civil Rights movement.

In the dark of night, a mother risks her life to search for her four children, stolen by her former master. A wife refuses to hand her husband over to an angry white-hooded mob,


True stories and traditional songs shed light on a lesser known era in African-American history - the crucial decades between Emancipation and the start of the Civil Rights movement.

In the dark of night, a mother risks her life to search for her four children, stolen by her former master. A wife refuses to hand her husband over to an angry white-hooded mob, despite the wailing of her babies - and the foot stomping on her pregnant belly. A woman calmly takes her seat in a first-class coach and is ordered to leave: "I’m a lady. All ladies sit here," argues journalist Ida B. Wells before she is carried from the car, seat and all.

These are some of the vignettes presented in FREE AT LAST!, interwoven with spirituals, work songs, blues lyrics, poems, and a compelling narrative recounting the experience of black Americans in the South from the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 through the dawn of the Civil Rights era in 1954. Drawing from true accounts, Doreen Rappaport writes of hopes for equality dashed by new "legal" injustices, and of a climate of fear and uncertainty fueled by intimidation, lynchings, and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. But she tells also of the courageous struggle to re-create family and community life, achieve economic independence, explore creative expression, and eventually mount a successful legal challenge against segregation. Masterfully matched by Shane W. Evans’s bold, emotion-filled paintings, this is an invaluable resource for teachers, parents, librarians, students, and everyone else who values what it means to be truly free.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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.
Children's Literature
Covering the years from Emancipation in 1863 to the 1954 Supreme Court decision ending school segregation, this is the middle book in a trilogy about the experience of black Americans in the United States. Using factual incidents and examples of experiences of specific people, Rappaport poignantly reveals the disappointment and anger experienced by black people as it became obvious that for many of them, the promise of the emancipation was hollow. Many continued to work in jobs akin to slavery or were arrested for bogus reasons and forced to do slave labor as part of prison chain gangs. The Ku Klux Klan terrorized black communities and lynchings of innocent men were common. The stories of some of the people who resisted such unfair treatment are included. Jane Kemper managed to find her young children and steal them back from her former owner. Harriett Postle patiently rocked her child as they sat atop the trap door hiding her husband. A. Philip Randolph led his fellow railroad porters in a protest march in Washington and pushed for integration in the armed forces. Jackie Robinson exhibited bravery as the first black baseball player. Thurgood Marshall and Robert Carter proved that "separate was not equal." Interspersed throughout these vignettes are songs and poems demonstrating the courage and spirit that sustained black Americans throughout this period of history. As in No More! Songs and Stories of Slave Resistance, Evans' large and vividly colored illustrations contribute to the meaning and message. A table of important dates, an artist's note, a bibliography, and an index contribute to the value of this book as a reference source. 2004, Candlewick Press, Ages 8 to 14.
—Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D.
Library Journal
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.
Kirkus Reviews
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)

Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
9.80(w) x 11.60(h) x 0.49(d)
AD910L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Free at Last!

Stories and Songs of Emancipation

By Doreen Rappaport


Copyright © 2003

Doreen Rappaport

All right reserved.

ISBN: 0763614408


Harriet Postle shifts her weight from side to side in bed. It is hard finding a comfortable sleeping position when you are seven months pregnant. She reaches over to touch her

husband, when she hears a thundering noise outside.

"Postle, we know you're in there! You'd better come out!"

Harriet knows who is yelling -- the Ku Klux Klan men wearing masks, tall pointed caps, and long white robes.

Her oldest son wakes and ducks under the mattress. The baby wakes and starts to fuss. Her husband darts out of bed, loosens three floorboards, and jumps into the hiding place they prepared months ago. She replaces the planks. She steps into her skirt to cover her nightshirt, but she is so flustered she gets entangled in the material.

"Postle! Open up this door! You can't hide from us!"

Harriet scoops up the baby and plops down in a chair over the hiding place. She puts her hands over the baby's ears, trying to block out the furious banging.

The door crashes in. Four men in dusty boots point pistols at the mattress, under which her son cowers.

"Leave my boy alone!" she shouts.

One man jerks her chair out from under her.

She falls to the floor, hugging her baby. The man stomps his foot on her huge stomach. "Where is your husband?"

"He's not here!"

He drops a rope shaped like a nooseover her neck. "Tell me where he is." Her son is screaming and sobbing at the same time. The baby wails. The man presses harder on her stomach. "Where is he?"

She does not answer. She will not betray her husband.

It seems like a miracle but the men finally leave. Her husband comes out of hiding. She cradles her children in her arms, but she cannot stop their crying.


Excerpted from Free at Last!
by Doreen Rappaport
Copyright © 2003 by Doreen Rappaport.
Excerpted by permission.
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.

Meet the Author

Doreen Rappaport is the author of numerous books for young readers, including the acclaimed NO MORE! SONGS AND STORIES OF SLAVE RESISTANCE - the first in what will be a trilogy of books illustrated by Shane W. Evans. Of FREE AT LAST! STORIES AND SONGS OF EMANCIPATION, she says, "This period in history was termed ‘The New Era’ by black abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who hoped that the end of the Civil War marked the beginning of equality for black Americans. But this hope for equality quickly vanished with a series of ‘legal’ injustices, violence, and daily humiliations against black men, women, and children, marking this as one of the most shameful periods in American history. This book traces the courageous struggle of black Americans to re-create family life and economic independence in the face of overwhelming danger and uncertainty."

Shane W. Evans is the illustrator of several children’s books, including NO MORE! STORIES AND SONGS OF SLAVE RESISTANCE by Doreen Rappaport. Of FREE AT LAST!, he says, "As in NO MORE!, I was faced with the challenge of making beautiful images out of images that are not always beautiful. There are dark moments in American history - our story - that need to be told, need to be known, and very importantly, need to be seen. It has been a welcome challenge and honor to tell these stories in pictures."

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