*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. Hazel Rochman
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About 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."
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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."