From Publishers Weekly
In honor of this song's centennial anniversary, this volume collects 22 often stirring black-and-white archival photographs to illustrate Johnson's powerful lyrics, set to music by his brother, John Rosamond Johnson. Smith's rather spotty introduction offers a brief biographical sketch of the siblings and outlines the genesis of the song (though it is the back jacket flap that suggests that James W. Johnson was asked by the Florida high school where he served as principal to compose the song for a celebration of Abraham Lincoln's birthday). Two decades later, in 1920, the NAACP proclaimed the composition "The Negro National Anthem." Crisply reproduced photographs ranging from the sobering to the uplifting correspond to the words of the anthem. "Out from the gloomy past,/ Till now we stand at last/ Where the white gleam/ of our bright star is cast" shows an enchanting toddler girl in a white wool coat and matching hat holding hands with two adults among a crowd. A photograph of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech is paired with "Lest our feet stray from the places,/ Our God, where we met Thee.... " Other memorable shots include the scarred back of a captive man ("Stony the road we trod,/ Bitter the chastening rod"), an exhausted boy cotton-picker asleep in the fields and a girl learning to read. Unfortunately, though the photos are credited, they neither include the year nor the context in which they were taken. The melody line concludes the book, and the many children featured in the photographs will draw a young audience into this affecting volume. All ages. (Jan.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 8-A beautiful collection of black-and-white photographs are matched with the words of the song, which was composed in 1900 by James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson for a special celebration of Abraham Lincoln's birthday. The 22 archival photographs bring readers face-to-face with the power, strength, and dignity of a people. A back lashed with ugly scars; a child asleep on a sack of cotton; a pair of worn, weathered hands; three little girls singing in church; a line of marchers against a cloudy sky-these powerful images have an emotional appeal that transcends ethnic background. This stunning blend of poetry and visual images speaks to the human spirit.Eunice Weech, M. L. King Elementary School, Urbana, IL
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.